Thursday, March 31, 2011

Cherry-Lemon Buttermilk Cake

This is a recipe I think would be perfect for a brunch, shower, or Easter get-together. It ends up light, not overly sweet but very fresh and fits the spring weather. The buttermilk and fruit create a super moist cake! The original recipe uses blueberries and I was planning on using only those until I saw whole cherries in the frozen fruit section. I prefer to use frozen berries for just about everything, so I purchase a lot of them. There is no race to finish them before they go bad and have to be wasted. They work beautifully in recipes like this because they "hold up". Anyway, I have been trying to find a way to include cherries in my son's diet. He won't try them, and I've been reading lately on their health benefits. Did you know that they work as an anti-inflammatory, more potent than aspirin? I didn't, but have read it several places lately. In the end, I decided to make two batches- one with cherries and one with blueberries.

I was skeptical about using tart cherries along with lemon. Usually blueberries go well with lemon because they are so overly sweet but I was pleasantly surprised at how well the cherries worked out. I ended up preferring the cherry one for taste, but not so much for appearance. So, here is the only catch with this recipe. If you use cherries, they are pretty large. I wanted to break mine up and so I threw them into the mixer and let them get completely incorporated. This results in a cake with kind of an odd purple color. If you fold them in whole (and gently) with a spoon, your cake won't discolor but you might have really big pieces of fruit. Finally, if you decide to use berries, it works to toss them with a bit of flour so they won't all sink to the bottom.  If anyone has a suggestion about how to improve this piece of the recipe, I'd love to hear from you!

What You Need:
1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 stick butter, softened
2/3 cups sugar, plus 1 tablespoon
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Juice of 1 lemon
Zest of 1 lemon
1 egg
1/2 cup buttermilk
5 oz. pitted cherries {fresh or frozen} OR you can use blueberries, raspberries, your preference!

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease and flour an 8 or 9 inch round or square cake pan.
Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt; set aside. Beat butter and 2/3 cup sugar on medium-high until fluffy, 1-2 minutes. Add vanilla extract, lemon juice and lemon zest. Add egg and beat well.
At low speed, mix in flour mixture in three batches, alternating with the buttermilk in two batches, mixing until just combined. Add cherries. You can either incorporate cherries with a mixer, which will break them up and make your batter a pink or purple color, OR you can add a bit of flour to your cherries and fold them in gently with a spoon to keep them whole and keep batter a cake color.  Pour batter into cake pan, spreading and smoothing the top. Sprinkle with 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar to create a crispy top. 
Bake until cake is golden and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes then turn out onto a rack and cool to warm, 10 to 15 minutes more. Invert onto a plate and cut into 8 slices.
Serve plain or with whipped cream. Enjoy!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Kalua Pork

I am not sure why I have never tried this, as it seems pretty popular when I started researching recipes. This is NOT your boring, traditional pork roast. What got me started was the show Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives. I watched an episode where they first made the kalua pork, and then used it to make kalua pork egg rolls, which I ended up making with some of the leftovers. I will post that recipe soon!

Traditionally, kalua pork is made at luaus, using a whole pig, roasted in a ground pit. It is also generally wrapped in banana leaves to prevent it from drying out. I read that you can buy banana leaves at specialty markets but chose not to this time.

I have to tell you, I guarantee this is the most tender pork you will ever, ever have. I actually gave up doing pork roasts in the crock pot a while ago because they were just never turning out as tender as beef roasts. When I went to shred this pork, I barely had to touch it and it fell right apart. The flavor is great and you can use the leftovers for anything. Mexican dishes, bbq sandwiches, egg rolls, etc. Besides the fact that its delicious, my house smelled amazing while it was cooking and it was very inexpensive. It uses only a couple of ingredients and takes less than five minutes to prepare. It makes a TON if you are feeding a crowd. If not, you will have great freezable leftovers. If all of that isn't enough to convince you, nothing will!

I found a lot of variations out there and just sort of combined them.

*Printable Version*

What You Need:
4-5 pound pork butt roast {don't substitute a leaner cut- you need the fat}
2-3 tablespoons coarse salt {I used sea salt, you can also use Hawaiian salt}
2 tablespoons liquid smoke {Found at any grocery store near the condiments}
Water, Roasting pan with rack, and foil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. I used a deep roasting pan with a rack and put about 2 inches of water in the bottom. Prepare the roast by cutting slits all over and then rubbing the salt into the meat. Rub the liquid smoke over the roast and place on the rack. Tent the roasting pan with two layers of foil, very tightly. Place into the 350 degree oven for one hour, then reduce the heat to 325 for 4 more hours. I didn't peek at all during that time! Remove from oven about ten minutes before serving and let the roast rest. Shred and serve with rice, potatoes or whatever you like! Enjoy!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Mint Chip Brownies with Ganache

Here is a good brownie recipe if you like fudgy, thick brownies. {I know there are those who prefer cake-like and these are not for you}. We made these minty treats for St. Patricks Day. I enjoy a little frosting or thin ganache on top, but my husband does not so I just topped half. You can also choose to make the ganache with mint or without and I chose without wanting just a taste of mint. I have made mint brownies before where the mint can be too overpowering but it is all for your preference. Great brownie recipe!

