Saturday, April 3, 2010

Strawberry Shortcake

Happy Easter everybody!!! I hope your day is filled with chocolate, sunshine and family. Unfortunately I will be spending my Easter morning making dessert for 300 people. I did have the chance to celebrate early with my family and we spent the day reminiscing, dying eggs and eating chocolate candy.
One of my family's all time favorite Easter memory involves my lively and precocious little sister. One year she decided all she would eat the entire day was chocolate and carrot sticks. While everyone else sat down for Easter dinner, she helped herself to a chocolate easter bunny and a bundle of carrots. Of course all that sugar left her with an excess of energy and an inexplicable but undeniable urge to perform 100 cartwheels before bedtime. Much to our amazement she completed this task without falling over or running into any walls. In fact, she seemed pretty much unfazed by her feat. Soon thereafter we all went to bed only to be awoken at 2 in the morning by a screaming and very very sick sister. I had the pleasure of sharing a room with her at this point in our lives and unfortunately received the brunt of her sickness at the foot of my bed. The white carpet in our old bedroom retains hints of the orange and chocolate stains to this day. Needless to say, she did not perform her amazing feat of 100 cartwheels in a row again. I believe she is still off carrots and milk chocolate to this day.

I hope she is not angry with me for sharing this story! To make up for it, I want to give her a shout out for her incredible craftiness. She decorated the beautiful easter eggs pictured above. She very carefully cut strips of origami paper and pieced them together in the beautiful patterns you see here. They are absolutely gorgeous.
Well it wouldn't be a holiday dinner without a little dessert right? I made a strawberry shortcake with cream cheese frosting.

Strawberry Shortcake

Orange Chiffon Cake

1 # cake flour
2 tsp baking powder
1# sugar
1# 5oz egg yolks
8 fl oz vegetable oil
8 fl oz orange juice
1 Tbs vanilla
1# 5oz egg whites
1 orange, zest

1. Sift the dry ingredients together and mix with 1/3 of sugar.
2. Combine yolks, oil, juice, zest, vanilla in mixer. Add dry ingredients and mix well. Pour into larger bowl and set aside.
3. Whip the whites on medium speed until soft peaks form (you will see white foam). Increase speed and gradually add the remaining sugar. Continue to whip to create a medium peak meringue.
4. Gently fold 1/3 of meringue into yolk mixture to fully combine. Fold in rest of meringue.
5. Divide into 2 greased 9" round pans and bake at 375 degrees for about 25 minutes.

Cream Cheese Frosting

8 oz cream cheese
1 stick butter
4 cups powdered sugar
2 tsp almond extract

Mix all ingredients together.

To Assemble Cake:
1. Drizzle each layer of cake with Grand Marnier (optional).
2. Spread half of frosting over bottom layer. Layer with sliced strawberries.
3. Place second layer of cake on top. Spread rest of frosting on top and decorate with sliced strawberries.

Brownies with Strawberry Ice Cream

What better way to end a barbecue than with homemade brownies a la mode? Since I've been seeing strawberries everywhere lately, I decided to incorporate some into my go to vanilla bean ice cream recipe. This can be d0ne with most fruits and berries, simply macerate them in a little sugar or sauté them for a few minutes to bring out their natural sweetness. Then you simply fold the fruit into the churned ice cream. I'm going to try this recipe with peaches as soon as I start to see them in the store. I love how easy it is to manipulate a basic ice cream recipe and create new flavors. Feel free to alter the following recipe by infusing the cream with a spice or adding different mix-ins. Have fun and be creative!


8oz dark chocolate
1 stick butter
3 eggs
1 1/4 cup flour
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1. Melt butter and chocolate together in microwave.
2. Stir in eggs.
3. Stir in flour, sugar, vanilla, and baking soda.
4. Spread into a greased 13X9 inch baking pan and bake for about 18 minutes at 350 degrees.

Fresh Strawberry Ice Cream

1 pint strawberries, chopped
3 tablespoons sugar

1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 whole vanilla bean*
2 eggs
3 egg yolks
3/4 cup sugar

1. Sprinkle the first measurement of sugar over the chopped strawberries, mix well. Sauté half of berries in saucepan for 2 minutes. Refrigerate and allow to sit while you prepare the ice cream.
2. Combine milk and cream in saucepan. Split the vanilla bean in half lengthwise and scrape out the seeds into the pan. Add the pod and bring to a boil.
3. Meanwhile, combine the eggs, yolks, and sugar in a bowl.
4. Whisk 1 cup of the boiling liquid into yolk mixture to temper it. Bring the remaining liquid back to a boil and whisk the yolk mixture into the saucepan.
5. Stir the mixture continually for about 2 1/2 minutes on medium heat.
6. Strain liquid into a clean container and place in fridge until chilled.
7. Pour liquid into ice cream maker and churn until thickened about 25-30 minutes. At this point, stir in the strawberries and place in freezer to set.

*Vanilla beans are much more expensive than vanilla extract, but they impart a richer flavor and are definitely worth the splurge when it comes to real homemade ice cream. Save the pod when you strain the ice cream. Simply rinse it off, dry it out and place it in your sugar bowl. Over the course of the next few days your sugar will take on a light vanilla scent and taste. It's a fun and easy way to enhance your morning cup of coffee!

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Blood Orange Jalapeño Margaritas

My sister and I created these margaritas last weekend at a barbecue. They were really fun to serve the quests because they made for lots of funny faces and wild guesses as to the components of the drink. When the ingredients of the margaritas were revealed, everyone was shocked but genuinely impressed that a jalapeño could add so much to the classic margarita. There is no extra sugar added to this recipe, so those of you who have qualms about the over the top sweetness of margaritas might want to give this a try.

