Tuesday, August 31, 2010

End of Summer Salads

With school starting again and the days getting noticeably shorter, summer is definitely coming to an end. But we have a few weeks of sunshine and warm weather left before fall officially begins. Here are three of our family's favorite picnic salads from our short summer season. Use the last of your garden bounty to make these delicious recipes, and savor that last little bit of summer!

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Saturday, August 21, 2010

Cake Slice Bakers, August 2010: Tres Leches Cake

I completely forgot to post this on the 20th! Luckily that was just yesterday, so I'm not too far off. I made this cake a few weeks ago when we had company in town, and it was very well-received. For anyone unfamiliar with Tres Leches Cake--although that's hard to imagine--you start with a white cake, poke holes all over the top, and pour a sweet, three-milk sauce over the top and let it soak in. I'm not a fan of soggy cakes, so I only used about half of the sauce, but it still turned out wonderfully moist and flavorful. I loved the addition of lime zest to the top of the cake; it gave it a zippy, tropical punch of flavor. This cake was another easy winner from Southern Cakes by Nancie McDermott, and one that I will definitely be making again!

Johnny C's Tres Leches Cake
from Southern Cakes by Nancie McDermott

for the cake:
3 cups flour
1 Tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup butter, softened
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 cup milk

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Combine flour and baking powder in a medium bowl. In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar at high speed until well-mixed. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing after each addition. Add 1/3 of the flour mixture and beat at low speed until the flour just disappears. Do the same for 1/2 of the milk. Repeat with flour, milk, and more flour. Pour batter into a greased 9x13" pan and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until the cake is golden and begins to pull away from the sides of the pan.

for the three-milk sauce:
1 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
1 12-oz can evaporated milk
1 Tablespoon fresh lime zest

While the cake is baking, combine the three milks in a saucepan. Heat gently over medium heat, stirring often, until mixture is smooth and steaming.

When the cake comes out of the oven, allow it to cool for 10 minutes, then sprinkle with lime zest. Using a toothpick, poke holes in the top of the cake every inch or so. Working in batches, pour the hot sauce over the warm cake. Allow one batch of sauce to soak in before adding the next batch. Add as much or as little as you like. As I said, I only used half of the sauce. Let stand at room temperature for one hour, then cover and refrigerate. Allow cake to come to room temperature before serving. Serve with fresh whipped cream.
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Monday, August 16, 2010

Daring Bakers Catch-Up: The Best Chocolate Ice Cream Ever

As I've stated before, being out of town all summer has seriously cut into my cooking group participation. But when I saw the recipe for July's Daring Bakers Challenge, Swiss Swirl Ice Cream Cake, I figured it would be easy and my family would love it. So I gathered my ingredients one day between trips and got started. I made delicious vanilla and chocolate ice creams from scratch without my trusty ice cream freezer (I had forgotten to put the bowls in the freezer), and really, really delicious hot fudge sauce that I ate quite a bit of with a spoon. Things hit a rough patch when I realized I had no parchment paper with which to line my cake pan. No big deal; you can use waxed paper in a pinch. Ruh-roh, as Scooby would say. No waxed paper either. What to do? The ice cream is in the freezer, the hot fudge is cooling, the cake batter is made. Surely you can cut up a brown paper grocery bag, grease the heck out of it, and use that, right? Doesn't that seem like it would work? Sadly, it was a hot cake mess. So I scrapped the Swiss Swirl Ice Cream Cake idea and we had spectacular ice cream sundaes, complete with fresh whipped cream, homemade hot fudge sauce, and sliced bananas. The chocolate ice cream, in particular, was amazing. Somehow, 3 simple ingredients combined to form a smooth, rich, fudgy chocolate ice cream. I was sad that I didn't make more of it. Luckily, we still have a few weeks of ice cream season left!

