Holidays

Fall is almost here!

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Fall is my favorite time of year.  I love everything about it — the smells, the cooler days, the crisper nights, the colors, the pies, Halloween, Thanksgiving, volleyball and football start up again — what’s not to love?  Alright, I admit there is one thing I don’t like — cleaning up all those damn leaves on my property.  I own about an acre of land with maybe 20 giant oak trees.  So the leaves can pile up and pile up quickly.  And unlike in some neighboring cities, I can’t just push my leaves into the road, so I either have to do it myself or hire someone else to do it.  But that’s a whole other issue. . .

this sums up Fall for me.  you do need to add "volleyball" somewhere on here though.  in big gigantic letters.  like all over the place
this sums up Fall for me. you do need to add “volleyball” somewhere on here though. in big gigantic letters. like all over the place

Anyhoo, I saw this the other day on Facebook and wanted to share.  This appeared on my feed from the magazine Midwest Living.  This sums up everything that is awesome about Fall and I wanted to share it with y’all.  What do y’all like about Autumn?  Just let me know — either here or on Facebook!  I gots a recipe for some Gluten-Free Rocky Road Brownies coming up later this week, and hopefully some other fun stuff.

Stay tuned!

Watermelon Punch

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It’s August and Summer is in full swing here in Michigan.  Actually, with the weather we’ve been having here the past few weeks, it feels like Fall.  Not that I mind the cooler temperatures; I’m just hope the mild summer is not going to translate into a brutal winter.  But enough about that — nothing says summer quite like a nice boozy watermelon punch.

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Ready for summer!

I did just have my summer shindig recently and made this again.  I usually have 4 big get-togethers each year when I invite my close friends (actually I consider these guys to be family) and treat them to some free food and booze.  Sure this explanation is a little simplistic, but y’all don’t need to get into my big bag of crazy when it comes to planning and prep.  I actually don’t remember what else I made, other than stuff on the grill.  But I did remember this!  Making this concoction this time seemed a lot easier, but last time I was face down in my backyard all afternoon so who knows what my recollection can actually count for.  And, of course, I could not find my old recipe no matter how much I looked around for it.  So this is a whole new deal.

Here's a better shot to get a feel of the size of the watermelon.  Just a "regular" size I guess
Here’s a better shot to get a feel of the size of the watermelon. Just a “regular” size I guess

Now I really like this recipe.  I didn’t think it was overly sweet and you could still pick up on all the ingredients.  And if you are like me, you may just have a couple of portions of mint syrup just hanging out in the freezer for emergencies.

Yummy!  It's difficult to see, but this glass has my name etched into it!  Thanks to the in-laws for the gift!
Yummy! It’s difficult to see, but this glass has my name etched into it! Thanks to the in-laws for the gift!

I did hollow out the watermelon and use it as a serving utensil, which is completely optional.  I like the presentation.  If you were interested in serving it this way but don’t know where to get a spigot like this, you could check out your local brewer’s supply shop.  Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 1 watermelon (medium-sized, I guess.  Use the pictures as a reference)
  • 1/2 – 1 c. vodka
  • 1 c. cachaça
  • 1 1/2 c. rum (I used a dark 8-year-old rum)
  • 4 oz. Midori
  • 6 limes, juiced
  • 2 c. mint syrup

1.  Take your watermelon and see if it’s able to stand on its end.  If not, just cut off a small slice to level it off, making sure not to expose any of the inner flesh.

2.  Cut off the top couple of inches of the watermelon to expose some of the red flesh inside (wow that sounds a little macabre).  Using an ice cream scoop, start scooping out the fruit (berry?) and place it in a food processor.  Pulse it in batches until smooth and run the purée through a fine sieve set over a large bowl.

3.  In a large pitcher or jug, combine the vodka, cachaça, rum, Midori, lime juice, and mint syrup.  Stir to blend.

4.  Add the strained watermelon juice and stir to combine.  You can refrigerate this overnight, just be sure to mix it before hand.

5.  Pour yourself a little happy.  Add some ice if you like!

Here's the impaled watermelon!
Here’s the impaled watermelon!

