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Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

Right before I got married, I learned about the best marriage tradition of all. We were to save a portion of the wedding cake, freeze it, and eat it on our first anniversary. As a huge cake fan, I was pretty psyched about this. I figured it would be a challenge to store a cake in the freezer and have it still taste good a year later, and I did not take the responsibility lightly. Moreover, The Primavera Regency did not simply give us a small sample of cake. We got the entire top—an 8-inch round. There was no way I was going to let this entire delectable cake get freezer burned or ruined in any way. So, I brought it home the morning after our wedding, and wrapped it up right before we hopped in a cab to the airport, Hawaii-bound.

Last week, I retrieved said cake from my parents’ freezer (it was taking up too much space in ours) and waited patiently for it to defrost. I didn’t really remember exactly how I wrapped it—I only remembered that there was a lot of foil and plastic wrap involved. And so, here are photos of each layer of wrapping, ending in the unveiling of the cake.

Layer 1: Plastic produce bag…for good measure, I guess?

Layer 2: Freezer paper, held together with…packing tape? I guess that’s all I had at the time.

Layer 3: Aluminum foil.

Layer 4: Plastic wrap. A lot of it. 10 sheets total. Wrapped and re-wrapped.
Uh oh, what is that brown thing? Apparently I left the flower on top. Either I thought it was fake, or I was too exhausted/excited for Hawaii to notice it.

Layer 5: THE CAKE! Once I took that gross flower off, it looked fine.
(The discoloration on the bottom half is my shadow)

Verdict: This year-old cake was just as good as it was on our wedding night. The cannoli filling was still delicious, and there was no residual, freezer-y taste.

Do you have a wedding coming up? Follow my steps—remembering to remove any live flora—and you’ll be good to go a year from now.

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It’s been a while since my last post, so I figured I’d share the last few successful recipes that I’ve used.

(You Don’t Have to Be a Vegetarian to Like This) Grilled Tofu Marinade

  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 2 tbs sesame oil
  • 4 tsp brown sugar
  • 3 tbs soy sauce
  • 2 tbs rice vinegar

Mix that up, press some of the water out of the (firm) tofu, and let it marinate for a couple of hours or overnight. We’ve made this on the grill twice, but the tofu always sticks to the grates, so I may experiment with baking it next time.

Side note: tofu and salad is a delicious and healthy dinner, but DO NOT rely on it before a night of drinking. (Lesson learned.)

But maybe tofu isn’t for you. In that case, why not try some delicious Margarita cupcakes? I made these for Cinco de Mayo and then again for Memorial Day because I still had the leftover Margarita mix. They are delicious!

Margarita Cupcakes

  • 1 box white cake mix
  • 3/4 cup – 1 cup Margarita mix
  • 1 tsp lime zest
  • Juice of 1 lime

Follow the directions for the cake mix, but substitute water with Margarita mix. You can use all mix for more margarita flavor, or dilute it with 1/4 cup of water.

Lime Buttercream Icing

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
  • 4-5 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 3 tbs lime juice
  • 1-2 tbs milk

Cream the butter, then add powdered sugar one cup at a time, alternating with lime juice and milk until it reaches the desired texture.

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Italian Basics

That’s how we roll.

From Food Republic

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(Not So) Weak Sauce

The reason I don’t much like to cook is because I lack confidence in the kitchen. While I’m pretty good at following recipes to make baked goods, I’ve never been one to just “whip something up” for dinner. However, I have to admit: I make a pretty good spaghetti sauce. Here is a basic overview of my process.

THE MEAT
6 sausages – I like a combo of hot and sweet.
Meatballs – my meatballs usually come out a little different every time, but the main ingredients are parmesan cheese, salt, pepper, bread crumbs, chopped onion, garlic powder, dried parsley, and an egg. Oh, and ground beef.
Beef Neck Bones – a new addition that I’d never used before, but went for them this time to give the sauce a more meaty flavor.

Brown sausages and neck bones in a skillet and set aside.

THE TRINITY
Taken from the internets: “A holy trinity in cooking is simply a combination of three aromatic ingredients, whether they are vegetables, herbs or spices, that are gently sauteed together to provide a flavor base for other ingredients to build upon.” In the case of Italian cooking, the Trinity is made up of onions, carrots, and celery (also known as “soffritto” in Italian cooking or “mirepoix” in French cooking). Instead of chopping everything up like I normally do, I used a food processor this time, and it was much easier!

THE SAUCE
To make the actual sauce, I start by sautéing the vegetables, along with some minced garlic, until they start to soften. After about 10 minutes, I add one can of tomato paste. Once I stir that up, I add two 28 oz cans of Tuttorosso crushed tomatoes (this will make a lot of sauce!). I then proceed to add in “a dash of this and a dash of that”—which I rarely do in any other cooking situation. I use: garlic powder, onion powder, dried parsley, a couple bay leaves, salt, pepper, and sugar. Then, I add the browned sausages and bones. I let the sauce start to simmer a little while I fry the meatballs, and once they’re finished, I drop them into the sauce as well.

