Monthly Archives: February 2012

Cream Cheese Pound Cake

Very few food items exist in my food world to which I will not add a garnish, sauce, mix-in, etc.  Very few food items exist in my food world that need to be enjoyed in its most pure and unadulterated form.  This, my friends, is one of those items.  Pound cake.

My love of pound cake springs from my mother.  I remember, as kids, when last-minute guests would announce their impending visit, my mother would send my dad to the grocery store to get pound cake.  And I’ll stand by it to this day – the frozen Sara Lee pound cakes are awesome .  Not overly sweet and wonderfully moist.

Recently, when Binks and I were expecting guests (another priestly meal actually), I wanted to make pound cake.  And, it seems from experience, people generally like a good pound cake.

This is a great pound cake.  With its velvety texture, subtle sweetness and lightness without losing the buttery richness, this cake is in my vault of great recipes.

And, by vault, I mean a blue folder that I need to organize.  Either way, it’s there.  And, for good reason.

Cream Cheese Pound Cake

Inspired by Bon Appétit

 Ingredients:

  •  1 (8 oz) package of cream cheese, brought to room temperature (this is very important)
  • 1 and 1/2 cups of butter, room temperature
  • 3 cups white sugar
  • 6 large eggs, room temperature
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • 3 cups cake flour, sifted

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 325 F.  Grease and flour a 12-cup bundt pan.
  2. Using your mixer, cream together the cream cheese and butter until it’s completely smooth.  You do not want lumps.
  3. Slowly, add in your white sugar until fluffy.
  4. Add the eggs, one at a time, to make sure that the egg is completely incorporated before adding the next.
  5. Add the vanilla.
  6. Gradually add the flour and mix until everything is smooth.  You again don’t want any lumps.
  7. Bake in preheated oven for one hour.  Check if the cake is done using the toothpick test.  If it’s not done, let it remain in the oven baking for 10 minute increments, checking to see if the cake is done each time.  Once the toothpick comes out clean from the center of the cake, remove from the oven to cool.
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6 Comments

Filed under baking, Cake, Uncategorized

Banana Muffins with Cinnamon Sugar Streusel

We recently visited Binks’ cousin’s son.  She had him less than a month after I delivered.  However, we wanted to wait a good amount of time as she was recovering from a C-Section, her entire family (including her parents) were recovering from the flu (yes, with the newborn there), and her baby developed a sinus infection.  That and scheduling issues allowed us to visit him when he was a little older than one month.

And I was not going to go empty handed.  I made one of my favorite muffins.  These bakery-style muffins are adored by everyone in my family and I was 90% sure that she would enjoy it as well.  I was right.  Perfectly moist and full of banana flavor, the muffins also come with a beautiful crumbly cinnamon-y topping.  A beautiful presentation with very little effort.  The recipe allows you to gather ingredients you likely have in your pantry with some very ripe bananas.  If you’re at all like me, you have very ripe bananas at least once a month.

Banana Muffins with Cinnamon Sugar Streusel
adapted from Allrecipes

Ingredients:

For the muffins:

  •  2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 6 medium-size very ripe bananas, mashed
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
For the streusel topping:
  • 1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp butter

Directions:

  1.  Preheat oven to 375F.  Line 12 muffin cups with liners.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.  In another bowl, beat the bananas, vanilla, brown sugar, egg, and melted butter until everything is incorporated.  Mix the wet mixture into the dry until everything is wet and fully mixed.  You do not want to over-mix.
  3. Using an ice cream scoop or spoon, spoon the batter into the muffin liners.
  4. In a small bowl, mix together all the ingredients for the streusel topping until it resembles coarse bread crumbs.  Sprinkle liberally over all of the muffins.  You should have enough to have a good amount on each muffin.
  5. Bake in the preheated oven for 19-20 minutes, until it passes the toothpick test.

4 Comments

Filed under Bread, Breakfast, Muffins

Happy Valentine’s Day {Sugar Cookies}

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone!

I must say that I have never been a fan of Valentine’s Day.  Whether I was single, dating or married, the purpose of the day was lost on me.  All purposes save one.  The delicious factor.  You know what I mean.  Chocolates.  Desserts.  And of course, cookies.

With sugar cookies on the brain lately, I finally sat down and decorated sugar cookies for friends.  My experience has been that most cut-out decorated sugar cookies have lacked great flavor.  Well, not these.  These cookies are perfect.  Full of flavor and tender crumb.  The cookies are not overly sweet, which works well when paired with the royal icing, which let’s admit may not be the most delicious thing to put on top of a cookie.

And, as a novice at the decorated sugar cookie, I fully expected my cookies to be imperfect and composed of minor, superficial blemishes.  However, with a superior base product, I would gladly eat and share these cookies with my family and friends.

