Explosion Cake

 

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My granddaughter and I saw this in a magazine, not knowing how “famous” it was and decided to make one.   If you have a collection of sprinkles you might like to use, it is a great way to use them all, or at least most of them.   It is a really fun cake to make, with all the different colors and layers.  It looks like a regular cake (with lots of sprinkles) till you cut the first piece.

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It is a very simple recipe and easy to make, but you do need six six-inch cake pans.  I actually only had five but had a springform, the right size for the sixth.  The only thing I did notice is that the springform, which was dark took about 2-3 minutes longer to cook, so that is something to aware of if you are using different colored pans.  I may just buy a sixth six-inch pan today.

The basic recipe is a simple white cake and if you are not a “baker”, you could use a boxed white cake.  I baked the cakes two at a time, so I did not crowd the cakes.  Luckily I have two ovens, so it did not take long.

FROSTING

8 ounces unsalted butter, at room temperature

16 ounces cream cheese, cold

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

32 ounces powdered sugar

CAKE

2¼ cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon table salt

3/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature

1½ cups granulated white sugar

3 large eggs

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1⅓ cups milk

Food coloring

Nonstick cooking spray

 

Preparation

Cake:

1. Preheat your oven to 350°F and put the oven rack in the middle of the oven (if you are using a convection oven, set it to 325°F).

2. Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl and whisk until they are really mixed together. You have to mix all the dry ingredients together first so that there are no clumps in your batter, which will create white spots. Set aside.

3. In a separate bowl, use an electric mixer on medium speed to blend the butter and sugar together, until they become fluffy. Make sure to scrape the sides of the bowl with a spatula so it’s all mixed in from the sides.  Be sure all the butter is blended, so there are no lumps of butter.

4. Add the eggs, one at a time, to the butter-sugar mixture, with the mixer on medium speed.  Scrape the sides of the bowl.

5. Add the vanilla to the milk and set it aside.

6. Mix about 1/3 of your dry ingredients into the butter-sugar-egg mixture, then blend in half of the milk, always mixing on medium speed.

7. Mix in the second third of the dry ingredients, then the remaining milk mixture.

8. Stop the mixer for a few seconds and use a spatula to push down anything sticking to the sides of the bowl as you go, then mix in the last of the flour mixture. Make sure it’s all mixed in from the sides and everything is smooth. You don’t want any lumps, but don’t overmix it so stop the mixer as soon as the batter is smooth.

9. Divide the batter evenly into six portions. They don’t have to be exactly identical, but you want them to be close: You can use any small bowls that are all the same size: Just slowly pour the batter into each of the bowls a little at a time until they are all at the same height (it’s about 1 cup of batter per bowl).

10. Color the batter individually in rainbow colors: I used purple, turquoise, green, yellow, orange, and pink for our six-layer cakes. Start with a tiny drop of food coloring, stir it in completely, then add more until it is your desired color (the baked cake will come out pretty close to what you see the outside will be a little brown, but that gets covered with frosting).

11. Spray six 6-inch round baking pans with cooking spray, then pour the colored batter into the greased pans.

12. Bake the cakes two at a time for 8 minutes without opening the oven door. Then rotate each pan so the front faces the back. Bake for another 8 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean when you insert it into the middle of the cake (cakes are very sensitive. The less you open your oven, the better your cake will come out! I don’t know exactly why, but I know it).

13. Let the cakes cool in the pans for 5-10 minutes (when they’re warm, they’re really fragile, and that’s when they tend to break.) Then flip them over onto a baking sheet or cooling rack and let them cool completely before you frost them.

Frosting:

Use an electric mixer on medium speed to blend the butter until it is smooth. Add the cream cheese and blend it together until there are no lumps. Then add the vanilla. Stop the mixer and use a spatula to push down anything sticking to the sides of the bowl, making sure it’s all mixed in from the sides and everything is smooth.

Mix in the powdered sugar a little bit at a time on the lowest speed otherwise, it will fly everywhere! Use the spatula to push down anything sticking to the sides of the bowl, making sure it’s all mixed in from the sides and everything is smooth.

Be sure it is all perfectly blended or you may lumps when you go to frost the cake.  It is a fun project.  We used the cutouts in the middle to make what I called the “The Leaning Tower of Caka.”

Assembling:

This is the fun part:  Cut a circle using a 2 inch or so biscuit cutter on five of the six layers.  Put a little frosting on the plate, so the first layer will adhere.  I use commercial cake cardboard available at Walmart, Joanns or Michaels.  Add the first layer, then frost it with nothing in the middle.  Continue to the top layer.  I do a thin coat of frosting over the entire cake, then put in the refrigerator till it is hard.  That makes it easier to put on the final layer of frosting.  There are several YouTubes online that walk you through how to do it.

