Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Apple Snack Cake with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting


Friends are like frosting.

Life is so much more enjoyable with them.

You could bake this cake, leaving it unfrosted and naked.


It would be lovely with a cup of coffee, but not as lovely as if you had decided to mound luscious layers of sugared clouds on top of it.

Friends in your life are the frosting on the cake. You can get by without it, but you miss it when it's not there.

I've been a busy lady as of late. My "real" job has taken a rewarding and amazing turn. However, usually when something is so rewarding and so amazing, it takes a lot of effort to cultivate. I'm in the middle of that as we speak (read? type?) here.

I had the opportunity this weekend to catch up with an old friend, to hash out tales of yore over bloody marys and brew.

It's amazing how good it is for the soul to sit and simply talk, not be judged, and then listen with the same regard. It's something I don't make time for enough when life is rushing by at 75 miles an hour.

The opportunity will present itself again in a week when I hop a train, heading for New York City, to catch up with more friends. It's difficult to carve time out when you have so little wood to work with. It's important, however, and I'll even say intelligent. It makes you who you are.

So, pray tell, what does this have to do with cake? This place, this blog, has long been a cultivator of friends for me. I've met people with a passion for food, and life. I've drifted away, and they welcome me back with open arms. I miss the discussion, the understanding. I miss the outlet.

And you know what? It's only up to me to make it happen.

The moral of this story? In the middle of decking the halls, stringing the lights, trying to decide what grandmother's house to go to, make time for your friends, it's good for your heat.

They put way more booze in the eggnog than grandma, anyway.


Apple Snack Cake with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting
Source: Cake recipe from Cooking Light
Yield: 1 9x13 cake

Still have apples where you are? They make their way into many a farms winter storage. This is a perfect way to use local apples a touch past their prime.

Ingredients:

Cake
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 3 cups chopped and peeled apple
  • cooking spray

Frosting
  • 8 ounces (1 block) block-style fat-free cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 4 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 cups powdered sugar.

Instructions:
  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. 
  2. In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, nutmeg, and cloves. Whisk until well combined.
  3. Now, add water, butter, olive oil, vanilla, and eggs to the dry mixture and stir until it all just comes together. 
  4. Finally, fold in your apple. 
  5. Pour your batter into a 9x13 baking pan coated with cooking spray. 
  6. Bake for 40-50 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean from the center of the cake. 
  7. Set aside to cool completely on a baking rack.
  8. While the cake is cooling, make your frosting by combining cream cheese, butter, vanilla, cinnamon and salt in the bowl of your standing mixer (or in a large bowl if using a hand mixer). 
  9. Beat on medium speed until the ingredients are just combined.
  10. Now, turning the speed to low, slowly start adding your powdered sugar. 
  11. Once all the sugar is added and incorporated into the frosting, turn the mixer quickly to high for a minute to whip some air into the frosting. 
  12. Frost your cooled cake, slice, and serve!



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Saturday, November 12, 2011

Sausage and Turnip Gratin Pasta


I love turnips. Sue me.

I know it's not something most people would say they have an affinity for, but their spicy kick gives me reason to swoon.

Our love affair is rather new. I came across lovely cool weather hakurei turnips in my Winter CSA from Heron Pond Farm in South Hampton, NH, last year. I made a gratin out of them, my husband fell in love, and this torrid relationship has continued ever since. While I'm not taking part in a winter CSA this year, I'm glad I've done it once. I found so many vegetables that I simply would have passed by a year or so ago. You receive amazingly fresh foods, and they can spark your creativity in the process.

We're fans of comfort food in this house, especially once the cold weather seeps in. We're busy people. I help run a major market newsroom and my husband is in school and working at the same time. Even the pugs are busy.... sleeping 16 hours a day. On the weekends, we all like to curl up at night with a good movie, a good hockey game, a good bottle of wine, and a meal that will keep us warm all night long.


This pasta falls into the comfort food category. It's decadent and creamy without being too heavy. So the other night, when I had little else in the house other than turnips, again from Heron Pond Farm, and some hot Italian turkey sausage (yes, I use it in everything, I love it), this pasta was born out of necessity.


