Coconut Cream Ombre Rosette Cake

DSC_3996File this one under Mom’s Corner! I had basically nothing to do with this one other than the fact that it was made for my sister’s and my birthday. Oh, and I’m pretty sure I stirred the coconut cream for like 10 minutes straight! Ha, I can weasel my way into any accomplishment. But really, it’s pretty amazing that my mom took the time to make this because we had just finished making 200 cupcakes for a wedding two days before. It was super fun and I’ll probably post more on it later, but also kind of tortuous because I didn’t get to try one of the coconut cream cupcakes that everyone, and especially my brother, kept raving about. I missed out on the cupcake tasting and we had no extras. I tried each components separately and knew they were delicious, but mom said that wasn’t enough (yay!). She recreated the cupcakes into this beautiful, pink, girly masterpiece. Seriously, thank goodness she did. It really lived up to the hype. Luckily, she had been wanting to attempt an ombre rosette cake for a while – I think it turned out so cute (and the cut slices look like hearts)! The recipes she uses are down below. I included her notes for high altitude bakers since it has worked so well for her! It’s her go-to, especially for cupcakes.

Thanks mom for the beautiful cake and for always giving us such special birthdays!! DSC_3991 DSC_3994DSC_3999 DSC_4002 DSC_4017

Chocolate Cake

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa sifted
1 cup hot water
1 cup buttermilk (add 1 extra tablespoon for high altitude)
2 cups sugar  (remove one tablespoon for high altitude)
2 eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil (add 1 extra tablespoon for high altitude)
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
2 1/2 cups flour (add 1 extra tablespoon for high altitude)
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup heavy cream

Add the sifted cocoa powder to a medium sized bowl and pour in the cup of hot liquid. Whisk until completely dissolved. Next add the buttermilk to cool down the mixture, then add the sugar and whisk until all is combined. Add the eggs, oil and vanilla and mix again.

In a small bowl, stir flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Whisk this into the wet mixture until you no longer see any lumps. Stir in heavy cream until evenly mixed in. Divide into two cake pans and bake at 350 degrees F (375 for high altitude) for about 30 minutes or until done. Let cool and chill in fridge for at least 30 minutes.

Coconut Cream (Makes about 2 cups)

1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
1 egg yolk
1/2 cup Coconut milk
1 cup Milk
1 1/2 Tbsp of corn starch
1/2-1 cup of toasted coconut

Mix all ingredients, except toasted coconut, together and mix well.  Cook all ingredients together over medium heat, stirring constantly, until it begins to boil and thicken. Add the toasted coconut, if using, after the pudding has cooled.

Coconut Frosting

1 cup butter, at room temperature
8 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/2 cup coconut milk
1 tsp coconut extract

Beat the butter and half the confectioners’ sugar until smooth; add half the coconut milk, then the rest, and the extract, and the rest of the confectioners’ sugar, beating until you have a spreadable frosting. Cool completely before frosting.

Assembly

Spread coconut cream on top of the bottom layer (For an extra touch, add a small layer of chocolate buttercream too). Place the second cake on top of the coconut cream. Frost entire cake with coconut frosting.

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Mac & Cheese Bites

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Don’t you love it when a recipe goes way better than you imagined? I doubt it’s a secret that I love frying things (fried guacamole anyone?), but sometimes it can go horribly wrong. Food falls apart, sticks to the pan, burns, doesn’t crisp up, and don’t forget the inevitable oil splatter wounds. My mom often brags about the FryDaddy that she and her roommates had in college. Of course, the bragging always turns to regret about actually using it and how unhealthy that is…If it weren’t for that, I would probably own one right now. I mean, it would be so much easier and cleaner! I could fry everything…and yeah snap back to the reality of why owning one is a bad idea…

I was really excited to make these mac and cheese bites because it came in as kinda sorta my first request on the blog! And also because I had tried them at a restaurant fairly recently and they were amazing! For as much as I love mac & cheese, I can’t believe I’ve only tried it fried a couple of times. Thanks to Pass the Curds for asking me to do a homemade post on these after I mentioned the Trader Joe’s version! I knew as soon as I saw her blog name that I needed to be subscribed!

We made these as part of a “tiny food party” that we had while I was home. The party has become a really awesome memory for me, but more on that later. I promise I will share the rest of the adorable (and delicious) tiny food this week! Since this was a request, I tried to take pictures of every step! I’ve included the recipe from the Tiny Food Party book because it worked so perfectly for me. We didn’t make their mac & cheese recipe, but I’m sure it’s a good one. Check out the step-by-step below!

