Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Teddy Bear Argyle Cake

This is the cake I made for my sister-in-law's baby shower, featured HERE.

The cake was my old standby - Martha's One Bowl Chocolate Cake/Cupcake recipe. It's the best. I made two 12 inch cakes, and put my classic swiss meringue buttercream icing in between and for the crumb layer. The cake is super moist and chocolately - dense, but not heavy. The buttercream complements it perfectly.

The bear was also made with the same cake batter. I've never used one of those molded 3D cake pans before but it was really easy.

For the fondant I made my homemade fondant from the usual recipe from the Food Network. I made two whole batches, and only used about one and a half. 

The argyle was just diamonds cut with a rotary cutter - after I had colored the fondant using gel food coloring. I probably should have measured them and pulled out my skills from high school geometry, but I just eyeballed it :)

Once the argyle was in place, I painted each diamond with pearl dust mixed with vodka. Not sure if you can see the shimmer...

For the "stitches" I just made a small batch of royal icing and piped it with a #2 round tip. I obviously didn't use a ruler!

The bear cake was piped in chocolate buttercream icing using a small star tip. The pads on his hands and feet were piped with royal icing, as were his eyes. His brown pupils are the underside of mini chocolate chips, and his nose is a regular chocolate chip.

Love the end result!

My sister-in-law, Alison, a cake and cupcake baker herself, really loved the cake - and of course it was delicious also!

Once the cake was cut, our young cousin, Holly, requested the bear for her plate. I think she liked it :)

She ate a pretty large portion of that bear all by herself!

The cupcakes to accompany the cake were vanilla buttercream cupcakes from Martha's Cupcake book.

Simply decorated with a swirl of chocolate buttercream (same as the bear) and a fondant cutout placed on top.

Another successful day of baking!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Alison's Baby Shower

My sister-in-law, Alison, is having a baby boy in April. We planned a surprise shower for her last weekend that went off without a hitch!

The nursery decor is blue, tan, brown and white argyle, so we took our shower decor cue from that, and added the teddy bear theme as Alison and Matt have temporarily named the baby "Ted" until his debut.

My talented friend Danielle designed the lovely invitations.

We had the shower at one of Alison's favorite restaurants, City Kitchen, and it was a great choice! We had the entire restaurant for the private party, had plenty of time to set up, and were given a wonderful staff to work with. On top of all of that, the food was delicious as usual!

The Sunday before the shower, we, the hosts, got together at my house for a craft day where we assembled the favors, made the diaper cakes, sewed the pennant banners, and assembled the take-home cupcake boxes.

The favors were chocolate covered pretzels made by my other sister-in-law, Carol. She makes these yummy treats every Christmas, so we asked her to make them with blue tinted white chocolate drizzled on top for the occasion.

I searched everywhere for the argyle scrapbook paper for the tops of the bags, but eventually found it!

I made the pennant banner for the shower, but hope that Alison will hang it in the baby's room in the future...

We had lots of fun games, courtesy of our game master, Claudine.

And we had a lot of fun creating the two diaper cakes.

The day before the shower I did the baking and flower arranging...

I had a lot of fun creating the cake and cupcakes for the shower. Details on the cake will come in a separate post tomorrow :)

The cupcakes were equally delicious and we made up single cupcake boxes so that everyone could take one home.

Loved the dessert tables and surrounding decorations!

The gift table was overflowing...

Happy Shower, Alison!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Basil Orange Chicken

Back to real time blogging, this was dinner last night. Basil Orange Chicken. I found the recipe in the May 2010 edition of Good Housekeeping magazine.

Basil Orange Chicken
Serves 4

1 large navel orange
2 lemons
1/2 cup packed fresh basil leaves, chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper
4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves (1 1/2 lbs)
1/2 tsp sugar
1 cup whole wheat couscous
8 oz stringless sugar snap peas
Grilled orange slices for garnish

1. From orange, grate 1 1/2 teaspoons peel and squeeze 4 tablespoons juice. From lemons, grate 1 1/2 teaspoons peel and squeeze 1/3 cup juice.
2. In medium bowl, combine 1 teaspoon of each peel and 1 tablespoon orange juice with half of basil, 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper.
3. With flat side of meat mallet, pound chicken breasts (placed between 2 sheets of plastic wrap) to an even 1/2 inch thickness. Add chicken to citrus mixture, turning to coat,  set aside.
4. In a small pitcher or bowl, combine sugar, 1/8 teaspoon salt, 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, and remaining citrus peels, citrus juices, basil and oil; set aside. (Can be made to this point up to 8 hours ahead. Cover chicken and citrus sauce and refrigerate.)
5. Preheat large ridged grill pan or prepare outdoor grill for direct grilling on medium-high.
6. Meanwhile, prepare couscous as label directs. In 4 qt saucepan filled with 1/2 inch water, place a vegetable steamer. Heat to boiling on high.
7. Add chicken to hot grill pan or place on hot grill grate, cook 4 minutes. Turn chicken over and cook 3 to 4 minutes longer until no longer pink in center. 
8. While chicken is cooking on second side, add snap peas to steamer; cook 2 to 3 minutes or until tender-crisp. Fluff couscous and spoon onto larger platter; top with chicken and snap peas. Drizzle sauce over all. Garnish with citrus slices.

