Kitchen Kapers

Blogging a little homemade fun…

May 17, 2013

An Edible Homage

Pimlico PuddingFor a few years now I’ve attended a Kentucky Derby barbecue hosted by my dear friend Ashley and her family. Affectionately nicknamed the DerBQ, it has become a tradition for all of us to gather to watch the “Run for the Roses” and enjoy a tasty meal in the company of great friends. Complete with Mint Juleps, expertly mixed by the hostess herself, the DerBQ is a fantastic party, and one I look forward to attending ever year. There’s always plenty of food at the DerBQ, and I usually volunteer to bring a dessert. I like to keep with tradition so I’ve made various Kentucky-themed ones in the past, including my very popular Triple Berry Trifle. Unfortunately, though, this year Ashley found out she’d be traveling for business the weekend of the Derby, so to preserve our annual May get-together, she decided to host a Preakness Picnic instead. From my years of attending the DerBQ, I’ve gotten to learn about the traditions of the Derby, like singing ‘My Old Kentucky Home’ before the start, sipping those refreshing Mint Juleps and admiring the loads of red roses arranged all over Churchill Downs. Knowing that horse racing is a sport that is steeped in tradition, I decided to do some research on the Preakness to prepare for the big day, so we can celebrate in true style.
This Saturday marks the 138th running of the Preakness Stakes. Set at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Maryland, it is the second leg of the famed US Triple Crown, and is the second most attended thoroughbred horse racing event in the United States after the Kentucky Derby. Like the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness proudly upholds traditions meant to honor its home state. These traditions serve to highlight a host of Maryland’s local treasures and include the US Naval Academy Glee Club performing ‘Maryland, My Maryland’ before the start of the race and the winning horse being festooned with a blanket of black-eyed susans, Maryland’s state flower. Pimlico PuddingSince I offered to bring dessert and Ashley requested my trifle, I thought I’d mix things up a bit and turn the trifle into an homage to Maryland too. Based on the colors of the Maryland state flag, this trifle features ripe red strawberries, pillowly clouds of whipped cream, rich custardy vanilla pudding layered with bananas, and decadent chocolate pound cake. This unique combo of flavors works really well together, and is a nice change of pace from my Triple Berry Trifle. I have to say, I think it will be the perfect dessert for the Preakness Picnic.


Pimlico Pudding

**Special Note: The measurements given in the ingredients are approximate. Adjust the amounts of your ingredients based on the size of your trifle container. You should have enough of all the ingredients to make at least two nice layers of each ingredient in the trifle bowl. Each of the ingredients can be homemade or store-bought. Use what you prefer. This can be made in a single large trifle bowl or in glasses for individual servings.

Ingredients
1-2 chocolate pound cakes
1 jar good quality strawberry jam
1 large container of strawberries, cleaned, trimmed and sliced
4 to 5 medium bananas, peeled and sliced
4 cups prepared vanilla pudding
whipped cream for garnish
chocolate sundae topping for garnish

Instructions:
Start out by prepping the pound cake. Slice the pound cake into even slices and spread each slice with a thin layer of strawberry jam on one side. Then, cut each slice of the jammed cake into cubes. Transfer some of the cubes, jam side up, to the bottom of your trifle bowl. You should add enough to cover the bottom without leaving any spaces. Next, layer some of the strawberries over the cake evenly so that the cake is completely covered. Top the strawberries with a layer of the pudding. You should see your layers start to take shape in the trifle bowl at this point. Top the pudding with a layer of the sliced bananas, then repeat the layers starting with the cake cubes and ending with the layer of sliced bananas. Continue to create layers in this fashion until the trifle bowl is filled nearly to the top. Top the whole thing with a good layer of whipped cream then transfer to the refrigerator to chill for a several hours. Just before serving, drizzle with the chocolate sundae topping.

