Friday, May 20, 2016

Strawberry Shortcake Torte


So here is a little ditty of which I am quite proud. (Tara, that's the good English). I call it a Strawberry Shortcake Torte. When I make it again, I will tweak a couple of things in the recipe. For haste, I used Pillsbury Pie Crust. Next time I'll use my mother's short crust recipe (still hasty) and I'll make it taller, much like my Peanut Butter Cocoa Torte.  But for my first go at an "in my mind, made up recipe," it turned out tasty and (bonus) Bulent loved it.


Mom's Short Crust Recipe

Ingredients:

2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cups butter, softened
1/4 cup vegetable shortening
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
very cold water

Directions:

1. Sift flour, baking powder and salt into a food processor (Mom never sifts, she just throws it in there). Pulse once.
2. Add butter and shortening. Pulse until crumbly.
3. Add water just until ball forms - *caution - do not make the dough too wet.
4. Roll dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
5. Roll out and line the bottom (and sides) of a spring form pan.
6. Bake at 375 F for roughly 20 minutes. Keep an eye on it though. And remove it from the oven when it is toasty and golden.

If you prefer a sweeter crust for your fruit pies and tarts, you know what a fan I am of Add A Pinch -and her sweet short crust is excellent - so you can use this one instead if you want. I will use Mom's as an homage and because it's easy for both sweet pies and savory treats.


Strawberry Filling

Ingredients:

4 oz. cream cheese
3/4 cup confectioners sugar
2 cups sliced berries
1 pkg. Strawberry Jello
1/2 t. Almond Extract
1/2 t. Vanilla Extract
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
Juice of 1 lemon

Directions:

1. Slice strawberries and squeeze lemon on them, set aside in the fridge.
2. Cream sugar and cream cheese together until smooth.
3. Add 1 cup cream and extracts to cream cheese mixture, combine.
4. Pour cream cheese mixture into baked, cooled short crust. Put in freezer for quick set.
5. Prepare Jello using directions on box. Add a splash of heavy cream to make it pink.
6. Add strawberries to Jello.
7. Pour jello mixture onto cream cheese mixture in the short crust gently.
8. Refrigerate until set.
9. Whip the rest of the heavy cream.
10. Remove the set tart from the refrigerator and garnish with whipped cream, mint and a berry.




Sunday, April 24, 2016

Music is Life - Miike Snow

Sometimes my husband is a DJ. Of course, this is one of the qualities in him that makes me swoon. I love bounding around the kitchen while he mixes up some radical jams as i create some kitchen magic. When he does you can feel a little buzz of creativity in our house.

Miike Snow has been a big listen in our house for quite sometime. So when Bulent found this song he immediately played it for me over and over again and then showed me this video.

Enjoy!


Friday, April 22, 2016

Cinnamon Blondies

I love cinnamon. The smell of cinnamon, the taste of cinnamon, anything (sweet or savory) with cinnamon in it. In fact, my next food post may be my Arabic Rice, which I swear,  is the reason my husband loves me, and guess what - yeah, cinnamon - main ingredient.

But for today, have these Cinnamon Blondies. 


That ooey gooey cinnamon ribbon in the middle cannot be topped. But if your on a diet, keep on moving because these ARE NOT waistline friendly. They are as rich as rich can be. Moist, flavorful, delicious. And if you love cinnamon like I do, a good quick cinnamon fix. I should call them Cinnamon Crack Blondies because you become quickly addicted and cannot stop at one.

Of course, I searched the 'ol Pinterest and came across Sally's Baking Addiction for a recipe that was quick and easily adaptable. But I did not use Sally's recipe as she had it. Oh no, you know how I love to make mischief and appropriate someone's good idea and mold it to suit me, right?

Ingredients for Cinnamon Blondies:

2 1/3 C flour
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
Pinch salt *see note
3/4 C salted butter, softened
3/4 C packed brown sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
2 tsp vanilla extract
Scant 1/2 C white chocolate chips (optional) **see note

