Time for another Improv Cooking Challenge! I haven't done one in a couple months due to the holidays and not being super interested in the ingredients. But this month the challenge was Rosemary and Lemon, and that pairing sounded great to me! I was torn between a cocktail and a cake recipe, so I decided - why not do both?
The cake is light and fluffy from whipped egg whites, dotted with rosemary, and iced with a lemon cream cheese frosting. Delicious.
The martini is sweet (but not too much) and tangy, with a base not of rosemary. Dreamy.
Together they are absolutely perfect. I don't like overly sweet anything, and these were so well balanced. I brought them to my book club and they were a huge hit (not an exaggeration, they were the most popular items I've ever brought). Some of you may roll your eyes at the mention of a book club, but don't worry - we aren't the pretentious kind where everyone hates the books. We are sci-fi, horror, and fantasy only and we have a great time!
It's Secret Recipe Club time! And this month I was assigned the blog I've been waiting for - Smells Like Brownies by my best friend, Melissa! Yay! You may recognize the name, because we cook lunch together every week, and I often blog about it. Melissa is a stay-at-home mommy to a very active little boy, and a precious baby girl. She is devoted to her family and God in a way that is truly inspirational, as well as being a phenomenal baker and photographer. She's just the best and I am so excited to share her blog with you!
Eliminating SRC posts and dishes that we made together narrowed down the field quite a bit, but I still had no trouble finding a ton of things I wanted to make. I actually intended to make several dishes and blog about each of them, but I kept getting sick and injured this month and had to narrow it down to the number one thing I wanted make - this gorgeous Golden Nectarine Cake. Which is kind of hilarious because Melissa hates fruit, so I doubt she even got to try this cake.
The rest of my top "to-try" dishes (which are all vegetarian, because Melissa is a vegetarian) are Debby's famous Mac and Cauliflower with Ritz Crust (because I've heard her talk about it so many times), this Broccoli and Purple Potato Gribiche (that I've been drooling over since she posted it), Monster Green Pea Burgers, Lemongrass Coconut Noodles, and Couscous-Stuffed Eggplant with Tahini Sauce.
Let's get back to that cake! I loved this recipe because it was easy for a non-baker like me to follow. Start with two nectarines and slice them into wedges. Is there anything more summery than stone fruit?
May has five Mondays this year, which means - themed Secret Recipe Club post! Falling on Memorial Day, the theme for this reveal is Picnic/BBQ and my assigned blog was A Day in the Life on the Farm. Wendy and her husband are former police officers who moved out to the country and became farmers. They treat their animals humanely, are part of an organic CSA, trade with other farmers, and live sustainably as much as possible - I am so jealous! I dream of being a radical homemaker, but don't have the commitment. I was on a specific mission this month, but I look forward to perusing the blog more thoroughly.
I actually made three recipes from Wendy's blog this weekend, in order to have a full meal for the holiday. She had tons of recipes that are appropriate for the challenge, and I chose BBQ Beef Sandwiches, BLT Pasta Salad, and Black Forest Trifle. Each of these was easy to make with the help of store-bought ingredients, so that I didn't have to spend a full day in the kitchen. And each of them was a big hit!
It was recently the birthday of my friend Melissa's blog, Smell's Like Brownies. And by recently, I mean a couple of months ago... She wanted to make the famous Milk Bar Funfetti Birthday Cake to celebrate and asked if I wanted to help. Heck, yes, I did!
This cake is supposed to taste like the classic boxed version, but elevated. And the presentation is striking with naked cake layered between stark white frosting and topped with funfetti crumble. It takes a lot of steps to achieve those things (I think this is the longest recipe I've ever posted), but the end result is gorgeous and tastes amazing. Let's dive into the process!
I made these cupcakes (a long time ago) for the bridal shower of a vegan friend of mine. Please ignore how terrible I am at frosting - this was literally my first time using my piping set. I got the recipe from Melissa (Smells Like Brownies) who said it was a delicious cake recipe, even for non-vegans. And you know what? She was right! These cupcakes are moist and decadent and very chocolatey - and don't taste at all like avocado! They are also incredibly easy to make.
The original post included a lemon and avocado frosting that I was not a fan of, so I ended up using Duncan Hines chocolate frosting in the tub (which just happens to be vegan). You can use whatever frosting you prefer.
Vegan Chocolate Avocado Cupcakes
adapted from Joy the Baker
makes 36 cupcakes
3 cups all-purpose flour
6 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp baking soda
2 cups granulated sugar
1/4 cup vegetable oil (I used avocado oil)
1/2 cup soft avocado, well mashed, about 1 medium avocado
2 cups water
2 tbsp white vinegar
2 tsp vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place cupcake wrappers into 3 muffin tins.
Sift together all of the dry ingredients except the sugar.
Mix all the wet ingredients together in a bowl, including the super mashed avocado (you really don't want any chunks).
Add sugar into the wet mix and stir.
Mix the wet with the dry all at once, and beat with a whisk (by hand) until smooth.
Scoop batter into muffin tins. Bake for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
Let cupcakes cool in pan for 10 minutes, then remove onto cooling racks to cool completely before frosting.
