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Mini-Cakes!

Mini-Cakes!

I made mini-cakes! They are adorable and mini.
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Here’s what I did – it was pretty easy and a fun way to make personalized desserts.

I made one recipe of my fave carrot cake (https://suitsandaprons.wordpress.com/?s=carrot+cake), and baked it in a 9×13 pan. Once baked and cooled, I wrapped the cake tightly in plastic wrap and put it in the freezer for an hour or so.

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Then I used a biscuit cutter to make little cake rounds. I cut all the cake rounds into two pieces. Each cake was then made with 3 layers – 1.5 times the thickness of the cake as baked originally. It is easier to cut each round in half individually than to try and cut the whole cake in half (into two layers) at once. Trust me.

I frosted these with lots of cream cheese frosting, chilling as I went so that the outer layer would harden. I added some marmalade to the middle for yummy filling.

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I also rolled some in party sprinkles.

These were so yummy and pretty. Very easy, and very fun. I served them in cupcake wrappers, for ease of eating and mobility.

One note: While cream cheese frosting is clearly the most delicious frosting ever, it does not harden like a true buttercream, which can pose decorating challenges. For example, it is difficult to pipe designs with cream cheese frosting because the shapes begin to melt, while piped buttercream designs tend to hard and hold better. You may consider just using cream cheese frosting for the middle filling, and using buttercream for your decorations.

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Another note: You may be wondering why I made mini-cakes instead of making cupcakes. You may think cupcakes and mini-cakes are the same. You would be wrong. The frosting-to-cake ratio in a cupcake is way off, in a way that really bothers me. Also, cupcakes tend to be drier, in my experience, since they are basically all corners. By making mini-cakes, you reduce the amount of heat exposed edges, which makes for more delicious moister cakes. Finally, I think fully frosted mini-cakes are more adorable than cupcakes, plain and simple.

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Now go make some delicious and adorable mini-cakes.

Love,

Rachel

 

 

Mushroom Butternut Squash Barley Risotto

Mushroom Butternut Squash Barley Risotto

It is FINALLY getting warmer. Snow is melting. I have left my puffy coat at home for a few days, and I actually thought about NOT wearing tights this morning (I thought about it, but I’m not crazy – I still wore tights).  But, it’s still chilly enough for some hearty warm winter time comfort foods. And yet, since spring is coming, it’s best if that comfort food is also super healthy and crazy delicious.  Enter, Mushroom Butternut Squash Barley risotto.

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By cutting the arborio rice and using pearl barley, you can make a hearty whole grain risotto that tastes amazing, even if it is slightly less creamy than a traditional risotto.  The best part is that it doesn’t taste healthy but that can be our secret.

Do yourself a favor and just try it.  This is one of my new faves.

Love,
Rachel

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Mushroom Butternut Squash Barley Risotto

Makes about 5 servings for me (but 3 or 4 servings if feeding my boyfriend too).  I used my 14″ cast iron – if it had been any smaller it might be necessary to combine all the ingredients at the end in a bigger bowl/pan once the barley was completely cooked through.

Ingredients:

8 oz pearl barley (I bought a bag from Trader Joe’s)

1 large onion, finely chopped
1 butternut squash, diced into 1/2″ pieces
2 cups sliced mushrooms
1 tablespoon olive oil (approx)
1 or 2 tablespoons butter (2 is more delicious, but 1 is a little healthier)
1 tablespoon cornstarch.
1 tsp dried parsley
4 cups vegetable stock
3/4 cup apple juice, or sweet white wine (but I used apple juice, if using wine, reduce to 1/2 C, use water for rest)
2/3 C grated Parmesan reggiano
salt
pepper
Spread squash on baking pan and toss with a little olive oil to coat. Put in oven to roast at 400F for about 15 minutes, until it starts to sizzle and brown, but is not cooked completely through.
In a large cast iron skillet (or any large skillet, or sauce pan with low sides – the sides should be low to allow the liquid to evaporate), saute onion in a bit of olive oil until translucent (5 minutes). Remove from pan and set aside. Put mushrooms in pan with additional olive oil and sautee until golden. Remove from pan and set aside with onions.
Put uncooked barley into hot skillet and let brown for about a minute or two over medium heat. Add 1/2 C broth. Stir frequently until broth is absorbed, then add more broth in 1/2 cup increments and stir until absorbed. After about 15 or 20 minutes, you should have added 2 to 3 cups of the broth. Stir in one tablespoon cornstarch and about a teaspoon of dried parsley. At this point, add the butternut squash and continue stirring, adding more liquid (broth and juice/wine) until absorbed. This will take another 20 minutes or so of frequent stirring.  Occasionally taste the barley to see if it’s tender. If all the liquid has been added but the barley is not yet tender, add a little water.
When barley is tender, or just about, add the onions and mushrooms back in. Stir frequently until all liquid is absorbed and barley and squash are completely cooked. Before serving, stir in 1 or 2 tablespoons of butter and grated parmesan until thoroughly incorporated and melted.  At this point, season with salt and lots of pepper.  You do not want to add much salt before adding the cheese, because the cheese itself is very salty.  But lots of pepper is yummy.  Serve with additional grating of parmesan on top, if desired.