May 9, 2013

A Morning Chat and Popovers

Popovers for MomSometimes things don’t always turn out how we think they should. We have a bad day. Plans have to be cancelled. Life just gets suddenly overwhelming. It’s days like these when I want nothing more than a moment to sit and chat with my Mom. From the scraped knees and broken hearts of my youth to the irritants and disasters of adulthood, she’s been my constant confidante and comfort - my best friend for as long as I can remember. And no matter how utterly frustrating life can be, she always knows exactly what to say to remind me that things will get better. It’s a fact. They always do.

My Mom and I have always been the first to wake in the house in the morning. So our chats have typically taken place over a cup of coffee in the early hours, before the rest of the house has left their beds. Even when I was away at college, she’d call me and I’d have breakfast on the phone with her. So, for Mother’s Day, I wanted to do something really special for her. To show her how much I appreciate these moments most of all.

Glorious Golden MomentI decided that I’d wake up even earlier and surprise her with some freshly baked Popovers for our morning chat. Popovers are a great metaphor for life. There are darker bits, and sometimes they just don’t turn out how we expect them to, but then, there are also these great golden, sunshiney moments. You know what I mean. The lush, custardy bits, that make up for all the bad days. The lightness and the elation when everything is just as it should be. My Mom’s the one that taught me to savor these moments, to cherish them. Because they are what carry you through the tough times.

Popovers are a great metaphor for my Mom’s personality too. Because she has survived life’s trials and has still maintained her sunny outlook on life. Nothing can mar her fun-loving spirit or change her warm and comforting nature. She takes pleasure in the simple things in life. Even if it’s just a morning chat with her daughter over coffee and popovers.

MisePopovers for Mom
Ingredients
6 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled slightly, divided
4 large eggs, pre-warmed in a bowl of hot water for 15 minutes
1 1/2 cups skim milk, heated for 25 seconds in the microwave
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

**Note: It’s really important to have everything warm or lukewarm before beginning. It makes for the puffiest popovers.

Instructions
Preheat the oven to 450° and position one of your racks on a lower shelf in the oven.

Brush a twelve cup standard sized muffin pan or a standard size popover pan with 3 tablespoons of the melted butter, being sure to brush the top of the pans along with inside the wells to insure that the popovers don’t stick.

When the oven has reached 450°, in a bowl with a pour spout, combine the eggs, milk, and salt and using a hand blender or electric mixer, mix until well combined. Then add the flour and continue to beat until combined, about 30 seconds. I used my Bamix for this, because it is the perfect tool for the job. The mixture should look almost like thin pancake batter and it’s okay if it still has a few small lumps. Scrape the sides of the bowl down and beat for an additional 30 seconds or until frothy and light. Add in the remaining 3 tablespoons of melted butter and mix just until combined.

Once the batter is ready, pour it into the muffin pan, filling each well about 3/4 full, and transfer to the oven to bake for 20 minutes. DO NOT OPEN THE OVEN DOOR!!! No peaking allowed!!! I mean it! After the first 20 minutes have passed, lower the oven temperature to 350° and bake for an additional 10 to 15 minutes (without opening the door!) or until your popovers are puffy and a rich, golden brown.

When you feel that the popovers are done, open the door and tap gently on the top of one. It should sound hollow. Remove the pan from the oven and, if you’re serving them immediately, poke each popover gently with the tip of a paring knife to allow any residual steam to escape. Remove the popovers from the pan and serve immediately with your choice of toppings. I served mine with a bit of homemade Tupelo honey butter and seedless blackberry jam.

