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

Tomato Soup with Feta & Thyme

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INGREDIENTS

 2 tbsp olive oil or butter

1 chopped onion

cloves garlic (or I always like a little more)

1/2 tsp salt

1/8 tsp black pepper

1 tsp dried oregano (I used 1 tsp fresh)

1 tsp thyme (fresh is always better

2 tbsp tomato paste — optional, but a good idea for color

1 28 oz can of Bianco Crushed Tomatoes (available at Albertsons)

cups Beef Stock  & a little water

2/3 cup fresh feta cheese — crumbled

A little fresh thyme

Salt & White Pepper to taste

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Heat olive oil (butter) over medium heat in a large pot ( or a Dutch Oven). Add the onion and cook for 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add tomatoes, salt, pepper, oregano, basil, tomato paste, and water. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.

     

  2. Cook on medium heat for 20 minutes, until the tomatoes are tender and cooked. Using an immersion blender, blend until smooth. Or I find it just as easy to use my Cuisinart for this.

     

  3. Put the warm soup in bowls and place feta and thyme on top.  It is pretty and adds a little more flavor to the soup.

RECIPE NOTES:

  • Here is a little bit of fun kitchen information.  If you are using olive oil, heat the pan first, then add the olive oil.  
  • If you are using butter, put the butter in the pan and heat as the pan heats.  
Tomato Soup with Feta & Thyme

Jambalaya

Jambalaya has its origins in several rice-based dishes well attested in the Mediterranean cuisines of West Africa, Spain, and France, especially in the West African dish Jollof, the Spanish dish Paella (native to Valencia), and the French dish known as Jambalaia (native to Provence).

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I combined a couple of recipes and added a few ingredients of my own.  I didn’t have chicken but would have added that to enhance the flavor. I love shrimp and would have added it at the end, but my husband does not eat it.

Ingredients:

2 TBL olive oil (EVOO)

1 pound sausage ( I used mild Italian that I made)

1 onion (chopped)

1 red or yellow bell pepper (chopped)

3 stalks celery (sliced thinly)

3 garlic (chopped)

2 TSP Cajon seasoning

1 TSP oregano ( I prefer fresh)

Pinch of Cayenne

1 TSP Scallions (white part) and save the green and slice for serving

14 oz chopped tomatoes with chili

Beef stock ( one container) I used homemade chicken stock

2 cups cooked rice

1 cup of okra (fresh or frozen-thawed)

Add some shrimp if you like it

  1.  Sauté chicken in olive oil until cooked and the sausage is lightly browned.  Set aside.
  2.  Sauté the onion, bell pepper, celery,  and garlic until soft.
  3. Add rice, liquids, and seasonings.  Add the cooked rice, chicken (or beef) stock, crushed tomatoes, Cajun seasoning, oregano, cayenne, and bay leaf.  Give everything a good stir.
  4. Cover and cook.  Then cook for 20 minutes, being sure to stir the mixture every 5 minutes or so (to prevent burning) until the rice is nearly tender.
  5. Add the okra and shrimp and cook for 5 minutes or until the shrimp is pink and opaque.
  6. Taste and season with salt and pepper (add Cajun seasoning, if needed).
  7. Serve warm.  Garnished with green sliced scallions and enjoy!
Jambalaya

Sausage & Chicken Soup

Since we have a lot of sausages leftover from my birthday, I am attempting to find creative ways to use it, so we don’t get tired of it or waste it. This soup was rich and very delicious and I would definitely make it again.  Add a little crust of bread for dipping and it is a wonderfully easy dinner.  You could add a little rice or pasta of preference if you need more substance to your meal.  I used all low-sodium products to make it healthier than the original recipe.  I threw a little shave Parmesano Reggiano on top, but I do that to a lot of dishes.   Enjoy this Fall soup!

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Ingredients

 to Add all ingredients to list

Direction

  1. In a stockpot or Dutch oven, brown sausage with garlic. Stir in broth, tomatoes and carrots, and season with salt and pepper. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer 15 minutes.
  2. Stir in beans with liquid and zucchini. Cover, and simmer another 15 minutes, or until zucchini is tender.
  3. Remove from heat, and add spinach. Replace lid allowing the heat from the soup to cook the spinach leaves. Soup is ready to serve after 5 minutes.
Sausage & Chicken Soup

