Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Kate Spade Inspired Bridal Shower

My neighbor held a bridal shower and asked me to provide the desserts.  The theme was inspired by the pink, black and white designs by Kate Spade.  The cake is two-tiered with vanilla cake on top and chocolate cake with chocolate ganache filling on the bottom.  It is covered with white fondant and decorated with black fondant stripes.  At the host's house, we swapped this artificial flower with a beautiful hot pink rose (see below).

Table ready for guests.  My neighbor, Kristen, has real talent!  So beautiful!

The dessert table included light pink rosette-frosted cupcakes, raspberry parfaits made with whipped cream and raspberry sauce, the chocolate and vanilla cake, cotton candy in martini glasses, and candies to match the color scheme.  (I made all the desserts except the candies.)  What a special and elegant event!

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Ghosts and Pumpkins Halloween Cake


I made these cute little ghosts out of meringue which I baked in the oven until dry.  Then using a small paintbrush and black food coloring, I painted the eyes and mouths onto the ghosts.  The pumpkins and letters are made from colored fondant.  So cute!!

Happy Halloween!!

Meringue Ghosts
adapted from Joy of Baking

3 egg whites
3/4 cup superfine sugar
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 tsp vanilla, optional
black food coloring
tiny paintbrush

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and have ready a large piping bag fitted with a 1/2 inch round tip.

Place the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer and using the whisk attachment, whisk the whites until frothy.  Add the cream of tartar and mix well.  On high speed, whisk the egg whites while adding the sugar a little bit at a time, then whisk until the meringue holds very stiff peaks.  Whisk in vanilla if desired.

Transfer the meringue to the pastry bag and, holding the bag perpendicular to the cookie sheet, pipe mounds of meringue to the desired shape and size.

Bake the meringues for 1 1/2 hours, then turn the oven off and leave the ghosts in the oven for several hours or overnight.

Paint eyes and mouth using black gel food coloring and a small paintbrush.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Chocolate Birthday Cake {grain-free}

You absolutely cannot tell that this cake is made without any flour or refined sugars.  It is a wonderful option for anyone who cannot have gluten or grains.  There are recipes for frosting out there that have no refined sugar, but I opted to go with my standard Swiss meringue icing.  I'm sure I'll be trying out those other icing recipes before too long!  If you make this cake, please let me know if you like it as much as I did!

Wanna bite?  I know you do!!

Grain-free Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Buttercream
adapted from Deliciously Organic
makes 2 9-inch rounds

8 ounces dark chocolate (I use Callebaut dark chocolate)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 tablespoons unrefined coconut oil or 4 more tablespoons butter
2/3 cup maple syrup
6 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
4 cups almond flour (I use Honeyville brand)
2 teaspoons coconut flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoon baking powder (grain free)

Preheat oven to 350 ºF and adjust rack to middle position. Place the chocolate, butter and coconut oil in the bowl of a double boiler. Melt, stirring occasionally. Set aside to cool (the mixture needs to cool for at least 10 minutes before adding the egg mixture below). 

Place the maple syrup and eggs in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.  Whisk for 5-6 minutes until pale yellow and fluffy.  Slowly whisk in the cooled chocolate mixture.

Sift almond flour, coconut flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and baking powder over egg mixture. Gently fold to incorporate. Divide batter between two buttered 9-inch cake pans lined with a round piece of parchment paper. Bake cakes for 20-25 minutes or until a cake tester inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean. Cool cakes for 10 minutes, run a knife around the edges and then remove the cakes from the pans. Cool completely.

Chocolate Buttercream
6 ounces egg whites
12 ounces granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 sticks or one pound butter at cool room temperature 
1 teaspoon vanilla
4  ounces melted and cooled dark chocolate

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine eggs whites, sugar and salt.  Set the bowl over a pot of simmering water.  The bowl should not touch the water.   Whisk constantly until the mixture reaches 160 degrees. Remove from the heat and place the bowl onto your stand mixer and whisk at med-high speed until the mixture comes to room temperature (feel the outside of the bowl to gauge the temp).   Replace the whisk with the paddle attachment and reduce the speed to medium.  Add butter one tablespoon at a time. When all of the butter is added, turn off the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl (at this point the buttercream might look curdled, but don’t worry, it will turn creamy). Whisk the mixture on high until light and fluffy. Reduce speed again and slowly pour in the melted chocolate and the vanilla, and mix until incorporated.

