Thursday, July 30, 2009

Pineapple Zucchini Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

This recipe is all over the place. You can thank Pioneer Woman, Ree, for creating Tasty Kitchen. I know, you are thinking everyone else blogged about it so I'm gonna skip this one. And maybe you should. I tend to ramble someone incoherently and my pictures aren't anywhere near as pretty as PW's. Your choice. I was intending to give you a reason to read my post but then I couldn't really think of one. Oh well.

Anyway. This recipe is practically health food in my book. Lots of zucchini, only 3 tbsp oil, a couple eggs and a few other things. All that sugar? Psssh don't worry about it. Just look at that huge pile of zucchini.

I upped the zucchini a bit because I bought 5 of them and this was the only recipe I had picked out for them so far. I only used 2. Better get thinking on the other 3 before they go bad. Or I'll make this again. Either way.

I sliced mine with the julienne blade on my mandoline. Me and the hand guard don't get along, especially with long, relatively skinny stuff so I ditch the hand guard and wear a cut glove to do it. Safety first kiddies! Also, those blades are SHARP. And the little ones for the julienne, they are slightly hooked for extra grab. Dig one into your palm once and you won't do it again. Trust me on this one. I know.

Here's the wets. 2 eggs, 3 tbsp oil, a splash of vanilla and a couple slices of zucchini that I didn't bother getting out of the bowl when I dumped them out because I realized I needed a bowl for my wet ingredients. Yup. You can tell, I should be a professional chef. Look how healthy it is. You can't even see the oil!

It's pretty much a standard cake recipe, combine the dry's, combine the wets, mix together, bake. For some reason the sugar is in the dry's for this recipe. Not sure why or if it matters but I actually followed it this time.

My approach when baking most things is line the pan. There's nothing worse than making a tray of brownies and then not being able to get them out of the pan or mutilating them so you lose all the nice crusty bits to the pan.

Don't even get me started on the crusty bits. I have a friend, we'll call her D, who would cut the edges off of her brownies and throw them away, thinking who would want those. I was always suspicious as to why I could never get an edge piece but I figured someone beat me to them or something. When D told me she cut them off I was aghast. Absolute horror. Who could do such a terrible thing?

Wait, this is supposed to be about zucchini cake. Right, back to the cake. Focus on the cake. Because it is a good cake. A very good cake. But it sticks. It sticks bad. I guess because it's so healthy and low in fat there isn't much to help keep it from sticking. I don't know how anyone got it out of the pan if they didn't line the pan. I baked mine in a 9x13 pyrex pan lined with foil and greased. By greased I used a very liberal spraying of cooking spray. Up the sides too. And this is what the cake looked like coming out.

Look at all the deliciousness stuck to the foil! It was somewhat upsetting. It may have gone better if I had let it cool all the way before lifting out of the pan but there is no way around all that sticking. Line and liberally grease the pan and get over it. And everything that is stuck to the foil is a chef's snack.

Just look at that tastiness.

ok I'm done rambling. Here's the recipe with my changes.

Pineapple Zucchini Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
Based on this recipe on Tasty Kitchen, that was made by Linda of Linda's Country Kitchen

1-1/2 cup All-purpose Flour
1-1/4 cup Granulated Sugar
1/2 Cup Sweetened Flaked Coconut
2 teaspoons Baking Soda
1 teaspoon Salt
2 teaspoons Ground Cinnamon
1 teasupoon Freshly Grated Nutmeg, To Taste
1 teaspoon fresh grated Ginger
3 tablespoons Canola Oil
2 whole Large Eggs
1 Teaspoon Vanilla
3 Cups Grated (unpeeled) Zucchini
1 (20 Oz.) Can Crushed Pineapple In Juice, Drained (reserve In Case You Need It For The Cake Batter Or The Frosting)

8 oz cream cheese, room temp
3 tbsp butter
1 to 1.5 cups powdered sugar, to taste
3 tbsp pineapple juice reserved from the canned pineapple, adjust for consistency

1 cup chopped walnuts

Shred the zucchini on a box grater or mandoline. You should let it sit for about an hour and squeeze out the excess moisture but I didn't and it didn't seem to hurt anything. Sift together the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt and spices. Stir the the coconut. Combine the eggs, oil and vanilla and whisk. Toss the zucchini in the dry ingredients. Add the wet ingredients and the crushed pineapple. Stir to combine. Bake at 350 for about 45 minutes. Cool completely before frosting.