Ingredients for Cinnamon Ribbon:
3 tsp cinnamon
1/2 C granulated sugar

Directions for Cinnamon Blondies:
  1. Preheat oven to 350F degrees. Spray an 11x7 metal baking pan with Pam Baking. Alternatively, you can line the baking pan with parchment leaving enough overhang on the sides to easily pull the blondies out of the pan and cut. (This is the method Sally uses, but I'd rather not incur the hassle or the mess).
  2. Combine flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. 
  3. Beat the butter on high speed in a large bowl until creamy. 
  4. Add sugars and beat until light and fluffy. Scrape down the sides and bottom of bowl as needed. 
  5. Beat in the eggs and vanilla on high speed, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed. On low speed, beat in dry ingredients until just combined. 
  6. With a large wooden spoon or rubber spatula, fold in the (optional) white chocolate chips.
  7. Spoon half the batter into pan. It will be a relatively thin layer, but try to spread it across the pan evenly. 
  8. Make your cinnamon ribbon mixture and sprinkle on top of bottom layer, reserving enough to cover the top as well.
  9. Spread the remaining batter over top of bottom layer that has been sprinkled with the "ribbon mixture." 
  10. Sprinkle the top with remaining cinnamon-sugar.
  11. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. 
  12. Cool completely.
*Just a pinch - literally. You already have salt in the butter.
**The white chocolate chips make these sweeties too sweet for me. I do not love a cloying mouth feel so all the subsequent times I have made these, I simply omit the white chocolate chips altogether. Feel free to do the same.




Saturday, April 2, 2016

Toast and Jam Bundt Cake



For Easter I set out to make a great cake. I found an extraordinary white cake recipe here at Add A Pinch. Robyn actually calls it "The Best White Cake Recipe {EVER}!" And I have been making it for about a year, ever since I found this excellent resource. 


I use the EXACT recipe Robyn has on Add a Pinch. If you sway from it, it simply wont turn out how you want it. It won't rise just right, or it will be overly dense and not moist or any other combinations of imperfect. I make this when I entertain so perfection and excellence are my aim. You will not be sorry. On a side note, I am not a baker. As you've seen here at P&P, I can cook like a boss (I have quite a tribe of awesome cooks who guide me every step of the way - Mom, Berrin, Amy, Tara and Muberra) but a baker I am not. Nevertheless, this cake has never done me wrong!

Toast and Jam Bundt Cake
Ingredients
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
  • ½ cup vegetable shortening
  • 3 cups granulated sugar
  • 5 eggs, room temperature
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup whole milk, room temperature
  • ½ cup buttermilk, room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup jam, jelly or preserves (I like seedless Strawberry, but Amy suggests Lilikoi (Passion Fruit) curd. I looked high and low for Passion Fruit Curd. If you have some time before you make this cake, you can get it for yourself here or here). I, too, will use it next time. The Passion Fruit is a crowd pleaser in my house and I think it makes for a more exotic cake. 
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350Âș F. Prepare a bundt cake pan with nonstick baking spray or coated well with shortening or butter and floured, taking care to remove all excess flour.
  2. Cream together butter and shortening until light and fluffy with an electric mixer. Slowly add sugar one cup at a time, making sure to fully incorporate each cup before adding another. Add eggs one at a time, making sure to fully incorporate each egg before adding another.
  3. Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Pour milks and vanilla into measuring cup and whisk together with a fork. Add to butter and shortening mixture alternately with milk mixture, beginning and ending with dry ingredients.
  4. Gently stir all ingredients until well combined. Stop mixer and scrape down sides and bottom of bowl, making sure to have all ingredients mixed well.
  5. Pour 2 cups of batter into pan, evenly distribute the jam on top of the batter you've put in the pan. Then continue to pour the remaining batter into the pan. But do not overfill pan or you will have some overflow.
  6. Bake for 90 minutes (turning bundt pan several times while baking) or until a toothpick or cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. 
  7. Remove and allow to cool a bit in the bundt pan (about 10 minutes), then cool completely on a wire rack.
  8. Frost cake with Strawberry Cream Cheese Buttercream (as pictured above - recipe follows) or a lemon glaze (as pictured below).


Srawberry Cream Cheese Buttercream Frosting
Ingredients
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 package cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup Strawberry Jam
  • 2 1/2 cups confectioners sugar 
  • Heavy cream to thin to desired consistency
Instructions
  1. Beat butter and cream cheese together until well combined
  2. Add in the Strawberry Jam and continue to mix
  3. Add the confectioners sugar 1 cup at a time
  4. If consistency of frosting is too thick, add the heavy cream until it is thinned to a texture/consistency that you are happy with.










Tuesday, February 23, 2016

People - Bella Dalili - 4 Basic Rules to Health

4 Basic Rules for Health 


2016 is well on it's way. I've a new job, a new lifestyle and have let go of things (including people) who do not contribute to my health. I have also reconnected with some people that add to my general heart and soul. This is the year for health - spiritually, financially, socially.

