Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Lemon Buttermilk Sheet Cake

So, if I was a better person, I would have posted this before Memorial Day. It's pretty much fantabulous--moist and lemon-y with a sugar sprinkle on top that sort of hardens on the frosting to create a lemon-sugar shell. I made this cake for last month's book club. We discussed favorite fairy tales. Mine was Little Red Riding Hood. Turns out that in the original Grimm tale, Red takes Grandma cake. That worked for me.

In addition to being fantabulous, this cake is nice and simple. In their way, sheet cakes are almost dangerous. I mean, I know I'm not going to go make a three-layer cake every weekend, but this--this you could churn out on any old Thursday. I'm not sure we--who according to the internet are thoroughly obsessed with our bikini bodies--should delve into such dangerous waters. And yet. Something like this would be perfect for any picnic or potluck or Sunday dinner. It's not too heavy or embarrassingly intense while still being--you know--kind of divine.

Alright--I'm going to admit that I did some shadowing in these pictures to hide a scratch/blemish that was on the center of that plate and kept showing up. Sorry--don't they look heaven blessed in this light though. 

Lemon Buttermilk Sheet Cake
adapted from Frankly Entertaining
Makes one 9x13 inch sheet cake
Prep time:
Cook time:
Cost: $2.90 (that's about $.12/piece if you cut 24 pieces)
flour: .30, buttermilk: .25, lemons: .75, sugar: .25, butter: .40, eggs: .40, confectioner's sugar: .45, other stuff: .10


2 1/2 C flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 C buttermilk (or 2 tsp vinegar and a scant 3/4 C milk mixed together)
3 Tbsp grated lemon zest and 1/4 C juice (2 large lemons or 3 normal ones)
1 tsp vanilla
1 3/4 C sugar
12 Tbsp butter, softened
3 large eggs plus 1 egg yolk


3 C confectioner's sugar
3 Tbsp lemon juice
2 Tbsp buttermilk

For the cake: 

Preheat to 325 degrees. Grease a 9x13 inch pan.

Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in medium bowl.

Combine buttermilk, lemon juice, and vanilla in smaller bowl.

In large bowl, beat granulated sugar and lemon zest until moist, fragrant, and yellowish. Transfer 1/4 C of this mixture to a small bowl, cover, and reserve. Don't forget this step. 

Add butter to remaining sugar/zest mixture and beat until light and fluffy. Then beat in eggs and yolk (one at a time preferably) until incorporated.

Now add 1/3 of the flour mixture, then half the buttermilk mixture, then flour mixture, then buttermilk mixture, then flour mixture. Mix until smooth.

Put batter in pan and even it out. bake until cake is golden brown and toothpick inserted into center comes out clean--25-35 minutes. (My husband did this step because I had to go somewhere and everything still turned out okay.) Cool cake for about ten minutes.

For the glaze:

While the cake cools, whisk confectioner's sugar, lemon juice, and buttermilk until smooth. Spread it over the warm cake.

Now let it cool a little more. When it's still a little warm, but not hot, sprinkle the reserved sugar/lemon mixture on top of this. In this way the sugar doesn't melt into the cake/glaze completely, but it does form this little sort of crunchy shell that is just fabulous. This is what it will look like:

Let cake cool completely.


Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Rice Pudding (Cozy Shack Style)

Last night I should have been writing this blog post, but for whatever reasons, I had to have rice pudding. Had to. If you haven't ever had really good rice pudding, that probably sounds weird, but good rice pudding is just as crave-able as any other creamy sweet dessert.  The only problem with my craving was that when I came to my blog to look up my favorite recipe, it wasn't there--oh, the horror. Apparently, I've never posted it. Time to right that wrong.

I grew up eating rice pudding on occasion, but it was of the leftover rice variety. My mom would take some leftover rice, add an egg, some milk, sugar, and cinnamon and it would be rice pudding. I still consider this a perfectly fabulous way to use up leftover rice and I have craved this concoction after each and every one of my babies has been born.

However, this recipe is rice pudding on a whole different level than that. It is a rice pudding that is actually, well, a pudding. I won't call it a knock off recipe for Cozy Shack rice pudding exactly (because of course it's better and full of lovely natural ingredients), but it definitely has a flavor and texture that reminds you of Cozy Shack rice pudding (which I also kind of love, so there you go). This is creamy and rich--a lovely backdrop for fruit if you want to pretend it's breakfast, not dessert.

