Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Confetti Cake Pie (with a graham cracker crust!)

Happy Birthday!... me!! 

Well, unfortunately, my birthday fell on a Monday this year, which is the start of a work week (boo!), but fortunately, this means I get to celebrate both the weekend before and the weekend after (woo!)! 

So to start things off I made a cake.  Or a pie.  It's essentially a confetti cake baked in a graham cracker crust, so I hereby declare this a cake pie.  And it's my birthday, so I make the rules.

Now yes, this is a cake without the frosting, but no frosting needed here, my friends.  The graham crust adds a subtle sweetness to each and every bite, which works out well for me because, quite frankly, I have icing issues (I reattempted the Flag Cake over the weekend and FAIL- it has now been nixed from the newly renamed 26-during-27 list). 

As far as where the idea came from for this crazy combo?  I have no idea*.  But it was so good, I'm tempted to make another as the celebration continues this weekend with a very welcome two-day visit from my parents :)

*Another year older, another year wiser.

Confetti Cake Pie

Makes one 8 or 9-inch pie

1 cup graham cracker crumbs (about 9 full-sheet graham crackers)
4 tablespoons butter, melted
2 tablespoons sugar

 6 tablespoons butter, softened to room temperature
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 + 1/8 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 + 1/8 cup yellow or white boxed cake mix
1/4 cup sprinkles

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  If using graham cracker sheets, using a food processor or blender, pulverize the graham crackers into a fine crumb. Pour crumbs into a medium bowl and mix with melted butter and sugar. Press into an ungreased 8-inch or 9-inch pie dish.  Bake for 8 minutes.  While baking, prepare the cake filling.

In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugars.  Mix in the eggs and vanilla.  Add the flour and cake mix and mix until just combined.  Fold in the sprinkles.  Spread gently into warmed crust. 

Increase oven temperature to 350.  One preheated, bake for 25 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.  Let cool to room temperature before cutting into wedges. 

Saturday, June 22, 2013

26-by-27 another year older

I'm gonna be honest with you.  First, yes, I turn 27 on Monday.  I won't lie about my age.  Yet.

Secondly, the 26-by-27 thing.  Well...let's have a look:

Oh wait....I have added a little comment/update/lol at myself/admittance of failure at the end of each goal (see the purple).  I have no shame.  Read for your pleasure, or don't, that's cool too, because there's no fancy picture of food at the end and no recipe to be found either.  Sorry folks.

Oh, and what's going to happen now?  Well, I will continue to work on accomplishing this list of course and heck, maybe I'll even add something to it.  I'm crazy like that.

Here goes:

1.  Revamp blog.  (I really want to change the look and do some other things I am trying to figure out as a newbie to the blogosphere.) - Done!  But always a work in progress.  As you can see, the site has changed and looks a bit simpler- clean lines, white with hints of color- more of the look I was going for.  As I "evolve" in the blogging world, however, improvements will continue to be made.

2.  Join an ongoing blog recipe challenge.  (i.e. Secret Recipe Club, Tuesdays with Dorie, etc.) - many "clubs" require you to be a reasonably established blog (i.e. a minimum of 100 posts).  I have recently accomplished this goal so now I'm on the lookout!

3.  Enter some sort of local food contest. - yeaaaaa...big slacker here.  Haven't even attempted to look for one.  Oops.

4.  Overcome my fear of the grill.  (We now have a grill, however I am a little afraid to attempt making something on it.  It's a bit out of my comfort zone.) - another big failure.  No attempts whatsoever.  :(

5.  Take a cake decorating class. - I'm in desperate need of this.  I am a miserable mess when it comes to icing a cake.

6.  Finally try quinoa.  (I gotta find out what this latest craze is all about.) - Done!  Made Corn and Cheddar Quinoa and it knocked my socks off.

7.  Make something with a fresh coconut. - Coconut purchased!  However they last for six months, so I can't say the purchase is a big enough motivator.

8.  Recreate the Perfect Margarita.  (The restaurant chain Red Rock Canyon Grill makes the best margarita EVER, fittingly titled The Perfect Margarita, and I need to know how to replicate one at home.) - oooo, I think I need a margarita tonight.

9.  Make a bundt cake.  (The bundt pan was not my friend on Easter, destroying the look- but luckily not the taste!- of my strawberry orange cake.  I swore that day I would never make a bundt cake again but I can't let the pan win.) - Done!  Baked up a Red Velvet Marble Cream Cheese Pound Cake and it came out beautifully.  Also, attempted the Easter Day bundt again!

10.  Make my Grandma Min's apple pie.  (As a little girl, I remember loving my grandma's apple pie and I need to recreate this fabulous dessert of hers.) - Done!  Created a Salted Caramel Apple Pie for Thanksgiving that was reminiscent of the juicy fruit pie I remember. 

