Archive for September, 2011


September 22, 2011

Lemon Layer Cake with Lemon Buttercream
Posted by Chammer

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I told Betsy we did not have enough desserts on this website, so I am correcting that!  This is hands down the best cake I’ve ever made.  Dad and Will love this cake (both being lovers of lemon desserts) so I suppose if you ever get on their bad side, you could make this and make up for whatever it was that you did. Since I never do anything to get on Will’s bad side, I just make this for him on his birthdays and our anniversary.  Turns out perfect every time.
Lemon Layer Cake
•1 c. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
• 2 c. sugar
• 4 large eggs, at room temp.
• 1 1/2 c. self-rising flour
• 1 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
• 3/4 c. milk
• 1/4 c. fresh lemon juice
• 2 tsp. grated lemon zest
• Preheat oven to 350F.
• Grease and lightly flour three 9×2 inch round cake pans, then line the bottoms with waxed or
parchment paper.
• In a large bowl, on the medium speed of an electric mixer, cream the butter until smooth.
• Add the sugar gradually and beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes.
• Add the eggs one at a time.
• Combine the flours and add in four parts, alternating with the milk an dthe lemon juice and
zest, beating well after each addition.
• Divide the cake batter among the cake pans.
• Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out
• Let the cakes cool in pans for 10 minutes. Remove from pans and cool completely on wire
• When cake has cooled, spread the icing evenly between the layers and over the top of the cake.
Lemon Buttercream Icing
• 1 c (2 sticks) unsalted butter, very soft
• 8 cups confectioners’ sugar
• 1/2 c. fresh lemon juice
• 1 tsp. grated lemon zest
• Place the butter in a large mixing bowl. Add 4 cups of sugar and then the juice and the zest.
• Beat until smooth and creamy.
• Gradually add the remaining sugar, 1 cup at a time, until the icing is thick enough to be of
good, spreadable consistency.
• If desired, add a few drops of yellow food coloring and mix thoroughly.
• Use and store at room temperature.
Source: The Magnolia Bakery Cookbook


Strawberry Tart
Posted by Chammer

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We had friends over yesterday to watch the season premiere of Modern Family so I made this tart.  Mmm, it was good! I changed a few things: I needed more flour, the dough was super sticky at first.  It worked great though when I added more flour (maybe even as much as 1/4 cup). I changed some things about the pastry cream as well.  I used regular old vanilla extract instead of a vanilla bean and added Cognac to the mixture as well.  And it was good.

For the crust:

  • 1 1/2 sticks cold butter, cut into pea-size pieces
  • 1 cup flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 3/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted
  • Pinch kosher salt
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons ice water

For the pastry cream filling:

  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/3 cup cornstarch
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon Cognac


  • 1 quart fresh strawberries, topped and sliced
  • Powdered sugar, for garnish


For the crust:

In the food processor,combine the butter,flour, almonds and salt and pulse until it looks like grated cheese. Add the egg yolk and half the water and pulse; the dough should start to come together. If it does not, add the remaining water and pulse until the dough forms into a ball. Dump the “doughball” onto a floured work surface and using the heel of your hand, schmear it across the work surface. Repeat this process 1 to 2 more times, then form the dough into a disk, wrap it inplastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 to 45 minutes.

*TIP- this can be done up to a week in advance or frozen for a longer time.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

To roll the crust:

Remove the dough from the refrigerator about 10 minutes before rolling to let it soften. On a lightly floured work surface, roll the dough to 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick. Lay the dough in the tart pan. Make a small “doughball” with a little of the dough that is hanging over the edge of the tart pan. Dip the dough ball in flour and use is to carefully push the dough into the corners of the tart pan. Once the dough has been pushed into the corners of the tart pan, use the rolling pinto roll over the top edge of the tart pan to cut a clean edge. Line the tart with aluminum foil, be sure to push it into the corners. This will keep the sides of the tart tall and straight and able to hold the filling. Fill the tart with the dried beans. Place in the preheated oven for 12 to 14 minutes. Remove the beans and foil and bake for another 4 to 5 minutes. The dough should be cooked through and lightly browned. Remove from the oven and cool.

For the pastry cream:

Place the cream, 1/2 cup of the sugar and vanilla extract in a saucepan. Whisk to combine and bring to a boil over low heat. While the cream is coming to a boil, combine the eggsand remaining 1/2 cup of sugar in a bowl and the cornstarch and milk in another bowl. Beat with a whisk to a homogeneous mixture, no big lumps of egg white! When the cream comes to a boil, remove it from the heat. *Whisk half of the cream into the egg/sugar mixture and then IMMEDIATELY whisk it back into the pan with the hot cream.