Paleo Sausage & Cauliflower Casserole

1.jpgIngredients

1 head of cauliflower, cut into florets

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

8 oz. Italian sausage, casings removed

1 medium yellow onion, diced

5 cloves garlic, minced

4 sprigs thyme

1 28-oz. can whole peeled tomatoes

1/2 cup almond flour

2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped

Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

  1. Bring a pot of water to boil. Add the cauliflower florets to the pot and boil for 3 minutes. Drain and rinse the florets with cold water. Set aside.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and cook for 8-10 minutes until browned, using a spoon to break into small pieces. Stir in the onion, garlic, and thyme. Sauté for 5-7 minutes, stirring regularly. Add the tomatoes and juices to the pan and cook for 5 minutes more. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Remove the skillet from heat and carefully stir in the cauliflower. Transfer the mixture to a 9×13-inch baking dish. Sprinkle with almond flour. Bake for 20 minutes, and then turn the oven to broil and cook an additional 3-5 minutes. Garnish with parsley to serve.
Paleo Sausage & Cauliflower Casserole

Cantalope, Tomato & Avocado Salad with Butter Garlic Baked Pork Chops

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Servings 4

Total Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Nutrition Information

Calories 192

Carbohydrate 22g

Protein 3g

Fat 13g

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoon(s) lime juice
  • 4 teaspoon(s) honey raw
  • 2 tablespoon(s) olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon(s) sea salt coarse
  • 1 medium cantaloupe(s) quartered and seeded
  • 1 medium avocado(s)
  • 1 cup(s) tomato(es) cherry or grape, halved

Instructions

  1. In a large bowl, whisk together lime juice, honey, oil and sea salt; set aside.
  2. Cut each cantaloupe quarter in half lengthwise. Run a knife between the flesh and the skin of the melon, discard skin. Slice each wedge lengthwise into 1/2 inch pieces.
  3. Cut each avocado in quarters lengthwise and then into 1/2 inch thick slices. Add cantaloupe, avocado, and grape tomatoes to bowl with dressing and toss to coat.

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Garlic Butter Baked Pork Chops (Super easy to make!!!)

Garlic Butter Baked Pork Chops are juicy, tender, and super-flavourful thanks to the amazing butter sauce. You need less than 20 minutes to make this recipe.

INGREDIENTS

2 medium-sized heritage breed pork chops

kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

4 tablespoons grass-fed butter — melted (use ghee if you’re doing whole30)

1 tablespoon fresh thyme — chopped

2 cloves garlic — minced

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

INSTRUCTIONS:

1. Preheat oven to 375°F.

2. Season the pork chops with salt and pepper, and set aside.

3. In a small bowl, mix together the butter, thyme, and garlic. Set aside.

4. In a cast-iron skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat.

5. When the skillet is really hot, add the pork chops. Sear until golden, about 2 minutes per side.

6. Pour the garlic butter mixture over the pork chops.

7. Place the skillet in the oven, and cook until the pork chops reach an internal temperature of 145ºF, about 10-12 minutes. The time depends on the thickness of your pork chops.

8. Remove from the oven. Using a spoon, pour some of the butter sauce left in the skillet onto the pork chops before serving.

Cantalope, Tomato & Avocado Salad with Butter Garlic Baked Pork Chops

Easy Chicken Dinner

chicken.jpgIt is warm outside and the sun is shining and I really don’t want to be in the kitchen, so an easy quick dinner it is!  I recently picked up the new America’s Test Kitchen’s “Simple” and adapted one of the recipes to my liking.  The recipe was Chicken with Tomato Salsa.

For the salsa:

Cut a cup or so of cherry tomatoes into quarters

Add 3-4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

1 teaspoon of good olive oil

Sliced basil to taste

Salt & Pepper and maybe a little red pepper if you want more of a kick to it

I added half an avocado (cut into 1/4″ pieces)

Mix together and put aside.

For the chicken:

I used two chicken breasts and cut them in half, so they would be thinner and cook faster. Dipped them in two stirred eggs (but one might work), dipped them in a mixture of gluten-free panko and parmesan and quickly sauteed (about 2 minutes per side) in olive oil.

*Here is a tip: 

When using olive oil, always heat the pan before you add the olive oil.  But with butter melt it in a pan that heats as the butter melts.  

Serve on a nice platter with the extra basil for decoration!  And of course, put the tomato salsa on top.  Delicious, moist and very pretty.

BEETS

This is the easiest way I know to cook beets.  Wash the beets, cut off the greens and a bit of the other end.  Peel, but on a cooking tray (I line with aluminum foil – so I don’t have to scrub it), put a little olive oil (EVOO), salt and pepper and bake for 30 minutes at 425°.