Each serving: about 400 calories, 46g protein, 33g carbohydrates, 9g total fat (1g saturated), 6g fiber, 99mg cholesterol, 365mg sodium.

Chicken and orange slices on the grill pan - first side.

Chicken and orange slices on the second side.

Citrus sauce

Final product

Very delicious. We didn't marinate this for hours - just the time it took to put everything else together. I think the meat would have been a lot more orange-flavored had we let it sit for several hours.

Great meal though, and pretty quick to make. Looking forward to my leftovers today for lunch!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Banana Caramel Cake

I mentioned this cake in my Thanksgiving 2010 post I wrote just yesterday.

As cakes go, this was pretty simple. Although, there are a lot of components that all should be made in the same day. I made the cake the day before Thanksgiving and kept it in the fridge until two hours before serving and it was a hit. 

The recipe is from Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook, page 157. 

It's a really long recipe that I really don't want to type up, so you can find the recipe HERE.

Following the recipe you will also find the recipes for the Mascarpone Frosting and the homemade Caramel sauce. 

The frosting is as simple as turning on your mixer. The caramel takes a little more patience and attention, but it's certainly not brain surgery.

I felt like the recipe made a LOT of caramel sauce. I never like to use only part of an ingredient. After all, if Martha wanted less caramel on the cake, she would have told us to make less caramel sauce, no? So I poured the whole bowlful on top. A bit messy, but it looked like it would taste good.

I always like when my cakes end up looking like the photo in the book, and this one certainly did!

As I mentioned, I don't really like the bananas. But Jim and the rest of the banana lovers at Thanksgiving thoroughly enjoyed it. Highly recommended for your next party!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Thanksgiving 2010

Continuing the 2010 catch-up, today's post is a recap of Thanksgiving.

Only the second time I've ever hosted turkey day, but the first time for Jim's family. I was certainly a lot less stressed about it than I usually am for Christmas - mostly because I felt comfortable with cooking all of the the Thanksgiving "regulars" and wasn't planning on anything new or fancy like I usually plan on for Christmas.

We were having 11 for dinner, and another 7 for dessert, and I was determined to get everyone at one table.

We have a large and oddly laid out kitchen, so were able to bring in our large outdoor table inside, as well as a smaller table on the end to make one super long table. It worked out great! Even had a tablecloth long enough!

The Menu:

Roasted Turkey
Homemade stuffing (inside the bird)
Homemade stuffing with sausage and sage (outside the bird)
Three kinds of mashed potatoes: plain, sweet, and garlic smashed red
Cranberry relish
Green beans
Corn muffins

Apple Pie
Pumpkin Pie
Maple Cupcakes
Banana Caramel Cake
Cream Puffs

As usual I worked on the floral centerpieces myself also.

Didn't get a shot of the turkey but he was perfect. Crispy skin, and juicy inside.

The mashed potatoes were so easy! I made them all from scratch in the morning - 3 different batches - and then just kept them warm in my fancy crock pot trio.

Plain mashed, mashed sweet potatoes (just butter, salt and pepper), and then garlic smashed red potatoes.

Whipped up a quick batch of corn muffins in the morning - they were a hit!

I never liked corn muffins until I made these from Martha this year. Recipe found HERE.

Too busy eating to take photos of the rest of dinner...

Desserts were yummy as usual.

Apple Pie made by my mother-in-law the day before. Classic recipe from Martha's Baking Handbook.

Pumpkin Pie also from Martha's baking handbook. I tried to get fancy with a twisted rope crust, but it was entirely too big and fell into the shell a bit when I was blind baking it. This meant a little less room for pumpkin filling, but apparently it still tasted good.

My fancy and new dessert for the occasion was a banana caramel cake. I didn't try it because I really don't like bananas, but everyone else seemed to enjoy it.

I think I'll post about this recipe tomorrow...

Then I also made maple cupcakes. Mostly for my pregnant sister-in-law who had a few the last time I made them and fell in love. They really are delicious.

Our aunt brought cream puffs that were equally delicious. You can't have just one!

Our first Thanksgiving hosted as Mr. and Mrs. was a success! We even saw a little snow fall that afternoon...

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Hello, 2011! But first, a look back on 2010...

I'm back! No real excuse for the hiatus, so I'm going to do a few posts of some older topics, and eventually get caught up to our current plans and projects of 2011. I finally have a snowy weekend of nothing planned to get organized and caught up on some much needed blogging.

So here's a look at a spice cake I made for Halloween... 

Looks tasty, right?

It's actually a cake made from a cupcake recipe from Martha's Cupcake Book. It's Mrs. Kostyra's Spiced Cupcake recipe. Only problem was that because it was a cupcake recipe, it obviously needed more time in the oven. So I kept checking it, and adding another 10 minutes. Checked it again; needed another 10 minutes. This went on for almost an hour, and apparently the last 10 minutes was about 9 minutes too long. 

This cake was so dry it was almost inedible. Unless you got a bite with some icing. That moistened it up a bit. But more often than not, taking a bite of this cake was like trying to eat 5 saltine crackers at once. Impossible.

Oh well, the flavors were great, so I'm sure the cupcakes are delicious. And my quick attempt at a spiderweb wasn't a total disaster (the spider is a little rough).

Overall though, it was a nice idea for a cold Halloween evening. One that I may try again this year, but keeping a better eye on the oven time.

Happy belated Halloween!