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Posts Tagged ‘birthday’

Not a perfect roll because it was baked slightly too long, however it was delicious.  I started with Paula Deen’s blackberry jelly roll recipe and changes it to suit the flavors I wanted.  Instead of vanilla extract I used my Heilala Ground Vanilla
bean paste and I added about a quarter cup of milk steeped with chai.  The goal was to make a chai jelly roll but the chai wasn’t pronounced enough, so I’ll name it after the most expensive ingredient in the cake, the vanilla bean.

Otherwise this is a very light sponge cake filled with a frosting that is half buttercream, half whipped ganache.

A few chocolate dipped strawberries can’t hurt either.  I used a scant teaspoon of coconut oil in 4 oz. 60% cocoa squares melted in the microwave in 30-second intervals.  Stir to cool the melted chocolate then dip the berries.  I chilled them in the freezer for a few minutes.

Now, I will go drink my chai with this slice of birthday cake, good nite!

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Maybe I’m selfish.

I like to buy myself a birthday gift as a reminder to be good to oneself.  There’s a particular birthday in high school that has stuck with me, it became clearer since the fog of hormones, exams, and band recitals has vanished.  That memorable day was my sweet sixteen.  Mom made an apple pie and I wanted black forest cake.  Being that age, you don’t see or comprehend all that is happening around you.  I didn’t know how the family finances were not that great.  I didn’t know my parents would be getting divorced.  Heck, could it have happened?  Did she forget my birthday in the super storm of life breaking away from itself?  It was a long time ago.  That day, or the emotional imprint of it, will always stay with me.  Now I have a maelstrom of my own to get through, but a birthday shall not go forgotten, unnoticed, or snuffed out.  This year my gift to me is that divine vanilla in the photo above.  It caught my eye in the virtual Food52 shop window and I thought  Hey, why not?  It’s my birthday!

I feel older.

My body aches.  Bones crack.  I’m tired.  I won’t say “I’m old” because that would just offend those who are older than me.  Let’s just leave it as an incremental step and one more candle on the (black forest) cake.

I feel wiser.

I see what I have done before and learn from it.  I’m more confident in doing what is right, good, truthful, or scary because I know what waits on the other side of those actions.  That’s what life is about for me at 32.

I feel hopeful.

With all the injustices in the world I am hopeful for a better future.  We can’t reverse the entire industrial revolution without massive sacrifices, however if we destroy the only home we have there’s no point.  Pollution.  War.  GMOs.  They all need to go away.  I’m grateful for those of us who sacrifice towards gaining momentum to end what will end us all.  I wish I could hug the world to bring peace, a clean planet, and organic food.  That would be a good start, eh?

*

Note: This is not a sponsored post.  The link to the Food52 shop will get you a discounted offer on this vanilla.  That is all.

More Birthday Posts:

Read about my thoughts on turning 30.

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Peppered Lemon Rosemary Chicken

Peppered Lemon Rosemary Chicken with Autumn Vegetables

The nights are releasing their grip of their clenching fists of daytime warm air.  Visually, there’s not much evidence of fall in Texas.  The long dry summer sucked the moisture out of the limbs and leaves of even the heartiest of flora.  There was a lack of lush flowers and bushes since the middle of spring.  Bluebonnets suffered a short growing season and I have no fields of blue dotting my recent collection of digital photographs.  The land remains stagnant, waiting for water to return.

This subtle change in the night air is like a whisper from the far north, the snow-capped mountains sleeping through the summer.  Winter and hopefully rain will be here soon.

October must be the best month during fall.  Not only do we see and feel the changes of autumn, it’s also Little Sister’s birthday and Halloween.  Double the chances to have excuses to bake treats for the family!  October is also then month of Thanksgiving in my native land.  I often observe the holiday abroad with a whole roasted chicken, or if I’m feeling ambitious enough, a turkey.

Peppered Lemon Rosemary

This year I was inspired by what was waiting in the fridge: lemons and fresh rosemary, assorted vegetables, and a whole chicken.  With minor preparation, you can have a warm succulent chicken bursting with citrus and piney rosemary.

  • 1 whole chicken
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 3 Tbsp butter
  • 1 small lemons, zested and halved
  • 1 white or yellow onion, halved lengthwise
  • 1 red bell pepper, halved lengthwise and seeded
  • 3-4 small zucchini squash, halved lengthwise
  • 2 tomatoes, halved
  • 2 carrots, cut into manageable pieces
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • oregano or Italian herb blend, to taste

Pre-heat the oven to 375ºF.