The outside is a little tricky.  I put the entire cake in a big bowl in my kitchen sink and handful by handful, from the bottom up, added the sprinkles.  It was amazingly easy this way and quick.  Add a little touch-up and you are done.  The fun part is cutting the first piece of this cake.

Be ready as it can make a mess!  I think I am still cleaning up sprinkles!   I put ours in a tray with higher edges, so it would not go all over the floor. We photographed and delivered it to our local Fire Department.

Explosion Cake

HOW TO BUILD A BEAUTIFUL CHARCUTERIE BOARD

I found this article on food.com and really enjoyed it, as I love a great Charcuterie Board and this article gave something to think about.  Although my boards usually look pretty good, they are not as beautiful as the one shown below.

Entertaining 101

 

Do you ever scroll through picture-perfect cheese boards and think, “I could never do that”? The good news is, it’s a lot easier than it looks! Just follow this easy, step-by-step tutorial to build an epic charcuterie board for any occasion.

FIRST THINGS FIRST: CHEESE!

FIRST THINGS FIRST: CHEESE!

Choose 3-4 types and a mix of soft and hard cheeses, all served at room temperature: Goat, Gruyere, Gorgonzola, Manchego, Burrata, Brie, Sharp Cheddar, White Cheddar, Havarti, Boursin

Think of  creative ways to display your cheese:
* Cubed and piled up to add height and dimension
* Cut into thin, square slices and fanned out along the edge of the board
* Cut into thin, triangular slices and placed in a circle, with points facing in
* Served in large wedges for guests to cut themselves

 

MEET ME AT THE MEAT AISLE

MEET ME AT THE MEAT AISLE

Choose 2-3 types, preferably pre-sliced: Salami, Prosciutto, Sopressata, Pepperoni, Bresaola, Pâté, Smoked Salmon

Think of creative ways to display your meats:
* Fold round, thin slices of meat in half, then fold again.
* Arrange to form a salami rose bouquet!
* Roll up slices of prosciutto and stack them on top of each other.
* Sopressata is usually cut into thick rounds, so fan these across the board.

 

ADD CONDIMENTS + SIDEKICKS

ADD CONDIMENTS + SIDEKICKS

You can’t have condiments without bowls! Invest in a few ramekins for displaying sauces, dips and salty, briny snacks that complement your meats and cheeses. Think about which of these options you might add:   Honey, Whole Grain Mustard, Jam/Preserves, Infused Oil, Pickled Vegetables, Olives, Artichoke Hearts, Roasted Peppers, Cornichons and I personally like the idea of Sweet Chili Sauce, Hoisin Sauce, and Spicy Jams or Jellies

 

BRING THE COLOR WITH FRESH FRUIT

BRING THE COLOR WITH FRESH FRUIT

Try a mix of fresh fruits that are flavorful and abundant all year long (like Blueberries, Blackberries, Raspberries, Cantaloupe, Grapes) and dried fruit for options that are only available seasonally (like Mango, Apricots, Figs, Cranberries).

Creative ways to display fruit:
* Cut long, thin wedges of cantaloupe and fan them out or wrap thin slices of prosciutto around the middle.
* Choose whole dried figs and halve them to display their pretty seeds and centers.  If fresh figs are in season, that is even better.

LET’S. GET. CRUNCHY.

LET’S GET CRUNCHY.

Nuts and crackers or crisps are easy additions that require no extra prep work! Choose a few to round out your board: Pistachios, Almonds, Walnuts, Pecans, Cashews, Mini Toasts, Seeded Crackers, Cheese Twists, Water Crackers, Crispy Breadsticks, Pita Chips

* Use nuts to fill in any gaps in your board by stacking them in piles around other ingredients.
* Add extra height and interest by placing breadsticks or cheese twists upright and fanning crackers across the board in swirls.

FINISH WITH A LITTLE RAZZLE DAZZLE

FINISH WITH A LITTLE RAZZLE DAZZLE

When it comes to finishing touches, garnishes go a long way to add a hint of color and freshness. Try: Rosemary Sprigs, Basil Leaves, Mint Sprigs, Fresh or Dried Lavender

 

NO BOARD, NO PROBLEM

NO BOARD, NOT A PROBLEM

Don’t have a wooden board handy and prefer not to buy one? Feel free to use everyday kitchen tools like a pizza paddle, cast iron skillet or a sheet pan of any size to display the fruits of your labor (pun intended)!