Notes — you may want to run the watermelon through a very fine sieve.  you could just line a sieve with some paper towel, but that sounds like a long process. . .  if you cut off too much on the bottom to level the watermelon, it’s not the end of the world.  just be sure not to hollow out the watermelon too much or you will have a boozy, leaky mess on your hands. . . also, be careful not to take out too much of the pulp (is that the right term?).  if you are overzealous with your scraping, the hollowed out shell might crack and there’s another boozy, leaky mess. . .

Summer Crumble with Rhubarb, Raspberries, Dried Figs, and Pecans

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We just had our first official day of summer and it was ridiculously hot here in Michigan — 97 degrees F around these parts.  Now I’m not 100% sure if figs are a summer fruit, but rhubarb and raspberries always make me think of the season.  And when it’s summer, you don’t want to be in a hot kitchen all day, so this is ideal!  What’s special about this recipe are the dried figs.  They can help absorb some of the liquid that is released by the rhubarb and they add some sweetness, texture, and color.  Sure, I was just trying to clean out my pantry but this combination really goes well together.

Just throw all the topping ingredients in a bowl and mix it up, and get another bowl to toss the filling with some sugar and flour and you are all set.  You can even make the topping the night before and put it in the fridge for when you’re ready!  Easy-peasy!  Here’s what you need:

Rhubarb and Figs actually look nice together. I toss in the raspberries later.

For the topping:

  • 3/4 c. all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 c. sugar
  • 1/4 t. salt
  • 1/2 c. rolled oats
  • 1/2 c. chopped pecans
  • 1 stick of unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-in. cubes

1.  In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, stir together the flour, sugar, and salt.  Add the butter and mix on low speed until the topping resembles loose crumbs.

2.  Stir in the oats and pecans.  Set aside.

I really struggled with taking a picture that did this crumble some justice. Again, I’m still trying to figure out photography and composition.

For the filling:

  • 1/2 c. vanilla sugar
  • 1/4 c. flour
  • 1/4 t. nutmeg
  • 1 lb. rhubarb, chopped into 1/2-in pieces
  • 12 – 15 dried figs, cut into quarters
  • 8 oz. raspberries
  • juice of 1/2 lemon

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  In a small bowl, stir together the sugar, flour, and nutmeg.  Set aside.

2.  Place the lemon juice, rhubarb, figs, and raspberries in your baking dish.  Gently toss.  Sprinkle the sugar mixture over the top and let sit for about 5 minutes.

3.  Sprinkle the topping over the top of the fruit in an even layer.  Bake for about 45 minutes, until the mixture is bubbling and the topping is golden.  Allow to cool for about 10 minutes before serving so the filling can set up just a tiny bit.

Notes — My pecans got a little bit toasty, but tasted fine.  If burning them is a concern, you could add the pecans to the filling instead of in the topping. . . Store this in the refrigerator. . . You can reheat this in the oven at 350 degrees F for about 15 – 20 minutes.

Red, White, and Blue Velvet Cupcakes (with a White Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting)

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I was hoping to have this posted before Flag Day, but it turns out that Flag Day was yesterday (and apparently National Bourbon Day was yesterday, too).   At least this is something that you can make for the upcoming 4th of July holiday.  I made these a little bit ago for a Memorial Day / Birthday celebration.  They’re fun and festive, especially if you put metallic star picks in them!  Very patriotic, and not just here in The States, but everywhere else that has those same colors in their national flag.  Like France, the UK, Puerto Rico, Slovakia — in Canada, you can just make the Red Velvet cupcakes — in Greece just make the blue ones! — and so on.  Maybe you could make some for a UEFA Championship Party (can’t believe the Dutch are almost eliminated).

Red, White, and Blue!

As for the recipe, Red velvet is what people typically think of, but why not Blue velvet cupcakes?  It’s the same principle, just with blue coloring.  Plus, there’s that song about them.  Well, not the cupcakes, but about blue velvet.  Or was it Blue Moon?  But I digress. . . if you were ever wondering about some of the background of the Red Velvet cake, you can find some fascinating information here at Gilt Taste.