 

Valentine’s Cookie: Super Yummy Butter Cookie

Valentine’s Cookie: Super Yummy Butter Cookie

I have talked before about my love of Alice Waters and her lovely cookcook, The Art of Simple Food. No recipe in it has yet let me down. So why, oh why, did I wait so long to try her butter cookie recipe? What is wrong with me?

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This simple recipe will knock your socks off with its perfect buttery saltiness. And then you can change it up and add some raspberry jam, or a light powdered sugar glaze to decorate them. They will make your Valentine’s Day extra yummy.

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PS. This realization that everything in this cookbook is amazing means that I am now going to start cooking almost exclusively from this book, because YUM.


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Butter Cookie Recipe: Adapted from Alice Waters,’ The Art of Simple Food.

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature

2/3 cup sugar

1 tsp vanilla

1/2 tsp salt

1 egg, at room temperature

2 tsps milk

2.5 cups unbleached flour

Preheat over to 350F. Cream together butter and sugar. Then add vanilla, salt and egg.  Gradually add the flour, mixing until just combined. Divide into thirds, and shape into logs. Wrap in saran wrap, and chill until firm. Then slice into 1/4 inch slices, and place two inches apart on baking sheet.  (Even though the dough has no levening agent, the cookies do spread).  Or, instead of logs, divide the dough in half, and form round disks, wrap in saran warp and put in fridge until firm. Roll dough out to 1/4 thick and cut with cookie cutters. Place spaced out on cookie sheet.  Bake at 350F for 10 minutes, or until lightly golden.  Let cool on sheet for a bit. Feel free to frost or make jam-filled cookie sandwiches (my favorite).

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Rachel

 

 

Farro (or Quinoa), Feta & Grape Salad

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Farro (or Quinoa), Feta & Grape Salad

BLOG FAIL! I haven’t posted in three months. I am back at law school for final semester, and that’s been pretty time consuming. I have done a fair amount of cooking, arts and crafts, but I haven’t had the time or energy to post.

I wrote the blog post below shortly after spring break (2 months ago) but never uploaded the pictures to post it until now. I am not going to edit it for time content, because (1) I am lazy; (2) I am in the middle of finals; and (3) my rant about winter still stands. It’s now sorta spring in NYC, though it should almost be summer and the seasons are taking their own sweet time rolling in. In other news, Punxsatawney Phil might start looking for another job.

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This winter is DRAGGING. I mean, I thought Punxsatawney Phil saw his shadow and winter is supposed to be over already?

Because I get so sick of winter, I start pretending it’s spring. Doing things like wearing sandals even though it’s really too cold for them. I do it to spite nature, but in reality, I just get cold feet. Whatever. It’s my own personal form of protest against winter. It may or may not be very effective. Take that, WINTER!

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One thing that I find is great for spiting winter without giving me frostbite is making yummy food that reminds me of warmer climes. This farro (or quinoa), feta and grape salad does just that. It’s got a great mix of textures. It’s a slightly warm salad, so it deals well with the winter chill, while being reminiscent of a warm weather meal that could be eaten on a porch or at a picnic table.  Plus, it makes great leftovers. Oh, and it’s super healthy. And really easy make. So basically, it’s freaking awesome.

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Cook according to package instructions:

  • 1 & 1/2 cups farro (or quinoa)

Meanwhile, saute in olive oil:

  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 stalks of diced celery

After about 5 minutes, add:

  • 1/4 cup craisins or yellow raisins. Continue cooking the onion mixture until its tender (maybe another 10 minutes).

Dice (but do not cook):

  • 1 yellow or red bell pepper
  • 2 cups red seedless grapes (I just cut these in half, do not dice)

When farro (or quinoa) is done cooking, mix in the onion/celery mixture. Let cool for a little bit.

Then add:

  • 1/2 cup or so crumbled feta cheese
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Chopped pepper
  • Grapes

At this point, you can season with salt and pepper. Do not start salting the salad before you add the feta. The feta is pretty salty, so you may only need to add a little additional salt (or none at all).

While salad is still warm, serve over big bed of spinach. This recipe makes many servings (at least four or five, and then some leftovers – that’s how I roll).

If you want, you can switch out the raisins/craisins for fresh pomegranate seeds. Or, if you felt like really going for it, you could use BOTH the craisins/raisins AND pomegranate seeds! What?!?!