 

 

HOW TO BUILD A BEAUTIFUL CHARCUTERIE BOARD

Tarta de Santiago Recipe – Spanish Almond Cake

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An authentic recipe for the Spanish Almond Cake found on the Camino de Santiago.
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 40 mins
Total Time 1 hr
Course: Dessert, Snack
Cuisine: Gluten-Free

Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound (1 3/4 cups) whole almonds, preferably blanched
  • 6 large eggs separated
  • 1 1/4 cups superfine sugar
  • Grated zest of 1 orange
  • Grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 4 drops almond extract
  • Confectioners’ sugar for dusting

Instructions

  • Finely grind the almonds in a food processor.
  • With an electric mixer, beat the egg yolks with the sugar to a smooth pale cream. Beat in the zests and almond extract. Add the ground almonds and mix very well.
  • With clean beaters, beat the egg whites in a large bowl until stiff peaks form. Fold them into the egg and almond mixture (the mixture is thick, so you will need to fold it quite a bit).
  • Grease an 11-inch springform pan, preferably nonstick, with butter and dust it with flour or spray with cooking spray. Pour in the cake batter, and bake into a preheated 350°F for 40 minutes, or until it feels firm to the touch. Let cool before turning out.
  • Just before serving, dust the top of the cake with confectioners’ sugar. Or, if you like, cut a St. James Cross out of paper. Place it in the middle of the cake, and dust the cake with confectioners’ sugar, then remove the paper.

Notes

Stencil the top of the cake using the traditional cross symbol of Saint James.
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Tarta de Santiago Recipe – Spanish Almond Cake

Carrot Cake

As you might have figured by now, I love to do two things in life: Paint & Cook

I am not a big sweets eater, but I love the process of baking and love sharing what I bake with my small community.  Our community has a Pie Auction each year in which I did participate only one year.  When I was there, the owner of a local restaurant bought a pie to support the auction and in passing said, he would just drop by our local fire department, as he did not need it.  I thought that was brilliant and we did the same with the pie we purchased.  I did take one slice, which I often do just to see what it tastes like or in my case save one slice for my husband.

This started a now two-year strategy of baking and sharing with my local fire department.  Yesterday I baked a Carrot Cake for the fire department, as I had my first actual request for a repeat.

 

Carrot Cake.jpg

INGREDIENTS FOR T H E CARROT CAKE :

• 2 1/2 cups (12 1/2oz/ 355g) all-purpose flour (preferably weighed)*

• 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder

• 1 teaspoon baking soda • 1/2 teaspoon table salt

• 1 3/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon

• 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

• 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

• 1lb/ 450g peeled carrots, (about 6 to 7 carrots)*

• 1  cup (10 1/2oz/ 298g) granulated sugar

• 1 cup (3 1/2oz/ 100g) packed light brown sugar

• 4 large eggs

• 1 1/2 cups (355ml) vegetable oil

CREAM CHEESE FROSTING :

• 10 tablespoons (5oz/ 142g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature

• 3 cups (12oz/ 340g) confectioners’ sugar, sift if lumpy

• 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

• 1/2 teaspoon salt

• 2 tablespoons (1oz/ 28g) sour cream

• 1lb/ 450g COLD cream cheese, brick-style cut into 1-inch pieces

INSTRUCTIONS

TO MAKE THE CAKE:

  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 350F/180C.
  2. Spray three 8inch or two 9 inch round pans with nonstick cooking spray or lightly grease with oil. Line the bottom of the pans with parchment rounds and spray parchment or lightly grease again with oil then dust with flour, tapping out excess flour.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg and cloves (if using); set aside.
  4. In a food processor fitted with the shredding disk or using the small holes of a box grater, shred carrots (you should have about 3 cups); set aside.
  5. In the bowl of standing mixer fitted with paddle attachment (or in a large bowl and using a hand-held mixer), beat eggs and both the granulated and brown sugars together on medium-high speed until thoroughly combined, about 45 seconds.
  6. Reduce speed to medium; with mixer running, add oil in slow, steady stream, being careful to pour oil against inside of the bowl (if oil begins to splatter, reduce speed to low until oil is incorporated, then resume adding oil). Increase speed to high and mix until mixture is light in color and well emulsified, about 45 seconds to 1 minute longer. Turn off mixer.
  7. With a rubber spatula, stir in the flour mixture by hand until just incorporated and no streaks of flour remain. Stir in the carrots.
  8. Give the batter a final stir to make sure it is thoroughly combined. Scrape the batter into the prepared pans and smooth the tops
  9. Bake until a toothpick or a skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean or with a few cooked crumbs attached, 20 to 25 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through baking time.
  10. Let the cakes cool in the pans for 10 minutes. Run a small knife around the edges of the cakes, then flip them out onto a wire rack. Peel off the parchment paper, flip the cakes right side up and let cool completely before frosting, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
  11. To frost and assemble, place one of the cake layers onto the cake platter. Spread 1 cup of the frosting over the cake, right to the edges. Place a second cake layer on top and press lightly to adhere. Spread another 1 cup frosting over the second cake layer. Top with the final cake layer, pressing lightly to adhere. Frost the top and side of the cake with the remaining frosting.
  12. I like to add chopped pecans on the side and decorate the top with half-nuts.

