Birthday Cake [grandma's lemon pound cake]

Soon after we were married, I sat my husband down and broke some news to him.  Here’s how it went down (note how many times the word NO is used):

Jennie:  Honey, we need to talk.

Husband:  Ugh.

Jennie:  It’s serious business honey, will you just listen?  I will cook for you as long as we both shall live, but there is one thing I will ask of you for the rest of our lives.

Husband:  I have to do the dishes?

Jennie:  No, you already knew that.  You have to make me a birthday cake on my birthday.

Husband:  I don’t know how to bake, can I just buy one?

Jennie:  No!  They’re never as good as homemade and I would make my own but that’s pathetic.  You can’t make your own birthday cake.

Husband:  Fine.

Jennie:  I could teach you how to make one!

Husband:  No, because I would start and then you would yell at me for doing it wrong and then you would end up making it.

*pause*

Jennie:  True.

And that’s the story of how my husband ended up making my birthday cake.  No pressure or anything, but I gave him Grandma Glass of Milk’s recipe.  I didn’t want to intimidate him on purpose, it’s the birthday cake I ask for every year.  It’s not incredibly difficult though, and it begins with a box mix.  As someone I know and love might say, “How easy is that?”

*photo from my phone

Truth be told, it’s slightly more difficult than one might think for one reason alone.  It involves taking a cake out of a Bundt pan.  Which means you better butter and flour that pan like your life (and your cake) depend on it.  Disasters have been known to happen.

But once you glaze the cake, it looks just fine.

*photo from my phone

Grandma Glass of Milk’s Lemon Pound Cake (which she swears she got from an issue of Southern Living, but she has subscribed for years, so I’m not going to even attempt to find it)

You will need:

  • 1 box lemon cake mix with pudding in the mix
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 C water
  • 1/3 C vegetable oil
  • 1 C lemon curd (about the same as an 11 oz. jar)
  • 1 C confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 lemon

Preheat the oven to 350.  Grease and flour a Bundt pan.  Do it well.  This is not your average cake pan.  Combine the cake mix, eggs, water, oil and lemon curd in a large bowl.  Whisk until only a few lumps remain.  Pour in the Bundt pan and bake for 40 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.

Let the cake cool completely and invert onto a serving plate.

Now for the glaze.  In a small bowl, mix 1 C confectioner’s sugar with 3 T lemon juice.  Stir until combined.  Add lemon juice by the teaspoonful until you’ve reached the consistency you want.  Use a spoon to drizzle the glaze over the cake.

Sugar Free

Okay, today is day one of the sugar-free month.  It’s something I’m going into blindly, because Meg did it and Ellen did it and I wonder what impact it will have on me.  I think it will be absolutely fine for my three meals a day.  It’s summer, so I’m drinking smoothies every morning for breakfast.  Swapping vanilla yogurt for plain with some honey should be fine.  Lunch requires switching from this (image from fooducate.com):

to this (image from realsimple.com):

But, again, I think that’s something I can handle.  It shouldn’t even cause too much of a stir during dinner.  I’ll be missing out on barbecue sauce, and will not sprinkle sugar in my tomato sauce, should I happen to make it from scratch, but my regular meals should not suffer at all.

It’s the little bite of something sweet I always need after a meal that might be my undoing.  The spoonfuls of this I’m accustomed to might be problematic as well…

(image from sevenfishesblog.com)

But stay tuned, and we’ll see.  I’ll certainly be keeping you updated as I go.  And you’ll see some backlogged sugar-filled recipes along the way.  I wouldn’t want you to suffer just because I might be.

**Updated:  I already ate tic tacs when someone offered them to me!  Didn’t realize until way later that they have sugar.  This is going to be harder than I thought!

Happy Birthday to Me

I have had a fabulous week of celebrating, and thought I’d take a minute to share one of my most favorite gifts, from loyal blog-reader, Wooden Nickels.  I posted this at 8:17 a.m. just for you!

The other day, Wooden Nickels and I went to the new Whole Foods in Friendship Heights.  It’s one of my new favorite places ever, and I now feel like I’m slumming it if I shop anywhere else.  We walked down the dairy aisle, and wouldn’t you know, Warren, the founder of Snowville Creamery was standing right there, offering free samples of milk!  It was a big moment for me.  I had my camera in my bag, but was too embarrassed to ask to take my picture with him.  We talked to him for a while about the business, the book I gave my dad for Christmas this year, and I ended up with this great sticker, which is now resting comfortably on my Nalgene bottle.

Ever since the Washington Post article, I’ve been a loyal Snowville Creamery customer.  I love their milk and taste a huge difference between it and its grocery store brand peers.  So I was super excited to see this package arrive.

It’s made of a milk carton!

First I saw this:

Well thank you, Snowville Creamery.

