Seafoam Frosted Birthday Cake

Sounds awful doesn’t it? Seafoam frosting? What the heck, I don’t think it is meant to look or taste like seafoam. Bad marketing, I guess.

Because the reality of this frosting is that it is incredibly delicious and luxuriously creamy, but fat free. Compared to most frostings, this one is actually not completely horrible for your health, even though it is so decadent tasting. Still, while there were oooooh’s and aaaaah’s at the table, the consensus was that the girls and S like my mom’s orange buttercream frosting better (the kind with butter and powdered sugar). Nonetheless, the plates were practically licked clean. And, the cake was so darn dramatic looking.

I made a few changes to my usual yellow cake, which is adapted from the Magnolia Bakery recipe for vanilla cupcakes. We were unified in our delight with the changes. The cake was more tender and moist because I added some acid. I was inspired by the chocolate cupcakes that I made a couple of weeks ago – they have apple cider vinegar in them. Those cupcakes are incredibly tender and yet sturdy, with a delicious crumb. So, I added apple cider vinegar with the milk in the recipe for vanilla cupcakes and substituted some baking soda for baking powder to react with the acid.

Here is the other thing: having jam between the layers of a cake makes an enormous difference to the flavor and texture of the cake. Raspberry is our jam of choice.
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Menu for the Week

It is Tuesday morning, and I just finished baking the cake for S’s birthday dinner tonight. I made a new frosting and changed up my usual yellow cake recipe. I can’t wait to taste it all together. The frosting is…..mmmmmm. It is a “seafoam” frosting, which I decided to try because the regular 7-minute marshmallow frosting was such a hit. And, the pointy things all over the cake were inspired by this cake on Zoe Bakes.

In the meantime, here is the plan for the week:

Monday: Chicken Burritos with rice, pinto beans, pico de gallo w/cucumber, guacamole, salad, sliced mango
Tuesday: S’s Birthday Dinner – Fish (prep tbd), fingerling potatoes, sauteed spinach, green bean salad, cake, fruit
Wednesday: Thai rice noodles with chicken, napa cabbage slaw, fruit
Thursday: Beef Bourguignon, egg noodles
Friday: Home made Mac ‘n cheese for the girls (L’s request)

Along Came Bialy

As a displaced New Yorker, I am typically disappointed in the bagel offerings of the SF Bay Area. But, I have never been a bagel lover anyway. They are a little too heavy for me (though I will admit to enjoying the occasional bagel hot out of the oven at the store). When I do have bagels here, I usually only have half, and that has to be toasted, plied with some cream cheese and the smoked salmon fixings.

What I really miss is my memory of bialys. When I was little, I would sometimes go with my dad to his office and one of the treats that I remember I would get, perhaps at an old Chock Full O’ Nuts diner, was a toasted, buttered bialy. Part bagel, part English muffin, they tasted warm, comforting, chewy and, relative to their dense bagel bretheren, light. I’ve hunted for the bialy of my past in recent years, but I’ve come up short.

Yesterday, when S left for a business trip, I realized that we didn’t have any “good” breakfast foods in the house. No bagels, leftover french toast or pancakes in the freezer. I usually freeze leftover pancakes and french toast because they are such an easy microwave warm up on a weekday morning. J had an overnight at a friend’s house (she has vacation this week) and L had school. With S away and the girls out of the house, I figured I could sneak in some baking and try something new: bagels. Though, first I made some pancakes just to freeze.

I have been eyeing a recipe for bagels in my new favorite cookbook: Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois. Most parents don’t think, oh, we are out of bagels, I think I’ll try making them. But I do. Nonetheless, my attempt at bagels was a flop. I am convinced that it was my fault because this cookbook is so good. I think my problem was in the boiling. Maybe I left the bagels in the water too long? Perhaps not long enough? There could be a multitude of reasons that they didn’t work out.

Nonetheless, I was left with a bunch of bagel dough and I didn’t want to try more bagels. The oven was on, the baking stone piping hot. I had to keep going. Then I eyed the Bialy recipe with anticipation. No boiling, looked easier. In fact, much easier. The only changes that I made to the recipe were that I made the indentation for the onion a little bit smaller (that is how I remember them) and I used less oil for frying the onions and cooked them a bit longer. They poofed beautifully in the oven.

OMG!!! These are the bialys of my strangely clear food memories. L informs me that the onion isn’t onion-y enough (she is a bialy lover, too), but it didn’t stop her from polishing off one of these bad-boys for breakfast. I left the cooked bialys out on a cooling rack overnight so they would harden up a bit, without getting overcooked.

Toasted with salted butter. An impromptu trip to the lower east side of Manhattan. Either that, or I’ve died and gone to heaven.

Menu for the Week

It has been a pretty strange week, dinner-wise. J is on vacation from school, while L does not have vacation. J stayed over at a friend’s house on Tuesday, and S went away for a couple of nights. S returns today to pick up J and take her on a little overnight excursion. So, most of this week, it has been just me and L for dinner. We thought J would be home last night, but she had such a fun time with her friend, that she stayed with them through dinner. What a nice family!