Return the pan to a medium heat and gradually whisk in the cornstarch/milk mixture. Bring this to a boil to thicken the pastry cream. Add the Cognac. Stir frequently to prevent scorching. It is necessary to bring this mixture to a boil to cook the starch. If the mixture is not brought to a boil the mixture will feel starchy and gritty. The desired outcome is the consistency of vanilla pudding. YUM! Transfer the mixture to a bowl and chill. This can be done really quickly over an ice bath.

To assemble the tart:

Fill the tart shell with the chilled pastry cream. Top with the sliced strawberries. You can arrange the strawberries in circles or in lines; it’s up to you! Just make it look pretty. Sprinkle with powdered sugar just before serving.


September 21, 2011

Eggplant Salad Toasts
Posted by Chammer

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Stolen 100% from Smitten Kitchen.  And sooooo good.  Will even liked these– and he “doesn’t like” eggplant.  I made these to go with Roasted Red Pepper pasta.  Great vegetarian meal!


1 medium eggplant, about 3/4 pound, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 tablespoons olive oil plus additional for oiling baking sheet
1/4 teaspoon salt
Black pepper
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
1/4 cup crumbled crumbled feta
1 scallion, thinly sliced
8 1/2-inch slices of baguette, brushed with olive oil (I used 1-inch slices in the photos, then decided they were too thick)
1 small clove garlic, peeled and halved


Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Lightly oil a baking sheet or roasting pan. Toss eggplant, 2 tablespoons olive oil, salt and a generous amount of black pepper together in a medium bowl until evenly coated. Spread on prepared baking sheet and roast for about 25 minutes, moving pieces around occasional so they evenly brown. For a cold salad, let the eggplant cool a bit before mixing it with red wine vinegar, feta and scallion. For a warm salad where the feta glues itself to the eggplant a bit, toss the vinegar, feta and scallion together when the eggplant just comes out of the oven. You’ll want to eat the warm salad quickly.

Broil or toast baguette slices then rub them with a garlic clove before heaping on eggplant salad.


September 20, 2011

Quinoa Taco Salad
Posted by Chammer

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Betsy actually had this on her Meal Plans document, which I look at from time to time for ideas, under the stuff to try section.  I made it a month ago or so and it was delish!  I’m putting it on here, in hopes that you will all make it.  Caution:  it makes quite a large amount!  You could almost halve the quinoa and do 1 bell pepper and a whole can of beans (can’t really halve a can of beans!), and halve everything else.  I like making ours with lots of chili powder and cayenne, because we like it with some kick!  Also, I cook the pepper for longer than she says to, but still leave them with some crunch.


This is a vegetarian meal, but apparently quinoa is one of the “grains” (actually, it’s a seed…) out there.  It’s full of complete protein, meaning it has all nine amino acids.  So what if Will and I get nerded up about these things? Anyway, you don’t miss the meat on this one at all!


  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • half a red bell pepper, chopped
  • half a green bell pepper, chopped
  • half a yellow bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano
  • 1-2 teaspoons chili powder, depending heat preferences
  • dash cayenne pepper
  • 1 -15 ounce can black beans, drained
  • 3/4 cup diced tomatoes (fresh or canned)
  • 2 limes
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 6-8 ounces baby spinach
  • 1 bunch cilantro
  • 1/3 cup cheddar or feta cheese
  • 1 avocado, diced

Cook the quinoa according to package instructions.

Meanwhile, swirl a bit of olive oil in a saute pan. Heat oil over medium high heat. Add onion and saute for 3-5 minutes, until translucent and tender. Add garlic, cumin, oregano, chili powder, cayenne and peppers and saute an additional 2 minutes.

Remove from heat. Stir in the black beans, tomatoes, and the juice of 1 lime. Stir in quinoa. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Chill.

Roughly cut baby spinach into strips like you would shred iceberg lettuce for tacos. Remove about 1 cup of cilantro leaves from the bunch, rinse and pat dry, and toss with the spinach. Divide spinach and cilantro mixture evenly among 4 salad plates. Top each plate with a scoop of the quinoa salad. Top each salad with your choice of cheese and diced avocado. Cut the remaining lime into slices to garnish the plates.

Main Dishes,Seafood

September 18, 2011

Fried Rice, Indonesian-Style
Posted by betsyjo

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Matt declared this a top-10 recipe.  I didn’t tell him until the next day that it had fish sauce in it.  I think he’ll still eat it!  I also liked this recipe because it provides a recipe for cooking rice if you don’t have leftover rice or forgot to make it the day before.