TO MAKE THE FROSTING:

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment beat the butter on medium-high speed until creamy and lightened up, 1 to 2 minutes.
  2. Add the confectioners’ sugar, salt, and vanilla and beat until lightened in both color and texture and looks fluffier than when it started, 4 to 6 minutes. Beat in the sour cream.
  3. With the mixer running on medium speed, add one piece of cream cheese at a time, one after the other, mixing well after each addition so there are no lumps. Continue adding the cream cheese until fully incorporated.
  4. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until the frosting is light, fluffy, whipped-like and until almost no cream cheese lumps remain 4 to 6 minutes.

Now you can easily make this yummy Carrot Cake!  It has always been a hit when I have served it.

Carrot Cake

Chicken Paprikash with Spaetzle

It was snowing like crazy here today so no going to the grocery store.  I had thawed out some chicken and wanted to make something that felt like “comfort food”. My German mother-in-law used to make this when she would come to visit and I have always loved it.  She cooked her chicken in tomato sauce and just added the spaetzle at the end, but I like cooking them separately.  It always brings back very fond memories of her cooking in the kitchen when my three sons were little.  They always baked together.

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Ingredients:

  • 4 tablespoons butter, cubed
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons paprika, divided
  • 1 broiler/fryer chicken (2-1/2 to 3 pounds), cut up
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1-1/4 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 3 tablespoons capers with juice

Spaetzle Ingredients:

  • 4 cups all-purpose flour (you can also use whole wheat flour)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg (optional)
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 1/4 cup milk or water + more as needed (milk produces a richer Spaetzle) (add more flour if the dough is too runny, add more milk or water if it’s too stiff)

Directions:

  • 1. In a heavy skillet,  saute chopped onions until tender. Set aside.
  • 2. In a large plastic resealable bag, combine flour and 1-1/2 teaspoons paprika; add chicken, a few pieces at a time and shake to coat.
  • 3. Place chicken in skillet; brown on all sides. Add the salt, parsley, broth and remaining paprika. Cover and cook over low heat until juices run clear, about 45 minutes.
  • 4. For spaetzle, in a large bowl, stir the flour, eggs, milk, salt and baking powder until smooth (dough will be sticky). In a large saucepan, bring water to a boil. Pour dough into a colander or spaetzle maker coated with cooking spray; place over boiling water.
  • 5. With a wooden spoon, press dough until small pieces drop into boiling water. Cook for 2 minutes or until dumplings are tender and float. Remove with a slotted spoon; toss with butter.
  • 6. Remove chicken from skillet; set aside. In the same skillet, stir in the sour cream, capers and juice and onions. Return chicken to the skillet and gently heat through. Place spaetzle on a platter and top with chicken. Serve with sauce.
Chicken Paprikash with Spaetzle

Lemon Bliss Cake

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This wonderful recipe was from King Arthur Cake and is a lovely golden lemon cake, extra-moist and nicely tangy due to its fresh lemon juice glaze. Baking this cake in a Bundt pan turns it from everyday to special-occasion, perfect for everything from birthday parties to an elegant dinner.

Baking gluten-free? For great results, substitute King Arthur Gluten-Free Measure for Measure Flour for the all-purpose flour in this recipe; no other changes needed.

AT A GLANCE

PREP: 
BAKE: 
TOTAL: 
YIELD: 12 to 16 servings

INGREDIENTS

CAKE

  • 16 tablespoons (1 cup) unsalted butter*, at room temperature
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour or Gluten-Free Measure for Measure Flour
  • 1 cup milk, whole milk preferred
  • finely grated rind of 2 medium lemons OR 3/4 teaspoon lemon oil
  • *If you use salted butter, reduce the salt in the recipe to 3/4 teaspoon.

GLAZE

  • 1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice; the juice of about 1 1/2 juicy lemons
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar

ICING (OPTIONAL)

  • 1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. Beat together the butter, sugar, and salt, first until combined, then until fluffy and lightened in color. 
  3. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl once all the eggs have been added, and beat briefly to re-combine any residue.
  4. Measure the flour by gently spooning it into a cup, then sweeping off any excess. Whisk the baking powder into the flour. Add the flour mixture to the batter in three parts alternately with the milk, starting and ending with the flour. The batter may look slightly curdled when you add the milk. That’s OK; it’ll smooth out as you add the flour. Mix until everything is well combined; the batter will look a bit rough, but shouldn’t have any large lumps. Stir in the grated lemon rind or lemon oil.
  5. Thoroughly grease a 10- to 12-cup Bundt pan. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan, leveling it and smoothing the top with a spatula.
  6. Bake the cake for 45 to 60 minutes, or until a cake tester or toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. A pan with a dark interior will bake cake more quickly; start checking at 40 minutes.
  7. While the cake is baking, make the glaze by stirring together the lemon juice and sugar. Microwave or heat over a burner briefly, stirring to dissolve the sugar. You don’t want to cook the lemon juice, so microwave just until very warm, but not uncomfortably hot — less than 1 minute should do it. Set the glaze aside.
  8. Remove the cake from the oven, and carefully run a knife between cake and pan all around the edge. Place the pan upside down on a cooling rack. If the cake drops out of the pan onto the rack, remove the pan. If the cake doesn’t drop onto the rack, let it rest for 5 minutes, then carefully lift the pan off the cake. If the cake still feels like it’s sticking, give it another 5 minutes upside down, then very gently shake the pan back and forth to loosen and remove it.
  9. Brush the glaze all over the hot cake, both top and sides. Let it sink in, then brush on more glaze, continuing until all the glaze is used up.
  10. Allow the cake to cool completely before icing and serving.
  11. To ice the cake: Mix the sugar and salt, then mix in 2 tablespoons of the lemon juice, adding just enough additional juice to create a thick glaze, one that’s just barely pourable. Drizzle it artfully over the completely cool cake.
  12. Store the cake, well wrapped, at room temperature for several days. Freeze for longer storage.

