Strawberry Cream Cake

Hi there– It’s birthday season in our family.  Three birthdays together at the start of May and three more at the end.  So I’ve got birthday cakes on my mind.  This will probably show up at a birthday party or two!!

The biggest bash is for my father-in-law Stu.  He’s turning 90!  –and is so beloved by everyone who knows him.  You’ve never met a kinder more gracious man.  Family is coming from far and wide to celebrate with our “Grandpa Stu”.

Hope you have some happy family birthdays on your horizon.  And that they include cake, lots of cake.

STRAWBERRY CREAM CAKE

Cake:
1 cup strawberries, cut to small bits
1 strawberry  cake mix
1/3 cup canola oil
1 cup water
3 eggs

Topping:
2 cups strawberries, cut to small bits
1 pint heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup powdered sugar
3 oz. package vanilla instant pudding mix
1 big pretty strawberry for garnish

To make the cake, cut the strawberries fine.  If they are still damp from cleaning, pat them dry.

Make the strawberry cake according to the directions on the box. (mine used 1/3 cup oil, 1 cup water & 3 eggs).  Pour it into a 9″ x 13″ baking dish (or a 10″ springform pan) that has been sprayed with cooking spray.

Bake the cake at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes until it is lightly browned and comes out firm to the touch.  Let the cake cool completely before adding the topping!

To make the topping, cut the strawberries to small bits.  Set them aside.  Whip together the whipping cream, powdered sugar and vanilla pudding mix with an electric mixer until it is stiff (the whisk attachment works best for this).

Stir in the strawberries and then pile it all onto the cooled cake.  You can serve it right away, but it’s better to set the cake in the fridge for an hour or more to let the topping completely set.  Enjoy!!

Parmesan Mushroom Chicken

 

Hello to you — Here’s dinner a few nights ago.  Being of the mind that you can’t have too many chicken for dinner recipes handy, here’s a good one to add to your list.

We had it with roasted small golden potatoes chunked up, and the chicken and potatoes can can cook together in the oven, while you finish the sauce, set the table, change the laundry, make a salad, check on the kids, do that quick phone call…  As many multitasking things as you can fit into 20 minutes!!

It’s a yummy, practical, family friendly meal.  I think you’d like it!

PARMESAN MUSHROOM CHICKEN
2 tab. olive oil
4 chicken thighs, skin removed*
Garlic salt
freshly ground pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 oz. sliced brown mushrooms
1 tsp. dried basil
1 cup chicken broth
2 tab. cornstarch
1/2 cup parmesan romano
2 tab. fresh basil or marjoram, chopped**
Basil or marjoram for garnish

Heat the olive oil in a deep skillet.  Liberally sprinkle the chicken thighs with garlic salt and freshly ground pepper.  Drop them in the hot oil to brown– about 3 minutes on each side.

Remove the chicken from the skillet and put them in a baking dish.  Put them in a 400 degree oven for about 20 minutes until they are cooked through.

While they are cooking, make the sauce.  In the same skillet, saute the sliced mushrooms and garlic in the pan juices in the skillet for just a couple minutes.  Remove them and set them aside.

Then in the skillet bring the chicken broth to a boil.  In a container with a tight fitting lid shake together the cornstarch and about 1/4 cup water until it is thoroughly blended.  Pour it into the boiling broth and stir until it thickens into a creamy sauce.  Lower the heat and stir in the parmesan and fresh chopped basil.

When the chicken is done in the oven nestle the pieces back in the skillet of sauce and leave it on a low simmer for 2 or 3 minutes to mix the flavors.

Then move the chicken to a platter, top with the mushrooms and a little sauce (serve the rest of the sauce on the side).  Garnish with basil leaves.

*You can leave the skin on if you prefer.
** I used marjoram because it grows like a weed in our side yard.

 

Blueberry Broccoli Avocado Salad with Poppyseed Ranch Dressing

Hi all– Should I apologize for the extra long title of this salad??– I just wanted you to know the yummy components and plus also the lovely dressing on top!