I'm always searching for something to make me not only look healthy but more importantly feel healthy. A healthy feeling is not limited to eating right, getting enough exercise or drinking enough water. I know I feel healthiest when I think about things in a "gestalt"  kind of a view. True health is more than the sum of it's parts. Which includes all of those things  up there but also includes a healthy social life void of abusers and spiritual fortification -for some it may be church, for me it is Vinyasa Flow Yoga.

I posted a picture of a sweet tiny cupcake that a co-worker made. It looked like a tiny doggie, complete with hanging tongue and floppy ears (see the side bar to the right). It was liked by an Instagrammer, call name: "bdwellnes."  I immediately did a little research and found Bella Dalili. She has a real edge as a nutritionist because she finds it necessary to take all the guesswork out of nutrition. I tend to agree with her. A whole picture wellness should not be unattainable or complicated but what really stood out the most with this lady was that her spirit in posts (on facebook and on instagram as well) exuded love, patience, acceptance, kindness and inner beauty - characteristics that are often difficult to find these days, especially in this world of narcissism and media bullying, that we've created.

I will tuck Bella away for quiet times, when I feel silently out of control. Perhaps I can get a little guidance and insight from her? During my m&m crazes, I will seek solace in her words of spiritual kindness and nutritional wisdom. I urge you to do the same!

Sunday, July 5, 2015

A White Party Pop Up Dinner in Sonoma by Handmade Events

I recently went to an amazing event that you really should do your best to get to. You will not be disappointed. The premise is: You pay $40 per person, for a sensational venue, a great DJ, amazing musicians and a dance floor, complete with beautiful string lights and a magical sunset. Your part is: wear white, decorate your table with white, bring food (sky's the limit) for you and your attendees.

A view from above on the retaining wall of the Jack London property.

My husband and I saddled up the car with Charlene and Teodora and all our loot. We were contacted by email from Handmade Events the location of the event only an hour before send off. It was so mysterious and exciting (although, the drawback, how to dress?). The event place for this Wine Country Event was in the Valley of the Moon - Jack London State Historical Park in Glen Ellen Sonoma. It was breathtaking if not magical.

Here is an action shot of Charlene. It really captures the whimsy of the evening.


Everyone had their list of items to contribute. Char got napkins, plastic glasses, utensils, taper candles (strictly speaking, they aren't allowed - but I won't tell if you don't) wine and a veggie platter. I rounded up the white ostrich feathers/vases, a song bird candle holder, beet hummus/pita appetizer (recipe below) and shrimp cocktail along with the main course (my own muffaletta sandwiches - recipe below).

A pretty window with shutters and pretty window boxes on the small house on the property.



Charlene and Teodora.
These guys were clever with their decor with simple helium balloons.
Pastel flowers and the aftermath of apps.
So gourmet.
Flour sack napkins and rosemary sprigs tied with hemp twine.
The simple willow branches with one wayward feather...elegant.
These guys had initials with moss and butterflies at everyones place setting.
Faux furs and gold chargers? Over the top fun.
The fashion. This woman was stunning.

Casual and whimsical, these guys has such awesome headwear.
Teodora having a laugh.
Char and I.
Bulent and I.
The main course: Muffaletta Sandwiches containing in butcher paper tied with a hemp string. Juicy Fruit, both a favor and a palette cleanser - plus it's my favorite gum.



Poppies Pressed Muffaletta Sandwiches (Serves 6)
Dutch Crunch rolls
pesto (from the store or homemade) I make my own (1 bunch basil, 3 garlic cloves, olive oil, salt and pepper, 2 Tbs toasted pine nuts and 1/4 cup parmesan cheese - put it all in the Cuisinart - and presto)!
roasted red peppers, eggplant, onions and yellow squash (thinly sliced)
sliced ham and turkey
sun dried tomatoes and sliced fresh tomato
sliced fresh mozzarella cheese
handful of Arugala
olive oil and balsamic vinegar dressing (add some dijon and salt and pepper)
Put pesto on both sides of bread
layer all items to your taste
close sandwiches and wrap with paper, put the sandwiches under something heavy (I used cook books).
Voila!

There is the beet hummus and pita platter.
Beet Hummus Recipe
4 small roasted beets
1/4 cup feta cheese
juice and zest of 1 lemon
1 large bunch dill
S+P to taste
Whir it all up in the Cuisinart.
Your party goers will love it!
Beautiful.