Combine all the ingredients for the frosting and stir together until smooth. Taste and adjust sweetness and add more pineapple juice if necessary. Spread frosting over the cake. Lightly toast the walnuts and sprinkle over the frosting.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Daring Bakers: Cookies!

This months choice was cookies. But very specific cookies. Imitation really common store bought cookies. I started with the Mallows. These are a cookie base with a marshmallow on top and then coated in chocolate.

I live in the South. It is hot. And I am cheap. So I have issues turning on the oven while the A/C is cranking at full blast trying to cool the place down. I held off doing it until the last minute. But I did it for these cookies. And about a half a dozen other things I had prepped a while back and didn't get around to baking because I didn't want to turn the oven on.

I rolled the dough into a log and cut 1/8th inch slices rather than rolling it flat and cutting them out. I don't have a cookie cutter for that so I figured that would work better. I know, who doesn't own a cookie cutter, but that's me. Get over it.

The cookies were a little more puffy and soft than I thought they should be. In my mind they should be crisp shortbready cookies but oh well. Also possible I didn't measure properly.

Chocolate coating didn't go so well for me. After I tried to dip 2 or 3 and just made an absolute mess I decided to go another route. I dipped the bottom and then drizzled the top with chocolate. See?

That's OK. They still tasted good. They went with me to work. I don't need to eat all of these, a cake and a number of other things that I baked all at once.

I ran out of eggs so I didn't get to the Milan cookies though hopefully I will make them one day later.

The July Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Nicole at Sweet Tooth. She chose Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Cookies and Milan Cookies from pastry chef Gale Gand of the Food Network.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Bacon and Tomato Pasta

I haven't cooked much lately. It's too hot. It seems wrong to crank up the A/C and the stove/oven at the same time. But I am getting hungry. And you can only eat so many peaches and cantelope before you need some real food.

My tomato plant is doing really well. I get a couple tomatoes off of it pretty much every day. I've had way too many caprese salads. I'm actually getting sick of them to the point where the tomatoes were just piling up. I needed to figure out something else.

I have recently gotten a copy of Pasta Sauces from the Williams Sonoma Kitchen Library. It's a good book to flip through for some ideas. It's got lots of pretty pictures though I think we all know I don't have the ability to follow a recipe. Anyway it's got a bacon and tomato puttanesca that was a good starting point for using up my tomatoes and having some real food.

Thank Kate for introducing me to PBS. That's where I got this and a number of my recent cook books. I swap paperbacks for cookbooks. And then never swap them back. I'm not sure how long this system will last. But I have a few new random cookbooks now.

Look, I actually got the pics off my camera! I've even gone back and added pics to a number of old posts that I didn't get around to.

It starts with bacon and onion cooked together in a skillet. As Ina would put it, 'how bad can that be?'
Then you add the tomatoes.
Followed by the pasta and a sprinkle of parsley. How much simpler can it be? I even used whole wheat pasta so it's healthy!
Try not to eat the whole batch at once.

Bacon and Tomato Pasta
Based on Tomatoes and Bacon Puttanesca, from Pasta Sauces from the Williams Sonoma Kitchen Library

1/4 lb bacon strips, cut into squares
1 onion, diced
3 ripe tomatoes, peeled and seeded, large dice
a pinch red pepper flakes
1/2 lb short cut pasta
a sprinkle of fresh parsley, finely chopped

Put bacon pieces and red pepper flake in a cold skillet and heat over medium low heat. When pan is warm and bacon starts to cook add the onion. Cook, stirring occasionally, until bacon is crisp and onion is just starting to brown. Add the tomatoes. Cook so until it starts to thicken.

