Champ de Noël

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Here is my version.  Not as perfectly neat, but it tastes amazing. IMG_2536.jpg

Have fun making this to impress family and friends with this modern twist on a classic bûche de Noël stolen from Fine Cooking Magazine.

This delightful looking cake was featured in the December edition of Fine Cooking, one of my favorite magazines.  I stole the photo from the article but will post mine tomorrow when it is decorated.

The layers are vertical rather than horizontal, making for a very dramatic reveal. It is an “all-day” project or one you can do over several days.

[Get a PRINTER-FRIENDLY VERSION HERE with all step-by-step photos.]

This version looks cool, but all the classic elements and flavor pairings are here, so it’s guaranteed to be delicious. The vanilla sponge cake has a delicate texture, yet it’s sturdy enough to “literally” stand on end. The layers are doused with a boozy soaking syrup before they’re coated with a smooth-as-silk, espresso-spiked white chocolate ganache filling and coated with a dreamy, creamy and eggless double-chocolate buttercream.

Like the traditional bûche, the garnishes for this cake can be rustic, whimsical, or elegant. I like to use the tines of a fork to create a barklike design in the buttercream around the side of the cake. Just before serving, I may top the cake with a cluster or two of small meringue mushrooms along with chocolate shavings for bark. You can add silver or white dragées for ice crystals, sugar-coated cranberries for a pop of color, a mint sprig or two for signs of spring, chopped pistachios for lichen, and a dusting of confectioners’ sugar for snow. Extra meringue mushrooms look great arranged around the base of the cake.

Vertical variation

While the garnishes make the cake look spectacular, what people really want to know is how I make those magical vertical layers.
All in all, it’s a straightforward process: You use what could be called a “wrapping” technique to assemble the cake. After baking the sponge cake in a large rimmed baking sheet, cut it into five strips. To train the shape of the innermost strip of cake and avoid cracking in the final product, I roll up one strip in paper towels while it’s still warm, just as you would when you’re making a jelly roll. I then roll the remaining strips up in a tight spiral together to train them. The ends of these strips are cut on an angle to create beveled edges; this step helps the strips to lie flat as the cake is assembled.

Start building the cake by brushing the innermost strip with soaking syrup then coating it with white chocolate espresso ganache. After this centerpiece is rolled and positioned on a plate, brush, fill, and wrap the remaining four beveled cake strips one at a time around it. The technique sounds complicated, but as you’ll see, it’s an easy-to-follow
process.

 Champ de Noël

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

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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