Monday, August 24, 2015

Lemon Layer Cake with Lemon Butter Frosting

Because why wouldn't I post two lemon cakes this summer?

And you should absolutely make them both. The first was a simple little sheet cake--a butter lemon cake with an interesting and wonderful frosting. This one is a perfectly moist, perfectly textured layer cake (that, P.S., could also be made as a sheet cake if you wanted to), which uses two oils as its fat, and has a smooth lemon butter frosting. I took it to a baby shower and the next day when I went to take a picture, I just had this teeny tiny little piece left. After the pictures, it was not long for this world.

I let my daughter frost this for me, and she did a fabulous job. However, if I knew I was taking this to a group of coconut lovers, I would have sprinkled toasted coconut on the frosting, and I think it would have made for a fabulous compliment to the lemon cake. Another nice addition might be a raspberry drizzle or raspberry filling.

I must tell you that this calls for pure lemon extract, which is not cheap. The cheapskate in me so so badly wanted to skip it, but since this was for a friend, I didn't, and I'm really glad I didn't because I don't think it would have been the same without it. Even adding lemon juice wouldn't have made for a punchy enough lemon flavor, or so I think. Sorry, friends. If I ever find a good substitute, I'll let you know.

Lemon Layer Cake with Lemon Butter Frosting
adapted from Rock Recipes
serves: 20 ladies and probably fewer men
Prep time: 15-20 minutes
Cook time: 30-35 minutes (then you'll have to cool it before frosting it)
Cost: $4.90 (which is only about $.25/serving depending on whether you're serving ladies, gentlemen, or teenagers)
flour: .30, sugar: .30, oil: .20, coconut oil: .50, extracts: .70, eggs: .30, buttermilk: .40, lemon: .20 powdered sugar: .90 butter: 1.00, other stuff: .10

2 3/4 C all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 C sugar
2/3 C vegetable oil (I used canola)
1/3 C coconut oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp pure lemon extract
3 large eggs
1 1/2 C buttermilk
zest of one largish lemon, finely chopped

For the frosting:

4 C powdered sugar
1 C butter
1 tsp pure lemon extract
1 tsp minced lemon zest (optional--this absolutely makes the frosting more lemony; however, it does add tiny bumps in the frosting. That doesn't bother me at all, but if you know it will bother you, don't add it.
2-4 Tbsp milk

Grease and flour 2 nine-inch round cake pans. Line the bottom with circles of parchment paper or wax paper.

Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and sugar.

Beat together oil, coconut oil, vanilla, and lemon extract.

Beat in the eggs one at a time.

Mix in lemon zest.

Alternate adding dry ingredients with the buttermilk (so dry ingredients, some buttermilk, dry ingredients, some buttermilk, dry ingredients). Don't overmix this. Beat or mix it just until the ingredients are combined and not lumpy.

Bake at 325 for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick (or blade of any variety) comes out clean or with a few moist crumbs attached.

Allow to cool in pans for 10 minutes, then turn them out on a rack to cool completely.

For the frosting:

Melt the butter, or mostly melt the butter. Beat in sugar, zest, and lemon extract. Now beat in the milk, starting with a couple tablespoons and then adding more if the frosting is too stiff.

When your cake is cool, frost it.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Five Ways to Use Mediocre Fruit

(yeah, some of them are healthy--I'm just trying to draw you in with this picture)

You know that 1/2 pint of blackberries you got for $1.69. Maybe it was even a bit of a splurge. I mean, it's such a tiny bit of fruit--just a serving or two, but you'd been unable to walk past them without tossing a clam shell into your cart. And they'd been so good all summer. Well, they're not anymore--when you open this batch, it's tart and/or bitter, with a few moldy ones thrown in for good measure. Yes, you could take them back to the store, but the cost of gas would be nearly as much as the blackberries themselves. And then there's the precious precious cost of your time. You'll just have to toss the blackberries. No! Wait! says your friendly, cheapskate friend (um, that's me, in case you were wondering why you let a crazy voice into your head). There are plenty of awesome things you can do with that fruit that comes to you in less than perfect form. Here are some ideas.

1. Baked goods. Fruit like berries, apples, pears, peaches, plums, and--of course--bananas go very well in muffins, sweet breads, and pancakes. Crumbles, crisps, and pies can also rock your mediocre fruit. Even if you only have a handful, that'll be great with pancakes. Or to add a pop of color to a pie with some other type of fruit. You can just throw a handful into your favorite baked goods. Or try them in one of these recipes. No-rise blueberry cinnamon rolls. Blueberry Pie Bars. Raspberry bars. One Bowl Oat Muffins. Peach Crisp (works with apples or pears too). Pancakes (this is a simple go-to pancake that holds fruit well; there are others on this site like Quinoa pancakes that also rock)

2. Smoothies. I often freeze my imperfect fruit and then throw it into the blender with milk or apple juice to make smoothies. You can keep your different fruits in different bags, or throw them all into the same freezer bag and make a "garbage" smoothie--a smoothie from all those ends or imperfect fruits you've got hanging around. The big appeal here is that you don't have to think about what to do with the fruit immediately. It's just sitting there waiting for you to get a smoothie craving.