Fried Rice, Indonesian-Style
Cook’s Illustrated, May/June 2011

5 green or red Thai chilies, stemmed (I used one serrano pepper, seeds and all, and it was spicy.  Jalapenos will work too.)
7 large shallots, peeled (I didn’t use 7, maybe more like 4)
4 large garlic cloves, peeled
2 Tbsp dark brown sugar
2 Tbsp light or mild molasses (I just used Grandma’s – I didn’t realize there was such a thing as light molasses)
2 Tbsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp fish sauce
Table salt
4 large eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 recipe Faux Leftover Rice (recipe follows)
12 ounces shrimp, peeled, deveined, tails removed, cut into 1″ pieces
4 large scallions, sliced thin
2 limes, cut into wedges

1. Pulse chilies, 4 shallots, and garlic in food processor until coarse paste is formed, about fifteen 1-second pulses, scraping down sides of bowl as necessary.  Transfer mixture to small bowl and set aside.  In second small bowl, stir together brown sugar, molasses, soy sauce, fish sauce, and 1 and 1/4 teaspoons of salt.  (I omitted this, and had to add salt later.  Guess I forgot I was working with a finely-tuned Cooks Illustrated recipe.)  Whisk eggs and 1/4 teaspoon salt together in medium bowl.

2. Thinly slice remaining 3 shallots and place in12-inch nonstick skillet with oil.  Fry over medium heat, stirring constantly, until shallots are golden and crisp, about 6-10 minutes.  Using slotted spoon, transfer shallots to paper towel-lined plate and season with salt to taste.  Pour off oil and reserve.  Wipe out skillet with paper towels.

3. Heat 1 teaspoon reserved oil in now-empty skillet, gently tilting pan to evenly coat bottom.  Cover and cook until bottom of omelet is spotty golden brown and top is just set, about 1 and 1/2 minutes.  Slide omelet onto cutting board and gently roll up into tight log.  Using sharp knife, cut log crosswise into 1-inch segments (leaving segments rolled).  Repeat with another teaspoon reserved oil and remaining egg.

4.  Remove rice from refrigerator and break up any large clumps with fingers.  Heat 3 tablespoons reserved oil in now-empty skillet over medium heat until just shimmering.  Add chile mixture and cook until mixture turns golden, 3 to 5 minutes.  Add shrimp, increase heat to medium-high, and cook, stirring constantly, until exterior of shrimp is just opaque, about 2 minutes.  Push shrimp to sides of skillet to clear center; stir molasses mixture to recombine, and pour into center of skillet.  When molasses mixture bubbles, add rice and cook, stirring and folding constantly, until shrimp is cooked, rice is heated through and mixture is evenly coated, about 3 minutes.  Stir in scallions, remove from heat, and transfer to serving platter.  Garnish with egg segments, fried shallots, and lime wedges; serve immediately.


Faux Leftover Rice

2 Tbsp vegetable oil
2 cups jasmine or long-grain white rice, rinsed
2 2/3 cup water

Heat oil in large saucepan over medium heat until shimmering.  Add rice and stir to coat grains with oil, about 30 seconds.  Add water, increase heat to high, and bring to boil.  Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer until all liquid is absorbed, about 18 minutes.  Off heat, remove lid and place clean kitchen towel folded in half over saucepan; replace lid.  Let stand until rice is just tender, about 8 minutes.  Spread cooked rice onto rimmed baking sheet, set on wire rack, and cool 10 minutes.  Transfer to refrigerator and chill for 20 minutes.

Chicken,Main Dishes,Soup

Chicken Fajita Chowder
Posted by betsyjo

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This is a good soup that tasted different than I expected.  The peppers give it a sweet flavor.  Overall, a very easy meal.

Fajita Chicken Chowder
Taste of Home Feb/March ’11

1 lb. boneless skinless chicken breasts, chopped
1 each medium green, sweet red and yellow peppers, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
2 Tbsp olive oil
3 cups water
2 cups frozen corn
1 cup uncooked brown rice
15 oz can green enchilada sauce
4 oz can chopped green chilies
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup shredded Mexican cheese blend
8 oz sour cream
Tortilla chips and chives for garnish

In a dutch oven over medium-high heat, cook and stir the chicken, peppers, and onion in oil until vegetables are crisp-tender.  Stir in the water, corn, rice, enchilada sauce, chilies and salt.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 35-40 minutes or until rice is tender.  Remove from heat.  Stir in cheese and sour cream until cheese is melted.  Serve with chips and chives if desired. (more…)