Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Funfetti Cake Batter Fudge

When I think of celebrations I usually think of something sweet; something sugary and rich and quite sinful.  While everything that falls into these categories is delicious, all those recipes often take quite a bit of time, effort and energy to prepare.  This isn't necessary a bad thing unless you're in a time crunch.  A layer cake is great, but you also have to consider that one will take you anywhere from 2 1/2 - 3 hours to make.

Insert today's funfetti cake batter fudge recipe.  You get all the sugary goodness with just 5 ingredients that literally take 5 minutes to throw together.  And funfetti just screams "celebration" in my book.

This was my first time making fudge and I must say it was much easier than I thought.  I got a little impatient waiting for the fudge to set and tried to cut it too soon....word to the wise: patience is a virtue. If you try to rush this step your fudge won't be firm enough to cleanly cut and remove from the pan.  What you end up with is a gooey mess.  Albeit, a gooey mess that I enjoyed eating before returning the pan back to the fridge, but still.

Just make sure to give this stuff away ASAP unless you're okay with devouring the entire pan :)  It's delicious!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Thai Peanut Sauce

Are you ready for the worst excuse ever for my absence these last two weeks?  Revenge.  As in all 22 episodes (and bonus features of course) from Season 1.  My mom had ordered the DVD set a while back and loaned it to me last Sunday.  I had only seen bits and pieces from an episode or two, but once I started the series I might as well have been sucked into a vortex.

My poor husband didn't really get anything all that special for dinner because I was too busy glued to the TV.  A bowl of cereal and 45 minutes of this soap opera trumped a made from scratch meal and blogging every day for the last 14 days.  Whoops.

But hopefully today you'll accept my peace offering: a quick and easy version of Thai peanut sauce that doesn't skimp on flavor in the least.  I know peanut sauce isn't exactly something you're probably itching to make at home, but it's so much better than the bottle store bought version and it makes a great addition to so many dishes.

I added some of this sauce to a meal of quinoa, chicken and veggies, but you could easily serve it on it's own as a dipping sauce.  Or you just might want to lick it off the spoon [guilty].

I adapted the below version by cutting down the amount of sugar added (the original called for 3/4 C) and might consider cutting down the salt next time.  

This sauce freezes beautifully, so don't worry if you don't polish off the entire quantity the recipe yields.  


(that's "Eat up!" in Thai)

Friday, October 5, 2012

Mashed Sweet Potatoes

I've always been a sucker for both mashed potatoes and a good sweet potato casserole.  But what about straight up mashed sweet potatoes?  When my sister and I were planning a dinner menu for my parents' 30th anniversary celebration she suggested just that.

My main concern was that they would be bland.  I can eat a sweet potato plain without any dressings, but most people like that combination of cinnamon, butter and brown sugar that's often added.  You know, the kind they give you at Longhorn?  It's kind of like making a dessert out of your dinner by the time you add all that sugar. 

The recipe below lists what I added, but to be honest it's pretty hard to mess these up.  If you taste them and find there isn't enough flavor you can definitely add additional brown sugar or cinnamon.  Or butter :)

Considering that a sweet potato casserole calls for a cup or more of sugar I thought that this was kept relatively healthy.  Therefore, that means two servings are okay, right???

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Tuesday's Tips, Tricks and Tid-Bits: Evenly Cooking a Piece of Meat

It's one of the most common mistakes people make when cooking a piece of meat either on the stovetop or the grill.  In an effort to make sure that the meat is cooked evenly they turn it too often.

Ideally, a piece of meat should only be turned once: you cook it on one side and then flip to the more, no less.*  Reason being that every time you flip a piece of meat back over to a side that's already been cooked the outer layer of meat gets cooked yet again before the heat ever makes it towards the center.  What results is a tough, overcooked exterior.  This is especially true if you need a good crust.

*This assumes you're cooking a two-sided piece of meat such as a burger patty.  If you're working with a larger piece that needs searing on more than two sides just make sure to cook it once on each side.

Also along those same lines it's worth noting that you should never use a spatula or tongs to press down on a piece of meat.  This is quite a common practice (prior guilty party myself) that does nothing other than squeeze out the juices that keep your meat moist and flavorful.

This is one of those situations in which patience is a virtue.  Just let the meat do it's will be well worth the wait!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Sour Cream Pound Cake

I've been baking pretty steadily for the past few years, but somehow have never managed to get around to making a pound cake.  I think I've always found them a bit intimidating and would rather just go the good old fashioned layer cake route, which is what I'm most comfortable with.  

I feel like so many things can go wrong with a pound can get too dry and then there is no icing to mask the problem (literally and figuratively)....they have a bad reputation for sticking to the pan.....they can collapse during the baking process leaving you with nothing but a big battered mess and a bad mood.  I'm pretty sure the list could go on and that a lot of you reading this have a few mishaps of your own that you could add.

I had been perusing various sites and blogs for a pound cake recipe that would be worthy of my maiden voyage with the dessert, but always came up short: the recipe instructions wouldn't be specific enough ("bake 40 minutes to 95 minutes"...what?!), there would be less than glowing reviews from frustrated bakers, maybe the picture accompanying the recipe couldn't exactly be characterized as aesthetically pleasing which would lead me to the believe that it probably didn't taste good either.

I was about to write off my search as a lost cause when I got wind of the infamous sour cream pound cake recipe that belongs to my hubby's stepmom.  Cathy has always turned out delicious meals, but apparently this recipe takes the cake (pun intended).   My husband's grandfather has even dubbed the dessert the best cake he's ever eaten.

The crust is hands down my favorite part.

And I must say that I have now seen the light and will be turning to this recipe from here on out when I need a no-fail sweet staple.  This recipe was super easy to follow and produced the most amazing cake that had both that perfect crackled crust on the outside and the moist flavorful inside that I was looking for.  

Cathy's suggestion to dust the pan with sugar also turned out to be a new favorite tip.  I used a 2-piece fluted angelfood cake pan and sprayed it with Pam for Baking (it contains flour) and then sprinkled the pan with some sugar.  The usually frustrating task of removing the cake from the pan was a breeze and I loved the extra bit of flavor the sugar dusting gave the crust.  

*Two extra tids bits and tips:
1. I will say just a teeny bit of batter seeped out of the bottom of my 2-piece pan, but it didn't affect my cake.  Next time I'll just set  a baking pan underneath the cake in the oven to eliminate any small mess.
2. I was a bit unsure of how to remove the cake from the pan since technically it wasn't made for a pound cake.  If I were to flip the pan over like I normally do it would have ruined the crust.  I ended up pulling the top portion of the pan out of the bottom by the flute and then literally used my hands to lift the entire cake off of the flute after it had cooled for about 30 minutes.  This may not be the correct way to do it, but it worked for me.

What about you?  Do you have a favorite pound cake recipe?  If not, let this be yours!