Saturday, April 24, 2010

You make your own birthday cake, right???

It was my birthday last weekend and I made a birthday cake for myself.  Never really thought about it but from the reaction I got from everyone who knew I was doing this, not everyone does it!  Control issues?  Maybe, but I know what I like and how to get it!  Do it myself.

My birthday always comes when strawberries are plentiful so naturally most of the cakes I have baked have strawberries involved.  This year they took center stage…along with some Limoncello of course!


I first made this cake almost 2 years ago, here, and absolutely fell in love with it.  It is a beautiful dense cake and the mascarpone whipped cream was the perfect compliment but I was not really keen on the sherry macerated berries so this year I decided to macerate the berries in Limoncello…good move too!


Mascarpone-Filled Cake with Limoncello Strawberries – adapted from Gourmet, July 2008


For cake:
2 cups sifted cake flour (not self-rising; sift before measuring)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon lemon extract
2 large eggs
1 cup well-shaken buttermilk

For berries:
1/2 cup Limoncello
1/2 cup sugar
4 cups strawberries, quartered

For cream:
8 ounces mascarpone cheese (1 cup)
1 cup chilled heavy cream
1/4 cup sugar


Make cake:
Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle. Butter a 9-inch round cake pan (2 inches deep). Line bottom with a round of parchment paper, then butter parchment.

Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

Beat together butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer until pale and fluffy. Beat in vanilla. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. With mixer at low speed, beat in buttermilk until just combined. Add flour mixture in 3 batches, mixing after each addition until just combined.

Spread batter in cake pan, smoothing top. Rap pan on counter several times to eliminate air bubbles.

Bake until golden and a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool in pan on a rack 10 minutes. Run a knife around edge of cake to loosen, then invert onto a plate. Discard paper and reinvert cake onto rack to cool completely.

Macerate berries:

Pour the limoncello and the sugar over the berries and toss gently ( allow to satnd for about 30 minutes mixing periodically - or you can do it the real way and bring Limoncello and sugar to a boil in a small heavy saucepan, stirring until sugar has dissolved. Put berries in a bowl and pour hot syrup over them, gently tossing to coat. Let stand 15 minutes. make cream and assemble cake.

Beat mascarpone and cream with sugar in a large bowl using cleaned beaters until mixture just holds stiff peaks.

Halve cake horizontally with a long serrated knife. Carefully remove top half and reserve. Put bottom half on a plate, then spread evenly with half of the cream and replace top half. Use the rest of the cream on the top and serve with berries.

Cooks notes:
•Cake, without cream, can be baked 1 day ahead. Wrap in plastic wrap once cool and keep at room temperature.
•Berries can macerate at room temperature up to 2 hours.


Thursday, April 22, 2010

Pork Roast in a Crockpot

Sounds simple huh?  And something that you should be able to find a recipe for easily right?  WRONG!  Almost all of the recipes that I came across when searching for a recipe were sweet.  One thing Tony hates is sweet pork.  Sadly I am sure the rest of us like it but just never get to eat it…

This recipe came from about 10 different sources that I put together.  I am claiming it as mine and it is delicious!  I may have over cooked it a bit this time but trust me on this the first time I made it perfectly!  I will be making this again and again!

I used a pork sirloin roast. The one in the mesh cotton bag. I am sure any one but the tenderloin would work, would be too dry.  The picture below is only one of the 2 pieces in the bag.


Pork Roast in a Crockpot

Peel some garlic and pierce the roast with as many holes as you have garlic and push the garlic into the holes. I do about 3 or 4 cloves in each piece of meat. (the garlic will be pushed out during cooking, see pic, but the flavor is still there)

Make a mixture of:

1 tsp salt
1 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp dried sage
1/4 tsp rosemary
1 tsp lemon zest
dash of ground cloves

rub this all over the meat and place in the crockpot.

Add 1/2 cup of water around the side and cook on low for about 6 hrs.

Thicken the juice with some flour to make a gravy to serve with the egg noodles you will really want to have with this!!!

***As a rule we only eat “Happy Meat” but happy pork roast is hard to come by here.  I did break the rule on this one and used CAFO pork *hanging my head in shame* but my family really wanted pork…


Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Black Bean Hummus…

I was hunting around the other day waiting to pick the girls up and I stumbled across a recipe for Black Bean Hummus.  Turns out a friend of mine has also been requesting a recipe from me for hummus.  I gave her my original one that is here, but this black bean one sounded really good to me and i couldn’t get it out of my head.  I love black beans and who doesn’t love a nice garlicky hummus???

This came together in a matter of minutes in my food processor.  I think stirring up the tahini took more time the the recipe!


Black Bean Hummus (from All Recipes)


1 clove garlic
1 (15 ounce) can black beans; drain and reserve liquid
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 1/2 tablespoons tahini
3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon paprika
10 Greek olives


  • Mince garlic in the bowl of a food processor.
  • Add black beans, 2 tablespoons reserved liquid, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, tahini, 1/2 teaspoon cumin, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper; process until smooth, scraping down the sides as needed.
  • Add additional seasoning and liquid to taste.
  • Garnish with paprika and Greek olives.

***I calculated this for WW as 2 points for a 1/4 cup serving…that’s not including the yummy pita that you HAVE to have with it!


Monday, April 12, 2010

In a hurry? Homemade Baked Chicken Fingers


So you all know by now that we are a pretty busy household right?  Between ice skating lessons, karate classes and BMX races and practices you must wonder how we do all of that stuff and still eat home cooked, real food meals, right? 