 

Lemon Bliss Cake

50 ESSENTIAL INGREDIENTS

Your ideal pantry should feel like a wonderland of endless recipe options. Are those shelves currently looking a little bare? These are the 50 essential staples you should always keep on hand

Dried or Canned Beans

DRIED OR CANNED BEANS

Pound-for-pound, dried beans are one of the best values on the shelf. No time to soak? Canned beans ain’t bad either. If you’re craving a cool dip for chips, a bowl of spicy chili or stick-to-your-ribs comfort, beans are your new best buddy:

Dried Pasta

DRIED PASTA

Whether long, twisted or tied in a bow, pasta is the ultimate vessel for homemade sauces. Tired of spaghetti with sweetened, canned ragu? The opportunities for combination and customization are endless. Try south-of-the-border flavors, a cool pasta salad or an umami-rich red sauce:

 

Canned Tuna

CANNED TUNA

Fancy sushi-grade ahi ain’t got nothing on this last-minute lunch staple. Whether we’re craving salad or melty cheese sandwiches, we’re not ashamed to open a can, mix it with mayo and enjoy for any meal of the day:

 

Olive Oil

OLIVE OIL

Olive oil is available in all prices. Use the cheap bottles for cooking and the more expensive oils for fresh sauces, dressings, and infusions. Real extra-virgin olive oil will burn slightly at the back of your throat, and will be smooth, not viscous or sticky on the tongue:

Tortillas

TORTILLAS

Taco Tuesday is over and you have leftover tortillas. Yes, you could use them to wrap up a burrito or some sliced turkey. But did you consider a macaroni and cheese quesadilla? Or that you could fry them up and make your own chips? Go forth and tortilla:

Chicken Stock

CHICKEN STOCK

Every kitchen should include some good stock, especially since it can replace water in almost any savory recipe and add a ton of flavor (ever tried boiling pasta in it?). It’s ideal for soups and stews and can turn any pan drippings into a sauce in no time.  I make my own and store it in the extra freezer in my garage.

Peanut Butter

PEANUT BUTTER

Yes, you can slather some peanut butter and jelly on bread and call it a day. But why not try your hand at Chinese-takeout-style peanut butter noodles or sweet-and-savory desserts? But for some reason, I always keep mine in the refrigerator.

Rice

RICE

You’ll find rice on the plates of the majority of human beings around the world. Whether you boil it, steam it, simmer it or fry it, rice is a staple food worth experimenting.  The question is: “How many types of rice do you keep in your pantry?”

 

Milk

MILK

If the gallon is on its last few days, don’t toss it! You can use the last of it in sauces and gravies, as well as to make fresh mozzarella and milkshakes. Ok, so this in the frig, not the pantry, unless you have a refrigerated pantry.

Lemons

LEMONS

You should have lemons on hand for both a beautiful kitchen centerpiece and to brighten up dishes like fish and chicken. Try them in this Greek lemon soup, rice or any yellow baked good.

Eggs

EGGS

Having eggs in the fridge is a no-brainer. They’re essential if you’re baking or making breakfast at home, but can also be utilized for easy sandwiches, quiche and more.

Tomato Sauce & Paste

TOMATO SAUCE & PASTE

You might look at a can of tomato sauce and only see pasta, but don’t sell its potential short! Sure, it’s necessary for staples like chicken parm and pizza, but what about as a topping for stuffed vegetables or as a base for your sloppy Joes?

Soy Sauce

SOY SAUCE

Sure, soy sauce is an obvious choice on top of your Chinese takeout, but what about as part of a sweet and salty glaze for chicken? Keep it in the pantry to use in any number of sauces, or just to flavor steamed rice whenever you forget to order fried:

Brown Sugar

BROWN SUGAR

Plain granulated ain’t got nothing on brown. An essential for baked goods, you can also sprinkle it on bacon for a sweet-savory-bacony twist on breakfast or dessert. Your box is hard as a rock? Microwave to soften.