To assemble:
Place one cake layer on a cake stand and top with one third of the frosting. Spread frosting evenly on the cake. Place second cake layer on top and use remaining frosting to frost the top and sides of the cake.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Zucchini bread with currants {grain-free}

This is not your traditional zucchini bread, heavy on cinnamon and oil.  This zucchini bread is grain-free, slightly sweet from the currants, and a delicious treat.  It's light in your stomach and is wonderful toasted with a bit of butter.  It reminds me more of irish soda bread than zucchini bread actually.  The recipe comes from Hayley Mason and Bill Staley, two Pittsburghers who have written 3 great cookbooks:  Gather, The Art of Paleo Entertaining, Make it Paleo I, and Make it Paleo II.  They are wonderful photographers and have photographed other cookbooks as well.

Zucchini Bread with Currants {Grain-free}
from Gather by Hayley Mason and Bill Staley
makes 2 mini loaves

1 1/2 cups almond flour
1 T arrowroot flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
2 eggs
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup zucchini, shredded and squeezed of excess water
1/2 cup currants

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and butter two mini loaf pans.  In a medium mixing bowl, combine the almond flour, arrowroot flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the eggs, maple syrup, and melted butter and mix well.  Add the almond flour mixture and mix until smooth.  Stir in the zucchini and currants until evenly combined.

Pour batter into two mini loaf pans.  Bake for 40 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Allow to cool before slicing.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Homemade Mayonnaise

I've tried homemade mayo in the past, and while it tasted pretty good, it wasn't thick and spreadable.  So I gave up on homemade mayo and went back to store bought.  Well yesterday, when I went to make my son's lunch for school, I realized I was completely out of mayonnaise, so I tried again with a different recipe and different technique.  I couldn't believe how fast and easy it was, and how thick the mayo was.  It was perfect.  I may never buy store bought mayo again!

Homemade Mayonnaise
adapted from Nourished Kitchen

3 fresh egg yolks
3/4 teaspoon coarsely ground sea salt
2 tablespoons lemon juice or vinegar
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1 tablespoon water
1 1/2 cups avocado oil*

Place the egg yolks in the bottom of a blender, then add salt, lemon juice, vinegar, dry mustard and water.  Pulse the mixture to combine, then turn the blender on low to med-low speed.  In a very slow but steady stream, add the avocado oil to the egg mixture while the blender is running continuously.  This should take 2-3 minutes before all the oil is added.  The mixture should be thick and ready for use.  Transfer the mayo to a jar with a tight-fitting lid and store in the fridge and use within about a week.

*I use avocado oil because the flavor is mild.  You could also use olive oil, or light olive oil.  Avoid using inflammatory vegetable oils such as canola, corn, and soybean oils.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Roasted Tomato Soup

I grew some tomatoes in my garden this year, and while I got enough to freeze, I still wanted to make marinara sauce and this tomato soup.  So I ordered a half peck (big box) of organic paste tomatoes from Kretschmann Farm, one of the CSA's I belong to.  Look at these beautiful tomatoes!

This tomato soup is quite easy to make - quarter enough tomatoes to fill a pan, throw on some shallots or onions, garlic cloves, chopped fresh herbs, spices and olive oil and roast in the oven.  When the shallots are golden and the tomatoes are soft, place everything into a blender, add stock and blend into soup.  A dollop of heavy cream is a nice addition, as would be a drizzling of basil pesto.  Freeze leftovers and enjoy it all winter long.