I got the recipe from Smitten Kitchen. She uses cinnamon sticks, cloves, and lemon rinds, and gives the rice a pre-soak. You can totally do that and will be rewarded with humming undertones of those flavors. But if you'd like to have your rice pudding before midnight, follow me. And don't worry--this pudding can totally hold its own without the added spices or the pre-soak.

Rice Pudding (Cozy Shack Style)
adapted from Smitten Kitchen
makes 6-10 servings
Cook time: 1 hour
Cost: $1.90
rice: .20, egg: .10, milk: .40, sweetened condensed milk: 1.00, vanilla: .20

Note: This can be eaten warm or cold. I like it best cold. Be warned that it thickens significantly as it cools so you'll want it a runnier than you think it should be. Otherwise, you'll have a lump of pudding when it's cool. I cooked mine a bit too long this time--it's still amazing, mind you, but it is thicker today that I prefer it.

Another note: You can use the cinnamon sticks, cloves, and lemon if you wish. Naturally this will raise your cost significantly. Or you can use several dashes of cinnamon and a pinch of clove if you wish. Or you can skip it entirely and just go for a creamy vanilla flavor.

Another note: This is a great recipe for a vanilla bean if that's your thing. If you'd like to use a vanilla bean, add it when you add the milk. You'll slice it open, let it cook, then scrape out those seeds and let it cook more. If you don't have a vanilla bean or are too cheap to use them, then a good Tablespoon of vanilla is all you need.

And another note: I've only made this with white rice. However, I really want to give it a go with brown. I think it would work out just fine and taste a bit nuttier and more complex. Let me know if you try it.

One final note: This calls for only 1 cup of rice. It seems much too little for all the liquid we're going to add, but it's correct--just watch, you'll see.

1 C rice (long-grain white or arborio)
2 cinnamon sticks (or a dash of cinnamon)
2 strips lemon rind (can be skipped)
3 cloves (or a dash of cloves)
4 C water
1 egg
3 C milk (I used whole, but 2% would also work; I would not recommend skim, but if the low-fat sirens have you trapped in their clutches, go ahead and give it a try)
1 14-oz can sweetened condensed milk
1 vanilla bean OR 1 Tbsp vanilla

Combine rice and water in large pot. Add cinnamon, cloves, and lemon rind if using. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and let it simmer UNCOVERED.

While it's simmering, whisk your egg in a separate bowl and then add you milk. Whisk to combine and set aside.

Now back to the pot of rice. When most of the water is out and it looks only a little better than Oliver Twist's gruel (this will take 10-15 minutes), you're ready to make some pudding. Add your egg/milk concoction--stirring as you pour it into the hot mushy rice. Then add the sweetened condensed milk.

Bring to a boil again and lower the heat again, letting it simmer UNCOVERED for another 30-35 minutes, stirring occasionally. As you stir, be sure to stir the bottom of the pot, so nothing starts to stick to it and burn. Now if you're in a hurry because your rice pudding cravings don't wait, you can leave this to cook at a higher heat, but you will have to pay for this by stirring it constantly so it doesn't burn. Don't leave and read a book; your rice pudding craving will never forgive you. 

It's going to simmer and simmer and simmer (with you stirring occasionally). As it simmers it will thicken. You need to take it off the heat before all the liquid is simmered off. In fact, you need to take it off the heat when it still seems a little runny--one stage before how runny you would actually like it to be. This pudding thickens significantly as it cools so unless you want to mold this like jello, you've got to take it off the heat while it's still a bit runny--not a sloggy, puddle-like mess mind you, but a little runnier than you want your cooled product to be. Add the vanilla. Stir. And cool. This is also pretty darn good warm, though I confess I love it best cold.


Monday, May 11, 2015

Three-Ingredient Coconut Ice Cream (Made from Pantry-Stable Ingredients)

(Here it is--melting fast)

I'm so excited about this recipe. It's a shame I had to give it such a run-on sentence of a title. But I wanted you to know. Coconut ice cream! With only three ingredients!! Made from pantry stable ingredients!!! As in, you could get trapped in your basement during a tornado and these three ingredients would be staring you in the face, begging you to make ice cream out of them while the roof gets lifted off your house and carried to Oz. If that's not something to look forward to, I don't know what is. But I suppose I've digressed (and also come off as the crazy person that I am, but you know--ice cream! coconut!! pantry stable!!! three ingredients!!!! I'm still freaking out about it!!!!!)

And it is the best, most delicious coconut ice cream I've ever made or eaten.

You open two cans, add sugar, stir. And then add it to your ice cream maker.