*Printable Version*

What You Need: {Brownies}

12 tablespoons {1 1/2 sticks} unsalted butter
1.5 cups sugar
2/3 cup dark cocoa powder 
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2  cup dark chocolate mint chips; divided use
{Ganache}: optional
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate OR mint chocolate chips
Directions:1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease an 8×8 baking pan and set aside.
2. Set a medium sized saucepan over medium heat and warm the butter until melted. Add the granulated sugar and stir well. Remove pan from heat and whisk in the cocoa powder.
3. In a separate bowl, lightly beat the eggs and vanilla. Pour the chocolate mixture into the bowl and whisk in with the eggs and vanilla until well combined. Gently stir in the flour and salt; do not beat or over mix. Fold in 3/4 cup of mint chocolate chips.
4. Pour batter into the prepared baking pan and smooth top with an offset spatula. 
5. Bake at 350 degrees F for 30-35 minutes. Take care not to over bake. Cool completely.
6. While brownies are cooling, prepare your ganache. Place a heat-proof bowl over a simmering pan of water and add cream and chocolate to the bowl. Continue stirring until combined and chocolate is melted through. Let cool 15 minutes. Once brownies and ganache are cool, spread over brownies. Enjoy!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Creamy Herbed Potatoes

A couple of weeks ago I posted the recipe for Pioneer Woman's Hot & Sweet Drumsticks. The night I made those, I used another of her recipes for the side dish. While these are far, far from low fat, they are a nice variation on potato sides and go perfectly with a saucy chicken. Yum!

What You Need:

4-5 Whole Russet Potatoes

1 stick Butter

1 whole Medium Onion, Finely Diced

8 ounces cream cheese

¾ cups heavy cream

1 cup milk {whole or half and half}

1 teaspoon Finely Chopped Rosemary

1 teaspoon Finely Chopped Parsley

1 teaspoon Finely Chopped Chives

½ teaspoons Finely Chopped Sage

OR use any combination of fresh or dried herbs you like

Grated parmesan cheese


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Slice potatoes very thinly. Add butter to a large skillet over medium low heat. When melted, add diced onion. Cook for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add cream cheese to the pan and stir to melt. Pour in cream and milk, stirring to combine. Season with plenty of salt and pepper, then add chopped herbs. Place potatoes in a buttered baking dish. Pour contents of skillet over the top. Top with Parmesan cheese and bake for 45 minutes, or until bubbly. Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Sweet & Sour Chicken

I realize all of my main dish posts lately are chicken. I'm not sure if that is just coincidence or what but I apologize if you are looking for something else! I can tell you though, that this is probably the best sweet and sour chicken I have ever had. Besides the fact that it is delicious, it is much healthier than take-out or the frozen variety since it is baked rather than fried, does not contain MSG and would have significantly less sodium than anything out there. It is high in sugar. You could reduce that by using a low sugar ketchup or using a sugar substitute. Add whatever veggies you like and serve over rice. I like to combine half white and half brown. I also doubled the sauce because I like extra. I poured half over the chicken to bake and put half in a saucepan on the stovetop. I needed to thicken the stovetop half and just added 1/2 teaspoon of cornstarch dissolved in a little cold water. One of my new favorite recipes!

*Printable Version*

What You Need: {Chicken}

3-4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Salt and pepper
1 cup cornstarch
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup oil {I prefer olive or canola}
Cut boneless chicken breasts into chunks. {I like to do mine while they are somewhat frozen. Makes them so much easier to cut!}  Season with salt and pepper. Dip chicken in cornstarch and then in egg. Fry in a little oil until brown but not cooked through. I browned mine in a heavy bottomed, dutch oven style pot that could also be used in the oven, making this a one pan meal. If you do not have that kind of pot,  place in a single layer in a baking dish. Mix sauce ingredients {below} together and pour over chicken. You'll need to deglaze your pan a little to get all the good thickening cornstarch into the sauce.
¾ cup sugar
4 tablespoons ketchup
½ cup vinegar {I used white wine vinegar}
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon garlic salt
Bake for one hour at 325 degrees. Turn chicken every 15 minutes so it is evenly coated with the sauce. Add veggies, serve over rice or noodles and enjoy!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Oreo Truffles

I just counted and I have around 25 posts in draft waiting to be finished and at least 5 recipes that I haven't even started to work on yet. I guess its safe to say I will never catch up on this! So, I guess I'll start with one of our top favorites from the past little while.

Around Valentines Day I saw maybe 4.000 posts of this recipe on various sites and decided to try them. I knew they wouldn't be bad, but I really had no idea how GOOD they would be. I like Oreos but they are not my favorite so I couldn't believe how addicting these are. Combine that with how easy they are to make and they are dangerous. This is a good recipe for kids to help with also. My plan is to make these with Nutter Butter cookies next. I wanted to wait to do this post until I had tried both but I may never get around to that so here goes! Everyone has been begging for these since we had them. You have to try these!

Note: I cut this recipe in half for my family size. That is about 20 Oreos, 4 oz cream cheese & a half bag of melts.

*Printable Version*

What You Need:
1 package (18 oz.) Oreo cookies {or Nutter Butters}, crushed.
1 8-oz. package cream cheese, softened
Candy Melts for dipping {I used Wilton milk chocolate to dip and Wilton white to drizzle}

To crush the cookies, I didn't even bother with the food processor. I just put them in a storage bag and used a meat mallet. Kids love this part! Mix crushed Oreos and cream cheese until well-combined. I used a hand mixer on low and with some patience, they combined well. You could also use a food processor. Use your hands to roll into 1-inch balls and place on a parchment lined baking sheet or tray. Refrigerate until firm, at least one hour.

Dip Oreo balls into chocolate coating and place onto waxed paper to harden. Drizzle with colored melts, if desired. To share with neighbors, I found these cute candy cups at Orson Gygi's, or mini cupcake papers would work. Chill and serve cold or room temperature. Makes about 30 truffles. Enjoy!