Spring Cleaning

The grass is turning the green, the sun is starting to peek through the gray winter sky, and flowers are pushing up through the dirt. It’s time to dust off the cobwebs, and inject new life into this blog. Life can get chaotic with the hubby being away from home every week. I want to share the every day successes and trials of being a stay-at-home mom to my two boys. The boys are growing quickly, so I’ll share some milestones and anecdotes too.

As the boys grow, and our diet and tastes evolve, so does the food that I cook. It’ll be great to share what works for family meals, and what doesn’t. I love to cook, and bake, and this will be a great way to motivate me to be creative instead of falling into a rut. I will try to remember to take pictures of what I make, but honestly, sometimes everything gets eaten so quickly!

I hope that you’ll follow along. It’s nice to know that, as a stay-at-home mom, we are not alone.

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Ying Yang gazpacho

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Friday night we had a small dinner party with friends, and I wanted to make a delicious, filling meal that was not too heavy. I settled on making a chopped salad, gazpacho 2 ways, green beans, and filet of sole in a butter sauce. I decided to make a yellow tomato gazpacho soup and a traditional red tomato gazpacho. When I served them, I put them together in the same bowl, and my friends named it ying yang gazpacho. The pickiest of eaters even ate a bowl of this gazpacho. I think that this will become a summer time staple. The soups have great complimentary tastes and textures. They are easy to make, and are a nice change from having salad.

Приятного аппетита

Yellow Tomato Gazpacho

2 pints yellow grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 Valencia orange, peeled and pith removed
1 cucumber, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 yellow bell pepper, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1 large garlic clove
3/4 cups olive oil
1/4 cups red wine vinegar
1/4 Tsp hot sauce, or to taste

Working in batches, purée ingredients in a blender until smooth. Season with salt, whisk, and chill, covered, for one hour. Whisk before serving.

Traditional Gazpacho

4-6 ripe red tomatoes, chopped
1 cucumber, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
2-3 garlic cloves
1 bell pepper, chopped
1 cup seasoned bread crumbs
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
3/4 cups olive oil

Working in batches, purée ingredients in a blender until smooth. Season with salt, whisk, and chill, covered, for one hour. Whisk before serving.

Both soups can be served with croutons and some chopped chives.

Cajun Chicken Fettucine Alfredo

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It’s a Friday night, my husband was coming home from 3 days away from home, and my oldest son has soccer practice in the evening. I needed a dinner that could be made ahead, that would knock my husband’s socks off, and that the kids would want to eat as well. Fettuccine Alfredo is my favorite pasta, and I have a recipe for homemade sauce. But I wanted to try something with a twist and found a recipe for Cajun Chicken Fettuccine Alfredo. This recipe is easy to make and so delicious. The sauce is creamy and flavorful. The chicken has a great flavor and is tender. My boys ate it up and even asked for seconds. My husband said this definitely goes on the list of food I should make again.

Ingredients

4 small boneless skinless chicken breasts (about 1 ¼ lbs.)
1 ½ Tbs. Cajun blackening spice
2 Tbs. butter, divided
1 Tbs. olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 C (1/2 pint) grape tomatoes, halved
¼ C. dry white wine (or chicken broth)
1 ½ C. heavy cream
1 ½ C. good quality, freshly grated Italian cheeses (I used Asiago)
4 oz. herbed goat cheese, crumbled
1 tsp. kosher salt (or more, to taste)
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper (or more, to taste)
1 pound cooked fettuccini

Cook fettuccini “al-dente” according to package directions, stirring often. Drain, and rinse with hot tap water, to keep pasta from sticking. Drain again.

Chicken

Rinse chicken breast in cool water, and pat dry. Pound each chicken breast flat with a flat meat mallet or rolling pin, between two sheets of plastic wrap. Set flattened breasts on a clean plate. Sprinkle a heavy amount of blackening spice on both sides of each chicken breast, pressing to adhere. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Heat 1 Tbs. of the butter, and the olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat, until butter begins to brown. Place chicken in the pan, and sear on one side, until it is very brown, about 3 minutes. Flip chicken and sear the other side until very brown, about another 1 ½ minutes. Work in batches so as not to crowd the pan. Place browned chicken onto a rimmed baking sheet, and bake for 10 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through and no longer pink inside. Remove chicken from the oven and thinly slice against the grain; set aside.

Sauce

If the skillet looks dry, add a bit more olive oil. Re-heat the skillet over medium heat. Pour in the dry white wine into the skillet to deglaze the pan—whisk all of the delicious brown bits off the bottom of the pan. Add the garlic and tomatoes to the pan and sauté to soften and lightly caramelize, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to medium-low and pour the heavy cream to the pan with the tomato mixture, stirring constantly for 1 minute. Add the salt, pepper, and the remaining tablespoon of butter. Continue to stir the cream mixture while it simmers for 3-4 minutes. The cream will reduce slightly. Remove from heat. Add the grated cheeses, and goat cheese to the cream sauce. Stir constantly until all the cheese has melted, and sauce is smooth. Taste sauce and adjust seasonings. Pour the fettuccine onto the sauce, and top with the sliced chicken. Toss the pasta and chicken into the sauce with tongs, until well combined. Turn tossed pasta into a large serving bowl.