Once all the meat has been deposited, I turn the heat down low and let the sauce cook for as long as possible. When I made it last weekend, I left it on the stove for about four hours.

This is not the most beautiful photo of the finished product (I started eating before I remembered to take a picture), but this is my sauce in all its glory.

Is your sauce better than mine? Tell me why, so I can further improve mine!

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This was a pretty eventful weekend. First and foremost, I tried a new muffin recipe. Michael’s two zucchini plants are starting to go crazy, and we are becoming increasingly overrun with said vegetables. As a result, I have been scouring the internet for different zucchini bread and/or muffin recipes to test out.

The first batch came out pretty well—I found it on Simply Recipes. They were, as the site’s name would suggest, incredibly simple to make. Here’s the recipe:

  • 3 cups grated fresh zucchini
  • 2/3 cup melted unsalted butter (I just used 1 stick)
  • 1 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • Pinch salt
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 cup walnuts (optional—didn’t use)
  • 1 cup raisins or dried cranberries (optional—didn’t use)

    The muffins are moist and sweet…maybe even a little too sweet. For the next round of muffins, I think I’ll try to find a healthier recipe that uses less butter and sugar.

    The other thing I did this weekend was take a trip out to Yankee Stadium to see this dude, Paul McCartney, kick off his “On the Run” tour. I think he’s relatively new to the music business, but he was pretty good nonetheless.

    In all seriousness, that was probably the best concert I will ever see. Aside from the simple fact that it’s Paul, he totally killed it. All of the songs were great, but the best performance was, hands-down, Live and Let Die. Paul may be 69 years old, but he still rocks pretty hard. My other favorite part of the night was when he played I Will, probably my favorite Beatles song. He also played The Night Before, which was only the second time the song has ever been performed live (I think Friday night was the first).

    A quick note on the new Yankee Stadium: I was not impressed. From everything I’d heard after it was built, I expected it to be very beautiful and palatial. Once I was there, I found it stark and impersonal. Now, I’m no stadium aficionado by any means, but I think Citi Field is way nicer. But that is neither here nor there.

    Anyway, it was a great weekend, thanks to equal parts Paul and muffins.

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Pixies & Pie

A couple of weeks ago, I made my first blueberry pie. I am not a complete stranger to the pie family, but my experience to date has mostly been with the pumpkin variety. I was really excited about this pie, but it didn’t turn out quite as expected. Beautiful, yes—but a little too runny. HOWEVER—this just in—after checking the recipe again online to repost here, I see that instead of 2 tablespoons of instant tapioca (thickening agent for the filling), I am 90% sure that I used 2 teaspoons by mistake. Yes, that was a total blunder on my part, but I still maintain that that little bit of extra tapioca would not have transformed the filling into something significantly more cohesive. But, I guess you never know.

Blueberry Filling

6 cups fresh blueberries
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled and grated on large holes of box grater
2 teaspoons grated zest and 2 teaspoons juice from 1 lemon
3/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons instant tapioca, ground
Pinch table salt
2 tablespoons unsalted better, cut into 1/4-inch pieces

Place 3 cups berries in medium saucepan and set over medium heat. Using potato masher, mash berries several times to release juices. Continue to cook, stirring frequently and mashing occasionally, until about half of berries have broken down and mixture is thickened and reduced to 1 1/2 cups, about 8 minutes. Let cool slightly. Place grated apple in clean kitchen towel and wring dry. Transfer apple to large bowl. Add cooked berries, remaining 3 cups uncooked berries, lemon zest, juice, sugar, tapioca, and salt; toss to combine. Transfer mixture to dough-lined pie plate and scatter butter pieces over filling.

I am not including a recipe for the crust because A) I don’t have it on hand, and 2) I think a lot of people have their own recipes that they like to use. If you’d like my pie crust recipe (it is delicious, flaky, and very easy to make and roll out!), let me know.

In other news, I’ve been really into this song lately:

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…you should make this lemon curd. Then, put a spoonfull into a cup of vanilla yogurt. Or fill cupcakes with it. Or spread it onto a leather boot and eat that. Anything will work.

Ingredients:

  • 4 large egg yolks, lightly beaten
  • Finely grated zest of 1/2 lemon, plus 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup cornstarch
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups water

Method:

Put egg yolks into a medium heatproof bowl; set aside. Whisk together lemon zest, sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a medium saucepan. Add 1 1/2 cups water and the lemon juice; whisk until sugar and cornstarch have dissolved. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, whisking constantly. Cook 2 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low; gradually whisk one-third of the lemon mixture into the reserved egg yolks. Pour entire mixture back into the saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, 2 1/2 minutes.

Remove from heat, stir in vanilla. Pour into a bowl; place plastic wrap directly on surface. Refrigerate until firm and cold, at least 1 hour.

Additional storage note: I have kept this curd refrigerated in a plastic container for close to a month and it never seems to go bad.

The first time I made this curd, it was for a Lemon Layer Cake with Blueberries, in case you’d like to get started with a summery dessert.

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