Archive for ◊ February, 2010 ◊

19 Feb 2010 Lemon Bundt Cake
 |  Category: Cakes & Cupcakes  | Tags: ,  | Leave a Comment

It’s the start of citrus season here in sunny California. Let’s all celebrate with a homey, yummy Lemon Bundt Cake! I picked three lemons off my neighbor’s tree (which I have spent 20 years training to grow over my fence) to make this cake. The cake is barely even yellow but it tastes quite lemony and has a softly dense texture. Look at the short list of ingredients. All good stuff! This is the sort of cake that has your family thinking, “Dang, no one makes cakes like Mom (or Dad)”. I found this recipe in the book, “Under the Tuscan Sun” by Frances Mayes, so I have probably been making this cake since 1998 or 1999…, with no end it sight! This is one of my favorite Bundt cakes.

Lemon Bundt Cake

For Cake
2 cups sugar
1 cup softened butter
3 eggs
3 cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup buttermilk (or milk, or cream, sour soured milk or cream)
3 T freshly squeezed lemon juice (don’t use that stuff from the plastic lemon!)
4 tsp grated lemon zest (I use a microplane)

For Frosting

1/4 cup softened butter
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
3 T. lemon juice

grated zest of one lemon (optional)

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Prepare a 12-cup Bundt pan for baking. (Pam for Baking is great, so is using the wrappers from the butter cubes and then adding a small sprinkle of flour). Cream butter and sugar, beating until light and creamy, about 5 minutes total. Beat in eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. In another bowl combine flour, baking powder, and salt. Add 1/3 of the flour mixture to the butter mixture, then add 1/2 of the buttermilk, then 1/3 of the flour mixture, then 1/2 of the buttermilk, then 1/3 of the flour, beating after each addition. Add lemon juice and the grated zest to the cake batter, stir just to combine. Pour mixture into a prepared Bundt pan. Bake in preheated 300 degree oven for 50 – 70 minutes (original recipe said 50 minutes, but I always have to bake mine for 60-70 minutes). Remove cake from oven and let cool on a rack for a few minutes. Then invert cake and let cool completely on rack. When cake has cooled combine softened butter, powdered sugar, lemon juice, and optional zest. Casually glop the frosting on top of the cake, spreading to allow glaze to drip attractively down the sides. If desired, garnish cake top with curls of lemon rind.

Invite some friends over.  Have a nice little chat.  This cake is meant for casual sharing. Thanks for stopping by my kitchen today.  I’ll put the kettle on in preparation for our next visit.

15 Feb 2010 Hot Chocolate Lava Cakes

Look what my daughter Abby made for us for Valentine’s Day! She printed off three recipes, tried two of them and here’s the best. The cakes are easier to make than they look, and they can be mixed up a day or two ahead. How convenient is that? Thirty minutes before dessert, pop the desired number of cakes in a preheated oven and they’ll be ready after dinner! The hardest part of making these cakes is getting the baking time just right. One minute too few, and the cake won’t unmold properly, one minute too many and the center firms up. But follow the baking tip in the recipe and all should be OK. Oh, the other hardest part, finding the right sized ramekins, but having baked a dozen or more of these, it really doesn’t matter. Use any size you think works for a single serving or a shared serving, and just adjust the baking time by watching for the small dome top.

Hot Chocolate Lava Cakes

6 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, chopped (the better the chocolate, the better the cake)
2 oz. unsweetened chocolate, chopped
6 oz. butter
4 1/2 tsp. cornstarch
1 1/4 cups sugar
4 eggs
4 egg yolks
2 tsp. vanilla

Generously grease ramekins with softened butter (Abby used eight 5 oz. ramekins). In the top of a double boiler combine both chopped chocolates and the butter. Over simmering water stir frequently until melted and combined. In another bowl stir together the cornstarch and sugar, then whisk in the melted chocolate mixture. Add in the whole eggs and the egg yolks plus the vanilla and whisk until smooth. Divide the batter between the prepared ramekins, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least six hours and up to three days. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. As the cakes bake, the edges will rise. As soon as the dimple in the center of each cake puffs up and sets, they’re ready. Leave the cakes in the oven any longer, and the centers will bake through and no longer be molten. Bake the cakes for 24 to 26 minutes or until the center top “domes” and middle is just set.

Remove ramekins from oven and let sit undisturbed for 5 minutes. To unmold, place a dessert plate on top of the ramekin and another plate under the ramekin. Using hot pads, invert the ramekin onto the dessert plate. Sprinkle with powdered sugar. Serve with or without a dollop of whipped cream or ice-cream and a few fresh raspberries. Makes approx 8 servings.

This recipe was found at Hungry Cravings.

Thanks for stopping by the kitchen today.  (Isn’t Abby the greatest?!)