The best news is that you don't even have to wait for a tornado to trap you in your basement--you can make this ice cream right now. I know--how lucky are you?

I came up with this ice cream recipe one hot evening last week when I Wanted Ice Cream, but didn't want to go anywhere to buy any and didn't have time to follow my usual method of cooking egg, sugar, and milk, then adding cream and cooling. This custard ice cream recipe is my go-to and it is a delicious recipe, but it's no good when you want ice cream NOW. And I've tried short-cutting it and leaving out the cooking process and it's never quite as rich. It occurred to me that coconut milk instead of cream and eggs would take care of a few problems. And game changer...It is rich and delicious and the stuff you need can just be sitting there waiting for you to need them. So now here we are--ready to encounter potential life-altering disasters with a quart of ice cream in hand.

Note: I tried to convince myself that since that has actual coconut milk in it, I could add blueberries and eat it for breakfast. This justification didn't really work--even for me. But, you know, you can't blame me for trying, right.

Three-Ingredient Coconut Ice Cream (Pantry stable ingredients)
Makes 1 quart ice cream
Prep time: 5 minutes or less
Mix time: 20 minutes
Cost: $2.35
coconut milk: 1.50, evaporated milk: .70, sugar: .15

Note: If you happen to think about your ice cream craving ahead of time, you could put the cans of milk in the refrigerator beforehand. This will make the churning process go a bit faster.
-Also--with my $20 ice cream maker, this produces a soft serve level of ice cream on the first day. This is standard for cheap machines and homemade ice cream. However, if you have a nicer ice cream maker it may be able to make it up as a harder ice cream.

1 can coconut milk (it can even be the cheap stuff as thickness isn't essential for this)
1 can evaporated milk
3/4 C sugar

Whisk together all ingredients. I stirred for a couple minutes, until the sugar was dissolved. I didn't want it sitting there at the bottom of the ice cream.

Pour into ice cream maker and churn according to manufacturer's instructions.


Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Enchilada Rice Pot

This seems like it won't be much--it's rice, beans, some sauce, some cheese. I mean, really, every time I assemble it I think, "How is this going to taste good? Won't it just be boring?" No. It's actually kind of fabulous. It's got all the flavors and goodness of enchiladas, but the total hands-on time to prepare it is five minutes. And the total cook time is just about 20 minutes. Who knew that riffing on the rice and beans, beans and rice theme could be so luxurious. And so simple. And adaptable. And leftover-friendly. And cheap, of course. (Also, gluten-free and vegetarian if that's something you need.)

In my experimenting with this, I made it a few ways. My favorite was to make it as a one-pot meal--no need to cook the rice beforehand, just throw everything in.  This is a dumb easy meal for under 30 minutes. It's filling and satisfying. 

The other great way to make this is as a leftover meal with rice you've already got cooked. This makes for a 10-minute dinner. However, since your rice is already cooked it won't be able to absorb as much fluid as I've got listed below, so you'll want to scale back the enchilada sauce by half and maybe cut back on the tomato juices some as well. Also you'll be using twice as much rice since yours is already cooked. The instructions below are for the one-pot meal.

Could this be made with quinoa or barley or something? I bet it could. But I just stuck with reliable white rice. Also, I should note that usually black beans aren't my favorite ones, but they just kick it in this recipe. Try them.

Enchilada Rice Skillet
adapted from Damn Delicious
Serves 4
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes
Cost: $4.50 (about $1.12/serving)
rice: .50, tomatoes: .60, beans: .60, enchilada sauce: 2.00, cheese: .80

1- 1 1/4 C rice, uncooked
1 can diced tomatoes, not drained
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
2 cans enchilada sauce (red or green or a combination--I do a combination)
1-2 C grated Cheddar or Colby Jack cheese

Add-ons for fabulousness: These aren't necessary, but one or a combination of these make this meal just amazing.
sour cream
squeeze of lime

Add rice to pot. Add all other ingredients, except cheese. [Note: To clarify--You are NOT adding any water to this--the liquid will come from the sauces.]

Cover and cook as you would an every day pot of rice (that means cover it, bring it to a boil, then reduce the heat significantly--to low--and let it cook for about 20 minutes or until all the liquid is absorbed). When it's just about done, have a taste. If your rice is just about done, you're good. If it's still a little tough in the center or too chewy, add a bit of water and let it cook a few minutes longer.

When it's about 2 minutes from being done, add the cheese to the top, re-cover the pot, and let the cheese melt.

Serve. You can serve it plain or add any of the add-ons for fabulousness that you choose.



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