Chocolate Ice Cream
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup sugar
3 Tablespoons cocoa powder

Whisk all ingredients in a small sauce pan until well-combined. Heat until bubbles form along edges. Remove from heat and allow to cool before freezing. Freeze according to ice cream freezer manufacturer's instructions. Or, put the mixture in a freezer safe bowl and freeze. Stir every 30 minutes or so for the first 2 hours, then allow to freeze completely.

Hot Fudge Sauce
1 cup sugar
3 Tablespoons cocoa powder
2 Tablespoons cornstarch
1 1/2 cups water
1 Tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon vanilla

Combine sugar, cocoa powder, cornstarch, and water in a small saucepan. Heat, stirring constantly, until thickened. Remove from heat and add butter and vanilla. Stir to combine.
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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Smart Spice Winner!

Congratulations to Katie from Tulsa! She won 16 organic herbs and spices from Smart Spice! Thanks to everyone who participated in this give-away, and make sure to check out the Smart Spice website.
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Sunday, August 8, 2010

Skillet Cake featuring Smart Spice Nutmeg and Cinnamon...and Chocolate Raspberry Truffle Torte

To enter the Smart Spice Give-Away, click HERE!

Several years ago, my husband and I spent a month in Bellingham, WA for a summer internship. We lived in someone's spare room, slept on a futon, I was 5 months pregnant, he was gone all day with the car....it was weird. BUT we fell in love with the Pacific Northwest AND got this delicious recipe, so all's well that ends well!

Skillet Cake

1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
1 cup milk
1 cup sugar
1 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon Smart Spice Nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon Smart Spice Cinnamon or True Cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 pint blackberries

Place the butter in the bottom of a 10" cast-iron skillet or dutch oven and put it in the oven. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and allow the butter to melt while the oven is heating. Meanwhile, combine all of the remaining ingredients except the berries. When the butter has melted and the oven is hot, pour the butter into the batter, whisk it until well-combined, and pour it back into the hot pan. Sprinkle the berries over the center of the cake. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until golden brown and baked through. Serve warm with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.


I love going on vacation in the summer. Graduations...family reunions...beaches...camping...so much fun! But being gone basically every other week does take a toll on my baking club participation. I was thrilled to be back to baking from The Sweet Melissa Baking Book this week, and thrilled to make such a fantastic dessert: Chocolate Raspberry Truffle Torte! I can usually go either way on flourless chocolate cakes; sometimes they're great, sometimes they're not. With its creamy, truffle-ish texture and tart bits of fresh raspberry, this was hands-down my favorite flourless chocolate cake ever. Everyone who tried it loved it, and it looked beautiful and elegant while being really simple to prepare.

Thanks to Jennifer of The Rookie Baker for choosing this winner. You can find the recipe by clicking HERE!
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Saturday, August 7, 2010

Grilled Chicken Kabobs featuring Smart Spice Ginger

To enter the Smart Spice Give-Away, click HERE!
Grilling is so perfect for summer: it gets you out of your house and into the fresh, balmy evening air while simultaneously decreasing the amount of dirty-dish-washing you have to do at the end of the night. Heavenly!

Grilled Chicken Kabobs
from my friend Tannya, a truly amazing cook

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts or 1 lb chicken tenders
3/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 Tablespoon toasted sesame oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
salt and pepper
1/4 cup sesame seeds
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon Smart Spice Ginger

If using chicken breasts, cut each into about 4 long, skinny strips. Combine remaining ingredients in a large bowl or gallon-sized ziplock bag. Add chicken, toss to coat, and refrigerate for at least one hour. Meanwhile, soak bamboo skewers in water. When chicken is ready, thread chicken strips onto skewers; discard marinade. Grill on medium-high heat for 7-10 minutes, flipping skewers over half-way through the grilling time. Serve hot!
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Friday, August 6, 2010

Italian-Style Pasta Salad Featuring Smart Spice Oregano and Basil

To enter the Smart Spice Give-Away, click HERE.