I do love a big box of cupcakes

As you can see from one of the pictures, I tried to use one of those cupcake stands made out of cardboard (There was a sale at Jo-Ann’s, so I thought why not?  I can never resist a sale!).  I just could not get that thing together right, AND there were three of us working on it.  Sure I had a couple margaritas, some sangria, and a beer in me by then, but I’m pretty sure my two “assistants” were fairly sober.  That thing was such a hassle it had me sweating like a wh@%& in church, pardon my language.  And of course the first cupcake we put on made the top tier topple over and fall onto several of the other cupcakes.  Alas, if I was only recording the whole ordeal.  Such is life.  Maybe I should just invest in something more sturdy, but then again, I wouldn’t have any interesting stories to tell!

Not a bad stand in a pinch, but i really should invest in something that’s sturdier and better looking.

There’s a small part of me that is always hesitant about using dyes, particularly in cakes.  With frostings and buttercreams, I’m okay with using tints, but I always balk at cakes.  So I probably didn’t use as much color as I could have.  I’ve seen some recipes that called for a whole bottle of coloring, which I did not do, so the color is not as pronounced.  But no worries — if you want more intensity in the colors just use more.  You can get away with using less red since the chemical reaction between the acids (buttermilk and vinegar) and the cocoa are supposed to produce the red color you get in Red Velvet cakes, although it’s very faint.  But I did use more of the blue to make sure it would come out.  And the amount of dye you use may depend on what products you have.  The blue that I used for this is AmeriColor Royal Blue; the red is Wilton’s Red-Red.  Gel pastes are usually what I prefer because it will not affect the recipe ratios as much.  Here’s what you need:

for the cupcakes (one batch makes about 2 dozen; the red batch used 1/2 t. of coloring and the blue used 1 t.):

  • 2 c. all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 1/2 c. corn starch
  • 2 T. unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 t. baking soda
  • 1 t. salt
  • 1 c. buttermilk
  • 2 t. white vinegar
  • 1 t. vanilla
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 1/2 c. brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 c. vegetable oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • gel paste coloring (see above)

1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Line your muffin pan with cupcake papers and set aside.

2.  Sift together the flour, corn starch, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt.  Set aside.  In a large measuring cup, combine the buttermilk, white vinegar, and vanilla.  Set aside as well.

3.  In the bowl of a mixer, whisk the oil and sugars until combined on medium speed.  Add the eggs, one at a time, and mix well.  Whisk in the gel paste, scraping down the sides as needed.

4.  Add the flour mixture in 3 batches, alternating with 2 additions of the buttermilk mixture.  Scrape down the sides after each addition and whisk well.

5.  Divide the batter evenly among the cupcake liners, filling to about 3/4 full.  Bake for about 20 minutes, rotating once halfway through baking.  Cool cupcakes in the pans set on wire racks.  Frost with the White Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting.

Red velvet

for the frosting (this was enough for 4 dozen cupcakes):

  • 3 8-oz. packages of cream cheese
  • 2 sticks of unsalted butter
  • 3 c. confectioners sugar
  • 1/4 t. salt
  • 1 t. vanilla
  • 8 oz. white chocolate, chopped.

1.  In the bowl of a mixer using the paddle attachment, beat together the cream cheese and butter on medium for a couple of minutes, until well combined.  Place the white chocolate in a microwave proof bowl.  Microwave in 15 second bunches until melted, stirring after each time.  Allow to cool for about 5 minutes, making sure to keep in a liquid state.

2.  With the mixer on low, gradually add the confectioners sugar and salt.  Mix until smooth.  Add the vanilla and white chocolate and mix for about 1 minute, scraping down the sides.  Use either a small spatula knife or a piping bag to frost the cupcakes.

Notes — I have read that you can use beet juice instead of the red coloring, but I have no idea how much you need and how to adjust the recipes for the change in the amount of liquid. . . I’m not sure about an alternative for the blue, but I do have some ideas if you needed something green 🙂  . . .You should be able to store these in the freezer for a few weeks.  Thaw the frozen cakes in the refrigerator overnight. . . As always when making cakes, make sure your ingredients are at room temperature. . . I’m still bummed I missed National Bourbon Day; been wanting to add some Four Roses bourbon to my collection.  I really need to revisit my Foodie Holiday postings. . . And don’t forget to visit Daisy Cakes and Jereme’s Kitchen on Facebook. . .

Taste of Ann Arbor and Ya’ssoo!

