Sunday, December 26, 2010

Mandarin Orange Cake with Pineapple Vanilla Frosting

While I'm home for Christmas break, I haven't done a whole lot of cooking... hence the lack of posts recently.  I've been my mom's daily assistant in her kitchen, but today I finally got to make one of my own recipes.  (Well, I actually got this recipe from a lady in my office, Debbie, who I consistently swap recipes with... but you know how when you make a dish more times than you can count, you start to feel like you created it?  That's how I feel about this cake.)  We had some family friends come over for lunch today, and Mom prepared a feast, so I supplemented this cake.  It's really more of a summer dessert because it's light, fruity, and is served chilled, but everyone seemed to enjoy it anyway!

Even if you're not the most confidant baker, this is going to be a breeze.  The ingredients list is short, the preparation is low-stress, and then there's the fun of frosting the cake.  There are very few things I love more than frosting a cake. :)

You'll need:
Frosting ingredients
1 box (18.25 oz.) yellow cake mix
1 can (15 oz.) mandarin oranges in light syrup
3 eggs
3/4 cup olive oil
1 can (20 oz.) crushed pineapple in juice (not in the syrup)
1 box (3.4 oz.) instant vanilla pudding
1 carton (8 oz.) Cool Whip

Before you get started, preheat your oven to 350 degrees and grease two 9-inch round pans.  I use olive oil cooking spray, and be sure not to miss any spots.  We want the cake to just slip out of the pan after it's baked.

To make the cake, mix the cake mix, oranges, eggs, and oil all at once.  (This includes the syrup from the mandarin oranges can.)

Beat with an electric mixer for about 2 minutes or until all ingredients are blended together well.  You may still see little bits of the oranges, and that's fine - just as long as there aren't any big chunks.

Divide the batter evenly into your two pans and bake for about 25 minutes.

Let the cakes cool to room temperature, and then pop them in the refrigerator for at least a couple hours.

The frosting is just as easy! With a wooden spoon or rubber spatula, mix the vanilla pudding and pineapple, as well as all the juice from its can, until all the powder has dissolved into the pineapple juice.  Now add in the cool whip a spoonful at a time, stirring until well blended.  It's best to let the bowl of frosting sit in the fridge for about an hour to thicken up so it doesn't slide down the cake as you're frosting.

Once the cake and frosting are both cold, you're ready to start frosting.

Frost the bottom layer of cake, and then add the the top layer and frost all over, smoothing around the sides. I wish I had gotten more pictures of the frosting process, but I was in a hurry... here's the finished product! It's a little sloppy because I was rushing, and I also meant to top it with some sliced strawberries, but I completely forgot!  You can do better when you make it.  :)

I took a few bites before I remembered to snap a picture. So delicious!

My mom loved this because it's light and doesn't leave you feeling stuffed or on a sugar-high, and my brother, who normally hates icing and scrapes it off his cakes, ate every bit of his slice.  If you decide to make this, let me know what you think!

Sending you love from my kitchen.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Banana Walnut Cake

It's almost time to go home for Christmas break!!  But that means I have a lot of excess food that needs to be eaten, and I HATE wasting.  So, this cake is a result of some excess bananas I had laying around.

You'll need:
1/2 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 stick of butter
1 teaspoon almond extract
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons buttermilk
1 cup mashed bananas (2-3 bananas)
1 cup chopped walnuts 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine sugars, eggs, butter, and almond extract until well-blended and smooth.

Mix flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a separate bowl.

Gradually add the flour mixture to the sugar/butter mixture.

Blend in buttermilk.  Then, fold in bananas and walnuts.

Spoon batter into a greased bundt pan, and bake for 40 minutes.  I sprinkled my cake with a little bit of powdered sugar.

Sending you love from my kitchen.

Turkey Tetrazzini

I made a 20-pound turkey last week for our Cohort Christmas celebration (recipe coming soon), and even with 20 people in attendance, there was A LOT leftover.  I gave as much as I could away, but even then, I had more turkey than I could handle on its own, hence the tetrazzini.

You'll need:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup chopped onion
1 stalk of celery, chopped
1 clove of garlic, minced
4 oz. Gruyere (about 2 cups grated)
4 oz. fontina (about 2 cups grated)
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup flour
1 1/2 cups milk
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1/2 cup turkey broth (or chicken broth)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 cups turkey, pulled apart into bite-size pieces
12 oz. dry spaghetti, cooked according to package directions
1/3 cup breadcrumbs
1/3 cup parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Chop celery and onion, and sauté on low heat with a tablespoon of olive oil for about 10 minutes.

Add garlic, and continuing sautéing for another few minutes.  Remove from heat.

Grate cheese and set that aside as well.

Time to start the roux - equal parts of butter and flour.  Once the butter is melted (on very low heat), gradually sprinkle in flour, stirring constantly.  This will be the base for your creamy, cheesy sauce.

Slowly add milk while stirring.