So, L and I have been dining on some delicious food. It is very relaxing to sit down with my almost teenager and just chat. The “alone time” is pretty important.

I have been experimenting in the kitchen because I have had the time, and per usual, standing is the best position for my back. L and I saw a ravioli press at a kitchen store and immediately decided that we had to have one. We are still being inspired by the ravioli for 19 that she made with her friends. Pasta making is definitely a work in progress. L and I made the ravioli for last night together. I did the pasta rolling and she did the ravioli production. We make a good team!

Monday: Frittata with potato, tomato, spinach, basil and cheddar, salad, valentine’s cookies
Tuesday: Lamb burgers with feta, spinach salad, strawberries
Wednesday: Homemade cheese ravioli with tomato sauce, strawberries with iced maple cream (from a recipe I made over the weekend – SO good/decadent)
Thursday: Flank steak (leftover from weekend), asparagus, quinoa, applesauce with berries
Friday: ??? not sure yet.

Chocolate Cupcakes

A while ago, a friend of mine gave me a few recipes that she got from her Uncle Merv. One recipe was for chocolate cupcakes. My friend raved about these cupcakes and I was surprised to find, when I made them, that they were made with no eggs or milk – totally vegan. So incredibly easy and very delicious.

I’ve made these cupcakes many times, but I’ve added a couple of ingredients to suit my tastes. I’ve included a little salt, upped the cocoa, and splashed in some vanilla. Additionally, for an even richer chocolate taste, you can mix in some coffee with the water.

Uncle Merv frosts his cupcakes by dipping them in a warm chocolate ganache (I’ve seen Ina Garten do this, too). They are very decadent when prepared that way. This time, I frosted the cupcakes with 7 minute frosting which is made with granulated sugar and egg-whites. It is a marshmallow-y type of concoction that reminds me of my great-aunt’s christmas tree cake. I also sprinkled on some colorful non-pareils. The resulting cupcake looked almost like a soft-serve ice cream cone. I think coconut would be a great topping for this frosting, but L doesn’t like coconut.

L and J were “in heaven” when they tasted the frosting. Is there anything better than licking frosting from a beater?
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Menu for the Week

The raviolis that L and her friends made were very inspiring to me. I tried several years ago to make home made pasta. I bought a pasta machine -the old fashioned kind where you hand crank the dough through rollers until it is very thin. I bought a fairly inexpensive model, figuring that if I didn’t use it much, I wouldn’t have made a big investment. This was probably not the best idea since the cutters for the pasta were not that good and I had a few failed attempts at tagliatelle. After the girls made ravioli for 19, I decided to attempt pasta again – but I hand cut it after I rolled it instead of machine cutting it. It was easier to make than I remembered and more delicious. I made papardelle last week to serve with leftover pot roast, to which I had added extra tomato sauce. Wow.

This week, I attempted ravioli. Butternut squash ravioli with sage and brown butter. Mmmm, mmmm, good. Recipe and picures to follow.

Here was our menu this week:

Monday: Yogurt mustard chicken, quinoa, broccoli, purple cabbage
Tuesday: Ginger pork wth bok choy, leftover broccoli, Rice, Mango
Wednesday: Lemon parsley fish cakes, leftover quinoa, green beans
Thursday: Butternut squash ravioli with sage and brown butter, salad, pineapple
Friday: Leftover delight

A True Kids Cook Sunday

L and 3 of her adorable friends made a plan at school during lunch one day last fall. They decided that they wanted to cook a gourmet meal for their parents and siblings. L was very excited about the prospect of this meal because she likes to cook and she likes to hang out with her friends. Why not do both together? But, she was skeptical because she wasn’t sure they would (1) find a mutually agreeable date [which proved to be very difficult indeed!] and (2) be able to pull it off, since the girls wanted to do this without any parental nosing-in. The kids were very motivated to do his ALONE.

I was incredibly impressed by what these girls accomplished – maybe I’m just a proud parent. But, it is not easy to make dinner for 19 people: to organize the recipes, figure out the quantities, figure out the timing, etc. They did it without a lot of parental help – in fact, the parents (with the exception of the parents who generously let the kids cook at their home) arrived ready for some hors d’oeuvre just before dinner was served. All we brought was the wine!

The girls gathered at 1:00 pm and cooked, chopped, rolled, stuffed, stirred, sautéed, set tables and then served. They were exhausted (or at least L was), but so satisfied and pleased with the dinner. As a parent, I loved watching the process of the kids thinking out the evening, from the menu to getting the parents together. It was a very social and warm dinner party, where the parents didn’t all know each other well, but got to know each other better. Frankly, I think there are very few adults who could have thrown a more lovely gathering.

Here is the delicious menu that the girls prepared:

Pepper jelly and cream cheese on crackers

Home baked foccacia

Gingered Butternut Squash and Sweet Potato Soup

Caesar Salad

Fresh, homemade 3 cheese ravioli (they made and stuffed pasta for 19!!!) with vodka sauce
Mixed vegetable stir fry
Chicken with garlic and parsley

Molten Chocolate Cakes with fresh berries

Many thanks to these wonderful girls and to the parents who graciously hosted all 19 of us! We started talking about another evening together….better get it on the calendars now!!