Parmesan Cheese

PARMESAN CHEESE

It’s salty, it’s nutty, it’s cheese a trifecta of deliciousness! Consider keeping extra in the fridge so you can transform almost protein into a parm. Plus, if you don’t have it, what are you putting on top of your pasta? I buy Reggiano Parmesano and freeze it when there is a sale.

Breadcrumbs

BREADCRUMBS

Breadcrumbs provide an unreal softness and lightness when mixed into meatballs, and Japanese-style panko is best for adding a crispy crunch to baked or fried foods.

Onions

ONIONS

Keep your onions in a dry, cool and dark place (away from the potatoes!) and they’ll last for months. Months during which you can caramelize them, fry them or serve them fresh:

Honey

HONEY

Great for sauces or as a sweetener for tea, oatmeal, yogurt, lemonade and more, this buzz-worthy liquid is the bee’s knees.

Vanilla Extract

VANILLA EXTRACT

There’s no knowing why vanilla became synonymous with bland. The extract from this ancient Mesoamerican bean is complex and fragrant, and is perfect when baked into creme brulee or broiled on grapefruits.

Balsamic Vinegar

BALSAMIC VINEGAR

If you’ve ever made your own salad dressing, you’re probably familiar with this Italian condiment. Balsamic vinegar is a perfect complement to fresh tomatoes and mozzarella, works magic in marinades and can be reduced to a syrup and used as a garnish.

Lentils

LENTILS

Is that box of lentils languishing in the back of your cabinet? Time to pull it out. Lentils are the perfect legumes for making protein-rich soups, salads and cookies.

Barbecue Sauce

BARBECUE SAUCE

In addition to being the one condiment you must have for grilling season, barbecue sauce is an easy out when you need lots of flavor without lots of work. Some of our favorite things to slather it on include pizza, chicken wings, and even savory muffins.

Greek Yogurt

GREEK YOGURT

Besides being a healthy staple for breakfast or a snack, Greek yogurt can also be used up in a marinade for chicken, as a creamy addition in soup or even in pancake batter. And don’t forget about tzatziki!

Cocoa Powder

COCOA POWDER

Cocoa powder might be the perfect chocolate boost for brownies and cakes, but try it in Mexican food to bring it back to its roots. Mole sauces and spicy Mexican hot chocolate are some traditional options.

Maple Syrup

MAPLE SYRUP

Don’t have a maple tree tapped in your backyard? Good thing you’ve got Canada (and Vermont) to pick up the slack. Use this sweet nectar to flavor everything from scones to French fries to roasted meats.

Potatoes

POTATOES

This humble Peruvian tuber is a staple in most all of the world’s cuisines. It can be prepared in every way imaginable and will last for months if stored in a dark, cool place (away from the onions!).

 

CURRY PASTE & POWDER

Whether you’re using paste or powder, curry is a great flavoring agent for sauces, soups and marinades. Looking for the ultimate quick fix? Curry + coconut milk = instant awesome:

FROZEN PEAS

Finish off almost any pasta with frozen peas, add them into a pot pie, or toss them into a salad. Any way you slice it, your freezer should definitely have a few bags of these at all times.

CANNED SALSA

Unlock the potential of salsa by piling it on top of your burgers, adding it in with slow-cooked meats and even mixing it into your rice. Bonus: it doesn’t take up fridge space until you’ve opened it.

WORCESTERSHIRE SAUCE

Not many ingredients are as versatile as Worcestershire. It adds a salty, garlicky flavor to meat, so it’s ideal for marinades and sauces.

FROZEN SHRIMP

Shrimp is one of the quickest-cooking proteins out there, so when you’re short on time, tap into its amazingness by sauteeing it and serving over rice. And don’t forget about shrimp when you’re entertaining—they’re often at their best when served cold.

PIZZA DOUGH

Pizza dough is just for pizza, right? Wrong. You can use it to make cinnamon rolls, one-bite appetizers or just some cheesy breadsticks. Plus, it keeps in the freezer for at least a few months.

JAM & PRESERVES

Supplies for emergency PB&Js should always be in your pantry, but the buck doesn’t stop there when it comes to jams, jellies and preserves. You can easily amp-up any dessert with them, or even use them in a sweet and savory sauce for meatballs.

GRAINS

We all love our rices and our pastas, but sometimes we like to move into uncharted territory with starches. Have an adventure with farro, couscous, and quinoa in these grain salads.

MUSTARD

If you haven’t explored the mustard world lately, you’re really missing out. There are tons of different varieties and you can use them to add a tanginess to almost any meat, not to mention roasted veggie and sandwich possibilities.

DRIED FRUIT

Sucking the water out of fruit not only makes for highly concentrated flavors, it also renders fruits shelf-stable. Store them in the cupboard and use to sweeten baked goods, veggie dishes, grain salads, and stews.