April 18, 2013

Comfort Me with Chocolate Cake

It’s a ritual, really. This endeavor of making and having chocolate cake, just because. And there’s comfort in that ritual, because years ago it is what helped form a friendship that I’ve come to treasure.
     I walked into the main entrance of my college dorm late one night. The girls who lived across the hall were in the kitchen. Seeing me coming through the door at 3 AM with an utterly exhausted look on my face, one of them asked about my night. I’d chatted with them before. They were polite and friendly underclassmen, and really had no idea how trying junior year could be, or at least, that’s what I thought. One of them, Julia, told me they were baking chocolate cake and asked if I wanted some. “Chocolate cake, at 3 AM?” I’d asked. She said, “Yeah man. It’s chocolate cake. You don’t need a reason for chocolate cake.” I didn’t take her up on the offer of the cake, mostly because I was exhausted, and craving my sheets more than sheetcake. I begged off and she said maybe another time. I ended up becoming good friends with the girls across the hall, and shared a few cakes with them over the remainder of the year. We got to be so close that they became my roommates in a tiny on-campus apartment during my senior year.
     Just like that week years ago, this one has been an exhausting one, both physically and mentally. Julia texted and asked if I wanted to get together for a cup of tea, and my brain automatically finished that sentence with the words, “and chocolate cake.” But Julia has recently been following a vegan diet. So I set about putting together a vegan chocolate cake recipe that would rival those we shared in the wee hours of the morning in our collegiate apartment. When she arrived at my house, I surprised her with the cake. She was astounded. She’d come to visit me and see if I needed anything after my harrowing week, and I’d made her a chocolate cake. I just told her, “it’s chocolate cake. You don’t need a reason for chocolate cake.”

     A far cry from the Duncan Hines box and can of frosting of our college years, this vegan recipe is a nice treat to share over a cup of tea, especially after a very long week.

Vegan Chocolate CakeVegan Chocolate Cake(Vegan) Chocolate Cake
with Chocolate Frosting

Ingredients
For the Cake
1 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1/3 cup cocoa
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup brewed coffee
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp vinegar
For the Frosting
1 cup sugar
6 tbsp cornstarch
4 tbsp cocoa
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp oil
1 cup water
1/2 tsp vanilla

Instructions:
To make the cake:
Preheat the oven to 375°F. In a medium mixing bowl combine flour, cocoa, baking soda, salt and sugar and whisk together. In a separate bowl, combine the oil, coffee and vanilla. Pour the oil mixture into the dry ingredients and whisk until it forms a smooth batter. Add the vinegar and stir quickly to incorporate. You’ll notice that pale swirls of color will form in the batter. This is normal and is just the baking soda reacting with the vinegar. Pour the batter into an ungreased 9″ round springform baking pan and transfer to the oven to bake for 25-30 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.

To make the frosting:
While the cake cools, make your frosting. In a medium sauce pan, combine the sugar, cornstarch, salt and cocoa. Whisk in the water until it’s well combined. Then, heat the mixture over medium heat until it starts to thicken and just comes to a boil. Boil for a minute or less until it reaches a nice, glossy frosting consistency. Be very careful at this point because if it boils for too long, it will turn into a taffy-like candy. Remove the frosting from the heat, and stir in the vanilla and the oil. Mix until combined then set aside to cool. Once the frosting has cooled some, you can spread it over the cake and serve.

July 28, 2011

Cool. New. Cuisinart!

New to the market is the Cuisinart Blend & Cook Soup Maker, and I’m really excited about this product. It’s the first of its kind and I can’t believe that someone hasn’t thought of this before! This is a sort of blender/cooker combo. A lot of people might think that they don’t need an appliance like this, but if you’re looking for a blender and a food processor, this could probably take the place of both and save you some money. Here is what the blender looks like when you take it out of the box and assemble it:

Out of the BoxPretty Soup Maker

It really does everything. You can make sauces and soups in it from start to finish including sauteing onions and vegetables, grind and chop nuts, make bread crumbs or cookie and cracker crumbs, crush ice, grate citrus zest, make frozen drinks and smoothies, and even make baby food! I would have loved to have had this when I was in college. Actually I would still really love to have one because it’s a time-saver. You don’t have to worry about cooking soup on a stove then precariously having to transfer the hot liquid to a blender to puree it. Because you can cook and blend in the same unit! I also like the fact that it’s not a uni-tasker. I don’t like buying a lot of appliances that only do one thing. So this is great if you have to be conscientious of counter and storage space too. After taking the product out of the box and looking it over I’m really impressed with how well it’s made too. The jug of the blender feels heavy in your hand, but not unpleasantly so. Take a look:

Blender Jug

It feels sturdy, so there’s no doubt in my mind it could hold up well in my kitchen. Plus it has some seriously sharp and powerful looking blades. You can see them and the nonstick cooking surface on the bottom of the jar here:

Blender Blades

The base of the jug has a unique connector/cooking element that plugs into the base of the blender. Here on the left is the base of the jug and on the right is the base of the blender.

