LET THEM EAT CAKE

Poor Marie Antoinette! She denies having said, “Let them eat cake!” to a starving French nation. She was very extravagant in all things. In her defense, she was barely a teenager. Imagine all that wealth and power. I’m not sure I wouldn’t have lost my head over it either.

Anyway, I love cake; I love to bake. There’s only one problem with baking a cake. There are only two of us!  When the kids were home it was perfect. I got a piece and they ate the rest. So what’s a cake lover to do?

I had an “aha” moment. Why not make a mini cake?  I have a 6×3 pan that I used for a topper on a wedding cake. All I had to do was decide what kind of cake I wanted to bake. I’ve seen them in the bakeries and grocery stores. Why haven’t I thought of this before? Would you believe me if I told you I actually had a dream about this? It’s true!

I learned a while ago to bake my cakes and freeze them. Prior to freezing them I brush them with a mixture of simple syrup. It makes them so moist you won’t believe it. You can freeze most cakes up to 2 months. When you make a small cake, like this one, you end up with 2 cakes. That means you will always have one in the freezer ready to frost and serve, or give as a gift. Winner, winner!!

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So my first mini is a  Raspberry Cake with Buttercream Icing. Buttercream and raspberries, how can that not be good?  It just screams summer. It turned out great and how adorable is this???? I am already thinking of my next creation.

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MINI PARTY CAKE

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: Intermediate
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This cake is an adaptation from Dorie Greenspans “Perfect Party Cake”

INGREDIENTS:

For the Cake:  (this makes (2) 6×3 inch cakes. Slice in layers, wrap, freeze, and store one for later use.)

  • 2 1/2 C cake flour
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/ 1/4 C buttermilk
  • 4 large egg whites
  • 1 1/2 C granulated white sugar
  • 2 tsp freshly grated lemon zest
  • 1/2 C unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 tsp fresh lemon juice

For  the Buttercream: (this recipe makes enough for 2 small cakes or 1 large cake)

  • 1 C granulated sugar
  •  4 large egg whites
  • 3 sticks of unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

For Finishing:

  • 1/3 C seedless raspberry preserves, stirred vigorously until spreadable
  • Simple syrup (1 C sugar and 1 C water boiled to dissolve sugar) cooled

 

DIRECTIONS: Cake

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Use the Magic Release (see directions below) to prepare two 6×3 cake pans. (you can butter, flour, and line with parchment paper if desired).
  2. Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Whisk together milk and egg whites in a medium bowl.
  3. In the bowl of an electric stand mixer, fitted with a paddle, cream the butter and lemon zest and sugar until the mixture is very light and fluffy.
  4. Add the lemon juice beat til incorporated
  5. Beginning and ending with the flour mixture add 1/3, then half of the egg mixture. Repeat ending with the last 1/3 of the flour mixture until all is incorporated. Stir to bottom of bowl well with a spatula. Beat for an additional 2 minutes to make sure everything is mixed together thoroughly. Stop occasionally and stir with spatula.
  6. Place 3 cups of batter into each pan and smooth the top with a rubber spatula.
  7. Bake for 40-50 minutes, when tested with a wooden skewer into the center it should come out clean and should spring back to the touch. Check at 35-40 minutes. Oven temps will vary.
  8. Let rest for 5 minutes on a cooling rack.  Unmold, and invert onto the cooking rack, right side up, cool completely.
  9. Slice both cakes into 3 layers. Brush all 3 of the cut sides with the simple syrup. Place the layers on an aluminum lined baking pan and freeze. Once frozen place each layer in individual freezer safe bags. Cakes can be frozen for up to 2 months.

DIRECTIONS: Buttercream

  1. In a large heatproof bowl, put the sugar and egg whites and fit the bowl over a pan of simmering water, whisking constantly. Continue until it feels hot, about 3 minutes. The sugar should be dissolved and the mixture will look like shiny marshmallow cream.
  2. Remove from the heat, and put in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and beat for about 5 minutes or until cooled.
  3. Switch to the paddle attachment and add the butter, one stick at a time and beat each until smooth. Once all the butter is incorporated, beat for 6-10 minutes on medium high-speed. If it separates, keep beating, it will come together again.
  4. On medium speed add the vanilla.
  5. It should be shiny smooth, velvety, and white. Press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface and set aside.

ASSEMBLY:

I made the cake the day before to ensure it was frozen. The buttercream was made the day of assembly.

  1. Remove and unwrap cake layers from the freezer.
  2. Place the first layer, cut side up on your cake board.
  3. Spread 1/3 of the buttercream, then 1/3 of the preserves.
  4. Top with another layer and repeat until the last layer.
  5. Place the last layer “cut side” down.
  6. Ice the top and sides of the cake with buttercream and decorate with fresh raspberries.