15 Feb 2010 S’mores Bars I

I have been looking for a recipe for S’mores Bars since they started showing up in bakery cases a few years ago.  I guess the idea of moving S’mores from the campfire to a bar started with the boxed granola bar.  The mass product manufacturers didn’t get it right though. Eating a boxed S’more granola bar is like eating textured, scented cardboard. S’mores Bars in bakery cases don’t fare too well either.  The usual recipe seems to be overly sweet chocolate brownies with marshmallows and graham cracker crumbs on the top.  But I have the right recipe now!  The bottom is 2 parts graham crackers to one part chocolate.  Perfect ratio, right?  The graham crackers and chocolate are held together with sweetened goodness and there are sticky, gooey, melted marshmallows on top.  The right flavor. The right texture.  The right stickiness. I wasn’t a girl scout for 17 years for nothing!

The inspiration for this recipe came from the Taste of Home “Cookies: 623 Irresistible Delights!“.  Page 217 has a Graham Cracker Brownie recipe attributed to Cathy Guffey from PA.  I just added the marshmallows and gave the bars a more appropriate name.

I am thinking I need to double this recipe next time and make it in an 13 x 11 inch pan.

S’mores Bars

2 cups crushed graham crackers (1 cellophane wrapped package)
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 tsp. baking powder
pinch of salt
1 14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
2 cups miniature marshmallows

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Butter an 8×8 inch baking pan. Crush the graham crackers by whacking them in the package. I use a meat mallet, but the back of a soup ladle, measuring cup, or small pan will also work–don’t make really fine crumbs, though.  Leave some big pieces.  Put the (large)crumbs in a mixing bowl, add the chocolate chips, baking powder and salt and combine.  Stir in the sweetened condensed milk.  Spread mixture into an 8×8 inch baking pan. Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 30 minutes.  Take out of oven and sprinkle miniature marshmallows over the top.

Return pan to oven for 4-5 minutes to melt marshmallows.  Remove pan from oven and quickly spread melting marshmallows smoothly over the top with an offset spatula.

Let bars cool completely. Now comes the hard part, cutting the bars.  I find it a bit easier to use a warmed knife for each cut…but it is still a sticky job, which makes them true S’mores Bars!.  Cut into 16 bars.

How many girl scouts, former and current, stopped by my kitchen today?  Do you think you’ll try these?

14 Feb 2010 Fish Tacos
 |  Category: Seafood  | Tags: , ,  | 4 Comments

I was there when fish tacos migrated across the border from Baja California to San Diego, California. I know what a fish taco is supposed to be. No mango salsa! No salsa at all, in fact. And, never, ever, under any circumstances batter fried fish! Shame on whomever put a piece of fried fish in a tortilla (I’m guessing it was a fast food chain restaurant). The fish is supposed to be grilled; seasoned and grilled and served on warm corn tortillas. Not flour tortillas. Not crispy tortilla shells. A warm corn tortilla folded in half to encase grilled fish, coleslaw (yes, coleslaw) a squeeze of fresh lime, and a garnish of cilantro, diced fresh chilies, and onion. That all being said, last summer Bon Appetite published a recipe for “Baja Fish Tacos”. They didn’t get the recipe quite right BUT the fish marinade was good and the lime enhanced sour cream was to die for. So here is my recipe for Fish Tacos, I can’t call them authentic any more because of the lime sour cream, but they do have coleslaw, grilled fish, corn tortillas, lime, cilantro, chilies and onion.

I can’t wait for Cinco de Mayo when I plan on making these again.

Authentic Fish Tacos

2 lbs of firm white fish (Halibut, Cod, Mahi-mahi…)
8 corn tortillas (or 16, fish tacos used to be composed of two folded corn tortillas, but I find one to be sufficient)
For Marinade
1/3 cup veg. oil
3 T. lime juice
2 T. chili powder
2 tsp. ground cumin
2 tsp. ground coriander
2 tsp. minced garlic
1 tsp. Kosher salt (or 1/2 tsp. table salt)
For Coleslaw
2 -3 cups shredded green cabbage (use 1 cup red cabbage if you have it)
1 large carrot, grated
1-2 stalks celery, chopped
For Coleslaw dressing
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 T. sugar
1 T. apple cider vinegar
For Lime-Sour Cream
1/2 cup sour cream
2 tsp. lime zest (from two limes)
2 tsp. lime juice
For Garnish
1/2 bunch chopped cilantro
1 diced fresh green chili
1/4 cup diced onion

First make coleslaw and set aside for flavors to meld. Combine mayonnaise, sugar and apple cider vinegar. Whisk to combine and to dissolve any lumps. In another bowl combine cabbage, carrot, and celery. Pour dressing over cabbage mixture and set aside for flavors to meld. Second, marinate fish. Cut fish into thick slices that will fit comfortably into a folded corn tortilla. Combine marinade ingredients and then pour over cut fish. Marinate fish pieces for 30 minutes. Third, make Lime Sour Cream. Combine sour cream (I use non-fat), lime zest and lime juice, stirring to mix well. Four, make garnish…being a gringo wimp, I just garnish with cilantro…but for guests I combine cilantro with chopped onions and chilies. Five, remove fish from marinade and broil, grill, or pan fry. Cook just until fish is white and flakes easily with a fork (about 5 -7, minutes total…but cooking time depends on the thickness of fish and the intensity of the heat). Six, heat corn tortillas on grill or in a dry frying pan (about 1 minute on each side). Done! Combine tacos in kitchen, or provide bowls of each component and allow diners to assemble their own fish tacos at the table.
To assemble: place a piece of fish in the middle of the warm tortilla. Next to that, place a scoop of coleslaw. Drizzle some lime sour cream over fish and sprinkle with desired garnish. Fold, and eat, this could get messy. Have plenty of napkins on hand. Heaven.

