Friday, July 14, 2006

It's Peach Season!

So have I gotten your attention yet? Yes, this cake is as good as it looks.

We decided to make the husband's grandmother a special cake for her 83rd birthday. After all, we baked the grandfather
two types of cookies for his birthday last month. And as I also mentioned in that post, I am totally anal-retentive when it comes to preparing a new dish for guests or for a gift. If it's not a tried-and-true, well then it needs to become one before I'm comfortable with it. As a result, we spent last Saturday baking cakes much like the Saturday in June that we spent baking cookies. (Did I mention it's summertime and we shouldn't even be using the oven much??) We will not even discuss the Great Brownie Bake-Off of 2006 in which we attempted to find the perfect Brownies to give my brother for his birthday. Oh, brother! But I digress.

Back to the cake - I really wanted to try this one which I found while surfing the net...I think I saw it on We wanted to make something with fresh peaches, and this recipe sounded like a winner with a plus being that it wasn't complicated to make and we had all of the ingredients on hand. I have a really cool bundt pan which had never been used, but I didn't know if it would quite work for this recipe because of the layers of peaches. It did. And the powdered sugar sprinkled on top made a lovely presentation.

It turned out absolutely fabulously...both times. Yes, we made two of them. The first was to try out the pan and sample the cake for approval and any necessary tweaking, thus making it a tried-and-true. The second became the grandmother's birthday cake, and we gave her the entire thing. Lest you think we completely devoured the sample cake by ourselves - we didn't. I put half in the freezer and we will enjoy it on another occasion if it is as good after being frozen as it was fresh.

Because it's inverted, the bottom of the cake was actually the top of the cake while baking. It reminds me of my grandmother's delicious Sour Cream Pound Cake in that it gets a crunchy top but then has that moist, slightly gooey layer just below that. Mmmmm. I could have just eaten that part of the cake and been perfectly happy. However, unlike plain pound cake, this cake ~ in-between the lovely poundcake-like layers ~ has two layers of fresh peaches baked with cinnamon, sugar, and chopped pecans. In fact, this could easily be called Peach Streusel Pound Cake as that is exactly what it was like...moist and delicious but not overly sweet. Great with coffee, milk, ice cream, whatever! And if you don't have fresh peaches on hand, you can always use frozen. This one is definitely worth a try.

Fresh Peach Cake

4 eggs
2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
3 cups all-purpose flour (I sifted mine)
1 tsp. salt
1 T. baking powder
1/4 cup orange juice
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups sliced fresh or frozen peaches
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp. cinnamon
powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Beat eggs well; add 2 cups sugar and the oil, beating until well blended. Combine flour, salt, and baking powder; beat into egg and oil mixture alternating with orange juice. Blend in the vanilla extract.

In a separate bowl, toss the sliced peaches and pecans with 1/4 cup sugar and the cinnamon. Pour about one-third of the batter into a greased and floured tube pan. Layer one-half of the peach mixture over it. Cover with another one-third of batter and the remaining peach mixture. Spread remaining batter over the last layer to cover.

Bake at 350F for 60 minutes, until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.* Cool cake in pan for 10 minutes; turn out onto a wire rack. Sprinkle with powdered sugar.

*After the test cake, I decided the perfect length of time for our oven is 65 minutes even though the wooden pick was never totally clean. I think a totally clean pic might indicate the cake would be drier than I prefer. Mine was perfectly cooked and very moist.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Pecan Crusted Chicken Salad

In the words of Rachael Ray, Yum-O!! This was a good one. We found this recipe in one of our new subscription magazines, Cuisine at home. I've mentioned this magazine before - it's one of our favorites. Practically every recipe in there looks worthy of trying out. Their recipe for Pecan Crusted Chicken Salad with Honey-Mustard Dressing is certainly a winner - crunchy, toasty pecans, creamy goat cheese, and tangy-sweet honey mustard on mixed salad greens. The only thing we would do differently is cut the cayenne pepper down or leave it out. We aren't huge fans of spicy food, and I found it to be a bit distracting from the other yummy flavors in this dish. If you go here, you can see the entire current issue. Thumb through the pages until you see the recipe if you want to check it out (hint: it's the 12th slide). This recipe has quite a few steps, and since I'm still unsure about what is legal on blogs as far as posting recipes, I'm going to pass on typing out one this detailed.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

I say Frittata, You say...Frittata?

Yes, I'm still here...and cooking. Both literally and figuratively in this miserable July heat and humidity. Blah! I don't tolerate the heat well. I'm a hot-blooded person by nature and I swear it's getting worse the older I get. And it's not even from hot flashes yet! Oh, so much to look forward to I'm sure. Oh well, on to a better kind of cooking....

