Monday, April 30, 2012

Gorillas, Strawberries, and Rhubarb, Oh My

We went to the zoo! I freaking love the zoo. I had a random day off on Saturday, and we used it to our advantage! Of course, once we got there I decided I needed to get my Master's in Anthro-zoology. Totally logical course of action after a bachelor's in English and Business... right? Anyway, Scott let me look at these guys for about 2 hours...

He loved us. Don't let him fool you with his imposing stature, he's my new best friend. I think his name should be Ringo because he just has that vibe. There was also a baby gorilla. Baby. Gorilla. I wanted to cry, I loved him so. What a sweet little nugget! He did seem to be quite a handful though. Case in point:

CHEEKY LITTLE THING. I didn't name the peanut, too busy oohing and aahing. We also saw tigers, and zebras and some really cool (non-gorilla) monkeys. For a city zoo, it was actually better than we expected. But nothing will make my love for the pandas at the National Zoo fade. I LOVE that place. National Zoo, Disney, St. Thomas = top 3 favorite places to be. But anyway, on to more important things. A busy day like this at the zoo must involve something sweet, no?

We were in the store, and Scott mentioned he likes rhubarb. Strawberries were on sale, and so a plan was born. All it took was a naked orange, a little sugar, and some chopped fruit. Well, a few other things too, but I needed a way to say 'naked orange' and couldn't figure out another one...

After figuring out the difference between a crumble and a crisp (Crumble vs. Crisp) I decided to go with a Strawberry-Rhubarb Crumble. I adapted this one slightly (I have to be different) and man, was it DELICIOUS. So good. Sweet, but not overly so, with the perfect cake topping. And one leftover, naked orange. Here's the visual and the recipe, hope you like! Side note: My pictures will get better once someone teaches me how to use my fancy camera. Any volunteers?

Strawberry-Rhubarb Crumble
Adapted slightly from Smitten Kitchen

For the topping:
  • 1 1/3 cup flour 
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder 
  • 6 tablespoons sugar 
  • Zest of half an orange (here's where it got naked. I had no way to use the insides of the poor dear!) 
  • Zest of half a lemon
  • 1/4 pound (1 stick or 4 ounces) unsalted butter, melted 
For the filling:
  • 1 1/2 cups rhubarb, chopped into 1-inch pieces 
  • 1 quart strawberries plus a few extras, hulled, quartered 
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice 
  • 1/3 cup sugar 
  • 2 tablespoons honey 
  • 4 tablespoons cornstarch 
  • pinch of salt 

1. Heat oven to 375°F. Prepare topping: In a mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, sugars and lemon zest and add the melted butter. Mix until small and large clumps form. Refrigerate until needed.
2. Prepare filling: Toss rhubarb, strawberries, lemon juice, sugar, cornstarch and a pinch of salt in a 9-inch deep-dish pie plate.
3. Remove topping from refrigerator and cover fruit thickly and evenly with topping. Place pie plate on a foil-lined baking sheet, and bake until crumble topping is golden brown in places and fruit is bubbling beneath, about 40 to 50 minutes.

I highly recommend putting it in a bowl before you take a bite. It may help you avoid eating the entire damn thing at once... Happy Monday!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Little Brothers + Oreo Cake

My little brother is one of my favorite people in the entire world. He amazes me everyday and keeps me going. He has been through SO MUCH so young, and he still manages to be one of the coolest and most down to earth people I have ever known. He also turned 16 years old yesterday. I cried. Well, I wanted to. But i was too busy being so excited for him for getting his permit. He has waited forever to get that, and I'm so proud of him for passing on the first try. :) And I made him a cake. More on that in a minute.

See, last  week, he went to Hawaii with his ROTC group at his high school. On crutches. Oh, I didn't mention that earlier? Yes, he has a broken ankle. From BMX biking/riding whatever. Crazy stuff. But yes, Hawaii. On crutches. To military bases. (Side note: told you he was the coolest ever.) Anyway, while he was there I was plotting. So, I asked him all coy and stuff "Brother dear, what pray tell is your favorite flavor of cake? For no reason what-so-ever just merely curious." To which he replied: "Oreo ice cream."  ........ 'Hmm," I thought "Way to be difficult." Difficult because I would need to travel with this cake back to my house for his birthday dinner. And ice cream, well, ice cream melts. All over my car. I'm already a mess as it is, goodness knows I do not need a melted ice cream puddle in my car. So I said, "How about an Oreo cake WITH ice cream?" And he said. "Sure." Very talkative, my brother.

