Sunday, July 3, 2011

Moving, Summer, One Kitten, and Two Cakes

 My goodness, time really does get away from me. It's been over a month since I've posted anything!  Since then, I moved, put together several pieces of Ikea furniture (three of them alone!) got a new kitten (we now have a dog and two cats), had a birthday, and celebrated our first wedding anniversary. Phew. June was quite a month.  We also didn't have a working stove for the first week, and a really spotty internet connection for nearly a month. But, we're loving our new home and our new neighborhood.  It's so nice to take our dog, Pookie, for evening walks in a neighborhood that's really interesting and full of history.  We also love our new kitten.

Her name is Lily, and she's quite a little girl.  She loves purring, cuddling and sleeping.  She also loves clawing feet and sticking her head in my latte, not to mention a not-so healthy love of ambushing both Pookie and our cat, Molly, in their sleep. She's become the life of the household, almost always inserting herself in the action. We got her from the Humane Society near our new home, where they called her Sweetpea and had her on the news.  We were the lucky family that got to take this pretty girl home!   Lily has also become my baking buddy.  I never had a baking buddy before, and I didn't realize that I needed one.  Lily likes to place herself in a corner of the kitchen, occasionally coming over to swat my feet, but usually falling asleep and giving me something adorable to look at. She stays with me no matter how long it takes or how hot the oven makes the room.  Who says cats aren't loyal? 

 A baking buddy has become really handy lately, because I've been doing a lot of baking. I recently took Rose Levy Beranbaum's new cake book, Rose's Heavenly Cakes, out of the local library. My mom had a copy of The Cake Bible that I used to flip through from time to time, but I never really read what Rose had to say about cake.  She knows--and has been the one to discover--so much about cake!  Her recipes really are great. I find that I really do prefer her two-stage mixing technique, and that's something that I need to post about in the very near future.  I plan to change all of my favorite butter/oil cake recipes to use this method.  I've made several cakes in the book, including her recipe for red velvet, her yellow cake, and the white velvet cake (this one is so good!).  But, this is what I made for my birthday:

It's the Almond Shamah Cake, dressed up a bit, by using Rose's recipe for Raspberry Mousseline on the outside.  I used the raspberry flavored whipped cream for the filling. While the mousseline was really tough to make in hot, humid weather (really, it's the only thing I don't like about summer), it did help the leftover cake hold up really well, in the refrigerator, for about five days.

Four days after baking the Almond Shamah Cake, I baked an anniversary cake that looked like the top of our wedding cake (No, I am not manic, and yes, I do sleep).

To go back to what I was just saying, I didn't utilize the two-stage mixing technique (the recipe I used was from Martha Stewart Weddings), and while the cake was great, mixing the ingredients was tedious and messy.I also thought the recipe instructions were not as clear as a Rose recipe. Add to that a need to reduce all of the ingredients from a full-size wedding cake down  to one cake top, and you have a complicated task! Though this cake also took some time and patience, mainly because of the weather, again, I prefer baking to trying to eat freezer-burned cake, and then throwing the rest away.  I love cake far too much to ever do this. This was my first attempt at decorating a cake, and I was proud of myself, though it wasn't perfect.

And, that pretty much sums up my month, more or less. Tomorrow is the fourth of July, and I have lots of treats to prepare.  I'll be sure to report back with some of the results.

Monday, May 23, 2011

A Simple Recipe, and Not Much More

I don't have much of anything to say about the recipe listed here today, except it's really, really good.  I made it as a simple, fairly nutritious weeknight dinner that was different.  It took me about thirty minutes max, and maybe even less. I also didn't get to take a picture.  When I made the recipe, I had no idea how good it would be.  Sometimes, simple recipes really are the best.  And this is a simple recipe.  It's all about timing and planning in advance, because there are several steps, though none are very complicated. A tostada is like an open face Mexican sandwich, if you aren't familiar with them. It kind of has to be, since the tortilla shell is so crispy and delicious. If you'd like to make the tortilla a little healthier, skip the frying and place them under the broiler, flipping half-way through. 