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Happy June and Happy Hazelnut Cake Day!  Alright this may be more appropriate for locals, but some of y’all might be visiting.  Plus it might give some of y’all some incentive to visit us here in SE Michigan (if you need more incentive, Frommer’s just named us as one of the top 20 Best Vacation Destinations!).  But we have a couple of our annual summer events coming up this weekend.  First of all there’s Ya’ssoo — the Greek Festival of Ann Arbor.  It starts today and runs through Sunday so there are lots of chances to head on over.  Here’s a link to the event flyer and here’s the website.  Of course, there’ll be specialty foods (here’s the menu!), concerts, raffles, and tours.  Lot’s of fun and I’ve been craving Saganaki and some Paximathakia (if you don’t know, look it up!).  Ooo, I should post my baklava recipe sometime.

This painting is from the Greek Festival’s website. It depicts an actual scene from the festival with the church in the background.

There is also the 17th Annual Ann Arbor African-American Festival, Saturday, June 2, 9am – 9 pm.  This festival pays tribute to the historic black business district of Ann Arbor.  Now I couldn’t find a website, but I did find an email where you can get more information — clpfestival@gmail.com.  There’ll be music, food, dances, and theatrical performances.  The cost is free and this will take place downtown.

Also this Sunday (June 3) is the Taste of Ann Arbor.  I’m excited and hope to attend this year!  Tasting tickets are $0.50 and it runs from 11am – 5pm.  Games and music will be a part of the festivities, but the food is the main draw!  A lot of my favorites will be there and some places that I’ve been dying to try.  And it’s great that a sample will just cost me 50 cents!  And if you’re interested there’s the Dexter Ann Arbor Run on Sunday; registration ends tonight.  They schedule concurrently with Taste of Ann Arbor; all that food at the finish line is motivation enough for me.  I wonder if runners get some free tasting tickets 🙂  There’s a half marathon, 10k, 5k, and kids’ run.  If the races are still open, you can register online here.

I got this image from “Living in Ann Arbor” on Facebook who, in turn, got this from wherelightstandsstill.blogspot.com

Sure this is short notice, but these are just some of the fun things going on around town this weekend.  They involve eating food, which is something I do everyday!  And they also give you a chance to learn, and play, and maybe run a half marathon.

Roulade Marquis — Gluten-Free!!!

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Here’s something that might be good to make for Memorial Day weekend. I think it’s a great choice for summer picnics and grilling get-togethers because it’s fun and it’s actually cool and refreshing. It helps that this cake is stuffed with whipped cream and raspberries.

What’s a little crack(ing) amongst friends?

I got this recipe from Martha, who got this from chef Michel Roux. The one change that I made is that I replaced the potato flour with coconut flour, mostly because I had the coconut flour. I also didn’t dust the pan with the all-purpose flour but used cocoa instead. Otherwise, everything is the same. Here’s what you need:

  • 1 T. plus 1 1/2 t. butter, room temperature, for baking sheet
  • 1/4 c. unsweetened cocoa, for dusting
  • 3 medium egg yolks
  • 1 3/4 c. confectioners’ sugar, plus more for dusting
  • 4 medium egg whites
  • 1/2 c. unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 T. plus 1 1/2 t. coconut flour
  • 1 c. heavy cream
  • 1 c. raspberry coulis (see note at the end)
  • 1 1/4 cups fresh raspberries

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper; butter the parchment and dust with cocoa. Set aside.

Since I didn’t make this for myself, I couldn’t really cut into it, and take some pics of the pretty slices. But I did get a pic of the last little bit.

2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat yolks and scant 1 cup confectioners’ sugar in a bowl until ribbons form; set aside. In the clean bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk egg whites until they reach soft peaks; add a scant 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar and continue whisking until stiff peaks form.

3. Whisk in one-third of the yolk mixture into the egg white mixture. Fold in remaining yolk mixture using a metal spoon until it is almost fully incorporated. Sift the 1/2 c. cocoa and coconut flour into bowl. Gently fold with a metal spoon until just combined.

4. Using an offset spatula, spread batter on prepared baking sheet to form a 10 1/2-by-12-inch rectangle, about 5/8 inch thick. Transfer to oven and bake until cake springs back when touched, 8 to 10 minutes.

5. Meanwhile, line a large wire rack with a clean dish towel. Turn cake out onto prepared rack and carefully peel off parchment paper. Let stand 5 minutes to cool.