Blender Jug BaseBlender Base

All you have to do is align white arrows on each item and the two fit together easily and perfectly. Fitting the two pieces together is no more difficult than docking an iPod or charging a cellphone. The cooking element part removes easily from the jug, making it a breeze to clean too. Personally, I think this is a great new appliance and I can’t wait to see it in action!

February 15, 2011

Pizza!!!

Filed under: Around the Kitchen Table — Tags: , , , — Jackie @ 11:44 am

During my childhood I spent a good chunk of time hanging out in the kitchen of a pizzeria. My best friend’s family owned the pizza shop right around the corner from where we lived and we spent more than a few afternoons running around the restaurant. Whether we were grabbing a slice as an after school snack or just popping in to see a family member, it seems like we were always there. So, as you could imagine, I’ve eaten a lot of pizza in my life. And most Americans have as well. It is estimated that Americans eat about 350 slices of pizza every second. Every second! That is a lot of pizza! And it’s no wonder we adore this food. The flavors of rich and gooey cheese, combined with the snappy, crisp crust and the fresh and zesty tomato sauce form one of the greatest combinations in culinary history. Add your favorite toppings and it’s a whole other level of delirium. While I do have my own personal favorites, I like to spice things up in the toppings department and try new things when I get the chance. Like this awesome Roasted Garlic Onion Jam from Stonewall Kitchen. Smear a bit on top of plain pizza dough, sprinkle with gorgonzola crumbles and pop it in the oven. I’m telling you, it is truly a gourmet experience, a pizza epiphany.


Pizza

I really love making pizza at home too, because I get to top the pie however I choose, and I don’t have to worry about pleasing everyone else’s tastes, since we can all make our own. Of course, one necessity for making pizza at home: a pizza stone. Emile Henry has actually come out with a pizza stone that is pure brilliance. The Flame Top Pizza Stone is less fussy than conventional pizza stones, and can be used on the stove top, in the oven, under the broiler and even on the grill! Plus it’s unique glazed finish allows you to cut directly on the stone without worrying about scratching it. All this pizza talk is making me hungry…I think I’ll head around the corner. Or, better yet, I’ll make my own!

September 20, 2010

The Real Deal New Jersey Crumb Cake

Filed under: Around the Kitchen Table — Tags: , , , — Jackie @ 12:49 pm

One of my all time favorite ways to wake up is with a steaming mug of coffee and a slice of this crumb cake. Crumb cake has sort of a cult following in New Jersey. It’s everywhere: bakeries, convenience stores, diners. Everyone has their own version. The recipe I’m listing below is my favorite. The perfect ratio of crumbs to cake combined with the fact that it’s super easy to prepare makes this recipe a keeper.

New Jersey Crumb Cake

Real Deal New Jersey Crumb Cake

Ingredients:
Cake:

1/2 cup margarine or butter
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
3/4 cup milk
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla

Topping:
1/2 cup margarine or butter
1 cup sugar
2 cups biscuit mix
2 teaspoons cinnamon
confectioner’s sugar for dusting

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 350°. In a bowl, cream together the butter and sugar and set aside. In a separate bowl combine the eggs and milk and beat until slightly frothy. Add the egg-milk mixture to the butter-sugar mixture and mix until combined. In another bowl, combine flour and baking powder, then add to the butter mixture. Add in vanilla and stir to combine. Pour batter into greased 9″ x 13″ pan. Set pan aside and make crumb topping. To make the crumb topping, cut butter into sugar, biscuit mix and cinnamon until pea sized clumps form. Sprinkle evenly over batter in pan. Transfer to the oven to bake for 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Remove pan from oven and set aside on a rack to cool completely. To serve, dust with confectioner’s sugar.

Serves 8 to 10

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