CANNED TOMATOES

Odds are you’ve got your own ideas about what to do with a can of tomatoes. When it comes to using this pantry essential the options may be endless, but here are some of our favorites.

CORNBREAD MIX

Did you think cornbread mix was just for making cornbread? Silly goose. You’ve been missing out on some revelatory casseroles and biscuits! Oh, and don’t forget about the hot dogs and sausages you could have been dipping. I just keep cornmeal, as I make my own cornbread – so easy!

BACON

It’s a proven fact that bacon makes everything better (we’ve studied it), so you should definitely keep some in the fridge for testing that thesis. You can even add it to desserts for a salty twist, like this bacon brittle. I don’t use it often enough to keep in the refrigerator, so I freeze it.

CANNED ARTICHOKE HEARTS

Didn’t make as much artichoke dip as you expected? Try baking artichoke hearts into a casserole, spreading them over bread with some cheese or just sauteing them with chicken.

MAYO

Mayo is the base of so many delicious things that it’s almost impossible to not have some in the fridge. What would the world be without chipotle mayo or chicken salad?

PICKLES

Still, have the same jar of pickles from last summer’s barbecue season in the back of your fridge? Pull them out and get to work on some party snacks, dips or even just fried pickle chips.

HOT SAUCE

Firstly, if you can keep a bottle of hot sauce for more than a month without using it, congrats you’re stronger than we are. But if you do find that bottle lingering, fear not, because you can buffalo just about anything (chicken, pizza, fries, your whole life).

COCONUT MILK

You want to whip up a boxed cake but you want it to taste homemade good thing you’ve got coconut milk in the pantry. Use it in place of the liquids to give any baked good extra flavor, or to amp-up stir-fries and seafood.

FROZEN BERRIES

It’s impossible to keep yourself stocked with fresh berries all the time, so head for the frozen variety. Did you know freezing the fruit actually locks in its nutrients? Use berries for frozen drinks, pies and even homemade sorbet.

POPCORN

Goodbye, movie theater butter, you’re old news. Spice up your life with spiced popcorn or try something crazy and bake those fluffy popped kernels into cookies. I love grated parmesan cheese with my popcorn.

NUTS

Protein-packed and ready to eat, nuts are a staple in any pantry. If you’re not into them as a snack on their own, try crusting fish with them, or trying your hand at making peanut butter.  I store these in the freezer, so they do not go rancid.

OATS

Rich with essential nutrients, versatile in their uses and easy to prepare, oats make for an ideal breakfast. Eat them as a porridge, cooked into pancakes or blended into a smoothie:

PUFF PASTRY

Puff pastry is like the blank canvas of foods that you can transform completely with the addition of almost anything. Wrap it around chicken and asparagus for a new take on the chicken roll, or use it as a base for inventive pastries.

Most of all, have fun in the kitchen with what you can store in your pantry or refrigerator or in my case, your extra freezer.

 

50 ESSENTIAL INGREDIENTS

Studio Update

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Every art studio could use a cozy corner for reading art books.  This last week my husband built these two-inch shelves with a lip for setting finished small pieces and works in progress. Now I need to get busy and paint some more small works.

Next weekend he is going to add more shelves for bigger pieces.  It is wonderful, as they are all straight on the bottom for once.

Every challenge yourself to something and feel either great about accomplishing it or bad that you failed (the first time).  This year I challenged myself to read 75 books on the Goodreads challenge and can very proudly say I accomplished that goal. The year before I attempted to bake every bread in Paul Hollywood’s Bread Book.  I made it about 2/3’s of the way and gained a couple of pounds, but did not finish the book. I still love to bake and may just try to finish it. I take my baked goods to my local fire department, so they are enjoyed and not wasted.  My wonderful local fire department surprised me with a gift certificate the last two years.  That made me cry the first year, as I was amazed they recognized the gift. This year I felt a little guilty as I felt I did not take as much, but will up the ante as the year goes on.

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Now with 2019 coming up, I decided I would follow the example of Kevin McPhearson, the author and artist of “Reflections on a Pond”, and paint the view of the water in front of my house every day of the year. If I don’t have time to paint on a particular day, I will take a photo and paint it later. I find it an interesting thought and am hoping it will improve my painting skills.

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Studio Update

A trick to Opening a Bottle of Champagne

NTK: The Easiest Way to Open a Bottle of Champagne Video

Don’t be that person at the New Year’s party popping a bottle of bubbly somebody’s face. We’re all for free-flowing Champagne, but we’d also like to see out of both eyes come to the New Year. Here’s the right way to open that bottle and avoid a party foul:

① Remove the foil wrapper. Some slide off with a twist, and others require a little knife work.

② Untwist the wire cage and remove it from the bottle.

③ Twist the bottle, not the cork. The pressure in the bottle will start pushing the cork out.

Put your other hand or a towel over the cork to stop it from shooting out with a bang.

④ Keep your hand in place to prevent the cork from flying.