Start by preparing the vegetables and arranging them on a baking sheet.  Give them a rub with olive oil then sprinkle salt, pepper and oregano.  Set this aside.

Autumn Vegetables

Autumn Vegetables

Combine the butter, lemon zest, about a tablespoon of rosemary, salt and pepper in a small bowl.

Prepare the chicken by removing the gibblets and washing the bird inside and out.  Pluck any pieces of feather that might remain.  Using paper towel, pat the skin dry.  The drier the skin the crispier it will be.  Tuck the lemon butter between the skin and the meat, all over the breasts and drumsticks.  You can save a bit of the butter to smear over the skin or use olive oil.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper generously.

The chicken I used was 4 and a half pounds, and it was ready in about 75 minutes.  Always have a thermometer handy while roasting, the thickest part of the thigh meat needs to be 180ºF and juices running clear (i.e. no pink hue).  Cover the chicken for the first 45 minutes, then remove the lid or foil for the last part of the roasting time to get a crispbrown skin.

The veggie tray will take about 30 minutes to soften and get a hint of brown caramel around the edges.

Arrange the chicken and vegetables on a platter and sprinkle with rosemary as a garnish.

Look for a dressing in an upcoming post to serve alongside the chicken or a turkey!

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Pepper is 2 years old!

I used to think people who do weird things for their pets, treating them like children, was absurd.  Notice I said was.  I was also a cat person before moving away from the farm.  Pepper, my Boston Terrier, made me switch teams.

Pepper the Boston Terrier

Pepper the Boston Terrier

She does have a “nice collar” for going out to see her doggy friends, and I have plans to sew a vest-like contraption for winter.  I have dressed her in Little Sister’s summer dress just to get a laugh.  She explodes with affection every time I walk in the door, no matter if I went to get the mail or spent all day at work.  I hope to have her forever.

Speak of the Boston, Pepper just knows when I’m talking (or writing) about her and came over to check on me as I’m typing this post.

Well, Pepper reached her second birthday… I made a cake to celebrate!

Pepper's Birthday Cake

It was somewhat last-minute so I used a lemon cake mix and made a thick pudding filling.   Pepper didn’t get to eat her cake, but her humans enjoyed several slices for her.

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Little Sister has now reached her first birthday and I’m astonished at how quickly this year flew by. The whole family packed up to go to the grandparent’s house, only 5 to 6 hours away, for a special celebration. Both Little Sister and Grandpa had birthdays this weekend, so we combined the two together. I made the appetizers and sweets, Grandma made brisket and rice, Tia made her beans.  Thank you very much to those who came out for some good laughs, invincible piñatas, and great company!

(red platter) Apple Cider Brined Carrots, (yellow platter) Skinny Pigs in a Blanket

Here’s what I contributed to the birthday bash.

Skinny Pigs in a Blanket

I’ve been reading Claire Robinson’s book (5 Ingredient Fix) and there’s some great pieces of advice in there, especially how you should use the best ingredients you can afford since there are so few components to a dish. This holds true for many recipes and I applied the philosophy to my Skinny Pigs in a Blanket by using super lean smoked sausage (which I found on sale last week) and pungent sharp cheddar. When you use sharp cheeses you need less of it to get the flavor to appear, this also means less fat. All three ingredients were toned down in fat levels, but flavor was not sacrificed. There were no leftovers whatsoever.

  • Lean Smoked Turkey Sausage
  • Extra Sharp New York Style Cheddar
  • Reduced Fat Crescent Rolls

Cut 3 inch sections of sausage, then quarter them lengthwise. Slice the cheese the same length, use as thin or thick a slice as you like. Wrap the sausage and cheese in a crescent roll, I had no fancy way of doing this, just cover as much as you can with the dough. Bake at 375 degrees for about 14 minutes or the tops are golden brown.

Pumpkin Cupcakes

  • 1 box yellow cake mix
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 can (15 oz) pumpkin puree
  • water
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 teasp cinnamon
  • 1/8 teasp allspice
  • 1/8 teasp cloves

Follow the directions on the box, except for the amount of water.  I used about 1/4 cup of water in my batter, the remaining amount will be added by the pumpkin.  You can roast and puree your own pumpkin (I’ve also used calabaza squash) for this recipe. 

pumpkin cupcakes

Pecan Raisin Tarts

Tart Shell:
  • 1 cups cake flour
  • 1 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 sticks cold unsalted butter
  • 1/2 teasp sea salt
  • 1/2 cup sugar
Filling:
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 Tbsp melted butter
  • 2 Tbsp flour
  • pinch of sea salt

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees, that’s 175 deg C for my Canadian folks.  Cut the cold butter into the flour and salt until it feels like wet sand and will hold its shape when pinched.  Grease a muffin tin (or use silicone to skip this step, and I would have used my silicone molds because these little tarts stuck to my pan!) with butter.  Take a heaping tablespoon of the pastry and push it around the walls of the mold, then add a little more to cover the bottom.  Repeat until all 12 molds are filled.  Bake for 10  to 12 minutes, the outside edge should begin to brown. 

