Saturday, August 27, 2011

Roasted Sweet Potato Salad with Red Bell Pepper

I recently made this roasted sweet potato salad and fell in love.  I feel like I've turned over a new leaf in salads-- why haven't I swapped out sweet potatoes for potatoes before?  It adds so much more flavor!  Seriously,  this was one of the best things I've eaten in awhile.  If you're like me, and not a huge fan of the "over-mayonnaised" salads that go along with summer BBQ's you will love this too.  It was so colorful--orange from the sweet potatoes, red from the peppers, green from the jalapenos, onions, and cilantro, and purple from the shallots.  Roasting the sweet potatoes brought out their natural sweetness and the mirin further enhanced that. Finally, the rest of the vegetables are lightly sauteed to soften them slightly and take away any harsh bite while still leaving plenty of good crunch.

If you're headed to a party or BBQ for the Labor Day weekend this would be a great option. This salad feels very transitional to me, perfect for the time of year-- the colors and use of sweet potatoes say that fall is coming, but it's served as a salad which keeps this from being too heavy a dish for the warm weather.  Everyone enjoy, and if you are riding out Hurricane Irene this weekend, stay safe!

(Serves 8)
Nonstick vegetable cooking spray
3 3/4 pounds red-skinned sweet potatoes (yams), peeled, cut into 3/4- inch cubes
5 tbs extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2/3 cup thinly sliced shallots (about 3 large)
1 red bell pepper, very thinly sliced
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded, thinly sliced
1 1/2 tbs. mirin (sweet Japanese rice wine)*
4 large green onions, chopped
2/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro

*Mirin can be found in the Asian foods section of some supermarkets or at Japanese markets.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Spray 2 large rimmed baking sheets with nonstick cooking spray.  Toss potatoes with 3 tbs. oil in a large bowl; divide between 2 sheets.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Roast 10 minutes.  Reverse sheets and roast until potatoes are tender and browned, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes longer. Transfer potatoes to a large bowl.

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium high heat.  Add shallots and saute 3 minutes.  Add bell pepper and jalapeno; saute until beginning to soften, about 3 minutes.  Add mirin; simmer 1 minute.  Mix in green onions and stir 15 seconds. Scrape mixture over potatoes and lightly toss.  Mix in cilantro.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

Adapted from Bon Apetit, May 2009

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Peach Cinnamon Swirl Bundt Cake

I can't believe September is next week and Labor Day is around the corner.  I say this every year but where did the summer go? Kids are going back to school, and I'm starting to see big displays of mums at the nurseries and grocery stores-- always the first signs that fall is near.  I must admit that I'm extremely excited about this because I love, love, love, LOVE the fall.  I'm already looking forward to fall recipes, sweaters, cool days (hopefully sooner than later), and some pumpkin bread!

BUT, before I leave summer behind, I am still very much enjoying the wonderful produce we had this summer.  I don't know if it was the extreme heat we had in Virginia this year, but we seemed to have a great year for fruit-- peaches, cherries, and blueberries especially.  Maybe I'm just making myself feel better about the sweltering temperatures, but I'd like to think the heat contributed to a better growing season or something, because everything just seemed to taste really good this year-- better than the past few years, in my opinion.  Has anyone else noticed this?

Anyway, I decided to use some of this year's bounty to make a peach pound cake and added a cinnamon swirl layer to the middle.  I think peach and cinnamon is such a lovely combination and the addition of toasted pecans added a little crunch and a rich nuttiness. The peaches kept this cake nice and moist while the cinnamon swirl added another level of flavor but did not overpower the cake.  Finally, I made a simple glaze and drizzled over the top. I think this cake is great for the morning or brunch (but hey, I think pound cake is great anytime). This is a big cake so be sure to use a large bundt pan (a 12 cup pan) to prevent the batter from overflowing.

Peach Cinnamon Swirl Bundt Cake

For the Cinnamon Swirl:
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 cup toasted pecans, chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Chop pecans and pour onto a baking sheet.  Toast for 5-6 minutes or until fragrant and golden, being careful not to burn.  Mix the brown sugar, cinnamon, and pecans in a small bowl and set aside.

For the Cake:
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
2 3/4 cups sugar
3 cups cake flour
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
6 eggs
1 cup sour cream
2 tsp. vanilla
2 1/2 cups peaches, peeled and diced
1 tbs flour
1/4 cup sugar

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.  Grease and flour a large bundt pan (12 cup).