Ooooh oooohh! If you have access to fresh mint, some fresh mint in this salad would be awesome. Man! Why didn’t I think of that before I ate the last of these leftovers. Oh well. Next time.

Eat outside, even if it’s only 50 degrees, and pretend it’s summer.

Love,

Very Cold Rachel

PS. The sun was shining when I took these pics because I was in San Diego. It was not nearly so lovely in NYC.

Spicy Shrimp and Mushroom Soup

Spicy Shrimp and Mushroom Soup
I wish I had a bowl right now.

I wish I had a bowl right now.

It’s soup weather!

Inspired by this lovely soup that I saw on a Beautiful Mess, I wanted to make a spicy shrimp soup. I didn’t have the pineapple from that recipe, so I improvised. It’s super yummy, and healthy, and satisfying after a run on a cold winter’s day.

Warm and spicy and healthy, too!

Warm and spicy and healthy, too!

You will need:

1/2 yellow pepper

1/2 orange pepper

2 tablespoon coconut oil

1/2 pound deveined, de-tailed shrimp

1/2 pound sliced mushrooms

4 roughly chopped gloves of garlic

1/2 tsp Sriracha sauce (I always start small and slowly add more so I don’t hurt myself)

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 very thinly sliced carrot

3 cups vegetable or chicken broth (low sodium)

Salt to taste

Spicy shrimp soup with rice.

Spicy shrimp soup with rice.

 

1. Sauted peppers, carrots and mushrooms in 1 tablespoon coconut oil in saute pan until a little browned, but still the peppers are still crisp. Transfer to soup pot.

2. In same saute pan, saute the shrimp with the garlic until lightly browned. Add to soup pot.

3. Add the broth, soy sauce, apple cider vinegar, other tablespoon of coconut oil, sriracha, soy sauce. Play with the salt, soy sauce and sriracha to taste. Cook on low heat for about 10 minutes, until heated through.

4. Serve over small bed of brown basmati rice.

5. Enjoy!

Makes 3 lady-servings, probably 2 man-servings.

Love,

Rachel

PS. Not to be super preachy, but I generally try not to eat shrimp, because shrimp farming is incredibly bad for the environment (as in after a year or two of shrimp farming, the mangroves where the farm is barely sustain any more life). Trader Joe’s now sells wild caught Argentinian shrimp, which costs a little more money. It is a much better alternative to farmed shrimp. For more details on sustainable seafood and what is the best to eat, check out this website.

Breakfast (Homemade Super Easy Bread)

Breakfast (Homemade Super Easy Bread)

I made breakfast this morning. Nothing too complicated: homemade bread, straight from the oven, butter, some sliced mozzarella and coffee.

So simple and so yummy.

So simple and so yummy.

 

You have probably seen this no-knead artisanal bread recipe floating around on Pinterest. The one you bake in your cast iron pot with a lid.

The recipe is here. She has great pictures and lots of instructions along the way.

For some reason, her recipe comes out a little too watery when I do it. She calls for three cups of flour, but this morning I used 3 cups, plus three heaping tablespoons of flour and that seemed to do the trick. Different flours can all absorb different amounts of liquid, even if the packages both say “unbleached white flour” on the front. Go figure.
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There is something so European about having fresh bread with butter, cheese and coffee for breakfast. And the fact that it comes out of my oven makes me feel like a total rock star.

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Anyway, just wanted to brag share with you! Give it a try. It’s super easy and so rewarding.

Have a great yeasty day!

Love,

Rachel

 

How to Slow Roast a Turkey (Part II)

How to Slow Roast a Turkey (Part II)

I apologize. My first post about slow roasting a turkey was a little vague. I WAS JUST SO EXCITED THAT IT’S THANKSGIVING! I am controlling my excitement now. Here is a step-by-step description of how I plan to get my turkey from the store to the table. Lots of what I (now) know comes from trial and error, and even more of what I know comes from my wonderful uncle, Daniel, who may just be the master of the turkey, and was kind enough to share his turkey tips with me. Thanks, Daniel!

1. Don’t be too intimidated. Roasting a turkey isn’t easy, but it is doable. Take a deep breath. Prepare WELL in advance so you know how long each thing will take. We can do this together.

2. If you buy a frozen turkey, it will probably take at least two days in the fridge to thaw. This means that by Monday morning at the latest your turkey should be in the FRIDGE not the freezer. This will give it time to defrost by Wednesday when you want to start brining.

3. On Wednesday evening, start brining the turkey. You will want either a brine bag, or a giant stock pot to do this. Brine bags are inexpensive to buy, but sometimes you will need two sets of hands when filling the brine bag.