Meanwhile, boil pasta until slightly undercooked. Strain pasta and add to the skillet with the sauce. Stir to coat and cook for several minutes to finish cooking the pasta. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Barefoot Bloggers: Peach and Blueberry Crumbles

Side rant: I am getting eaten alive by mosquitoes. I go outside for literally 30 seconds to water my 3 plants and I get a half a dozen bites. I wear capris to work and I get probably 50 bites between my ankles and the bottom of my pants. There was a mosquito in my office the other day that got 3 bites out of me before I got him. But I did get him. I am debating putting bug spray in my soap or something. Damn South and their mosquitos. Even when I worked in a swamp before I never got bitten like this. Anyone have any suggestions?

Look at my poor leg. And this is after a few days of healing. I didn't catch most of them because I used the camera on my comp rather than my real one.

Now, back to our regularly scheduled program.

This is a good recipe. The hardest part is peeling all the peaches. Which, admittedly is a pain.

I had hit the farmer's market in Charlotte near the airport the weekend before I made these. That's a really nice farmer's market. If anyone reading this is in Charlotte or go there at some point, hit the farmer's market. If you are coming from out of town it's right by the airport so you could pick something up and take it home. Admittedly, I only go there when I am going to the airport, for one reason or another. It's a little too far to be my regular farmer's market.

At the farmer's market I got about 50 peaches, 5 ears of corn, a couple lbs of tomatoes, a couple lbs of zucchini and squash for about $20. Fortunately I had emptied out the fridge a bit when I went out of town. I barely managed to get it all in there. Oh and some blueberries because I needed them for this recipe.

Like I said, the hardest part of the recipe is peeling all the peaches. It takes some time and patience. Which I was running out of my the end. Then you just toss it with lemon juice, flour and sugar, dump it in a pan and spread the crumb topping on top. I made 2 1 cup ramekins and a 9x9 baking pan. I thought there was just about the right amount of crumb.

The peaches I had were really good. I mean REALLY good. I probably should have cut back the sugar because the peaches were so sweet. The ramekins are staying at home for a chef's snack. Though I am not sure how long they will last. On the plus side the recipe is pretty simple and not that bad for you I am already thinking about doubling the recipe and making it again.

Say thanks to Aggie. She chose the recipe. You can find it here.

PS Yes I do realize how wrong it is that I took a picture of mosquito bites on my leg but I have no pic of my crumble. The pics of the crumble are on my real camera. And they are good. Very good. You'll have to trust me on this one.

Edit: Here's a pic

Friday, July 17, 2009

Strawberry Tart

I know. I'm a horrible blogger. I haven't posted in ages. Like 2 weeks. You only had the few in between because they had been scheduled. And I have a long list of posts that I have started but can't seem to finish. This being one of them.

So back to strawberries. That gallon of strawberries I had bought and had to find things to use it in. I know, I'm slow. Get over it. I may or may not post any more strawberry recipes. Maybe I'll leave the rest and post them early in strawberry season next year. Because I hate how I read blogs where people are using all this really pretty produce but the season just finished here so I can't make it until next year. I'm doing it on purpose. I'm saving them to inspire people next year. Really I am. I swear.

This tart is a pie shell, strawberries and pastry cream. Mmmm I'm getting hungry just thinking about it. I just used a frozen pie crust. You can make your own. Or buy one. Whatever makes you happy.

Pastry cream is so good. This makes a bit more than you need. I'm sure you can find something to do with it. A spoon works well. Or if you have a ridiculous number of strawberries dip them in and eat. Mine was all gone by the time the tart went into the fridge. And it's not that hard to make. Yes there is a bowl, and pan to be cleaned but it's worth it. Trust me.

I made it in a 10" tart pan. You can use whatever size you have. Or individual serving size tarts. I like having a whole tart to myself. Of course that's the 10" tart. These are very light (relatively speaking) so you can eat a pretty good size piece.

Strawberry Tart
based on this recipe from Anne Strawberry

1 pie crust
1 batch pastry cream, recipe below
fresh strawberries, halved
several tablespoons simple syrup

Press pie crust into a 10" tart pan. Make sure edges are pressed into the grooves. Bake for 15 minutes until lightly browned. Cool completely.
Put down a layer of halved strawberries.
Pour pastry cream over the berries and spread so it is smooth.
Drizzle simple syrup over berries to make them shiny and keep them from browning.
Chill in the refrigerator for 4 hours to let the pastry cream set.