You can alter the spice factor of the drink depending on how long you infuse the tequila with the jalapeño. We left it in the tequila for about two hours and the drinks had just a slight heat which was a really nice contrast to the sweetness of the blood oranges. The pink juice of the blood oranges gives a really pretty color to the margarita. If you have trouble finding blood oranges, you can substitute regular oranges. Have fun and enjoy!

Blood Orange Jalapeño Margaritas
makes about 3 drinks

4oz tequila
1 jalapeño
3oz blood orange juice
1oz lime juice
3oz grand marnier

Chop the jalapeño and remove the seeds. Let it sit in the tequila for about 2 hours. Strain the jalapeño. Add rest of ingredients, pour over ice and enjoy!

Sunday, March 7, 2010


Need I say more?

Okay, maybe I do. For my birthday this past weekend, my sisters and my friends all drove up to Idyllwild, CA to play in the snow and celebrate. We had so much fun sledding, building snowmen, cooking big family style meals and playing board games by the fireplace. We were all thrilled when it began snowing upon our arrival at the cabin. Being raised in southern California, we were all quite impressed by the snow and the majestic calm and quiet that settled over the neighborhood (at least until the snow plow came). The snow inspired many fun activities and ideas, one of which where the Snowgaritas. Pretty simple stuff: pack a cup full of freshly fallen snow, add margarita mix and a splash of tequila and you're set!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Cinnamon Doughnuts

My friends were hosting a Superbowl party on Sunday and had decided to deep fry a turkey. I was asked to bring dessert. Since I had never before used a backyard deep fryer I was inspired to make doughnuts. How fun to be able to commune with nature while baking! I opted for a quick cake-like doughnut rather than a yeast based recipe (I only had about 1 hour before the game started). Of course you don't need a deep fryer to make these little pillows of heaven. Just add a few inches of vegetable oil to a sauce pan and you have a make-shift fryer. Doughnuts are so much fun to make and even more fun to eat! I sifted powdered sugar over mine and served them with a chocolate and a caramel dipping sauce. Feel free to roll them in cinnamon sugar after they come out of the fryer or glaze them with icing. This recipe can be altered to taste by adjusting the extracts and spices. Have fun!

Cinnamon Doughnuts
makes about 30 mini

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1 cup milk
1 egg
1/4 cup butter, melted
2 teaspoons vanilla

vegetable oil

1. Mix dry ingredients together in a bowl.
2. Mix wet ingredients together.
3. Add wet ingredients to dry and mix to combine fully. Wrap dough in plastic and place in fridge for at least 30 minutes.
4. Liberally flour a flat surface and roll out dough to about 1/2" thickness. Use round cutters to cut out dough and make sure to cut out the center for a classic doughnut shape. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use.
5. Heat oil to 370 degrees. VERY carefully drop doughnuts into oil one at a time, being careful not to overcrowd. **To safety drop the doughnuts into the oil, touch the dough to the oil then slowly let it go. This technique will prevent the oil from popping back at you.** After a minute or so, use a metal spatula to flip the doughnuts over in the oil. Wait another 30 seconds then carefully remove doughnuts from oil and allow to drain on a paper towel.
6. Serve warm with your choice of toppings.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Whole Wheat Honey Bread

Do you ever crave the sweet smell of freshly baking bread? Growing up my mother baked fresh bread so often that I took that smell for granted. I can now truly appreciate the time and love she put into each and every loaf we shared. Sometimes when my sisters and I arrived home from school she would be pulling out a hot loaf of cinnamon swirl bread from the oven for our afternoon snack. To this day I have yet to taste anything like her cinnamon swirl bread.

Today I opted for something heartier with just a touch of sweetness. This home-style wheat bread has a small amount of honey in the dough. The honey not only works with the yeast in allowing it to expand and rise, but provides for a more rounded flavor in the bread itself. If you have an afternoon free give this recipe a shot. It is very easy and the dough can be shaped into loaf pans or rounds for a more rustic look. This recipe makes 3 loaves, which can be frozen for several weeks.
Whole Wheat Honey Bread
makes 3 loaves

3 cups warm water (110 degrees)
Two 1/4-ounce packages active dry yeast
2/3 cup honey
5 cups white bread flour
5 tablespoons butter, melted
1 tablespoon salt
5 to 6 cups whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1. In a large bowl, mix the water, yeast, and 1/3 cup of the honey together. Add the white bread flour and stir to combine. Allow to sit for 30 minutes, until the dough is big and bubbly.

2. Mix in the melted butter, remaining honey, and the salt. Stir in 2 cups of the whole wheat flour. Add up to 4 more cups of the whole wheat flour, 1 cup at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add enough flour until the dough is tacky but can be worked with your hands.

3. Flour a surface and knead the dough until it forms a smooth ball but is still sticky to the touch.
4. Grease a large bowl with the vegetable oil. Place the dough in the bowl and turn it once to coat the surface of the dough. Cover and allow to rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

5. Punch the dough down and divide it into 3 loaves. Place the loaves either in greased 8 1/2X4 1/2 inch loaf pans or in rounds on a sheet pan. Allow to rise for another hour.6. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and bake for 30 minutes. Allow the loaves to cool about 30 minutes before slicing.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Baby Steps

For those looking for ways to help out the Haiti crisis, please check out this t-shirt by Mike Fretto. The shirt is only $15 and 100% of the proceeds will be donated towards Haiti-Partners in Health.