Took this salad along to my brother’s house for our Easter dinner.  And liked it so much we had it again last night!  It’s bright and fresh and I can say it works well with Easter ham or a slice of mushroom pizza!

BLUEBERRY BROCCOLI AVOCADO  SALAD

Salad:
5 cups of your favorite salad greens
1/2 cup broccoli, chopped
1 avocado, chopped
1 cup fresh blueberries
1/4 cup crumbled feta
1/4 cup dried cherries (or cranberries)
1/4 cup pecans, chopped

Poppyseed Ranch Dressing:
1/2 cup unflavored yogurt
1/4 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 tsp. tarragon vinegar
1 tsp. sugar
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp. poppy seeds
1/8 tsp. garlic powder
1/8 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. freshly ground pepper

Layer the salad ingredients in a pretty bowl.

Then stir together the ingredients  for the dressing until they are thoroughly blended.  It makes more dressing than we needed on our salad, so there’s more in the fridge for another day.

Simple Pasta Sauce

Hello pasta lovers– I’m with you on this– what’s more warming and homey tan a bowl of pasta with a fresh tangy sauce??

Saw this recipe in a Food & Wine magazine and realized I had all I needed on hand in the kitchen.  That’s what’s so nice about it– no fancy ingredients and ready in less than 30 minutes.  Perfect for a busy weekday dinner.

SIMPLE PASTA SAUCE
your favorite pasta
2 tab. olive oil
1 small yellow onion, chopped
1 carrot, peeled and grated
3 cloves garlic, minced
28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
salt
1 tab. butter
1 tsp. dried basil
garnish: parmesan & fresh basil or marjoram*

Heat the olive oil in a deep pot.  Add in the onion and cook for about 5 minutes until it is soft.  Add in the grated carrot and minced garlic and cook 1 minute more.

Stir in the crushed tomatoes and salt to taste.  Simmer on low for 20 minutes, covered with a lid.

While it’s simmering, cook your favorite pasta (we did fresh tortellini).

Then stir the butter and basil into the sauce.  Serve over hot cooked pasta. Garnish with basil & parmesan.

*I used marjoram because it grows year round with no help from me, in the side yard.

Maple Walnut Banana Bread

 

Hello there– We have a treasure sitting in our fridge– it’s a huge jug of real maple syrup fresh from upstate New York!  Our daughter-in-law’s Dad, Alfie is a warm and wonderful guy.  Every year he taps trees around his town and in the spring is joined by family a friends at in the maple sugar shack to boil down gallons of maple syrup.  Then being the generous guys that he is, he mails big jugs to people far and wide (including lucky us!!).

So this little recipe uses a precious half cup of that lovely syrup and which accounts for it’s rich and wonderful flavor.  Plus while it’s baking in the oven, for kitchen smells like that New York maple sugar shack– maple luscious!

MAPLE WALNUT BANANA BREAD
2 large ripe bananas
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup canola oil
1 egg
1 tsp. maple extract (optional)*
3 tab. milk
2 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/4  cup walnuts, chopped and divided
3 tab. brown sugar

In a large mixing bowl, smash the bananas to a creamy substance.  Then mix in the maple syrup, oil, egg, maple extract and milk until all blended.  Add in the flour, baking powder and salt and stir it all together.  Finally mix 3/4 cup of the walnuts.

Spoon the mixture into a 5″ by 9″ loaf pan** that has been sprayed with cooking spray.

Mix together the brown sugar and the remaining 1/2 cup of walnuts and sprinkle them over the loaf of banana bread.

Bake it all up at 350 degrees for 50 -55 minutes until it’s browned and a tooth pick inserted comes out clean.  Delicious warm from the oven– or toasted the next day for breakfast  with a smear of butter!!

*maple extract is optional– it just adds a little more maple flavoring.
** I used 2 half size loaf pans and cooked it about 5 minutes less.