Thanks for visiting! Enjoy your Fish Tacos… Now, what’s for dessert? Flan?

10 Feb 2010 Coffee Kissed Salmon

It’s a marriage made in heaven. Even coffee haters will appreciate this pairing.  The baked salmon tastes a bit smokey, and bit cedar-y, not at all like coffee.  This is an easy, healthy, entree to put on the table after a long day, and an easy company-pleasing entree to put on the table during a busy weekend.  It can’t get much easier, actually.  Just make sure you have some good quality salmon steaks on hand. Then rub them, bake them, and enjoy.

Coffee Kissed Salmon

For each pair of salmon fillets (each about 6 oz)

1 T. ground cumin
1 T. chili powder
1 T. brown sugar
1 T. ground coffee (not instant, use fresh coffee grounds-not used!-any kind, caffeinated or decaffeinated, it doesn’t matter)
1/2 tsp. Kosher salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Combine all ingredients cumin, chili powder, brown sugar, ground coffee, salt and pepper in a small bowl and then rub mixture all over the salmon fillets.  Set fillets aside to rest, 10-20 minutes.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Drizzle a little bit of olive oil over the salmon, and lightly brush oil evenly over the fillet without disturbing the rub.  Bake fillets in hot oven until fish is cooked (internal temp of 140 degrees), which usually takes 10-12 minutes but depends upon the thickness of the fillets.

This recipe was found in the comments of Facebook’s Epicurious Fan page, under a post from October 22, 2009, titled ‘Our Favorite Cooking with Coffee Recipes’. It is attributed to Rebecca Chanin of WiseChoice, Your Personal Path to College.

Thanks for stopping by my kitchen today!  Try this salmon soon, it will become one of your staples. I am sure of it!

09 Feb 2010 Nanaimo Bars (for the Winter Olympics)
 |  Category: Cookies & Bars, Holidays & Events  | Tags: ,  | 3 Comments

What makes my pulse race, my heart surge and my eyes well up? The Olympic theme music. “Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat nor gloom of night”…, will keep me from the opening ceremonies, closing ceremonies and the two weeks of coverage in between. It’s only right that the games be celebrated with one of Vancouver’s celebrated foods, Nanaimo Bars. Truth-be-told, I find Nanaimo Bars to be a bit sweet, but being an Olympic Patriot, I’m sticking by them! Fudge is sweet, and we all like fudge right? So cut these bars into fudge sized squares and all will be OK. If you want to know more about Nanaimo bars, follow this link to the city of Nanaimo. I DID changed it a bit, of course 🙂 See you at the games!

Nanaimo Bars

Bottom Layer- A Nutty Chocolate, Coconut Base

½ cup butter
¼ cup sugar
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1 egg beaten
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
½ c. finely chopped almonds, pecans or walnuts
1 cup shredded sweetened coconut
1 tsp. vanilla

Melt first 3 ingredients in top of double boiler (Do it in the double boiler, I did my first batch without a double boiler, and I had a curdled mess after I added the egg) Add a T or so of chocolate mixture to beaten egg, and then another T. Turn heat off the double boiler. Pour warmed egg mixture into the chocolate mixture in the top of the double boiler. Stir vigorously to cook and thicken. Remove pan from bowl from double boiler and then stir in graham cracker crumbs, coconut, nuts and vanilla. Spread mixture into the bottom of a greased 9″ x 9″ pan. Refrigerate bottom layer while preparing the middle layer.

Second Layer-The Sweet, Firm, Cream Filling

½ cup butter
2 Tbsp. and 2 tsp. cream
2 Tbsp. vanilla custard powder (Bird’s Custard Powder preferred, Instant Vanilla Pudding powder if you don’t know what Bird’s is or where to get it)
2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla
pinch of salt

Cream butter, cream, custard powder, powdered sugar, vanilla and salt together. Beat until the mixture is very light, about 5 minutes with an electric mixer. Spread filing over the bottom layer and refrigerate while preparing the top layer.

Top Layer-Solid Chocolate

8 oz good quality semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 Tbsp. butter

Melt chocolate and butter together on 50% power in microwave. Cool slightly. Once cool, but still liquid, pour over second layer, spread evenly and then and chill in refrigerator until firm.

To cut the squares without cracking the hardened chocolate, use a sharp knife that has been warmed slightly before each cut. (Dip knife in boiling water, then quickly dry off before making a cut). Then use a small spatula to remove the squares from the pan. Keep squares refrigerated until serving time. Cue the Olympic Theme music!

Note: I have heard of two other places these are served; New York, as New York Slices, and Alaska, as Yukon Bars.

Thanks for visiting!  Now go watch the Olympics…, with a Nanaimo Bar!