TIPS:

  1. You can vary the berries and jams.
  2. You could also use lemon curd as a filling.
  3. A whipped cream icing on the outside would also be a good variation.

**** Do you have difficulty getting your cakes to release from the pan? Fear no more! I came across this one some years ago. Try this simple concoction; you can thank me later.

Miracle Pan Release

  • Difficulty: easy
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INGREDIENTS:

  • 1/2 C vegetable shortening
  • 1/2 C vegetable oil
  • 1/2 C all purpose flour

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Whisk thoroughly until everything is incorporated and smooth.
  2. Store in an airtight container, at room temperature.
  3. To use, dip a pastry brush (or use a piece of crunched up wax paper/parchment) into the mixture and spread a thin layer over the bottom and sides of pan(s). Use this for any recipe that calls for “greasing” and “flouring” your pans.
  4. This can be made into any size batch you want. Just make sure the proportions are equal in amount to each other as above.

* Wilton also sells this pre-made.

Since I have buttercream icing left over I plan on making a mini fresh peach cake. I’ll use fresh peaches and peach jam. I am also going to put a whipped cream icing on the outside with this one and add some toasted almonds to the top. Cake and coffee anyone??

Til next time,

Ciao xoxo

Viki D

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TARRAGON VINAIGRETTE

I adore salads in the summer. They are cool, crunchy, and easy on the waistline. Of course, it is all about the dressing for me. It can be the most beautiful salad in the world. If the dressing isn’t good, it’s just a waste of good vegies.

We have a favorite French restaurant we frequent in Cambridge, Maryland. It is called Bistro Poplar. Honestly, every time I am in there I am transported to another place and time. They have a Bibb lettuce salad with goat cheese and a fantastic vinaigrette. I don’t have the exact recipe but this one comes close. We eat there as often as possible. When I can’t go there, I make this.

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My salad consists of soft, Bibb lettuce leaves. I chop a few chives, and add approximately one tablespoon of warm goat cheese. I have also been known to throw a few toasted pine nuts in there for extra crunch. Drizzle lightly with the dressing and add some salt and pepper. Voila, salad done!

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TARRAGON VINAIGRETTE

  • Servings: 3/4 cup
  • Difficulty: easy
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INGREDIENTS:

  • 3 Tbsp tarragon vinegar
  • 1 tsp lemon, fresh squeezed
  • 1/2 shallot, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard, seedless
  • 1/2 C olive oil
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp pepper, freshly ground

DIRECTIONS:

  1. In a small mixing bowl combine the first  4 ingredients and mix together.
  2. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil, while continuously whisking it together.
  3. Add the salt and pepper, taste and add more to taste if needed.

If you’re in the area check out Bistro Poplar. I would definitely call for reservations. You don’t want to miss this one!

http://www.bistropoplar.com/

Til next time,

Ciao xoxo

Viki D

BLUEBERRY COFFEE CAKE MUFFINS

Funny how holidays come and go so quickly. Memorial Day at the beach in Ocean City is the opening day of summer. At least for those of us here, on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Rain or shine, it never seems to deter people from all over, piling “down the shore hon”.

This weekend was no exception. My mother-in-law lives about 15 minutes outside of Ocean City. LIQUID ASSETS (LA) IN OCEAN CITY We spent the weekend with her and my sister and brother-in-law. They live in Michigan and love coming here, especially in the summer.

Before Dawn married and moved to Michigan, we cooked a lot together. It’s always fun when she comes home. We still love to cook together and talk about food. There were lots of laughs and lots of food. I decided to make these muffins for a quick breakfast. I also had blueberries I didn’t want to leave, for fear of them spoiling. I don’t know about you, I HATE to waste food.

These muffins area an adaptation from Ina Garten’s “Barefoot Contessa Family Style”. Her cookbooks are fantastic! I have every one she has written. She has a new one coming out in October. Of course, I pre-ordered it.

https://www.amazon.com/Barefoot-Contessa-Family-Style-Everyone/dp/060961066X/ref=as_sl_pc_qf_sp_asin_til?tag=attb54-20&linkCode=w00&linkId=512bad22bdaa82960a9c60eab7eeaeb3&creativeASIN=060961066X

It makes 18 muffins. I used a half cup ice-cream scoop so they all came out the same. I lightened them up by cuting some of the butter and sugar. I also used skim milk, light sour cream, and non-fat yogurt that had been strained overnight. They come out moist and light and loaded with blueberries.

