Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Fresh peach cake


Right now, everything in my home is geared toward getting ready. We're getting ready for the arrival of baby sister - just 6 weeks from tomorrow. So, as you might expect, we're hauling out boxes of clothes from big sister (and chuckling at how tiny everything is), washing clothes, installing car seats, assembling strollers and swings and such... the list goes on. Add to that the fact that we are on week 3 of a major renovation of our master bathroom - which should be done in the next day or two so they can start on the laundry room. Then in 2 weeks the painter arrives. In between, we have house guests every weekend... Getting ready? I'm going to need a 3 month break after all of this!!!

But the change is certainly exciting. My first little girl has made the transition to her big girl bed and she's loving it. She points to her old crib and says "baby sister's" and this weekend she tole me baby sister is her best friend. In my state of pregnancy-hormone overload, I almost cried...

So how to deal with all this chaos? Why not bake a cake? I had a couple of overripe peaches and a couple perfect peaches so this cake was just the thing. Leave a comment with your favorite way to use the season's peaches...


Fresh Peach Cake
adapted from How Easy Is That? by Ina Garten

1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar, divided
2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup sour cream, at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3 large, ripe peaches, peeled, pitted, and sliced
1/2 cup chopped pecans
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9-inch square baking pan.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and 1 cup of the sugar for 3 to 5 minutes on medium-high speed, until light and fluffy. With the mixer on low, add the eggs, one at a time, then the sour cream and vanilla, and mix until the batter is smooth. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. With the mixer on low, slowly add the dry ingredients to the batter and mix just until combined. In a small bowl, combine the remaining 1/2 cup sugar and the cinnamon.

Spread half of the batter evenly in the pan. Top with half of the peaches, then sprinkle with two-thirds of the sugar mixture. Spread the remaining batter on top, arrange the remaining peaches on top, and sprinkle with the remaining sugar mixture and the pecans.

Bake the cake for 45 to 55 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Penne Puttanesca


My small person turned 2 on Friday so our weekend was a flurry of Minnie Mouse-Disney Princess-cake-and-ice cream. I am constantly flabbergasted by how quickly she is learning and changing. Amazing little creature - she's got a new word almost every day and she's starting to utter those hilarious phrases that only a toddler can produce. For instance, she recently learned that mommy and daddy have first names so she likes to shout those out from time to time. Her new favorite is to tell us to eat when we have food in front of us - probably because she hears us telling her to do the same. Yesterday, she was playing with one of her babies and put it in her new play high chair. She ran to the kitchen for a dish and spoon and as she was running back, she yelled to baby, "No crying, food coming!" I almost fell down laughing to hear this tiny little person sounding so like an adult...

Needless to say I continue to enjoy motherhood...

But actually enjoying motherhood means spending less time in the kitchen. I'm fine with that as long as we can still have good, homemade food. This puttanesca takes minutes to make. I threw it together in the morning after I dropped her at daycare and then all I had to do was cook the pasta at dinnertime. I used to hate Puttanesca but now I love it once in awhile - briny olives, a hint of anchovy - it's a nice change from traditional tomato sauce...

Penne Puttanesca
adapted from Eat this Book by Tyler Florence

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
6 canned anchovies, rinsed
1 cup Kalamata olives, pitted and roughly chopped
1/2 tsp dried red pepper flakes
3 tbsp capers, drained
2 (28 oz) cans whole tomatoes, preferably San Marzano style, crushed by hand
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, torn
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup freshly grated Pecorino or Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1 pound dried penne

Put a large saucepan over medium heat and add the olive oil. Add the garlic and anchovies and cook, using a wooden spoon to break up the anchovies until they seem to dissolve in the oil. Add the olives, red pepper flakes, and capers, and let that cook for 2 minutes, stirring often.

Toss in the tomatoes with their juices and bring to a low simmer. Stir in the basil and season with salt and pepper. Simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the grated cheese. Recipe can be prepared ahead up to this point. Reheat sauce before serving.

Bring a big pot of lightly salted water to a boil for the pasta.