Roasted Tomato Soup
adapted from Honey and Jam

2 pounds fresh tomatoes, any variety, cut into wedges
4 shallots, peeled and quartered 
3 cloves garlic, smashed with the side of a knife
extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup chopped fresh herbs; I used thyme, oregano,  and basil
salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes, or to taste
2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1/4 cup heavy cream
basil pesto for garnish, optional

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.   Arrange tomatoes, shallots and garlic on a rimmed cookie sheet or other large pan.  Drizzle with enough olive oil to coat the tomatoes and sprinkle with salt, pepper, crushed red pepper and herbs, gently toss. Roast for 30- 45 minutes, or until tomatoes are soft and shallots have browned and caramelized.

Remove the pan from the oven and allow to cool slightly. Pour all of the pan's contents into a food processor and blend until smooth. Slowly add in stock while blending. 

Pour contents into a large stock pot, add heavy cream and adjust seasonings and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Cinnamon Chocolate Swirl Banana Bread {Grain Free}

This banana bread is seriously good.  No grains, no sugar, no gluten - it's hard to believe.  You'll need coconut flour and almond butter, but the rest of the ingredients are common pantry items.

The cinnamon chocolate swirl is fantastic.  The bread is sweetened only by the bananas and a little honey in the swirl.  I think you should give this bread a try if you are needing a little treat without the guilt!

Cinnamon Chocolate Swirl Banana Bread {Grain free, Sugar free}
adapted from The Paleo Kitchen by Juli Bauer and George Bryant

Coconut oil, to grease pan
For the bread:
4 medium bananas, or one pound peeled
4 large eggs
1/4 cup unsalted grass-fed butter, such as Kerrygold, melted
1/2 cup almond butter
1/2 cup coconut flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
For the swirl:
2 tablespoons unsalted grass-fed butter
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon (I used one tablespoon)
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1 tablespoon honey

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease a 9x5" loaf pan and line with parchment paper.

Combine the bananas, eggs, butter, and almond butter in a food processor and process until smooth.  Add the remaining bread ingredients and process until well mixed.

In a double boiler, melt the swirl ingredients until fully melted and smooth.  Pour the bread batter into the prepared pan, then pour the chocolate swirl on top.  Use a knife to swirl the chocolate into the bread batter.

Bake for 45-50 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted in the middle.  Allow to cool 15 minutes in the pan, then remove from the pan and allow to cool completely before cutting.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

North African Butternut Squash Soup

I have found that my tastebuds are getting more adventurous as I get older.  I have my basic butternut squash soup recipe which is delicious but sometimes it's fun to switch things up a little.  I'm so glad I tried this recipe.  It is a treat to the eyes as well as the tastebuds - colorful and delicious and provides lots of healthy vegetables (some kale or lentils might be good additions too).

A note about the ingredients:  The small cinnamon stick gives it just a hint of cinnamon flavor without overpowering.  The harissa is a chili paste that can be found in middle eastern markets and gives a nice depth of flavor.  This soup also has ground turmeric.  Hopefully you've heard about the health benefits of turmeric.  It's a superfood spice that's getting a lot of press lately.  It can reduce inflammation and has many other health-protecting properties.

Feeling adventurous in the kitchen?  Give this soup a try - your body will thank you!

North African Butternut Squash Soup
from The New Mediterranean Diet Cookbook by Nancy Harmon Jenkins
Makes 6 servings

2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium carrot, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 garlic clove, chopped
1 sweet red pepper, chopped
1/2 to 1 tsp harissa, or 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
6 cups cubed butternut squash or pumpkin (about 1 1/2 pounds)
1 14.5 ounce can plum tomatoes, chopped with their juice
2 bay leaves
1 short piece of cinnamon stick
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 cups water or chicken stock
1 or 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro, optional

Combine the olive oil, carrots, celery, and garlic in a heavy-duty stock pot set over medium-low heat.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are soft but not brown, about 10 minutes.  Add the chopped pepper,  the harissa or crushed red pepper, and the butternut squash and cook for about 5 minutes.  Add the chopped tomatoes, bay leaves, cinnamon, turmeric, salt and pepper to taste, and 2 cups of water or chicken stock.  Bring to a simmer and cover the pan.  Let simmer about 20-30 minutes or until the squash is very soft.  If desired, blend the soup with a blender or a stick blender (I left mine chunky).  Add lemon and cilantro and adjust seasoning if needed.


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