Next came this:

The front,

The back,

Sleeve 1,

Sleeve 2.

Thanks Wooden Nickels, it was perfect!

True Confessions of a Smitten Addict [barley, corn, and haricot vert salad]

I love Smitten Kitchen.  When it comes to food blogs, I firmly believe that there is one woman who will never let you down.  That woman is Deb.  Deb is fearless in the kitchen, has the patience of a saint (or she wouldn’t be making pastries like homemade pop tarts), produced a darn cute child, and more importantly, has never let me down in the kitchen.  Other bloggers and I have had our ups and downs, but not so with Deb.

You know what’s coming, right?

Have you ever read a novel?  Seen a movie?  Can you predict what happens before it happens?

Until now!  It almost feels blasphemous to even suggest that it was Deb whose recipe isn’t right.  It must be me–something I did.

I cooked  some barley, added produce from my favorite local farmstand, whisked together a fabulous vinaigrette and proceeded to ruin a perfectly wonderful salad by adding cups and cups of arugula.  Maybe I had a bad batch, but it was just too bitter for me.  I’m going to try this again with spinach or with mixed greens and see what happens.

And Deb?  I’m sorry!

Tortilla Espanola [zucchini potato frittata]

High on my list of summer recipes was the zucchini-potato frittata from The Kitchn.  It is strikingly similar to Tortilla Espanola (aka Tortilla de Patatas), which will hold a special place in my heart forever. I had it for the first time on my first date with my first (and only!) husband.  I haven’t made a true Tortilla Espanola yet, but this dish might tide me over until the real thing comes along.

I followed the recipe, but left out the bacon.  It was so easy to throw together and such a classic meal right next to a big spinach salad.  Or by itself.  Which was how I ate it for both breakfast and lunch the next day!

Filled Cupcakes [triple lemon cupcakes]

Homemade by Holman’s triple lemon cupcakes were my first foray into the world of filled cupcakes.

They were a great success.  I followed the recipe, with the exception of making Ina’s lemon curd, because I already know it’s a winner.  I made a full batch, so I could fill the cupcakes until they practically oozed the rich, tart filling.

I made the lemon curd in advance because making cupcakes, curd and frosting in one day was a little much.  Taking that one step made a big difference, and putting these babies together was a breeze.

Added bonus?

Not only did I get 12 cupcakes out of the deal, I got 10 minis as well.  But no, I did not fill them.

These don’t have the pucker as most of the lemon recipes I make.  But when there’s lemon in three forms, the subtlety works.  They are super classy; perfect for brunches, bridal showers and more.

Department of Redundancy Department [caramelized onion and apple flatbread]

As much as I don’t like cooking the same foods twice, I have noticed patterns in my eating habits over the years.  You already know about my affinity for yellow foods, and if you read closely, you’ll know that lately I’ve developed a special relationship with onions.  It started with onion rings, and continued with caramelized onion pizza.  My mind still reeling over that dish, I had to get my hands on it in as many forms as possible in recent weeks.

I ordered something similar during my last adventure at Liberty Tavern (side note–I was so pleasantly surprised to find that, though I had eaten there only about a month earlier, the menu had completely changed to reflect what is in season now), and made the caramelized onion pizza to top all caramelized onion pizzas the other night.  It is sweet and savory at its best, and it came from Real Simple.  Until I bit into it, I’d forgotten just how much puff pastry is absolute, utter perfection.

To make the tarts, you take two sheets of puff pastry (Hello, Balfour, all-butter puff pastry, I love you!), spread them with a thin layer of sour cream, and top with caramelized onions and barely sauteed, sweet Gala apples.  A sprinkling of salt offsets the sweetness in the apple.  One bite into  this tart and you will understand the phrase “melt in your mouth.”  Perfect for entertaining, or when you want to add some glamor to a regular, humdrum evening.

*as written, the onion to apple ratio is about equal.  Next time, I’d add an onion and take away an apple, but that’s my taste, not necessarily yours.

You will need:

  • 2 T olive oil
  • 2 medium onions, sliced thin
  • 2 red apples (I used Gala), cut into small pieces
  • Kosher salt
  • black pepper
  • 2 sheets puff pastry (from a 17.3 oz. package), thawed
  • 1/2 C creme fraiche or sour cream (but I think I used a little less)

Heat the oven to 400.  Pour the oil in a skillet until it’s hot, hot, hot.  Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and golden brown, about 12-15 minutes (I sometimes find that I need to add more oil as I go).  Stir in the apples, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1/4 tsp peper and cook until just tender, 2 minutes.

Place each sheet of pastry on a parchment-lined baking sheet and prick all over with a fork.  Spread with the sour cream, leaving a border around the edges.  Top with the onion mixture and bake until the pastry is crisp and browned, 30 to 35 minutes.  Cut into pieces before serving.