Watch the video for a full demonstration. It’s so easy you’ll start volunteering your bottle-opening services at every party. Plus, it’s a good way to make sure you get the first pour. Cheers!

A trick to Opening a Bottle of Champagne

10 European Desserts to Try

One of the things I love about travel is trying all the different foods that countries are famous in each area.  I try to do a little research before traveling to make sure I know what I should try.  I found the following article helpful and can’t wait to try the following.  I do not have recipes attached, but I might have to start finding them and trying them at home.

On The Great British Bakeoff, Paul Hollywood had the contestants attempt to makePastéis de Nata, and it was not one of the more successful endeavors, so not sure if I am going to try that one.

Europe’s cultural diversity manifests itself in its cuisine, from Italian pasta to French escargot. But for those travelers with a sweet tooth, this appetizing variety extends to the continent’s many mouthwatering desserts. Forget about your diet if you’re planning a trip soon, here are ten European desserts you have to try.

Rødgrød

Rødgrød
You’ll find fruity rødgrød if you visit Denmark, but the similar rote grütze can be found just across the border in northern Germany. Served hot or cold, it’s bursting with summer berries like redcurrants, blackcurrants, raspberries, and blackberries. The fruit is cooked with sugar and some form of starch, like semolina or potato starch is added to make the pudding. Custard or cream often accompanies the dish to balance the acids in the fruit.

Pastéis de Nata

Pastéis de Nata
Pastéis de Nata is the traditional Portuguese custard tarts that are small enough to fit in your mouth in one go. The best place to find them is in the Pastéis de Belem bakery that’s been churning them out in their millions since 1837. The proof of the quality is in the length of the queue, which snakes around the block whatever the time of day. They sell about 50,000 of these delicious tarts every day, which surely makes them a contender for western Europe’s favorite dessert.

Gelato

gelato
Italy’s dessert menu might encompass tiramisu, pannacotta, and zabaglione (all fabulous!) but its gelato is legendary the world over. Every imaginable flavor can be found, on street corners, at pavement cafes, and in fancy restaurants. Don’t be fooled into thinking it’s the same as ice cream, however. If what you see is heaped high above the edges of the container, it’s full of air and not the real deal.

Clafoutis

Clafoutis
This baked French dessert originates from the Limousin region and was popularized in the 19th century. It is usually made with black cherries, though raspberries, plums or blackberries are occasionally substituted. The fruit lines a baking dish and a thick batter is poured over the top. Traditionally, the cherry stones are left in, adding an almond-like flavor to the dish.

Apfelstrudel

Apfelstrudel
Apfelstrudel is one of Austria’s greatest exports. Layers of thinly-rolled dough are filled to bursting with sweet apples, juicy raisins and a liberal measure of cinnamon. The first recipe dates from Vienna in 1696 and it’s just as popular today in the city’s many coffee houses.

Sticky toffee pudding

Sticky toffee pudding
Peruse the menu in any British gastropub and you’re almost guaranteed to find sticky toffee pudding. This dense, dark pudding is topped with lashings of toffee sauce and served with cream, ice cream or custard. It’s rich, so save plenty of room for dessert if you plan to try it.

 

Flan

Flan
A flan is not a flan when it’s from Spain. Instead of receiving a small tart or quiche, order flan in Spain and you’ll be presented with a tasty crème caramel. To make it, a caramel syrup lines a mold and warm custard are poured on top. It’s cooked in a water bath to ensure the custard doesn’t curdle and flipped over to serve once cooked and set.

Waffles

Waffles
If there’s one dessert synonymous with Belgium, then it’s surely waffles. Known as gaufre to the nation’s French speakers and waffels to Flemish speakers, the two most popular kinds hail from Brussels and Liege. Buy one from a street stall and eat it straight from the paper, dusted with icing sugar. In a cafe, you’ll find them served with fruit compote, Nutella or Chantilly cream, but hold off on the maple syrup as that’s not the way it’s done on home turf.

 

Baklava

Baklava
Layer upon layer of rich, flaky filo pastry bound together with sweet honey and lavishly sprinkled with nuts, baklava is understandably the Greeks’ most popular sweet treat. But though they’ll argue the toss, it actually originated in the city of Istanbul in Turkey before migrating east. That’s still Europe, at least in part. Wherever you try it, it’s delicious.

Black Forest Cherry Gateau

Black Forest Cherry Gateau
Germans know a thing or two about cake, but its most famous cake is not quite what it appears. That signature bake, Black Forest Cherry Gateau, was invented, so they claim, in 1915 at the Café Agner in Bad Godesberg near Bonn. It’s so popular it even has its own food festival. The key ingredient is the “Schwarzwälder kirschwasser”, a potent cherry brandy which made its way across the border from Switzerland but is named after the Black Forest region of Germany. Without the kirsch, it’s just a chocolate and cherry cake.

10 European Desserts to Try