Whilst the shells bake, prepare the filling.  Set the raisins and pecans aside and whisk everything else in a bowl.  When the tart shells come out, they will look poofy, don’t worry, distribute the pecans and raisins to each tart, you can push them down in the middle gently.  Pour the egg mixture into each tart shell, then quickly get them back into the oven for another 20 minutes.  The result is a flaky shell with a sticky nutty caramel interior.  Let the tarts cool in the pan, this will be the hardest part but trust me, if you try to take them out while they are still warm you will lose a few chunks.  Yep, I did it.  So now you know what not to do, or use those fancy silicone molds instead.

Apple Cider Brined Carrots

  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup salt
  • 1 teasp black mustard seeds
  • 1/2 teasp turmeric powder
  • 1/4 teasp whole coriander seeds
  • 1/2 onion, sliced
  • 2 whole Serrano peppers, stems removed
  • baby carrots, rinsed well

Prepare a glass jar by sterilizing in a hot water bath for 10 minutes, I used an empty pasta sauce jar (Classico uses thick glass which should not break if you reuse them * however, do so at your own risk).  Pack the onion slices pulled apart into individual rings into the bottom of the jar, then the peppers and carrots.  I will also suggest adding the spices to the jar, as the mustard seeds stuck to the pot where the brine was made.  Next, make the brine.  Pour the vinegar, water, salt and sugar into a pot and bring it up to a boil while stirring to dissolve the salt.  Let it boil for a minute then carefully pour into the jar.  Cover the jar with a lid.  Tip: don’t put the glass jar on a cold countertop, the temperature difference may crack the glass when the hot brine is added.  Let the jar cool then refrigerate.  I made these carrots two days prior to the party so they would be good and pickled for my platter.

Caramel Popcorn with Peanuts and Sunflower Seeds

(adapted from Emeril’s Microwave Nutty-Caramel Corn)

  • 14 cups freshly popped popcorn
  • 1 jar roasted peanuts (no shells)
  • 1/2 cup roasted sunflower seeds (no shells)
  • 1 stick of unsalted butter
  • 1 cup light brown sugar packed
  • 1/2 cup corn syrup
  • 1 teasp vanilla
  • sea salt
  • 1 teasp baking soda
  • large paper sack

D – this is for you!

Combine the popcorn, nuts, and seeds in the paper sack.  In a microwave-safe bowl, add the butter, sugar, syrup, vanilla and pinch of sea salt.  Microwave on high for 1 minute.  Stir.  Return to the microwave for 2 minutes.  Stir again.  If the brown sugar feels grainy under the (wooden) spoon, pop it back in for another minute.  Sprinkle the baking soda into the hot gooey mess and stir carefully, the soda will bubble and foam.  Pour the caramel into the paper sack, toss the popcorn around to coat.  Stuff the paper sack into the microwave for 1 minute on high.  Then shake it, preferably with oven mitts.  Spread the sticky popcorn on two wax paper lined baking sheets (or kitchen counter) and if you like salty-sweet nibbles add a dash more sea salt while the caramel is hot.  Let it cool then store in an airtight container for up to 3 days, if it will survive that long. 

Hummus and Chorizo Spread

I know what you’re thinking, chorizo is so greasy why on Earth would you use it?  Well, this is not your typical chorizo – this is homemade lean chorizo from the Grandparent’s kitchen.  I’ve requested a weekend to learn how to make this delightfully versatile sausage.  When I learn how to make it, I’ll let y’all know!  This spread was unexpectedly tasty and incredibly easy to prepare, your friends will think you spent all afternoon putting the dish together.  Here is our little secret… buy the hummus from your deli!  I even took two flavors, regular and roasted red pepper hummus, just to have a taste of each.  Grab some low-fat multi-grain pita chips and you’re set.  Well, except for the chorizo, stay tuned for that…  Now you have everything needed to put this spread to work.  Brown the chorizo (drain on paper towel if it’s not lean), spread the hummus on a plate (half regular and half red pepper – or pick the flavors you want), top with a sprinkle of chorizo.  Done.

Now go grab an iced tea and enjoy!

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