Stir in cream of mushroom, broth, salt, and pepper.  Turn temperature to medium-low heat.

Add cheese gradually, and stir until melted.

Add in celery mixture.

Fold in turkey.

Add the cooked spaghetti, and gently toss until coated in the sauce.

Transfer the pasta to a greased 9x11 glass dish.

Combine breadcrumbs and parmesan, and sprinkle on top of the pasta.

Cover with foil, and bake for 30 minutes.

Sending you love from my kitchen.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Vegetable Soup

This is another one of my mom's recipes. She used to make it every time one of us was sick, and it would magically make us feel better.  So, I made it for a couple of sick friends recently.  I changed Mom's recipe up a little - she uses peas, and I'm not crazy about them, so I used green beans instead.

You'll need:
1 beef neck bone
2 medium potatoes
2 small carrots
2-3 stalks of celery
handful of green beans
1/4 medium onion
2 cloves garlic
8 oz. tomato sauce (1 small can)
3 oz. tomato paste (1/2 small can)
1 teaspoon dried dill
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

Bring about 6-7 cups of water to a boil, and then add the neck bone.  Turn the heat down to medium-low, and simmer for about 8 minutes.

Meanwhile, peel, wash, and chop your vegetables into bite-size chunks.

Chop the onion and garlic, too.

Back to the neck bone - Scoop out the foam that rises to the top.

Drop in your veggies, onion, and garlic.

Pour in the tomato sauce, tomato paste, dill, salt, and pepper. Let it simmer on medium-low heat for 2 hours. The soup will thicken up a bit.

Give it a taste before serving... you may need to add a bit more salt to get it tasting just right.  After serving, I like to squeeze some lime into the bowl, too!

Sending you love from my kitchen.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Mom's Lasagna

I cooked this lasagna a while ago for a girls' night, and every time I make it, I feel like a little kid back in my mom's kitchen. Ever since I can remember, my mom would call me into the kitchen every time she began preparing a meal. She'd say that cooking was optional, but observing was mandatory, so most of time I just watched, and we chatted as she cooked. I loved these one-on-one times, and I still look forward to kitchen time with her around holidays and random weekends.

Okay, back to the lasagna! This is one of my mom's signature dishes with some minor tweaks.  I actually cooked and assembled the whole thing before I left for work in the morning, popped it in the oven after Zumba that evening, and it was just about ready as the girls showed up with bread, salad, and dessert.  Perfect if you have a hectic day and want a homemade meal waiting when you come home.

You'll need:
16 oz. box of lasagna noodles
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 medium sweet onion, chopped finely
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 pound extra lean ground beef
1 medium tomato, seeded and chopped
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
16 oz. tomato sauce (2 small cans)
3 oz. tomato paste (1/2 small can)
2 teaspoons fresh chopped basil
1 teaspoon fresh oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 lb. mozzarella cheese, grated

First, get a pot of water boiling on the stove with about a teaspoon of salt, and turn your oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly grease a 9x11 baking dish.

Grate the mozzarella and set aside.  Don't buy the already-shredded kind because that cheese doesn't melt as well to seal everything together the way we want.  Makes a difference, I promise.

Now for the meat sauce!  Start by sautéing some onions with a couple tablespoons of olive oil in a saucepan on medium-low heat until they're tender... about 5 minutes.

Add garlic.

Stir around so the garlic won't burn, and then immediately add the ground beef.  Turn heat to medium, and break apart the meat as it cooks.  When the meat has just barely browned, add the turmeric and chopped tomatoes.  Cook for a couple more minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add tomato sauce, paste, salt, pepper, and herbs. Okay, let me just add that I'll be very disappointed if you make this dish EXACTLY the same way I did.  I change it a little bit each time depending on what ingredients I have in my fridge... get creative and have fun with your sauce!  (This is when I put on some fun music and just start throwing stuff in.)  Any of your basic "Italian herbs" will work... basil, oregano, rosemary, and thyme are some of my favorites.

Now give it a stir, and let all those fresh ingredients simmer together on low heat for 10-12 minutes.

While your sauce is simmering, add your pasta to the boiling water.  Don't forget a tablespoon of olive oil to prevent the noodles from sticking together.  (Pretty sure the experts say this is a no-no, but I do it out of habit, and it works for me.)

Cook the noodles according to the package, and drain.  Now, take your one-of-a-kind sauce off the heat, and add the noodles to the saucepan. Gently... GENTLY... fold in the noodles to lightly coat them in the meat sauce.

Prepare your building station with your pasta mixture, baking dish, and cheese. 

Layer with pasta, meat sauce, and cheese over and over again until all of it's in the pan!

Done building!
If you're popping the lasagna in right after assembling, cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes.  If it's been hanging out in the refrigerator all day, it may need an extra 10 minutes or so.

When you pull it out, it should be hot, bubbly, and cheesy.  :)

You might need a nap after this one... it's the best comfort food!

Sending you love from my kitchen.