Enjoy this easy and fast (other than the time the beets take to cook) dinner.

 

 

 

Easy Chicken Dinner

Pommes Duchesse

French Pipped Potatoes

Pommes Duchess.jpg

They were to be piped with a 3/4 star tip, but I did not have one so used a 1/2 round tip.  I will be buying a 3/4 star tip today.  Ha Ha

Yield: Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 12 lb. russet potatoes (about 4)
  • 4 tbsp. unsalted butter softened
  • 2 egg yolks, plus 1 whole egg mixed with 1 tsp. heavy cream, lightly beaten
  • 18 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Instructions

  1. Heat oven to 400°. Using a fork, prick potatoes all over; place on a baking sheet. Bake until tender, 1 12 hours; let cool, then peel and pass through a food mill or ricer.
  2. Mix potatoes, butter, yolks, nutmeg, salt, and pepper in a bowl; transfer to a piping bag fitted with a 34” star tip. On a parchment paper-lined baking sheet, and working in a tight circular motion, pipe twelve 2 12” cones about 2″ high. Brush with egg mixture; bake until golden brown, 40–45 minutes.
Pommes Duchesse

Three Cheese Gourgeres

Cheese Gourgers.jpgYield: Makes About 4 Dozen

Ingredients

  • 34 cup whole milk
  • 8 tbsp. unsalted butter, cubed
  • 12 tsp. kosher salt
  • 12 cups flour
  • 5 eggs, at room temperature
  • 4 oz. Comté cheese, grated
  • 4 oz. Emmentaler cheese, grated
  • 4 oz. Gruyère cheese, grated

Instructions

  1. Heat oven to 425°. Bring milk, butter, salt, and 13 cup water to a boil in a 4-qt. saucepan over high. Add flour; stir until dough forms. Reduce heat to medium; cook, stirring dough constantly with a wooden spoon until slightly dried, about 2 minutes. If the dough is not dry enough, the gourgeres will not rise when cooked.  Transfer to a bowl; using a hand mixer, beat in 1 egg until smooth. Repeat with remaining eggs, beating well after each addition, until dough is smooth; stir in half each of the cheeses.
  2. Transfer dough to a piping bag fitted with a plain 12” tip. Using a swirling motion, pipe 1 12“-tall mounds of dough, about 1” in diameter, onto parchment paper-lined baking sheets; sprinkle tops with remaining cheeses. Place in oven and reduce temperature to 375°. Bake gougères until golden brown, about 30 minutes.
Three Cheese Gourgeres

What’s the Difference?

Yellow, White, and Red Onions

onions.jpg

Today, I decided to make Gyros for dinner and was looking up recipes for the sauce and what to add in the Gyro itself. Most recipes called for onions, not specifying which to use.  I got curious about why you use certain onions for certain things and can they be interchangeable.  I found the following information useful.

Wonder why some recipes call for a particular kind of onion and whether another can be substituted in its place?

 

All these onions vary slightly in flavor, texture, and color, but can usually be substituted for one another. In terms of cooking, they will all behave the same in the pan.

When buying onions, go for ones that feel heavy in your hand and firm. Avoid soft onions or ones that have a sharp oniony odor before peeling. These are indications that the onion is old. Except for sweet onions, all these onions can be stored for several weeks in a cool, dark pantry or cupboard.

 

Yellow Onions  This is the all-purpose onion, and it’s the one we use most often. Yellow onions have a nice balance of astringency and sweet in their flavor, becoming sweeter the longer they cook. They are usually fist-sized and have a fairly tough outer skin and meaty layers. Spanish onions are a particular kind of yellow onion and we find them to be slightly sweeter and more delicate in flavor.

 

White Onions – These onions tend to have a sharper and more pungent flavor than yellow onions. They tend to be more tender and have a thinner, more papery skin. They can be cooked just like yellow onions, but we like them minced and added to raw salsas and chutneys.

 

Sweet Onions – Walla Walla and Vidalia are the most common kinds of sweet onions. These onions lack the sharp, astringent taste of other onions and really do taste sweet. They are fantastic thinly sliced and served in salads or on top of sandwiches. They can range in color from white to yellow and often have a flattened or squashed appearance. Sweet onions tend to be more perishable and should be stored in the refrigerator.

 

Red Onions – With their deep purple outer skin and reddish flesh, these are really the odd guys out in the onion family. They are fairly similar to yellow onions in flavor, though their layers are slightly less tender and meaty. Red onions are most often used in salads, salsas, and other raw preparations for their color and relatively mild flavor. The lovely red color becomes washed out during cooking. If you find their flavor to astringent for eating raw, try soaking them in water before serving.