Pastry Cream
from the European Breakfast Pastries class I took months ago

640 g milk
2 egg yolks
150 g sugar
55 g cornstarch
32 g butter

Bring milk, some of sugar and butter to a simmer.
Blend yolks, remaining sugar and cornstarch until light.
Temper egg yolks.
Return to low heat, stirring constantly until it thickens.
Put pan in ice bath and stir constantly to cool.
Cool completely.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Barefoot Bloggers: Pasta with Sundried Tomatoes

I was leery of this recipe. I am not a fan of olives. I find them extremely overwhelming and their flavor dominates everything. Like on pizza or olive bread. Yuck. I considered leaving the olives out. Especially since it has capers too. A couple capers are OK but I don't like a lot of brininess. If that's even a word. Blogger seems to think it's a word.

Anyway, I figured I would put the olives in just to try it. After all, that's the point right? To try stuff you wouldn't normally try and maybe find something new? Though I did cut them back. I used about a half of a 6 oz jar. And I chopped them really really finely. When you get just a tiny piece mixed in with the pasta and tomatoes and cheese it's not so bad. You don't really taste it. Just a subtle bit of salt and brine in the background. So I'm OK with the olives in this.

I only used half the mozzarella. That's what happens when you just skim recipes before grocery shopping. And I used 5 homegrown tomatoes. Because I had way too many from my tomato plant. A couple extra can't hurt. And I cut back the salt to 1 tsp. There was plenty of salt like that.

I was pleasantly surprised with this salad. It was good and well balanced. At first I thought it wasn't that appetizing because it's rather red/brown. Then I realized I forgot to add the basil and that made it much more balanced looking. You'd appreciate it more if I weren't lazy and cheap and bought a new card reader already.

This recipe was chosen by Cat of Delta Whiskey. You can find the recipe here.
Edit: Look I added a pic!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Creamy Garlicky Lemony Shrimp and Asparagus Pasta

I really need to work on my naming of food. While it's definitely accurate, it's a little long and boring. I need to call it something cool.

This recipe is based on this recipe from the Pioneer Woman. It just looked so creamy and yummy I needed to try it. And of course change it a bit because I am mentally incapable of following a recipe start to finish. And because I was hungry and didn't want to wait to bake it, seeing as how I hadn't even unpacked the rest of my groceries.

Sour cream to thicken a cream sauce is new to me. It is wonderful. Absolutely wonderful. It gives it such a nice body and just a little tang that compliments the lemon juice. I can't overemphasize how good and easy this sauce is. And it lends itself well to all sorts of flavors. It would be really good with ham or bacon and peas or almost any sort of cheese. Whatever you've got on hand, or whatever is seasonal, however you want to think about it. I made it at the start of spring when the asparagus just came in (and yes, I am just getting around to posting it now). The sauce works well with everything. Well not everything. I can't see bananas working in this, and probably not soy sauce but just about anything else will.

Creamy Garlicky Lemony Shrimp and Asparagus Pasta
The Creamiest Best Pasta Dish Ever

4 large cloves garlic, chopped finely
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp olive oil
2 lbs raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 bunch asparagus, tips cut into 1" sections and base cut into thin circles
1 container grape tomatoes, halved
1 lb thin spaghetti
16 oz light sour cream (this is a healthy dish afterall, haha)
a handful parsley, chopped
1 lemon, zest and juice

Put the garlic, butter and olive oil in a large pan over medium low heat. Allow to cook until butter is melted and the garlic becomes fragrant but does not develop any color.
Sprinkle the shrimp with salt and pepper and add to the pan and cook until they turn pink.
Set the shrimp aside.
Add the zest, 1/2 the juice of the lemon and the sour cream. Stir until boiling then drop the heat to low.
Add the tomatoes.
Meanwhile boil a large pot of salted water for the pasta.
Cook the pasta for 6 minutes or just under what the box recommends, adding the asparagus in the last 2 minutes of cooking.
Dump the asparagus and pasta into the sauce.
Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and stir into sauce.
Add the shrimp back and stir to combine.
Top with parsley.