Sugar Cookies
–  from Annie’s Eats

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 and 1/2 tsp almond extract
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 and 1/2 cup sifted flour

Directions:

  1.  Preheat oven to 375F.
  2. Cream butter until fluffy and add powdered sugar until fully incorporated and light.
  3. Add egg, almond extract, vanilla extract, salt and flour to the butter mixture until well blended (in that order).
  4. Chill the dough in the refrigerator for at least two hours, until the dough has firmed up.
  5. Once chilled, on a lightly floured surface, roll out the cookie dough to a 1/4 inch thickness.  If your dough keeps sticking, I suggest alternating between flour and powdered sugar to powder to the surface.  This way you won’t run the risk of adding too much flour to the mixture.
  6. After rolling, cut out your desired shapes with cookie cutters.  Transfer the cookies to a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.
  7. Bake for 8-10 minutes until only barely browned on the bottom.  You do not want to brown these cookies.
  8. Allow the cookies to cool on a cooling rack completely before decorating.  If you don’t intend on decorating right away, store in an airtight container until it is time to decorate.

10 Comments

Filed under baking, Cookies, Favorites, Uncategorized

Pesto Pasta with Spinach, Broccoli and Walnuts

I cook pasta at least once a week.  And, taking into account leftovers, we eat pasta three times a week.  It’s fast and versatile.  And, while I usually rely on marinara sauce or quick spaghetti sauce, I try to incorporate different flavors and textures to create a satisfying dish without being too monotonous.

And, with my everlasting fondness for pesto, this dish is appropriate for a lunch or dinner.  And, the flavors get even better the next day.  So, leftovers of this comforting dish are anything but mundane.

The addition of spinach, broccoli and toasted walnuts adds depth and nutritional value without compromising taste.

Pesto Pasta with Spinach, Broccoli and Walnuts

Ingredients:

  • 1 (16 oz) package bow tie pasta
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 head broccoli crown
  • 1 (10 oz) package of frozen spinach, thawed, squeezed and drained of water
  • 3/4 cup pesto – use your favorite pesto (I used half basil pesto and half sun-dried tomato pesto)
  • 1 tbsp red pepper flakes (adjust to taste)
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, chopped and toasted
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, plus additional for dusting on top

Directions:

  1.  Boil pasta to al dente in salted water.  Drain and set aside in a large bowl.
  2. Using a large saucepan (I use my dutch oven), and heat your olive oil over medium-high heat.  Once the oil is heated, add the garlic and cook for approximately 2 minutes – until the garlic is slightly brown.  Add the broccoli and stir for a minute.  Cover the broccoli and reduce the heat to medium.  Cook the broccoli for 3 minutes over medium.  After 3 minutes, add the spinach to the broccoli.  At this point, you are just trying to warm up the spinach without overcooking the broccoli.  I cook the spinach with the broccoli for about one minute.  You do not want to overcook the broccoli.  You want it to be firm but not raw.  If you can pierce it, it’s ready – you definitely do not want it be mushy.
  3. Once the broccoli/spinach mixture is cooked, add it to the bowl containing the pasta.
  4. To the pasta/broccoli mix, add your pesto, red pepper flakes, walnuts, salt, pepper and Parmesan cheese.  Toss to ensure that the pasta is evenly coated.
  5. Check for salt and add more if desired.  I start with 1/4 tsp because the pesto and the Parmesan add saltiness to the dish.
  6. Once the pasta is coated, sprinkle additional Parmesan cheese on top right before serving.

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Filed under garlic, olive oil, Uncategorized

Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

I was ignorant.

Remember when I told you I didn’t find any difference between cakes or cupcakes?  Well, I jumped to conclusions too fast.  I didn’t sample enough cupcakes to know the value of this tiny treat.  The answer came from my buddy Bianca.

“…I think the cupcake gets a couple extra points for … having a better frosting-cake ratio.”

Talk about spot on.

And if you were to ask me 10 years ago, I would have not cared about frosting.  Shocking.  I hadn’t  sampled enough buttercreams to know the value of frosting.

I fixed that.

The best vanilla buttercream I have ever eaten.  Not overly sweet and balances well with the cake.  The vanilla and butter flavors work together perfectly to give you a delicious buttercream that also lends itself to easy frosting and piping.  I already have plans on using this for pending birthday cakes and of course, more cupcakes of every flavor.

Oh, and I’m keen on sprinkles too!

Vanilla Buttercream

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of butter, softened
  • 4 cups of confectioners (powdered) sugar, sifted
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 6 tbsp heavy cream

Directions:

  1. Cream butter until pale and fluffy.
  2. Add powdered sugar to the creamed butter until incorporated.
  3. After the sugar and butter have nicely come together, add the salt, vanilla and cream.
  4. Beat at high-speed until the mixture becomes light and resembles frosting.

15 Comments

Filed under baking, Cake, Cupcake, Uncategorized, Vegetarian