11.  Make my Grandma Audrey's spaghetti sauce.  (This was another favorite of mine growing up.  I already have the recipe, now it's just a matter of making it.) - Done!  Made is for a romantic Valentine's Day 2013 dinner.

12.  Find an awesome scone recipe.  (I actually made some scones a couple of days ago but Epic Fail they were.  I literally threw them in the trash- something unheard of in our house.  I have been searching high and low for a recipe that will not let my taste buds down.) - this will probably be my next thing to cross off the list.  Got a few ideas churning...

13.  Can something.  (I'm thinking jam but am open to suggestions.) - Definitely jam or something with tomatoes...homemade spicy ketchup!!

14.  Try a Corona-Rita.  (How did I never hear about this in college??) - I seriously can't believe I still haven't had one!

15.  Make a special day trip to Dallas or Plano for Trader Joe's, Central Market, and Sur La Table.  (Dream Day!)...and maybe stop in Ikea while I'm in the area :) - partly done, a trip to Ikea was made and I intend to go again soon.  One word: Paradise. - oh I want to shop just reading this!

16.  Attend a food festival. - fail.  that's all I can say.

17.  Take a trip. - Done!  Went to Minnesota for a family vacation at the end of July!

18.  Go to Six Flags.  (It's been years since I've gone and now that we live so close I've gotta take advantage!) - Done!  Went for my 26th birthday!

19.  Reread The Happiness Project.  (Such an interesting and thought-provoking book.  A great reference for bettering yourself and loving life.  Highly recommended.) - dang it!  I keep finding other books to read!  (see #20).

20.  Read at least one book per month.  (I wish I could do more than this but there's just not enough time in the day.) - July: Catching Fire, August: Secrets to Happiness, September: Mockingjay, October: Where We Belong, November: The Next Best Thing, December: 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess, January: (see December), February: The Year of Living Famously, March: Gone Girl, April: Last Night At Chateau Marmont, May: The Husband, June: The Night I Got Lucky,

21.  Paint three rooms in the house.  (The guest room, office, and master bath to be exact.  Painting does wonders to a room.) - changing this to two.  I put new linens in the guest and the walls now compliment the bedding, so we're going to nix the guest room from this list.

22.  Clean up flower beds in the backyard.  (I've done some planting in the front this summer, but I want to take advantage of the raised beds we have out back.) - looking for someone to do this for me.  will pay in food.

23.  Buy an old piece of furniture and refinish it.  (Sounds like a fun and rewarding project!) - got the furniture, got the paint.  Let's do this.

24.  Eat at one new restaurant each month.  (We like to eat at home after a long day and tend to have our favorite lunch spots but it's always fun to try something new- especially when we have an overwhelming amount of options.) - July: Fuzzy's, August: Palio's, September: Zoe's Kitchen, October: Big Fish, November: Freebirds, December: Ti Amo, February (two-fer): Chuy's, California Pizza Kitchen, March: Pei Wei, April: The Tavern, Joe T. Garcia's, May: Which Wich, June: Brunos,

25.  Marry Nathan.  (We've been together for four years.  I think it's time.) - this just announced:  Colorado, December 2013 baby!!

26.  Practice Practice Practice layer cakes and recreate the Flag Cake for July 4th, 2013. - EPIC FAIL.  Flag cake is the death of me!!  I will continue to practice those layer cakes though. 

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Mini Fresh Strawberry Cakes

This one's for you...


[and Uncle David, too]*

I received an early birthday present (yes, I've mentioned it's my birthday month once before, and you will hear about it again)!  My lovely Aunt and Uncle presented me with this Nordicware Flower Cake Pan last weekend and I wasted no time in putting it to use.  These are the same wonderful people who have given me my Le Creuset French Oven and Soup Bowls, the kitchen towel seen in this post, and this super cute petite popover pan

They know me oh-so-well.

What to make, what to make? Fresh strawberry cake.

I first made this cake in traditional cake pan form a couple of years ago for Easter and it was a huge hit.  I've wanted to bake it ever since, but I make a lot of strawberry cake at the bakery every week, so it's always nice to play around in the kitchen at home and during the holidays, thus, it hasn't been made since, which is a bit of a tragedy because this is strawberry cake at its finest.  Bright and cheery too, it's the perfect thing to present dad this Father's Day to say "hey dad! you're kinda awesome. and i kinda love you, too" (don't be afraid to say that last part, he'll kinda appreciate it). 

Mini Fresh Strawberry Cakes

Makes 6 Flowers (+ a few mini cupcakes) or 1 (8-inch) cake round**

6 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
2/3 cup sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/8 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup pureed strawberries
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
Pink or red food coloring

Generously grease six flower pans (or one cake pan).  In medium mixing bowl, whisk together the butter and sugar.  Add the egg yolk, vanilla, and buttermilk and whisk until blended.  Blend in the pureed strawberries and a few drops of food coloring (I got a little happy here, hence my dark cakes).  Fold in the flour, baking soda and salt and whisk until no lumps remain.