Onions are a garden favorite and can be eaten raw, in salsas and salads, and cooked into your favorite recipes. Home gardeners can choose from onion varieties that are mildly sweet to pungent. Because onions are affected by the amount of light they receive, some grow better in the North, while others perform better in the South. Short-day onions begin forming bulbs when daylight lasts 10-12 hours and are often the sweetest and best for eating raw. They’re most often grown in the South. Long-day onions begin forming bulbs when daylight lasts 14-16 hours. They are usually pungent, often store well for many months, and are usually grown in the North. Day-neutral onions are a cross of the two types. Onions can be started from seeds, sets, and plants.

Shallots

Shallots have a subtle flavor that is much milder than onions or garlic and are a favorite of gourmet cooks. Their flavor really shines when sautéed in butter or olive oil. Like green onions, their green shoots and bulbs are edible and the green shoots can be used as a green onion or scallion substitute. While shallots can be grown from seed, growing them from sets is often easiest. After harvest, cured bulbs can be stored for up to six months.

Leeks

Leeks look like overgrown green onions but have a milder, more delicate flavor than onions. The white base and green stalk are used for cooking in creamy soups, fresh, stocks and more. Leeks can be direct seeded outdoors or started indoors and transplanted into the garden. Thinning during the growing allows the plant to grow much larger. After harvest, leeks can keep in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks—or they can be dried for storage.

Remember…

Onions, shallots, and leeks are not considered interchangeable when it comes to cooking, even though some blogs and websites might say they are interchangable. Make sure you use whichever your recipe calls for, as the distinct flavor of each may alter the taste of your dish.

 

Do you have a favorite kind of onion?

 

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againstthegrain
23 May, 2014
Definitely, regular use of the range hood fan and cleaning of the filters is a good way to remove the odors and nasty fumes created by cooking.One thing I’d like to point out about reducing the oily residue that adheres to the exhaust fan is that certain cooking techniques create more sticky, aerosolized nastiness than others, and some grease and oil films are more resistant to cleanup than others, too, esp if allowed to sit and harden.Stir frying is the worst for creating aerosolized oily fumes that cling to surfaces around the stove and kitchen, with or without a range hood fan. The heat, the open pan, the constant motion continually kicks up oily fumes that settle on surfaces much farther than most cooks realize.Cooking low and slow takes more time, but also reduces the amount of oil and grease splattering into the air and around the stove, often producing better food in the process. Simmering, braising, and slow cooking generally create less oily mess to clean up overall. Cooking in a pressure cooker saves time and keeps open pot cooking time to a minimum, therefore reduces splatter and aerosolized fumes.Furthermore, oil sprays, such as PAM and knockoffs, create a LOT of sticky, persistent aerosolized oil drift that is VERY difficult to wash away once it hardens and dries – newer formulas claim to create less residue on cookware, but less isn’t none. Spray cookware over the sink for easier cleanup of overspray, or spray outside the house (or better yet, don’t spray at all and avoid filling lungs with oily spray, too).Cooking in open pans with polyunsaturated oils from seeds (vegetable oil, canola, corn oil, soybean oil, safflower oil sunflower oil, etc., tends to promote oily fume creation. Fumes from polyunsaturated oils settle on surfaces and then become rancid, hardened, and quite plasticized. These films are very resistant to scrubbing and cleansers.I have found that cooking with traditional and more stable fats like butter, ghee, tallow, bacon drippings, duck fat, and coconut or palm oil tends creates less oily fumes (esp if food is cooked low and slow instead of stir-frying and high heat sautéing). Splatters will still occur round the pan perhaps, but they tend not to aerosolize and form thin sticky fumes that create resistant films to the same extent as polyunsaturated oils when they settle on kitchen surfaces.I became aware of the the change in the rate of oily film buildup in my range hood and surfaces adjacent to my stove when my cooking changed over the past few years – I had stopped using and buying seed oils and making quick sauté recipes. Instead I made more traditional braising and simmering recipes using traditional fats instead of oils. The lack of oily film buildup after several years of cooking differently was particularly noticeable when we were away for four months last year and had house sitters in our house during our absence; they stir fried most of their meals on high heat with a liquid oil. While the stove and kitchen was generally clean at first glance when we returned home, an oily residue had settled inside and outside the range hood and on the cabinets around the stove , and was far worse than I’d ever experienced with my own cooking, even when the range fan hadn’t been working.
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What’s the Difference?