  • If using a brine bag, place the brine bag inside a large dish and fold the edges over to keep the bag open.
  • Put turkey in brine bag. Save the giblets and neck for later, which you will not brine, but will roast with the rest of the bird to help make good gravy.
  • Add the following to the turkey (if using a brine bag, all the liquids may not fit, so play it by ear) (these ingredients are taken from the Martha Stewart website, BTW):

7 quarts (28 cups) water
1 1/2 cups coarse salt
6 bay leaves
2 tablespoons whole coriander seeds
1 tablespoon dried juniper berries
2 tablespoons whole black peppercorns
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon black or brown mustard seeds
1 bottle dry Riesling
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
6 garlic cloves, crushed
1 bunch fresh thyme

  • I brine outside of the fridge on Wednesday night (and so does Uncle Daniel). This allows the turkey to come to room temperature, which means it cooks more evenly. Martha Stewart brines in the fridge. You can decide, but just know that no one has gotten sick from my (or Daniel’s) turkey yet (knock on wood).

4. In the morning, preheat the oven to 220F. To slow roast, it often takes about 20-25 minutes of cooking time for each 1lb of turkey. This means a 20 lb turkey can take about 7-8 hours. So figure out when you need to start roasting, but always allow buffer time – better to have more roasting time than to not have enough time.

  • For example: If I am cooking a 16 lb turkey and want to have dinner at 5pm, when do I put in the turkey?
  • The turkey needs to rest for 25-30 minutes before eating, so it should come out at 4:30pm.
  • It will need to roast for 6:45 hours, because it’s 16lbs, allowing 25 minutes per pound.
  • Working backwards, my turkey should be in the oven around 9:00am (allowing about 30 minutes of buffer time).

5. Put turkey into pan WITHOUT stuffing. When slow roasting, the bird must be empty. Rub the turkey down with a mixture of the following: 1/2 cup melted butter or olive oil, 1/3 cup coarse sea salt, 2 tablespoons ground pepper, 2-3 gloves crushed garlic. Put half of a quartered onion (2 quarters of an onion) and a clove of garlic inside the cavity. Rub the mixture under the skin – especially getting the butter under the skin too. Butter under the skin is a really good thing.

6. Cut a slit in each breast, towards the outside of the breast. Stuff the slit with a clove of garlic and fresh herbs (think sage, rosemary, thyme or whatever fresh savory herbs you have on hand). This will help flavor the meat. To help visual, I do the slit horizontally, coming in from near the arm pit, close to the plane of the ribs. You want it to be about 2 or 3 inches deep.

7. Make sure turkey is BREAST SIDE DOWN in the pan. The oven is hotter towards the top, so we don’t want to dry out the meat by cooking it breast side up. It keeps the breast juicier. Bonus: you don’t have to bind the legs when it’s breast side down.

8. Put giblets and neck in bottom of pan. If you like, you can put a halved onion in the bottom of the pan too for extra flavor.

9. Put pan in hot oven. Baste every one or two hours.

10. Check the temperature. Insert the thermometer into thickest part of the breast, making sure not to touch the bone. When the breast is 145F, flip the bird and continue roasting. At 220F, the skin doesn’t get crispy. If you like crispy skin, once the breast is about 155F turn the oven up to 400F to brown the skin for 10 minutes.

11. Take turkey out of oven when breast is 155F (and browned). Some prefer to remove when breast reaches 160F, but that is risking drying out temperatures, if you ask Daniel. (“When the bird is in that long, even the dark meat gets done.”) Either way, the legs should be “loose” when pulled on. Give the leg a wiggle and see how it feels. Should feel loose.

12. Remove turkey from pan and let rest on serving platter/carving plate for 25 minutes before carving. The temperature will stabilize. Pour the pan juices into a medium-ish stockpot, in which you will make the gravy.

13. While the turkey is resting, deglaze the pan. If you used an actual metal pan (as opposed to a disposable pan), you can put the pan right over the stove top. I like to use a little white wine for deglazing. Pour all the deglazed goodness into the gravy pot.

14. Put the gravy pot on low heat. While it’s heating, in a small bowl mix about 2 heaping tablespoons of flour and 1/4 cup of pan juices to form a paste. Slowly add more juices until the flour mixture is smooth and about the consistency of molasses. Then mix the flour mixture into the pan juices. NOTE: Do not add flour directly to the pan juices. This will create lumps. Stir the gravy over low heat until it thickens. Add turkey or chicken stock to make it go further (I like having a LOT of gravy). If it gets too watery, you can cook it more and/or mix more gravy with another spoonful of flour, then add the flour mixture back into the pan. Season gravy with salt and pepper as needed. Some people strain the gravy, but I don’t. I don’t know how Daniel does his gravy…

15. Carve turkey. Serve with lots of gravy (and all the other fixings. Duh!).

16. Pat yourself on the back. You did it!