Drop the pasta into the boiling water and cook until al dente. Drain and dump it into a big pasta bowl. At the same time, bring the sauce back to a simmer. Pour it over the drained pasta and toss to coat. Serve immediately.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Grilled Corn and Sweet Onion Salad


My local farmer's market is one of my favorite summer destinations. I load my little one into her stroller and we walk down bright and early each Saturday. Aside from a few farms, the market offers fresh mozzarella, baked goods, lemonade and my personal favorite: pickles! I have a strong tendency to overbuy produce and pickles... Last week, the tomatoes were too pretty too resist - little yellow cherry tomatoes. I cut some up for Claire and she pointed to it and said "What's that mommy?" When I told her it was a tomato, she gave me a skeptical look then popped it in her mouth... They're now a favorite. As for corn, forget the salad, she wants it on the cob, with "buh-der". She'll happily gnaw on a whole ear (giving mommy and daddy time to eat!)

With my inability to control myself at the market, I frequently end up looking for ways to use up the excess... This corn salad is a nice, light change to corn on the cob. Serve it with grilled beef or chicken for a simple summer dinner.

Grilled corn and sweet onion salad
adapted from Boy Meets Grill by Bobby Flay

2 ears of corn, husks and silk removed and blanched
2 Tbsp. olive oil, plus extra for brushing the corn
1 Tbsp. cup aged sherry vinegar
1 tsp.Dijon mustard
1 small garlic clove, minced
1 small red bell pepper, diced
1/2 large Vidalia onion, thinly sliced
1 ripe plum tomato, finely chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, finely chopped, seeded if desired
1 Tbsp. finely chopped chives
Salt and pepper

Preheat grill. Brush the blanched corn with oil and season with salt and pepper to taste. Grill until slightly charred on all sides, about 2 minutes. Remove from the grill and with a sharp knife, scrape the kernels into a medium bowl.

Combine the vinegar, mustard, and garlic in a large bowl and slowly whisk in the remaining olive oil until emulsified. Add the corn kernels, bell peppers, onion, tomatoes, jalapeno, and chives, and toss to coat with the dressing. Season with salt and pepper.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Scrumptious, Moist Coconut Cake that's EASY!


When the temperature outside rivals that of my oven, it's usually my cue not to turn the oven on. After all, I'm nearly 7 months pregnant which means I'm a walking oven to begin with. And my poor central air is cranking away just trying to keep us comfortable. So why add more heat to the mix by turning on the oven? This cake is as good a reason as any. It's moist, really moist. And easy (you start with a cake mix...) So on went the over (and I can hole up in the cold basement while it bakes...)

The recipe calls for 3 9-inch pans. As you will see from my photos, I have 2 9-inch, so I used an 8-inch for the top layer. Perhaps not the most beautiful results, but it sure was tasty...


Moist, easy coconut cake
From Family Meal, by Tyler Florence

1 package yellow cake mix
1 3.4 ounce package instant vanilla pudding
4 large eggs
1/4 cup coconut or vegetable oil
2 cups sweetened shredded coconut

2 cups sweetened shredded coconut
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
2 teaspoons whole milk
3 1/5 cups confectioners sugar, sifted
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease two 9 inch round cake pans and dust with flour, tapping out the excess.

In a large bowl, combine the cake mix, pudding mix, eggs, oil, and 1 1/2 cups water. With an electric mixer, beat on medium speed until well combined. Sir in the coconut.

Pour the batter into the prepared cake pans and bake for 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Make the frosting: Spread the coconut on a rimmed baking sheet. Toast in the oven for 10 minutes, or until lightly browned, stirring once or twice to ensure it browns evenly. Let cool. Combine the butter and cream cheese in a mixing bowl. Use an electric mixer on medium-high speed to beat until fluffy. Add the milk and beat until smooth. Beat in the confectioners’ sugar, then beat in the vanilla. Stir in all but 1/2 cup of the toasted coconut.

Place one cake layer on a cake stand and spread with some of the frosting. Add the next layer, then more frosting. Top with the last 1/2 cup of shredded coconut. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
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