Приятного аппетита

Cream Cheese Coffee Cake

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Football season is over. My weekends full of cooking and baking for a house full of people are done. Every weekend was an excuse to bake something sinful, make a tasty dip, or try a different version of chili. Things have slowed down, and now I have had a chance to take a breather. I decided to bake something and looked through my refrigerator and pantry. I decided to make a Cream Cheese Coffee Cake. As a child I loved the Entenmann’s cheese coffee cake and thought this would be a homemade version of this.

The cream cheese layer in the middle keeps this cake from being too sweet. My little Munchkin would eat two pieces at a time, saying “yummy cake”. I think that’s a good endorsement for this cake. It’s great for desserts or with coffee in the morning. This cake will definitely be making more appearances in our kitchen.

Cream Cheese Coffee Cake

For the filling:
2 8oz packages cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg

For the cake:
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup sour cream

For the streusel topping:
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup flour
3 tablespoons butter, chilled and cubed

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease/flour or spray a 9 x 13 cake pan. Set aside.

Make the filling: In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle, mix together the cream cheese, sugar, egg and vanilla on medium-low speed until creamy. Set aside for the filling. (If you have 1 bowl and paddle, you will need to put this mixture in a separate bowl, and wash them to use to make the cake batter)

Make the cake batter: In medium bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt until well combined. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle, cream together the butter and sugar on medium-low speed. Add eggs one at a time. Add the vanilla extract. Slowly pour in the flour mixture alternating with the sour cream until it is all combined.

Spread half of the batter into the prepared cake pan with a spatula. Spread the cream cheese filling evenly on top. Top with remaining cake batter and smooth with a spatula. Using a butter knife, gently swirl in the batter.

Make the topping: Add the sugar, flour and chilled butter in a small bowl. Stir using a fork or pastry blender until the mixture is crumbly. Sprinkle the streusel on top of cake batter.

Bake for 40-45 minutes until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool on a rack.

Happy Birthday with Cookies and Cream

I love to bake. Give me any excuse to turn on that Kitchen Aid, pre-heat the oven, and get flour all over me. I love the sweet smell and how warm the kitchen and the house feel when there is something amazing baking in the oven. So, when it was my best friend’s birthday, and she was coming over with her kids for a birthday dinner, this was the perfect opportunity to try out a Cookies and Cream cake that I was hoping would make everyone happy. The kids were excited that the cake had oreos on it… They kept stealing crumbs from the cake before we could actually serve it. The chocolate cake is not too rich or sweet, and doesn’t take away from the orea cream filling and light frosting. I will definitely be making this cake again!

Cookies and Cream Cake

For the Cake:
1¾ cup flour
⅔ cup Dutch process cocoa powder
1½ teaspoons baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
¾ cup butter
1½ cups granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 large eggs, room temperature
1¼ cups buttermilk

For the Filling:
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
½ cup butter, softened
1 box (16 oz) confectioners sugar
3 to 4 tablespoons milk

For the Frosting:

1½ cups heavy cream
¼ cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Garnish:
Crushed Oreo cookies
Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Coat two 8 inch round cake pans with nonstick spray and dust with flour. Shake out excess flour and set aside.In medium bowl, mix flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt until well-combined. Set aside. In a large bowl, with mixer on medium speed, beat butter, sugar, and vanilla until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. On low speed, beat flour mixture into butter mixture in three additions, alternating with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour. Beat until it is combined.

Divide batter evenly between prepared pans. Bake for about 36 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool cakes in pans on wire rack for about 10 minutes. Turn cakes out onto racks, and cool completely.
In a large bowl, beat cream cheese and butter until smooth. Gradually add confectioners sugar then milk. Beat for 2 minutes or until light and fluffy. Spread cream cheese filling on top of one cake layer. Carefully place 2nd cake layer on top of filling, and refrigerate for 20 minutes, or until set.
In a large bowl, with mixer on high speed, beat together the heavy cream, the granulated sugar, and the vanilla until soft peaks form. Generously spread whipped cream all over cake. Place your crushed or chopped cookies on top of the cake. Store in refrigerator until ready to serve.

Приятного аппетита!