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BLUEBERRY COFFEE CAKE MUFFINS

  • Servings: 18 muffins
  • Difficulty: easy
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INGREDIENTS:
• 1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
• 1 C sugar
• 3 extra large eggs, room temperature
• 1 ½ tsp pure vanilla
• ½ C light sour cream
• ½ C nonfat plain Greek Yogurt, strained
• ¼ C skim milk
• 2 ½ C all purpose flour
• 2 tsp baking powder
• ½ tsp baking soda
• ½ tsp kosher salt
• 2 half-pints fresh blueberries, picked through for stems and washed and drained

DIRECTIONS:
1. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Put 16 muffin liners in muffin pans.
2. Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy with kitchen mixer using paddle attachment.
3. At low speed add eggs one at a time, then vanilla, sour cream, yogurt, and milk.
4. In a separate bowl, place flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, whisk all together with a wire whisk.
5. With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture and beat until just mixed. DO NOT OVER-MIX.
6. Fold in the blueberries with a spatula and be sure the batter is completely mixed.
7. Using an ice cream scoop (large) scoop the batter into the muffin pans, filling each one just over the top and bake for 25-30 minutes until the muffins are lightly browned on the top and a cake tester comes out clean.

TIP: greasing the top of the muffin tins makes it easier to remove the muffins.

Til next time,

Ciao xoxo

Viki D

SKINNY BANANA NUT BREAD

We like bananas but I always seem to buy too many. Which means, I am left with brown, over-ripened ones. I hate throwing anything out, so what’s a woman to do? Why, make banana bread of course!

Quick breads have long been a favorite of mine. In fact, I just made some zucchini bread for a co-worker. It was a birthday/nurses week gift! I had promised to make some for her well over a year ago. I figured it was time to make good on my promise.

One of the problems with most quick breads is the amount of fat and sugar in them. Just because it has bananas in it doesn’t make it healthy. I turned to a recipe by Gina Homolka, the author of Skinny Taste. She has multiple cookbooks out that are fantastic. The recipes are big on flavor, and nice portions that won’t leave you starved. Check out her website Skinnytaste.com. She is also worth the follow on Pinterest.

(Affiliate Ad, see more at Amazon.com)

This recipe uses 7 bananas which makes it very moist and tender. It makes 2 loaves. I made one with nuts and one without. The one without nuts was gifted to my daughter. Both turned out beautifully! If you don’t want to gift one, wrap it tightly and freeze it. When you are ready to serve it, let it thaw at room temperature.

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LOW FAT BANANA NUT BREAD

  • Servings: 13 slices per loaf
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

INGREDIENTS:

  • 7 ripe bananas, mashed chunky with fork
  • 1/2 C unsweetened applesauce
  • 2 1/2 C all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 4 Tbsp butter, softened
  • 1 C light brown sugar
  • 4 large egg whites
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 oz. chopped walnuts or pecans
  • baking spray

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease two 8×5 inch loaf pans with baking spray. (I lined both with parchment paper and sprayed the paper, and left some overhang on either side to assist with removing from the pan.)
  2. In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and salt with a wire whisk. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl cream butter and sugar with an electric mixer. Add egg whites, apple sauce and vanilla, and beat at medium speed until thick. Scrape down sides of the bowl.
  4. Add 1/3 of the flour mixture and blend at low speed until combined, add another 1/3 of the flour and blend at low speed, add remaining  1/3 of flour mixture and the bananas and blend at low speed until combined. Do not over mix. Fold in the nuts if using.
  5. Pour batter into loaf pans and bake on the center rack for 50 – 52 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  6. Let the pan cool at least 20 minutes before removing. Let cool completely before slicing.

Serving Size = 1 slice  Freestyle Points = 4  Points Plus = 3

Til next time,

Ciao xoxo

Viki D

ROCKFISH……HAPPY BIRTHDAY JOE!

I don’t know about you, but as we “mature”, I find it more and more difficult to give my husband a birthday present. What I mean is, something other than the standards. Things like socks, shirts, or his favorite meal. I still do all of those things but wanted to do something he would really enjoy.

We went to a beautiful vineyard with fantastic wines in Eden, Maryland. Bordeleau Vineyards and Winery.    It was fantastic! Our close friends and our children where on hand to make it a party. He got some wonderful cards and gifts and drank some great wine. Our daughter brought the most amazing marshmallow doughnuts from a bakery in Baltimore. It was a fantastic day and he loved it. I still had one other card up my sleeve.

http://www.bordeleauwine.com/

I just happen to know the captain of “0 Dark Thirty” and his wife. He charters fishing trips from Taylors Island, Maryland.  A beautiful boat, and he knows these waters like the back of his hand. I contacted his wife and she had him contact me. A fishing trip was born. This information I didn’t divulge until the day of his birthday. He was so excited, but I was too.  I found a birthday present he would always remember and would definitely enjoy. No boring socks here….haha!

That’s Captain Bruce Abbott and my husband Joe, holding our dinner for today!