DSC_4006First of all, you need to use cold mac and cheese for this. A little planning ahead is necessary, but when is mac and cheese for dinner a bad idea? And for two nights in a row? Even better. DSC_4009Just have to show off a bit here. My sister and I picked mac and cheese topping bar for our birthday dinner. See, we really are obsessed. It was a bit of a throwback to another birthday I had with the same theme. New York deli style, buffalo chicken, southwest, and classic. Amazing selection! (Future post, maybe?)DSC_4032Ok, so your leftover mac and cheese should be nice and cold. Press it into your leftover container with a spatula until it’s really compressed. It should stay together in a cube when you flip it onto your cutting board, like this. DSC_4039Then cut the cube into triangle shapes. I got pretty excited when this actually worked! As long as it’s cold and compressed, the triangles should stay together without a problem. DSC_4040 DSC_4041Next, roll the shapes in flour. Once again, I was surprised the flour actually stuck to and coated the bites so perfectly! DSC_4043See? Perfectly floured. Now take a bath in the egg. DSC_4048And finally, roll them in Panko bread crumbs until fully coated. DSC_4050And…keep going until they are all coated in crumbs.DSC_4068Fry them in oil until they are a nice, dark golden brown. Sprinkle parmesan over the top. They turned out perfectly crispy and melty in the middle. It really was more than I was hoping for! And much better than frozen. DSC_4073Just a sneak peek of the tiny food party! It was so fun. I say try this! I really didn’t think it was going to go well – just the idea of getting anything to stick to cold blobs of pasta sounded impossible. I promise, it was so easy and a great party dish!

Tiny Mac and Cheese Bites (from Tiny Food Party, which is a new favorite book)

Like I said, we haven’t tried this mac and cheese recipe, but it sounds good to me! We didn’t have bacon in ours – let me know if you’ve tried that!

For the Mac
1/2 pound small elbow macaroni
2 tbs unsalted butter
1 1/2 tbs flour
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup gruyere cheese
1/4 cup grated fontina cheese
2 tsp dry mustard
2/3 cup cooked crumbled bacon
2 green onions thinly sliced
salt and pepper to taste

For Frying
1 qt cooking oil
1 cup flour
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups panko crumbs

Make the mac and cheese, pour in a greased 8 by 8 baking dish. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat oil to 350. Cut chilled mac and cheese into triangles. Put flour in shallow dish, eggs in a 2nd shallow dish and panko in 3rd shallow dish.  Dredge triangles in flour, dip in eggs and then toss in panko crumbs. Fry in small batches for 3-4 minutes until golden brown. Drain on paper towels, season with salt and pepper (I only sprinkled with parmesan).

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Shrimp Tacos with Coleslaw and Avocado

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This post is partially brought to you by Captain Rob! I was all set to buy the tiny (er, shrimpy? heh) shrimp when Captain Rob enthusiastically introduced himself and cut me a (way too generous) deal on the jumbo shrimp if I promised to keep coming back. Duh, Captain Rob! I’m in. Since I was actually planning on just using the shrimpy shrimp, I got two meals out of these. Double thanks to Captain Rob! When I was planning my shopping list I decided that shrimp tacos sounded like the quintessential summer dish. Super colorful, light, and fresh. But, I gotta be honest – my primary reason for making these tacos was because I thought they would be fun to photograph. Eek! I knew my new camera lens was arriving soon and I was already excitedly planning my next kitchen photo sessions. The lens arrived right as I was about to leave for the store, so I was psyched. And then Captain Rob made my trip even more exciting. Ha! The tacos were perfect for enjoying a beautiful summer evening (as much as we can without a balcony, boo) and they went very nicely with my mint cherry limeades! And easy too – seasoned shrimp (paprika is good) + coleslaw + avocado + (optional) tomatoes. A little lime and mint helps this pair even better with the cherry limeades. Loving the summer food and loving my new lens! Second shrimp dish to come soon!