This makes three zucchini recipes in a row; I do believe someone has a bumper crop of zucchini in her garden this summer! This is my favorite pasta salad. Its unique flavors and bright colors make it delicious and beautiful. What more could you ask for?

Italian-Style Pasta Salad
adapted from "Cooking from the Coast to the Cascades", a cookbook from the Junior League of Eugene, OR

6 oz pasta, cooked, drained, and cooled--The recipe calls for spaghetti or vermicelli, but I always use mini bowties
1 6-oz jar marinated artichoke hearts
1 small zucchini, halved or quartered and sliced
1 large carrot, peeled and shredded
4 ounces salami, diced
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
2 Tablespoons shredded parmesan cheese
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 Tablespoons white wine vinegar
3/4 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon Smart Spice Oregano
1/2 teaspoon Smart Spice Basil
1 garlic clove, minced

Drain artichokes, reserving marinade. Chop artichokes, and combine with pasta, zucchini, carrot, salami, and cheeses. In a small bowl, whisk reserved marinade with remaining ingredients. Pour dressing over pasta and toss to coat. Cover and chill before serving.
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Thursday, August 5, 2010

Zucchini Bread featuring Smart Spice True Cinnamon

To enter the Smart Spice Give-Away, click HERE.

So apparently, the stuff we call cinnamon isn't real cinnamon! Who knew?! What we Americans call cinnamon is actually cassia, or Chinese cinnamon, a relative of True Cinnamon. They come from different plants and have slightly different flavors and appearances. You learn new things every day! I used both types of cinnamon in this bread so that I could compare the appearance and aroma of the two. True cinnamon looks quite a bit lighter in color than cassia...and smells like Red Hots. I believe that's the scientific term for that particular aroma. ;)

Zucchini Bread
from my friend and neighbor, Kristy

3 eggs
1 cup oil
2 1/2 cups sugar
2 cups grated zucchini
1 Tablespoon vanilla
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 Tablespoon Smart Spice Cinnamon or True Cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and spray two standard loaf pans with non-stick cooking spray. Combine eggs, oil, sugar, zucchini, and vanilla in a large bowl. Mix well. Combine remaining ingredients in a medium bowl and stir. Add dry ingredients to zucchini mixture and stir until combined. Divide batter between pans and bake for 50-60 minutes, until a sharp knife inserted in the center of each loaf comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes before removing zucchini bread from the pans.
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Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Ratatouille featuring Smart Spice Seasoning Blends

To enter the Smart Spice Give-Away, click HERE.

Last summer, some friends of ours hosted a "Summer Favorites" evening for dinner club. We ate corn on the cob, BLT's, shrimp salad, peach cobbler with homemade vanilla ice cream, and the most delicious vegetable casserole I've ever had--Ratatouille. With it's delectable layers of summer garden fare--tomatoes, potatoes, onions, and zucchini--it captures these long, warm days in every bite.

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Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Carrot Cake featuring Smart Spice Cinnamon

To enter the Smart Spice Give-Away, click HERE.
I mentioned yesterday how much I love the Cinnamon from Smart Spice. It has such a beautiful texture. It was perfect in this chunky carrot cake studded with bits of carrot and pineapple.

Carrot Cake

2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon Smart Spice Cinnamon
2 cups sugar
a pinch of salt
1 cup oil
4 eggs
3 cups grated carrot
1 cup crushed pineapple, drained

Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Add oil and blend. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Add carrots and pineapple and mix well. Spread batter in a greased 9x13" baking pan, and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Allow cake to cool completely before frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting
1 brick cream cheese, softened
6 Tablespoons butter, softened
1 lb. powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

Beat cream cheese and butter until smooth. Add powdered sugar and vanilla, and beat until smooth and fluffy.
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Monday, August 2, 2010

Smart Spice Review and Give-Away!!

The give-away is now closed, and the winner will be announced soon! Thanks for participating!