3. Flavored syrup. This one's kind of my favorite. It's just so awesome and foody and sexy, but not too hard. This works best with berries or soft fruits. This is the type of pretty little thing you can gift a friend if you'd like because it's pretty and interesting. And so much 10 million times better than those colored corn syrups you'll find on the tables at Ihop. Use them as pancake toppings or ice cream toppings. Or pancakes topped with ice cream toppings if you have, you know, problems. Use this recipe for your berry syrups. In the picture above I used my very mediocre blackberries (the very blackberries that may or may not have inspired the start of this post). If you'd rather have more of a sauce, go here.

4. Salads. Fruit doesn't have to be perfect if you'll be pouring a savory or sweet dressing over top of it. I think that fruit works well with many lettuce-based or grain-based salads. So next time you're ready to toss your fruit, consider throwing it into your salad bowl instead. Berries go great with spinach. Apples or pears are nice with crispy sweeter greens. And I think most fruit would add a nice touch to arugula. Throw on some goat cheese or feta if you want to feel even more awesome and sophisticated. And try one of these dressings with your fruity salad. Lame citrus (or even pears or apples) could go in this Citrus Quinoa Salad. This Orange Vinaigrette would work with bland citrus, pears, apples, or berries. Use it with lettuce or leafy greens or both. This Balsamic Vinaigrette would be lovely with strawberries (or other berries). Ditto this Hot Honey Vinaigrette. This sweet Tree House dressing could rock any fruit (or nut). And this Rainbow Salad already calls for apples and could handle any other fruit you threw at it too.

5. Coat it with sugar. I know, I know. You just had to add a point to your Weight Watchers chart when you read that. Still,  even though this might not be the picture of perfectly healthy fruit, it's a heck of a lot better than fruit snacks. In fact, I think it makes for a nice after school snack. I mean, it does beat the classic chocolate chip cookie in healthfulness. And these are really pretty for guests too. You can simply coat them in sugar or whipped cream. Or you can go pure awesome, and candy them like this.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Secret Recipe Club--Creamy Corn Dip

Thank goodness for Secret Recipe Club to keep me from posting only dessert recipes all summer long (not that there's anything wrong with that). This month I had An Affair from the Heart--a beautiful blog with stunning pictures and fabulous recipes. Michaela is an at-home mom who has always valued motherhood and family life. I love that.

So as I was looking through her blog, I was tempted by this Purple Cow Smoothie (love the name) and this Cauliflower Mash (which I'm still dying to try, but we ate all our cauliflower and I haven't gotten more yet). What I finally settled on, however, was this amazing, fabulous dip. Michaela called it "crack dip" due to its addictive qualities and all. I couldn't agree more. It's fabulous. It's also incredibly quick to prepare and there's no cooking, which is great for hot August days.

But what drew me to it most of all was that I had a refrigerator full of ears of summer corn. Some of it was good--tender and young, but some of it was past its prime--you know the type of corn you eat and it gets all stuck in your teeth because it's just not at its peak anymore. Yet it was still summery and flavorful. This was the perfect place to put it. And the great thing about this recipe is that you could use that or some leftover corn, or Mexicorn per the original recipe.

Creamy Corn Dip
adapted from An Affair from the Heart
makes a lot--probably 4 cups
prep time: 15 minutes
Cost: $5.00
corn: 1.50, mayo: .50, sour cream: 1.00, chilies: .70, green onions: .30, cheese: 1.00

Note: This makes a good amount and is quite filling, so if you're making it for a party, great. If you're making it for your family, you may want to halve it.

2 cans Mexicorn, drained (I subbed this with freshly cooked corn that I cut off the ears--about 2-2 1/2 cups)
1 C mayonnaise (not low-fat)
1 C sour cream (full-fat Greek yogurt might work too)
tops of 3 green onions, sliced
1 can green chilies
1/3 C jalapenos (the jar kind), chopped (I used one jalepeno with just a few seeds, chopped)
8 oz Mexican blend cheese
tortilla chips for serving

Combine all dip ingredients together and place in the fridge. Michaela suggested making it a day ahead because the flavors deepen nicely, but we ate it about a half hour after making it and I thought it was amazing.

Serve with tortilla chips, or even sliced veggies.



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