When I first bought my bundt cake pan from Williams Sonoma, I kept the recipe from the back of the box - a big square of cardboard hanging around in my cabinets for years. I was rearranging my bakeware the other day and decided it was finally time to try the recipe, if only so that I could get rid of that piece of cardboard.
But holy moly, you guys, this thing was awesome! It is crazy rich and moist and dense and intensely chocolaty - even my cake obsessed husband could only eat a little slice at a time. This is definitely a cake for sharing with friends, trust me, you cannot handle this cake alone.
Part of what makes this cake so awesome is that it has multiple kinds of chocolate in it, the first being bars of semi-sweet baking chocolate. I choose Ghirardelli because it seemed fancy to me and I was feeling fancy. You will combine the baking chocolate with cocoa powder for double the chocolaty awesomeness and melt with hot water.
This recipe I found claimed to be for vegan fudge brownies. Let's be honest - this is not a recipe for brownies. It is, however, a delicious recipe for cake - even more delicious if you use coconut oil to give it some extra flavor. Coconut oil is just the neatest product! Good for your health, good for your skin and hair, it's even good as a supplement for dogs! It turns from solid to liquid with a very small difference in temperature. Heat or chill for just a few seconds to achieve the different states. Of course if you don't like coconut flavor, use a neutral tasting oil and vegan spread instead. Vegan friends and chocolate lovers in general - make this right now, you won't be sorry!
Vegan Chocolate Coconut Cake
adapted from Southern In Law
makes 9-16 small servings
For the cake:
2 cups flour
1/3 cup cocoa
1 tbsp baking powder
2/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup coconut oil, liquid form
1 3/4 cup unsweetened vanilla almond breeze
For the frosting:
6 tbsp coconut oil, solid form
6 tbsp cocoa powder
2 2/3 cup icing sugar/powdered sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
2-4 tbsp unsweetened vanilla almond milk
Preheat oven to 355°F; grease and/or line an 8x8 cake pan.
In a large bowl mix together flour, cocoa, baking powder, sugar, and salt. Add in oil and almond milk and stir until combined.
Pour brownie batter into cake pan and bake for 25-35 minutes or until cooked through and a skewer inserted removes clean.
Cool completely on a wire rack.
Make the frosting: in a bowl combine coconut oil and cocoa powder. Gradually mix in icing sugar, vanilla, and add almond milk as needed to create your desired consistency.
Frost the cooled cake. Keep stored in the fridge in an airtight container and eat within 2 days. If you want to top it with some shredded coconut or slivered almonds, I bet that would be delicious.
This is a classic desert that works really well for Independence Day (Anything with berries does, really). It's quick to put together and very pretty, so keep it in mind for next year!
All you need is sponge cake, pound cake, or lady fingers; canned custard or pudding mix; whipped cream; and fruit. Then layer them up however you want and let it sit together in the fridge for a few hours to meld.
I used lady fingers (brushed with Cointreau), vanilla pudding, whipped cream, strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries. The amounts depend on your serving dish and your preferential ratio of fruit to cream. I used 2 packs of lady fingers, 2 boxes of pudding, 1 can of whipped cream, 1 medium container of strawberries, and 1 pint each of blue berries and raspberries. My layers were lady fingers, pudding, strawberries, whipped cream, lady fingers, pudding, whipped cream, blueberries and raspberries. I probably could have used more berries.
Happy Easter, everybody! I am actually doing a holiday post in a timely manner, who woulda thunk it? Last Easter I focused on eggs, this time I wanted to go on the theme of ham and peas.
Ham and peas, it is! Unlike at Christmas, when I accidentally made a pork roast instead of a ham, I got it right this time and did a Dr Pepper glazed ham. Yes, I said a Dr Pepper glazed ham - awesome.
Take a fully cooked smoked ham (I went with an 8 lb, spiral sliced, partial bone) and place it cut side down on the rack of a roasting pan (or on a cookie rack set inside a rimmed baking sheet). Pour 2 cups of Dr Pepper (not diet) and 2 cups of water into the bottom of the pan. Cover with foil and cook for 15 minutes per pound at 325 degrees - 2 hours, in my case.
About half an hour before the cooking time is up, start to make your glaze. Boil some pitted prunes in Dr Pepper until they are plump. Set the prunes aside and whisk in mustard, brown sugar, and cider vinegar. Remove the ham from the oven and raise the oven temp to 425 degrees. Remove the foil, and drizzle the glaze over the ham, then return it to the oven for about half an hour to cook the glaze.
It will be so gorgeous when it comes out! Let it rest, loosely covered on a cutting board (this photo is before I turned it on its side for slicing). Meanwhile, pour all the pan drippings into the saucepan you cooked the glaze in. Bring to a boil, skimming off the fat, and add in the prunes and a cornstarch slurry to thicken. Serve the prune sauce with the ham.
I hosted this month at Food 'n Flix and chose Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory for my inspiration (see the announcement post here). One of my favorite childhood movies, Willy Wonka is full of fun, wonder, and tasty looking creations (the snozberries taste like snozberries!) - and what better time for a sugar fest than the holidays?!