Sausage and Turnip Gratin Pasta
Serves: 4
Inspired by: GF-Zing adapted from Gourmet/2007

Ingredients:
  • 2 bunches hakurei turnips, cleaned well, greens removed
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Romano cheese.
  • 1/2 pound hot Italian turkey sausage (or regular Italian sausage)
  • 1 pound dried penne

Instructions:
  1. Cut off the top and tail of the turnips, slice into 1/4 inch slices. 
  2. Melt butter in a non-stick 12-inch skillet (choose one with a lid) and layer turnip slices in pan. Sprinkle the turnips with thyme, salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper. 
  3. Cook in butter over medium heat for 3 minutes. 
  4. Cover turnips with the heavy cream and chicken stock, put lid on and cook over medium heat (making sure not to scald the cream) for 20 minutes. 
  5. While the turnips are cooking, boil the water for your pasta, cook until al dente, and drain, reserving some of the pasta water. 
  6. At the same time you're cooking the pasta, remove turkey sausage from their casings, and brown in a skillet. Transfer to a paper-towel lined plate and set aside.
  7. After 20 minutes, the turnips will be softened. Sprinkle Parmesan cheese over top of cooked turnips and put lit back on for 3-4 minutes until cheese is melted over the turnips. 
  8. At this point, remove the lid, add your sausage and your pasta, and 1/4 of a cup reserved water from the pasta and toss until well-combined.
  9. Serve with plenty of extra parmesan and romano cheese.








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Sunday, November 6, 2011

Apple Cider Cream Pie


 I'm only human. I'll start off with that. My life has been a roller coaster of ups, downs, and absolute craziness for the past few months. Sadly, the things and people in which I find sanity have fallen by the wayside.

Connection to my craziness? I believe so.

Time in my kitchen is precious. The newsroom can be crazy, home life can be off the tracks, and my body can be tired and sick, but the kitchen is where it all comes together. The issue, I find, is that pulling out of the pure fatigue and exhaustion to get myself in there, isn't the easiest task to tackle. Once I'm in there, measuring, dicing, stirring, tasting, I'm well on my way to getting back to my little corner of calm.

I've just got to get there.


I've neglected myself and sanity for the past 14 or so weeks. It's time to make a change. I've gotten back into the kitchen, although not as often as I'd like. This Sunday night, I'll start yoga again. Those classes are one of the few times I can recharge, shut down, and really concentrate on myself. I'm also making plans to see friends and family. They're the key to feeling more like "me".

I share this because, frankly, I'm pretty sure most people go through periods like this. This blog is part of my sanity, and getting back on track. What better to get back on track with than a pie that screams fall, made with local cider and cream, and that's a tad different from your normal autumn desserts. This pie is rich, but worth every bite you'll take, I promise.


Apple Cider Cream Pie
Yield: 1 pie
Source: Food & Wine


Ingredients:
  • 1 pie crust (homemade, store-bought, however you would like it)

Filling and Topping
  • 2 cups apple cider
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup whipping or heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Instructions:
  1. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. You're going to pre-bake your crust. Roll your dough out to the size you want. Lay it in a prepared pie dish and put it in the fridge for about 15 minutes to chill. Now, take it out of the fridge, prick center and sides with a fork (to avoid shrinking of the crust) line it with parchment paper, and fill with pie weights. Bake in the lower-third of your oven for 15 minutes, then take the pie out, line the crust with foil, then bake for another 15 minutes until crust is set, but not browned. Allow to cool on a wire baking rack.
  2. In the meantime, make the filling. In a medium saucepan, boil the cider until it reduces down to 1/2 a cup. This will take you about 10-15 minutes. Once it's reduced, set it aside to cool. 
  3. Once the reduced cider is cooled, whisk in 3/4 cup of the sugar, sour cream, and salt. Finally, whisk in your eggs. 
  4. Pour your custard mixture into the cooled pie shell (don't remove the foil strips) and bake the pie for 35 to 40 minutes, until the custard is set around the edges, but jiggly in the middle. Let the pie cool completely.
  5. While the pie is cooling, take a bowl (metal is best, especially a stand mixer bowl) and place it and your beaters in the freezer to chill. Once chilled, using an electric mixer, beat the heavy cream with the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar and the cinnamon until it's fully whipped. 
  6. Top the pie with the whipped cream, and serve.


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