This recipe for baked chicken fingers is one of my favorite go to recipes for a busy weeknight.  From start to finish it takes just 15 minutes for me to bread them and bake them and have them on the table for the kids.  Almost as fast as going to McDonald’s and getting the chicken nuggets and bringing them home for dinner…

Baked Chicken Fingers


  • 1 lb boneless skinless chicken breast halves
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 cup AP Flour
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 cups Italian breadcrumbs


  • Preheat oven to 400F
  • Cut chicken breasts into thin strips, about one inch wide.
  • Longer sections can be cut in half to have uniform pieces.
  • Mix flour and seasonings (garlic, salt, and pepper) well in a bowl.
  • Dip chicken pieces into flour mixture. then egg mixture, and then finally in the Italian breadcrumbs.
  • Place on baking sheet sprayed with cooking spray. 6
  • Bake at for 9-11 minutes, until crispy on outside and lightly browned.

***The girls like these dipped in Ranch Dressing, ketchup, BBQ Sauce or even Honey Mustard.

****To have these ready in 15 minutes I have to cut the chicken into thin strips earlier in the day.  Another time saver is to bread them and refrigerate them until ready to use and then just plop them in a preheated oven.  See you can eat well even when as busy as we are!!!


Saturday, April 10, 2010

The best frozen yogurt, EVER…

The girls have been on Spring Break for the past week and then some. I can honestly say that I have had the best time with them and am looking forward to a whole summer with them and it can’t come soon enough. We’ve been to the beach, the pool, the park and Busch Gardens and with still plenty of down time for us to just relax.

On one of those relaxing days I decided that I would make some ice cream but after going through the fridge I realized that I had no cream to make it with, but I did find a container of plain yogurt and some beautiful, ripe strawberries…


Frozen Strawberry Yogurt


2 1/2 cups of whole fat plain yogurt
1 cup of pureed strawberries (cut up and pureed in your blender or food processor)
1/3 cup of local honey


  • Mix all ingredients in a bowl.
  • Pour into ice cream maker and churn according to manufacturers directions until frozen. (Mine took about 20 minutes)
  • Scrape into a sealable container and freeze for about 2 hrs or until firm enough to scoop.
  • Serve with berries, granola or even chocolate syrup or chips!
***This could easily be adapted to any fruit you have and can make into a puree...think raspberry, blackberry, cherry or even banana!!!


Saturday, April 3, 2010

Lots of berries? Make Shortcake!

Florida is having a tough time of it strawberry wise this year.  Somehow the market has dropped and the farmers are selling berries at ridiculously low prices to just get rid of them.  Last weekend there was even a UPick in Plant City that was GIVING them away!!!

Needless to say we have lots of berries right now.  And that, my friends, is a very, very good thing…     DSC_0043-3
Strawberry Shortcake (Better Homes & Gardens)

  • 1-1/2  cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4  cup sugar
  • 1  teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4  teaspoon salt
  • 1/4  teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/3  cup cold butter
  • 1  egg, slightly beaten
  • 1/2  cup dairy sour cream
  • 2  tablespoons milk
  • 5  cups sliced strawberries
  • 3  tablespoons sugar
  • 1  recipe Whipped Cream

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly grease a baking sheet; set aside. In a medium bowl combine flour, the 1/4 cup sugar, the baking powder, salt, and baking soda. Using a pastry blender, cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. In a small bowl combine egg, sour cream, and milk. Add to flour mixture, stirring with a fork just until moistened.

2. Drop dough into 8 mounds onto prepared baking sheet. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until golden. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool.

3. Meanwhile, combine 4 cups of the strawberries and the 3 tablespoons sugar. Using a potato masher, mash berries slightly; set aside. To serve, split shortcakes in half; fill with strawberry mixture and whipped cream. Top with remaining sliced strawberries.

4. Makes 8 shortcakes


Thursday, April 1, 2010

Strawberry Scones


This isn't the first time I have made these scones and it will certainly not be my last. I love this recipe and cannot thank Jasmine of Confessions of a Cardamom Addict enough!!! She came to my rescue one day when I tweeted looking for a good scone recipe for a school project that my daughter was working on.

Turns out to be the easiest and most forgiving recipe I have come across in a long, long time!


Scones – from "Tamasin's Kitchen Bible" by Tamasin Day-Lewis (converted to imperial measures)

Yield 12-24 (depending on how you shape them)


3 1/4 cup (450g) All Purpose Flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup (50g) sugar (+ more for sprinkling)

6 Tbsp (85g) butter (cold)

and either

2 tsp baking soda + 2 tsp cream of tartar + 1-1/4 cup (300ml) buttermilk, sour milk, yoghurt or sour cream (mixed together)


2 tsp baking soda + 4.5 tsp cream of tartar + 1-1/4 cup (300ml) homo milk (full fat) (mixed together)

1/2 – 3/4 cup strawberries(100g) or other fruit or dried fruit


  • Preheat oven to 425F/220C and line a baking tray with parchment
  • Sift together flour, salt and sugar. Grate/rub in butter and quickly mix in liquid until spongy.
  • Lightly knead until smooth and roll to about 1/2" – 3/4" (1-2 cm) thickness.
  • Cut out scones with a 2" cutter...or whatever size you want, set on prepared tray for 10 minutes. Lightly brush with egg/milk wash and sprinkle with sugar.
  • Bake for 15 minutes or until a nice golden brown. Cool for about 5 minutes on sheet pan then move to rack to cool.

***I have made these with blueberries and also dried cranberries with some lemon zest added in. Truly a wonderfully versatile recipe!

****For anyone following Weight Watchers this is a 4 Point item based on the 15 that I made using non-fat plain yogurt.