One of our favorite quick-and-easy throw-together meals with whatever we happen to have on hand is a Frittata. If you've never had one, I would describe it as somewhat similar to a crustless Quiche, but it's cooked in a skillet so it's much quicker to make. Once you have the ingredients prepped, the cooking part is a snap. For this one, we used leftover ham, onion, and yellow peppers. It was delicious. A side salad, if desired, is the perfect accompaniment. And a glass of French Rose wine doesn't hurt either. Note the golden brown color of the top - the Frittata is placed under the broiler for the last few minutes of cooking.

Here is the recipe we tossed together for this particular one. You can swap out the meats and veggies any way you like- and use more or less, etc., as well as the cheese and the herbs. We used fresh herbs but dried would be okay if that's all you have, just use half the amount.

CJ's Ham and Veggie Frittata

2 T. olive oil
1/2 medium onion, chopped
1/2 medium yellow bell pepper, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup heavy cream
6 large eggs
1/3 c. Gruyere cheese, grated
2/3 c. chopped ham
2 T. herbs (we used flat-leaf parsley and a tiny bit of sage)
Herbs for garnish if desired (we used parsley and chives)

In a 10" diameter nonstick ovenproof skillet -
heat olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, bell pepper, garlic, salt, and black pepper, and saute for about 5 minutes, until the onions are translucent.

Preheat the broiler. In a medium bowl, whisk together the cream, eggs, cheese, ham and herbs. Add this mixture to the skillet . Cover and cook over medium-low heat for about 2 minutes - it should be almost set but with the top still runny.

Place the skillet under the preheated broiler and broil for about 4 minutes - until the top is golden brown.

Loosen edges, remove onto plate, slice into wedges, garnish, and serve.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Peanut Butter-Chocolate Squares

Yesterday I had a little bit of a sweet tooth, so we decided to try these Peanut Butter-Chocolate Squares. I found the recipe online at Chocolatier magazine - it is this month's feature recipe.

The front of the current issue had me subscribing to this magazine in no time! I'm a total sucker for
chocolate chip cookies and if you add to that the caption of "Recipes from New York's Best Bakeries," I am soooo there. I haven't received my first issue yet, but I can't wait!

Back to the topic at hand - we whipped up this fabulous no-bake treat in record time yesterday. It is as simple as melting chocolate and mixing a few ingredients. If you want to have an idea what it is like: think Reese's cups BUT think of a new and improved Reese's cup with a mixture of dark and milk chocolate and a natural peanut butter filling sweetened with honey and confectioner's sugar. Mmmm good! Yes, they are sweet and also addictive, so try to make them when you will have some help devouring them - otherwise you may well end up ruining your appetite for dinner as I did yesterday.

I will definitely make these again, but I may cut down on the amount of honey and see how that goes. I could taste it a little too much for my liking....and they could stand to be slightly less sweet to me. Oh, and we used creamy natural peanut butter rather than crunchy, just because that is all we had on hand. But they were good regardless. I will not make them again for just the two of us however as we end up eating too much! You know how you aren't really hungry, but they are just sitting there, staring at you and calling your name??? Ack! Temptation is hell!

As with anything like this - use the best ingredients you can find and you will be happiest with the end result. If you decide to try them, let me know what you think!

Peanut Butter-Chocolate Squares
Recipe from Chocolatier Magazine

6 ounces bittersweet chocolate (60 to 70%), finely chopped
5 ounces milk chocolate, finely chopped
5 T. unsalted butter, softened and divided
1/4 cup honey
3/4 cup plus 2 T. natural chunky peanut butter
1 1/3 cups confectioner's suger, sifted

~Grease an 8-inch square baking pan with butter and set aside.
~In a double boiler or bowl fitted over a pot of simmering water, melt chocolates and 1 T. of butter. Remove from heat and stir until smooth. Set aside to cool until tepid.
~In bowl of electric mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream remaining 4 T. butter, honey, and peanut butter on medium speed until well combined and no lumps (other than peanut chunks) remain. On low speed, add confectioner's sugar.*
~Press peanut butter mixture evenly into bottom of baking pan. Pour melted chocolate over. Transfer pan to refrigerator to chill for 30 to 45 minutes, until set. Let come to room temperature before serving. To serve, cut into 9 squares using a sharp knife.**

*we used the hand-held electric mixer for all of this step and it worked fine
**we cut smaller squares and had much more than just 9 pieces

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Baked Bass with Romano Cheese