And so, this monstrosity was born:

This dears, is an Oreo cake. Well, specifically, chocolate cake with Oreo butter cream and chocolate ganache. Keep yourselves together, there is no crying in cake-making.


Oreo Cake
Recipe from My Baking Addiction

For the cake:

  • 1 box package devil's food cake mix {with or without pudding}
  • 1 package instant chocolate pudding mix
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

For the Oreo Butter Cream:

  • 1 stick salted butter – room temperature
  • 1 stick unsalted butter – room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 pounds confectioner’s sugar
  • 3-4 tablespoons very cold milk
  • 25 Oreo cookies, chopped

For the Chocolate Ganache:
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream

For the cake

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line the bottoms of (2) 9 inch round cake pans with parchment and grease pans thoroughly.

2. In a large bowl, mix together the cake and pudding mix, salt vanilla, sour cream, oil, beaten eggs and water. Stir in the chocolate chips and divide batter into the prepared pans.

3. Bake for 25-35 minutes, rotating pans half way through baking the baking time. Bake until the top is springy to the touch and a wooden toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool cake for at least 30 minutes before inverting. Allow cake to cool completely on wire rack.

For the Oreo Butter Cream

1. Cream the butters in the bowl of an electric or stand mixer. Add the vanilla extract and combine well.

2. Begin adding in the sugar and mixing thoroughly after each addition. After all of the sugar has been added and mixed thoroughly, begin adding the very cold milk… one tablespoon at a time, combining well after each addition until you reach the desired consistency.

3. Fold in chopped Oreo Cookies and frost your cooled cake layers.

For the Chocolate Ganache

1. Place the chips in a heatproof bowl. Pour the heavy cream into a sauce pan, and heat to boiling.

2. When boiling, remove from heat and pour over chips. Whisk until smooth.

3. Drizzle over frosted cake.

Do not drool. Actually, it's okay to drool a little.

Happy Birthday little brother!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Baked Broccoli Macaroni and Cheese

Homemade, baked, macaroni and cheese is probably one of my favorite things. I've made many versions, some lackluster, some weird (buffalo chicken mac and cheese, anyone?), and some perfect, like last night's version. As usual, my favorite place recently to search for recipes is SkinnyTaste. Again, Gina did not disappoint! This version includes broccoli and doesn't use 8 pounds of butter. It's perfectly creamy and with some panko breadcrumbs and a little extra sprinkling o' cheese, it was quite literally one of the best mac and cheeses I have ever had.

Also, I don't have a picture because it was THAT good. What's left of it doesn't make a nice picture.

Baked Broccoli Macaroni and Cheese
Modified slightly from SkinnyTaste

  • box of elbow macaroni
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup minced onion
  • 2 cups skim milk
  • 1 cup fat free chicken broth
  • 8 oz (2 cups) Sargento shredded reduced fat sharp cheddar, plus an extra handful
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 tbsp. spicy mustard
  • 12 oz fresh broccoli florets (I used frozen, it was what I had on hand)
  • 1/4 cup seasoned panko bread crumbs

1. Cook pasta and broccoli together in a large pot of salted water, according to package directions for al dente (or slightly under cook 2 minutes). 

2. Spray a baking dish with cooking spray. 
3. Preheat oven to 375°.
4. In a large, heavy skillet, melt butters. Add onion and cook over low heat about 2 minutes, add flour and cook another minute, or until the flour is golden and well combined. Add milk and chicken broth and whisk, raising heat to medium-high until it comes to a boil; cook about 5 minutes or until the sauce becomes smooth and thick.Season with salt and pepper.
5. Once the sauce is thick, remove from heatadd cheese and spicy mustard and mix well until cheese is melted. Adjust salt and pepper to taste, add cooked macaroni and broccoli and mix well. 
6. Pour into prepared baking dish. Top with the extra handful of grated cheese and then breadcrumbs.
7. Bake for 15-20 minutes until breadcrumbs are golden.

I dare you to not inhale this.