6. Now in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat heavy cream with remaining 1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar until ribbons form. Set aside.

This is what Martha’s looks like. Of course, it’s too pretty for words. I got this from her recipe posting on her website.

7. Carefully transfer cake to a large piece of wax paper. Using a pastry brush, brush 1/4 cup coulis over cake. Using a serrated knife, carefully trim edges from all four sides. With an offset spatula, spread whipped cream over cake, leaving a 5/8-inch border all around. Top with raspberries. Starting from one of the long sides, gently roll up cake, using the wax paper to help you. Transfer cake to refrigerator and let chill 2 to 3 hours.

8. Slice roulade crosswise and serve dusted with confectioners’ sugar and drizzled with coulis.

Notes — Whenever I make roulades / jelly rolls, sometimes (like in this case) I end up cracking them. Most of the time it doesn’t matter because you’ll be putting frosting or whipped cream or whatever on the outside. That can help cover up stuff that’s not ideal. This cracked as well, but you serve it up sliced covered with powdered sugar and raspberry sauce and it’s still fabulous. . . As for the a quick and simple Raspberry Coulis, take a cup of simple syrup, 3 cups of raspberries (I used frozen), and the juice of a lemon. Put everything in a blender and pulse until smooth. Run through a sieve to remove seeds. But you can also check what Martha had listed; there is a link to a coulis recipe on her roulade post.

Chili-Chocolate Truffles

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Hello again everybody!  Sorry for being out of commission for a little bit, but again I’ve been busy trying to keep busy.  Although today, I’m feeling somewhat under the weather and flu-ey, plus my back hurts.  So you know what that means for me — Cheezits and Rum!  But it also means that I won’t be going to the gym (I’m up to lifting 110,425 lbs. now) so I gots me some time to post some fun stuff for y’all!

This is what I made for a little get-together to help celebrate Cinco de Mayo.  You’ll need some cayenne pepper, which is said to have been used by the Mayans and the Aztecs (cultural nugget — yay!).  It has been some time since I made these and I forgot the heat they impart.  I don’t think it’s overwhelming, but it is definitely noticeable.  It won’t hit you at first, but after the chocolate melts away is when you get that kick from the cayenne.

I rolled some in powdered sugar, and yes, I probably could have shaken more of the excess off.

This recipe came from chatelaine.com, and they in turn adapted it from the book A Matter of Taste by Lucy Waverman and James Chatto.  And if y’all remember my chocolate truffles cake, I prefer a more “natural” truffle — one that actually looks like the truffles you dig out of the ground.  That’s why these chocolates are called truffles after all.  Here’s what you need:

  • 10 oz. (280 g) bittersweet chocolate
  • 1/4 c. (50 mL) room temperature butter
  • 1/2 c. (125 mL) whipping cream
  • 1 T. (15 mL) liquid honey
  • 1/2 t. (2 mL) cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 c. (50 mL) cocoa powder

1.  Finely chop chocolate.  Place in a large bowl with the butter.  Pour cream into a small saucepan and set over medium heat.

2.  As soon as cream boils, remove it from the heat and then pour it over the chocolate and butter.  Stir until melted and mixture is smooth.  Stir in honey and cayenne.

3.  Refrigerate until set, about 4 hours.

4.  Line a baking sheet with parchment, foil,  or silpat.  To make truffles, scoop out a small amount of the mixture with a melon baller or a very small ice cream scoop.  Use your hands to shape chocolate into 1-2 inch balls.  Set each ball on a baking sheet.

5.  Place half of cocoa powder in a small bowl.  Place one truffle in the bowl and gently roll to coat with cocoa.  Shake off excess and return to the baking sheet.  Repeat, adding cocoa as needed.  When all are coated, place in a container in single layers separated by wax paper.  Refrigerate.  Will keep for up to 5 days.

Notes — Every time I make truffles I always think that it’s a good idea to always have a bain marie ready.  Most recipes I find involve pouring some scalded cream into some chopped chocolate.  More often than not, the heat from the scalded cream is not enough to melt the chocolate.  That’s where the bain marie comes in to finish the job. . . experiment with different types and amounts of chili and see if there’s anything that you like better. . . Don’t forget to like Jereme’s Kitchen and my bakery Daisy Cakes on Facebook!