Roasted Eggplant Parmesan

 

Hello friends–  Got this recipe from a food blog that I just love– The RichmondAvenue   It’s written by smart and warm Jasmine, who combines really practical recipes with beautiful photography and a big dose of southern friendliness.  Her tortilla soup is awesome– as well as this big plateful of roasted eggplant parmesan.  I think you’d love her blog as much as I do.

ROASTED EGGLANT PARMESAN
2 large eggplants, sliced into 1/2″ slices
olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3 tab. olive oil
2 large cloves of garlic, minced
2 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. dried thyme
28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
1 tab. red wine vinegar
salt & freshly ground pepper, to taste
1/2 cup (packed) fresh basil leaves, chopped
1 1/2 cup parmesan romano
1/3 cup panko bread crumb
1/2 tsp. dried basil
garnish: basil leaves
8 oz. pasta, cooked

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with foil.  Brush the slices of eggplant on both sides with olive oil and lay them in a single layer on the baking sheets.  Roast them in the hot oven for 10 to 15 minutes, until the bottom sides are browned.  Then turn them over and roast for 10 minutes more.

While that’s roasting, heat the 3 tab. of oil in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Drop in the onion and saute until the onion starts to brown.  Then add in the garlic, dried basil and thyme.  Saute another 30 seconds.  Finally stir in the crushed tomatoes and leave on a low simmer for about 15 to 20 minutes.  Then add the red wine vinegar, fresh basil and salt & pepper to taste.

Spray a 9″ x 9″ baking dish (or a 7″ x 11″) with cooking spray.  Layer in a few spoons of sauce, a layer of eggplant and a sprinkling of the parmesan. Continue with 2 more layers until you’ve used all the eggplant, sauce & parmesan.  Mix the panko bread crumbs with the 1/2 tsp. dried basil and sprinkle the crumbs over the eggplant in the baking dish.

Pop it into a 375 degree oven for 20 to 30 minutes, until the eggplant mixture is bubbly and hot in the middle.  Serve over your favorite pasta.  Garnish with a sprig of basil.

Strawberry Scones

Hello all– It’s starting to be strawberry season here!! That’s great news!  When we were married at the end of March, a hundred years ago (more or less), my Mom and I scoured the town for beautiful ripe strawberries to cascade down our wedding cake.  We finally found them jut in time in a small market couple cities over!!

But now we’ve got these sweet red berries and they are just right to be folded into buttery, crispy scones. With a smear of butter and maybe just a dot of jam.  Perfect.

STRAWBERRY SCONES
2 cups strawberries, stemmed & cut to bits
1 tab. sugar
2 cups flour
1/4 cup sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
2/3 cup whole milk (or half & half)
1 egg
coarse sugar*

Stem and cut the strawberries to small bits until yo have 2 full cups.  Mix them with 1 tablespoon of sugar.

In a large mixing bowl, stir together the flour, 1/4 cup sugar, baking powder and salt.  With a pastry blender (or a food processor if you don’t mind cleaning that big thing), cut in the butter until it is cut to the size of peas in the mixture.

With a soft spatula, sit the strawberries into the flour mixture.

In a separate bowl whisk together the milk and egg.  Then stir them into the flour mixture as well until it’s all moist and combined.

Onto a counter dusted with flour, dump the dough out.  Cut it into 2 halves.  Take the first half and form it into a thick disc.  Cut it into 6 triangular pieces (like a pizza!) and set them onto a baking sheet lined with a piece of parchment.  Repeat with the second half of the dough for 12 medium sized scones.

Sprinkle the coarse sugar onto the tops of the scones and pop them into a 400 degree oven for 20 to 25 minutes, until they are golden and crispy around the edges.  Super delicious hot from the oven!!

*the recipe I worked from called for turbinado sugar.  I used some coarse sugar crystals I had from a cake decorating shop.