Two delicious ways to use Buttermilk

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Buttermilk.
I know my Russian Jewish grandparents used to love drinking buttermilk. But I never knew what to do with buttermilk. I didn’t really like the taste of it, and so I never thought about having it in the house. Now, through school, my five year old discovered a love of pancakes. I know, isn’t that the way that it always is? They’ll try new foods when they aren’t home, but you can’t get them to eat something new ever. Well, I decided to take advantage of his new love of pancakes, and to have him help me make pancakes from scratch. And I found a great recipe for buttermilk pancakes. Now on the weekends, when the mood strikes, we get into the kitchen, and together we whip up a batch of buttermilk pancakes that everyone can enjoy.

But now I always have buttermilk, and I hate for it to go to waste. So I needed to find another use for the buttermilk. I decided to try to make a Cinammon Swirl Buttermilk Pound Cake. It was delicious! And since I always have these simple ingredients on hand, it’s a good cake recipe to have in my repertoire. My husband even loved it, and he doesn’t have much of a sweet tooth. He liked the favors and that it wasn’t too rich and sweet. The cake was also approved by my kiddo. So definitely a recipe I’ll be repeating.

Buttermilk Pancakes
1cup all-purpose flour
1tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 large egg
1 cup well-shaken buttermilk
Vegetable oil for brushing griddle

Whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, egg, and buttermilk until smooth.

Heat a griddle or a large heavy skillet over moderate heat until hot enough to make drops of water scatter over its surface, the brush with oil. Working in batches and using a1/4 cup measure filled halfway, pour batter onto griddle and cook, turning over once, until golden, about 2 minutes per batch. Transfer to a heatproof plate and keep warm. Serve with maple syrup and butter.

Cinammon Swirl Buttermilk Pound Cake
Cinammon Streusel Swirl
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/4 tsp ground Cinammon
1/8 tsp salt
3 tbsp unsalted butter, melted

Buttermilk Pound Cake
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 cups granulate sugar
3 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp orange zest
1 cup buttermilk

Garnish
Powdered sugar

Position rack in the center of oven and preheat to oven to 325 degrees. Grease the inside of a 10″ bundt pan. Dust the pan with flour and shake out the excess.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt breaking up any of the larger pieces of the brown sugar for the streusel swirl. Add the melted butter and stir until blended and crumbly.

Sift together the flours baking powder, baking soda, salt, and nutmeg into a medium bowl. Whisk to combine and set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter at a medium speed until very creamy, about 2 minutes. Gradually add the sugar and beat at medium-high speed until well blended and light, about 4 mins. At medium speed, add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Beat in the vanilla extract and orange zest. At low speed, add the dry ingredients in three additions, alternating with the buttermilk in two additions and mixing just until well combined.

Scrape 1/2 of the batter into the prepared pan and smooth it into an even layer. Sprinkle the streusel mixture evenly over the batter. Scrape the remaining batter on top and smooth it into an even layer.

Bake the cake for 65 to 75 min, until a cake tester inserte into the center comes out clean. Cool the cake in the pan on a wire rack for 15 mins. Invert the cake not the rack and let cook completely. Dust the cake lightly with powdered sugar right before serving.

Приятного аппетита

Salmon Wrapped Poached Eggs

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My husband was working from home, I dropped our 5 year old at school, and just put the baby down for a nap when I got a text “I’m hungry”. It was late morning, perfect time for brunch. And with no kids around, an adult brunch, with food for an adult palette. Eggs make everyone happy, and with a little patience, poached eggs are quickly becoming my favorite type of eggs. I decided to make salmon wrapped poached eggs. The buttery texture of the eggs, the salty smoked salmon, and the creamy sauce… What a combination! This definitely satisfied my husband’s hunger, and is a great alternative to eggs Benedict. I sent my husband back to the basement to work happy and with a full belly. I will definitely be making this the next time we have guests for brunch.

Приятного аппетита!

Salmon wrapped Poached Eggs

Ingredients
1/2 cup sour cream
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/8 cup EVOO
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh chives
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 small red onion, thinly sliced
2 ripe avocados
1-2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
6 english muffins, split and lightly toasted
4 teaspoons distiller white vinegar
16 large eggs
1 lb thinly sliced smoked salmon

Make sauce
Whisk together sour cream and lemon juice. Add oil in a slow stream, whisking until emulsified. Stir in chives, salt, and pepper to taste.

Prepare brioches for serving
Soak onion in cold water for 10 minutes. Then drain and pat dry.
Halve and peel avocados and cut crosswise into thin slices, then sprinkle with lemon juice. Put 2 english muffin halves on each plate, top with avocado and onion slices.

Poach eggs
Bring water to a simmer in a pot. Add vinegar, and be careful to make sure that the water remains at a simmer and doesn’t begin to boil. Break the eggs gently into a cup, one egg at a time and slowly lower the eggs into the simmering water. Cook each egg about 2-3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon take the eggs out and place on paper towels to drain.

Wrap each egg in a slice of salmon. Out a wrapped egg in too of each English muffin half and drizzle sauce over salmon.