Tilapia Tostadas

8 six inch flour or corn tortillas
canola oil, for frying, plus more for sauteing
1/2 medium red onion, diced
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1ear of corn, peeled.
1/3 cup yellow cornmeal
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 pounds tilapia fillets, cut into three inch pieces 
 Sour cream, for serving

Line two baking sheets with paper towels. Heat about one inch of canola oil in a medium skillet. While the oil is heating, dice the vegetables and heat about 1 tablespoon of canola oil in a large skillet under medium heat.  Add the pepper and onion and saute for about three minutes.  Cut the corn off the ear and add to the skillet.  Using the back of a medium knife, squeeze out the juices from the cob into the pan. Add the red pepper flakes and cumin and saute for 1 minute longer.  Turn off the heat and move to a bowl for serving.

Working with one tortilla at a time, place a tortilla in the hot frying oil with tongs.  The tortilla should puff up and float. After about 1 minute, turn the tortilla over and fry for another thirty seconds. Remove the tortilla to a paper towel lined baking sheet. Continue frying all of the tortillas.

Sprinkle salt over the tilapia pieces.  Mix the cornmeal and cayenne on a shallow plate.  Wipe clean the large skillet used for the corn salsa with a paper towel and heat another tablespoon of canola oil over medium high heat.  Dredge the fish pieces in the cornmeal mixture and fry the tilapia until the fish flakes, about three minutes on each side.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

For Wurst: A Case for Using Parchment Paper

I did it.  I made a total rookie mistake. When I realized that I didn't have any parchment paper in a recipe that specifically said to line the pan with parchment, I should have stopped. right. there.  But, I continued to make my cake, thinking that if I just greased the pan a little more, it would be fine. 

Obviously, things did not turn out as rosy as I had hoped.  The cake stuck to the pan and I had a lot of trouble getting it out. So, it ended up cracking. A lot. But in the end, it didn't really matter: the cake was pretty boring.   The texture was surprisingly dry and chewy for a cake that called for a cup of sour cream, three eggs and three egg whites. And not very lemony.  I've made at least two cakes like just this one in the past, though at least they didn't get stuck to the bottom of the pan. However, as you can see, we ate some of it before I took a picture, and it was still a freshly baked cake.  And that's always something.  If you're interested in making the recipe you can find it here (and I just realized, the original picture also has a slice taken out too.  That wasn't on purpose!).

Friday, May 13, 2011


Photo from Urban Comfort

Geez Louise, has it ever been a long week.  About half-way through, I began requiring wine and vast quantities of cake to make it to Friday.  Last night, I spent a couple of hours just looking at pictures of cake.  It was weird. I really have never just sat around, looking at pictures of food before, I swear.  But really, there are some cakes out there in the blogosphere that are really inspiring, and not just for baking. I also recently saw the latest issue of Martha Stewart Weddings in the grocery store.  While I certainly don't miss planning most parts of a wedding, I'm still interested in looking at wedding cakes (as if you hadn't guessed). Some of the cakes featured looked like wallpaper or embroidery.  And so, I give to you some of my picks for the best of inspirational cakes.

From Martha Stewart Weddings--I think you could hang this display on a wall!

From The Knot--this would make a great girl's birthday cake.

From Martha Stewart Weddings--I love the classic Art Deco style.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Hello Again!

After a year-long hiatus, I've decided to resume blogging.  Hopefully I'll be more *ahem* consistent with my posts this time around.  I want to expand my focus, and talk a little more about other things that make the home a cozy place, and not just cooking. I've also changed my name.  There are two other blogs called Sugar and Spice, and one of them is a popular cooking blog. I was never really happy with the name, anyway.  It didn't feel quite right for me.  Though, please note, that while there will be plenty of butter used in the making of this blog, I don't foresee too much wurst.

As for my life, since I've been away, I got married, which was pretty much where we left off.  I've been able to get my stomach issues under control, and I've become a healthier cook--though I still love a nice piece of cake.

I've also had to become a more frugal cook, as my husband was laid off from his job of the past five years, about two months after we got married.  He then decided to take a chance on a similar position, but the business didn't work out.  He's now planing on going back to school, starting next month.  Sean will be a full-time student with an almost full-time job.  We'll also be moving back into the city of Pittsburgh.  Our new home will be a freshly renovated row house, built in 1900.  The kitchen will be a little smaller, but I think it will be a huge improvement for us on the whole. It turns out that I'm not much of a suburbs person, though I already knew that.

 As you can see, my life has become no less busy, but that's not necessarily a bad thing.  I tend to be a sleepy, person, watching TV on the couch while thinking about what my next cooking project will be.  But this is such an exciting time for Sean and me as a family, and I think that lots more changes are in store. I hope you stick around with me to see them.