My funny, thoughtful brother is always sending me links to kitchen things he thinks are cool. Sometimes it is a recipe or a picture (like the cookie monster cupcakes he sent last month or the hamburger cookies he sent last year) and some are products (like the one-size-fits-all bowl covers he sent me a few weeks ago). Back in May, he heard about some spices that sounded interesting and shot me a quick email about them. After clicking on the link he provided and reading the product description, I knew he'd found a real winner. Smart Spice by The Seasoned Palate, Inc. produces revolutionary, organic herbs and spices packaged in pre-measured, 1-teaspoon packets that are sealed and foil-lined to keep in freshness and flavor.

Most of us have probably never taken a moment to do a quick spice-rack inspection, but if you have, you've undoubtedly noticed that your spices have an expiration date printed on the container. If you're anything like me, those dates are long passed, especially when it comes to spices that don't get used often. The scary thing is, those spices probably lost their freshness and potency even before the expiration date! The clear plastic bottles spices are usually housed in let in light, air, and moisture, the three enemies of freshness. Smart Spice combats these enemies by individually packaging 1-teaspoon portions. So you can use that 1 teaspoon of oregano your recipe calls for, and the rest of your oregano stays safely packed away in tightly sealed packets.

I've been nothing but impressed with my Smart Spice products from the moment I opened my shipping box. The packaging is cute, the colors are earthy, the spices are organic and look and smell amazing. And I love their texture. Take the cinnamon (cassia), for example: unlike the completely pulverized-to-dust version I'm used to, my Smart Spice cinnamon looked as though someone had ground it with a mortar and pestle! It added the most wonderful, flecked appearance to the carrot cake in which it was used, and made me feel like I was using something special, instead of just something a big machine in a big factory cranked out.

Katie and Sara, the minds behind Smart Spice, are GENEROUSLY offering one lucky person an entire 16-spice set of Smart Spice products--that's a value of almost $50! If you're the winner, you prize will include
Chile Pepper
Curry Powder
Herbes de Provence
Italian Seasoning
& True Cinnamon

To enter, simpy leave a comment telling me what your favorite thing about Smart Spice is. Is it the convenient, pre-measured pouches? The freshness factor? The organic-ness? Visit Smart Spice on Facebook, "Like" them, and you can get 5 extra entries!! Just leave me one additional comment letting me know you've done it. Please include your email address in all comments so I can contact you if you win. This give-away will be open for one solid week. On Monday, August 9th, I'll put all of the comments in a bowl and draw a winner!

For the rest of the week, I'll be posting a recipe each day featuring at least one Smart Spice product. There will be everything from cakes to casseroles. See you tomorrow!!
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Sunday, August 1, 2010

SMS Rewind: Chestnut Honey Madeleines

A quick, exciting announcement...Starting tomorrow (Monday, August 2nd), I'll be having an amazing give-away for everyone: I'll be giving away one entire, 16-box set of pre-measured, vacuum-sealed organic spices from Smart Spice! These spices are fresh and flavorful, and come in the cutest 1-teaspoon pouches for super easy use. Check back tomorrow for my product review and the chance to enter. And I'll be posting recipes all week that use the spices you'll receive if you're the lucky winner. See you tomorrow!!

I feel like we've been out of town for the entire summer, but we are finally back for good. Since I did not have the chance to make this week's recipe from The Sweet Melissa Baking Book, I decided to post a past recipe that I was a little behind on and then completely forgot to post: Chestnut Honey Madeleines. This was my first experience with madeleines ever. I've never made or eaten them, but they've always sounded tasty; I'm not a tea drinker, but for some reason any food associated with tea time--finger sandwiches, strawberries and cream, tiny cookies--sounds delicious. And despite their dark edges (it was the pans fault I tell you!) they did not let me down. They had a light, cakey texture and pleasant sweetness. They reminded me of homemade donuts for some bizarre reason. I'm encouraged now to foray into other madeleine recipes and can't wait to enjoy the results!!

Thanks to Debbie of Cafe Chibita for choosing this recipe way back when. You can find the recipe on her blog HERE.
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