Divide the batter between the pans, filling about two-thirds full.  Discard remaining batter or use for a few mini cupcakes (I got 7).  Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Move to a cooling rack and allow to sit for 15 minutes. Run a knife around the edges, if needed, and invert the pan to release the cakes.  Cool completely and decorate as desired. 

*Also dedicated to Adam, father to my beautiful nephew, Benjamin!
**If you want to make a two or three-inch layer cake, double or triple the recipe as needed.

Adapted from A Good Appetite.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Sweet Crescent Rolls

We need to talk.

First off, yes, my little brother got married last weekend, as I previously mentioned.  No one got cold feet, thank goodness, but those four days were filled with so much good food, drink, family, and laughter that I think my brother needs to get married every weekend.  Needless to say, the daily grind kinda stinks.

So while they're away on a tropical honeymoon (capital JEALOUS), we're back in Texas and I'm staring at my 26-by-27 list.  Things don't look good here people.  I'm turning 27 in less than two weeks and, quite frankly, I have a feeling I won't be crossing off all 26 items by the twenty-fourth of June.  Although I have had some pretty good margaritas (#8), and there is a fresh coconut sitting on our kitchen counter (#7), and I have purchased both the paint and the furniture piece that I intend to refinish (#23), it appears as though I've only accomplished about one-third of the list (yes, I'm being generous here). 

Hence, I'm going to make a new game plan.  In the meantime, though, I'm going to make rolls, because every newly wed housewife could use a good crescent recipe.  A flaky, buttery roll that makes you feel all domestic and homey and Martha Stewart-esque.  And with all those unessential (but oh-so-necessary) culinary-inspired wedding gifts, you could even deep fry them (weird? maybe just stick with battered chicken and twinkies).

Sweet Crescent Rolls

Makes 24 rolls

2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast (one .25-ounce packet)
1/2 cup warm water (110 degrees F)
1/2 cup warm milk
1 egg
1/3 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon salt
3 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup butter, softened and cut up into small pieces

Combine yeast, water, and milk in mixer fitted with dough hook and allow yeast to proof for 10 minutes or until foamy.  Mix in the egg, sugar, and salt.  Gradually add the flour and butter, alternating between the two, until the dough comes together (you may need less flour, you may need more, just start with 3 cups and then add it a quarter cup at a time until the dough becomes tacky, yet pliable).

Turn dough out into a greased bowl and cover loosely with a kitchen towel.  Let rise for about 45 minutes or until doubled in size. 

Punch down dough and turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide dough in half. Roll each half into a 12-inch circle and cut each circle into 12 wedges (a pizza cutter works well here). Roll wedges starting at wide end; roll gently but tightly. Place point side down on ungreased cookie sheet. Cover with clean kitchen towel and put in a warm place, let rise 1 hour.  Bake at 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes, until golden.

Adapted from AllRecipes.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Sweet Corn and Bacon Chicken Salad

I'm pretty pumped.

You see, this weekend my little brother is getting married!  (Yes, both him and my sister have Nathan and me beat, despite the fact that we've been together at least one year longer than either of them.  Not that this is a contest or anything...), but yea, I'm seriously excited.  And I must say, he's tying the knot with one really great girl.

Their gift is wrapped; (multiple!) dresses have been bought (ahem...four...); travel arrangements, dinner plans, and hotel accommodations have been made; haircut and pedicure are taking place this afternoon.  It's definitely going to be a fun and family-filled weekend!  Needless to say, things have been busy (and I'm not even the bride!).  So what's a great thing to have on hand during those busy busy weeks (which, who are we kidding, is every week)?  Chicken salad, my friends.

I tend to get on a bit of a chicken salad kick come summer.  Last year I treated you to greek, southwest, and peach and honey mustard versions, and now I'm starting up again with corn and bacon.  I love love love having a batch of this stuff in the fridge, ready to spoon between two slices of bread or picked at straight from the bowl.  As I nibbled on this I thought about how to describe the flavor (maybe a little too hard, actually), but it's definitely a little different than the more traditional, tangy mayo variations.  It's got a zesty kick from the paprika, and a salty smokiness from the bacon and dijon.  It's a good thing though, if you're into that sort of thing, and if your brother is getting married in a few days. 

Sweet Corn and Bacon Chicken Salad

Makes about 4 cups

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
2/3 cup plain greek yogurt (I used one [5.3-ounce] Oikos container)
1 1/2 tablespoons dijon mustard
1 cup cooked sweet corn kernels
4 bacon slices, fried and crumbled
4 green onions, sliced
2 tablespoons chives (or 2 teaspoons dried)
Add shredded chicken to a large bowl and season with salt, pepper and paprika. Add yogurt and mustard, tossing well to coat, then fold in the corn, bacon, green onions, and chives. Taste and season with more salt and pepper if desired.

Adapted from How Sweet It Is.