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Salad with Tuna and Fennel

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This was a my quick lunch a couple of weeks ago. It’s another salad that was part of my cookbook, but mostly magazine, challenge and something I would never think to make on my own. I actually got my ingredients a little confused when I put this together, but it all worked out okay. The recipe uses oranges rather than grapefruit, which I think would be a lot better even though I love grapefruit more than oranges. I’m also not too sure how I feel about fennel…I’ll be honest and tell you that I didn’t eat all of the fennel on my plate. Something about it was just weird to me. I’ve had it chopped up in smaller pieces in salad before and really liked it though! On the more positive side, I can’t believe I never realized how good tuna and avocado are together! I’m embarrassed. So tasty! Next time, oranges! And I’ll try cutting up the fennel. And maybe not roasting it? Or maybe just ditch it? How do you feel about fennel??

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Mint Cherry Limeade

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First off, I must make a blogger confession…I don’t own any mason jars. Yes, we all know that the top three things that all bloggers must have are 1. a decent camera 2. too much time on their hands and 3. mason jars. I made due with these just as cute (maybe?) soda glasses that we got last summer and have barely used! For some reason we have all these cute ice cream and drink glasses, but we rarely drink alcohol and are typically too lazy to actually scoop the ice cream out of the carton before eating (Ok, that might just be me). Anyway, it’s summer now, so I’ve really been in the mood to make some fancy, fruity drinks! I was going over my grocery list on the way to the store and quickly decided that if I grabbed a whole bunch of limes I could probably fashion some sort of tasty drink. I knew we already had mint and like five cans of tonic water in the fridge and plus I had cherries on the list for a breakfast recipe. Sweet!

Instructions: First step is to make a quick simple syrup – I did 1/2 cup sugar and 1/2 cup water. Then add the juice of 3 or 4 limes, depending on how tart you want it. Then I smashed a handful of cherries and strained the juice into the mixture. Fill your glass up about halfway with the juice and then fill the rest with whatever fizzy stuff you got. I had tonic water, so that’s what I used. Then you must add some extra halved cherries because they taste sooo yummy after they’ve been floating around in the drink for a while! The mint is a great touch, but that’s up to you as well! Feel free to sweeten with more sugar if needed. This made enough for 4 drinks.

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Tip: We had some extra soda left so I soaked some cherries in the fridge, which made a really nice snack for later!

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Puff Pastry Pizza

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According to Paul, this is one of the best things I’ve ever made. It’s hard for me to make such bold statements about my own cooking, but this is one dish that I have consistently craved since I made it. Just like my last puff pastry post (which, funnily enough, Paul also declared as one of my best meals), this pizza was totally improvised using what we already had. Luckily, the combination of toppings worked out so perfectly. With frozen dough, this meal couldn’t be more simple to put together. Puff pastry pizza is such a great thing to have in your repertoire of quick, weeknight, throw together meals.

To make sure the pastry gets crispy, pre-bake until it’s ‘set,’ but not browned all the way. For this pizza in particular, I like it best when it’s crisp, but still a little soft and chewy in the middle. It’s up to you though! Char that thing up if that’s what you’re feelin’! After I pre-baked the crust, I spread some pre-made pesto and then topped it with salami, green olives, caramelized onions, mozzarella, and sage. Ok, and I threw in some extra garlic too. So easy, and seriously delicious. I really, really recommend this combination of toppings, but I can imagine so many other great combos too. Let me know if you have any topping loves/suggestions!

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Cookbook Challenge – Cucumber Dill Salad

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The cookbook/magazine challenge is still doing strange things to my recipe selection. I don’t want to say that I’m not a salad person, because I do enjoy a nice big salad sometimes…but I can’t say that it’s normal for me to flip through a magazine and be drawn to so many salad recipes. Simple ones too! Since I don’t make salad very often, I really like making my own small batches of dressing when the impulse hits. It’s way easier than you might think and it’s pretty sweet that you can make a tasty dressing with only a few ingredients rather than the loads of complicated things that are listed on a bottle. This salad was very fresh with nice crunch and paired well with my…oh.so.sophisticated mac & cheese bites. Heh, kind of cut down on the classy, healthy thing didn’t I? I tend to do that. Paul bought us the Trader Joe’s mac & cheese bites so that I would have something quick to eat when I returned from my Colorado trip. They were good! Try both, I say!

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Crispy & Lemony Salad (From Martha Stewart Everyday Food March 2013)

1 head romain, chopped

1/4 cup dill sprigs

1 english cucumber

1/4 cup olive oil

2 tablespoons lemon juice

Combine the salad ingredients in one bowl. Whisk together dressing ingredients in another; season. Drizzle over salad and toss. Top with cracked black pepper. Serves 4.