I think this may be the first Paula Deen recipe we've tried so far. Even though I'm a Southern gal, and besides the fact that my mom was born and raised in Savannah, GA...well, let's just say most of Paula's cooking is a little over the top for me. But to be fair, I probably would have loved it when I was about 10 years old. At this point in time however, my tastes are a little more refined, and just piling on tons of butter, sour cream and cheese do not make a dish delectable to me anymore. Not to say that many of Paula's dishes are not great or that Paula isn't a fabulous cook - I have no idea - but not too many that I've seen appeal to me personally as something I would want to cook or eat. That said, this fish recipe was a good one, and I'm sure I'll try a few more of her recipes in the future. Maybe I'll come to eat my words. I doubt it, but let's face it, anything is possible. Either way, I love Paula. She's a good old Southern gal who loves her food - very likeable and fun. She was on with Emeril last night, and I laughed out loud. I especially loved that they were wearing matching aprons that said "Country Cookin' Makes Ya Good Lookin'." And she boiled over her oyster stew because she got busy running her mouth about how she and her brother are opening a new restaurant called "Uncle Bubba's Oyster House" or something like that. Too funny. But the "salad" in which she put tons of mayonnaise and I'm-not-sure-what-all into a bowl filled with rice and chicken.....yuck.

This dish actually was simple and good. In lieu of regular bread crumbs, we used Panko (Japanese) bread crumbs, which I have come to adore. They are light with a wonderful texture, and while they can be purchased ready-to-go in the store (if you can find them), they do not contain tons of chemical garbage that typical store-bought bread crumbs contain. (In fact, if anyone has found Italian seasoned bread crumbs without junk in them, let me know the brand - otherwise I'll keep making my own or using Panko.) For the fish, we used Striped Bass that we had in the freezer. Yes, fresh would have been better but frozen was all we had on hand and this recipe did spiff them up quite a bit. The father-in-law is a hobby fisherman, so we are fortunate to usually have some type of fish on hand. We also buy fresh seafood from Alaska on occasion and keep a small supply of it in the freezer, but that's another topic. As far as this dish, the lemon juice and parsley give it a fresh, light taste, the bread crumbs (and cheese) give it a nice coating with a bit of a crunch for texture, and the garlic powder and Romano cheese add to the flavor.

In short, I would recommend this recipe, and several different types of fish could be used. The recipe is called Baked Bass with Romano Cheese, but it calls for Trout fillets. Paula?? What's up with that?? The point is - I think you could use either and probably several other kinds too if you wanted.

Baked Bass with Romano Cheese
Recipe courtesy Paula Deen

1 cup bread crumbs
1 T. garlic powder
1/2 cup grated Romano
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves
4 (8 oz) trout fillets
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup olive oil

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Combine the bread crumbs, garlic powder, cheese, and parsley in a medium non-reactive bowl. Rub each fillet with lemon juice, and then dredge in the crumb mixture to evenly coat. Place fillets on a baking pan lined with waxed or parchment paper. Drizzle olive oil over the fillets. Bake in the oven for 10 to 15 minutes or until fish fillets are cooked through.*

*Our note - next time, we will bake for slightly less time and then put them under the broiler to brown them a touch.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Grilled Banana Sundaes

Yum, this dessert was a hit with both of us. Grilled bananas topped with all-natural vanilla ice cream, homemade rum caramel sauce, and toasted pecans. We adapted this one from 2 different recipes we saw Emeril prepare on Emeril Live. It was fairly simple to put together and oh-so-good. The most time-consuming part was making the caramel sauce, but even that didn't take very long. There are many variations that could be used with this recipe so if you try it, just use what you like - chocolate sauce, whipped cream, walnuts, etc.

For the grilled bananas -
Preheat the grill to high and lightly oil the grates. Leave the bananas unpeeled and halve them lengthwise. Place the halves cut side up on a baking sheet and drizzle with honey. Sprinkle them with brown sugar and transfer to the grill. Close the grill and cook for 5 minutes or a bit less, just until the edges begin to caramelize and the banana starts to pull away from it's peel. Remove from the grill and carefully remove the peel, then place the banana slices on a serving dish. At this point, you can add the toppings of your choice.

Emeril's Rum Caramel Sauce

3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup hot water
1 cup plus 1 T. heavy cream
2 T. dark rum (optional)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 tsp. cold unsalted butter

Combine the sugar and water in a heavy saucepan over high heat until the sugar is dissolved, about 1 minute. Continue to cook, swirling occasionally but never stirring the mixture. Mixture will thicken and turn a deep amber color in 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from heat and carefully add the cream (mixture will splatter). Return the pan to medium heat. Allow to cook for about 5 minutes until the sauce is thick and creamy, stirring occasionally to help incorporate the cream. Remove from heat again and stir in rum (if using), vanilla, and butter. Should be served slightly warm. Enjoy!

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Beignets for Beginners

This past Sunday morning the husband tried his hand at making beignets for the first time ever. He had a little help from this place which is - as far as I know - THE place to go in the United States for beignets. We would love to go there sometime and try theirs, but we were both pretty happy with the ones he made here. Black coffee was the perfect pairing with these sweet treats. This will definitely be a nice change of pace for a weekend breakfast now and then.

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