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https://www.facebook.com/O-Dark-30-Fishing-Charters-1401113283537277/?ref=br_rs

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The bottom right is my husband kissing his fish. One of our friends came from Connecticut just for this trip. I think it is safe to say, he and his buddies had a fantastic day. Many thanks to Captain Bruce Abbott. Check out his Facebook page. I added the link above. If you find yourself in this area book a fishing trip with the “0 Dark Thirty”. You’ll have memories to last a lifetime and a fantastic day.

I have a beautiful rockfish fillet;  I am going to cook it on the grill. It’s simple and very tasty. Should you find yourself the beneficiary of a rockfish fillet you might want to give this one a try. By the way, rockfish are also known as striped bass. Striped bass or “stripers” are also called rockfish because they like to nestle in the nooks and crannies of reefs and ledges.

Here’s the recipe. I can not wait for dinner! I am going to have it with a salad and a stuffed artichoke casserole. My friend Barbara gave me that recipe, and it just so happens, it will be my next blog. So don’t forget to come back y’all!

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GRILLED ROCKFISH FILLET

INGREDIENTS:

  • Rockfish or Striped Bass fillets
  • Olive oil
  • Butter
  • Lemon slices (optional)
  • Old Bay seasoning
  • Herbes de Provence
  • Fresh ground pepper

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Line a large sheet pan with non-stick foil. Use plenty of foil and you will be using it at the end to encase the entire fillets.
  2. Place the fillet or fillets on the sheet pan, skin side down, after rinsing and patting dry with paper towels.
  3. Lightly brush the meat side of the fillets with olive oil.
  4. Put small thin pats of unsalted butter across the top of the fish. (These will melt and distribute over the fish during cooking.)
  5. Sprinkle Old Bay seasoning across the fish. Keep in mind that too much can be overpowering. I like to see it but not completely cover it.
  6. Sprinkle lightly, the herb de Provence over the fish
  7. Place very thinly sliced lemons on top of the fish. (If you aren’t a lemon lover you can omit this step)
  8. Lightly add some fresh ground pepper
  9. Bring the foil up and over the fish to cover it. You will want to do this loosely, but completely enclose it, so you can check the process easily
  10. Place on a hot grill, checking after the first 15 – 20 minutes.
  11. When the fish flakes easily and is opaque, it’s done. (Ours took about 18 minutes.)

Til next time,

Ciao xoxo

Viki D

 

 

 

INTERMITTENT FASTING…not a diet

Has anybody out there heard of  intermittent fasting? I honestly thought that is what I was doing,  or did! In other words, I don’t eat all the time; I eat intermittently. Well the intermittent fast is definitely not what I do. It is also, NOT A DIET.

My hairdresser, as big around as a pencil, just told me she just started following this. First of all I asked “why?”. She is so tiny! I must have been her size when I was born! Her response, “I just want to lose my tummy weight”. Okay, I get it. Bathing suit season is here, or supposed to be. Time for shorts and those cute tops and dresses that bare all. I was intrigued so I started looking into this fast.

I began to research this fast method and found this website. It explains it in simple language that anybody can understand. It honestly makes sense.

https://jamesclear.com/the-beginners-guide-to-intermittent-fasting

Basically, you are giving up one meal. That’s an automatic reduction in calories. If you concentrate on proteins and low carbohydrates, there is no possible way you can’t lose pounds. While it doesn’t tell you how fast you lose the weight, it is inevitable that you will lose weight.

The article goes on to explain the fed state versus the fasting state. “When you are in the fed state, it’s very hard for your body to burn fat because your insulin levels are high.” This is science I can get behind as a nurse.

There are other benefits as well. It helps simplify daily life, causing less stress, since there are only two meal times to prepare for. “Scientists have long known that restricting calories is a way of lengthening life”. This may also be a key to reduce the risk of cancer.

In my opinion, this approach to a healthy lifestyle makes sense. I don’t want to forsake flavor. I don’t want to starve myself. I do want to live a long and healthy life. I also want to be able to enjoy food since I love to cook and eat.

When I think about it, there are days that I only get to eat two meals anyway. Maybe it’s my timing that has been off. As I look back on my younger years when I was thin, I may have only eaten one meal a day. When I was at my thinnest I remember saying frequently, “I forgot to eat; I’m hungry”. Now there’s a revelation!

I don’t think I have found the fountain of youth, nor the quick loss weight cure. I do think this is food for thought. No pun intended! I am going to concentrate on my timing and try to work on giving my body and my insulin levels a break. The “Daily Fast” is my fast of choice. I’ll let you know how it goes.

There are multiple articles on this subject. Form your own opinions and get back to me. If you decide to try intermittent fasting I would love to hear from you.

Til next time,

Ciao xoxo

Viki D

Quotes taken from “The Beginners Guide to Intermittent Fasting” by James Clear