Toss the sliced peaches with a 1/4 cup of sugar and 1tbs. of flour and place in a colander to drain excess juices prior to baking. The flour will prevent the peaches from sinking to the bottom of the cake. Set aside while you prepare the rest of the cake.

In a large bowl, sift the cake flour, baking soda, and salt.  Set aside.

Cream sugar and butter until light and fluffy.  Add eggs, two at a time, beating after each addition.  Add flour mixture, alternating with sour cream.  Add vanilla and mix.  Gently fold in peaches.  Pour half of batter into bundt pan then pour the cinnamon mixture in.  DO NOT MIX.  Carefully pour the other half of the cake batter on top of the cinnamon mixture.

Bake at 325 for an hour- an hour and 10 minutes or until a knife or cake tester inserted into the middle comes out clean.  Allow cake to cool on a wire rack and then remove cake from pan.  Allow to cool completely before glazing.

Recipe for Glaze:
1 cup powdered sugar
1 to 2 tbs. milk

Start by adding 1 tbs. of milk to the powdered sugar and whisking.  In small increments, slowly add the the next tablespoon until glaze is the desired thickness.  You will probably not need the entire tablespoon.  I like the glaze to be thick and not runny so it pools on top of the cake instead of running off the side.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

My 7 Links

I like the 7 Links game that has been making its way around food blog land.  It's been fun to see other people's posts-- to see what their favorite recipe has been, or what their most successful post was, or to see some can't miss recipes you may have missed before you discovered his or her blog.  It's a great way to catch up and I was really excited when Cassie at Bake Your Day tagged me!  Cassie is the sweetest, and she has a blog full of the most delicious treats so go over and say hello if you haven't already!

How the game works:  There are 7 categories to link to a post you've already written, and then you tag 5 blogger friends to take their turn.

1.  Most Beautiful:  Chocolate Cake with Raspberry Whipped Cream

I loved this cake and thought the dense chocolate cake was so good with the sweet raspberry whipped cream.  I also thought the light pink icing looked pretty with the deep dark brown cake. :)

2.  Most popular:  Strawberry Pound Cake with Cream Cheese Glaze

This was the first time I ever had a picture accepted by Foodgawker and Tastespotting and I was thrilled to say the least!  It's still the post that gets the most hits-- I guess everyone else likes pound cake as much as I do!

3.  Most Controversial:  Strawberry Streusel Muffins

Thankfully, I haven't had a controversial post yet really, although people who have been blogging longer than I, assure me that its inevitable. Yikes! That's not a pleasant thought! Anyway, I'm offering these strawberry streusel muffins instead. These were one of my early blog posts and one of my all-time favorite muffin recipes!

4.  Most helpful:  How To Make Stuffed Artichokes

I did a "how-to" post for stuffed artichokes back in the spring.  My family makes these a lot and they're one of my favorite foods! Yum!

5.  Surprisingly Successful:  Spiced Peach Carrot Quick Bread

I'm always looking for quick bread recipes, but apparently everyone else is too because this became one of my most popular posts! It's always surprising to me to see what's going to do well and what going to get an "ehhh"  response. :) I do love this bread-- so good with a cup of coffee!

6.  Post that Didn't Get the Attention it Deserved:  Dad's Favorite Chocolate Cake

This was one of my first blog posts before I knew about cropping photos, Tastespotting, Foodgawker, Twittering, Pinterest... a lot has changed since February.  As the title says, this is my Dad's favorite chocolate cake and its mine as well.  I like this photo because you can just see a little bit of my cat Bella on the left as she's watching me take pictures.

7. Post you are most proud of:  Lemon Blueberry Cake

I chose my first blog post as the one I'm the most proud of-- even though the pictures are kind of dark and funky.  I'm really glad I took the plunge and started blogging.  I was nervous to start the adventure but am so glad I did.  I have met so many wonderful people in the 8 or so months I've been blogging and am constantly impressed at how kind and encouraging the people in the food blogging community are!

There are 2 Rules:  1 Link per category.  2.  Tag 5 other Bloggers

Tag you're it!

1. Amy at Gastronome Tart
2. Malou at Skip to Malou
3. Linda at The Orange Bee
4. Juanita at There can be Only Juan
5. Kyleen at Sixteen Beans

Friday, August 12, 2011

Coca Cola Cake

I realized it's been ages since I posted anything with chocolate on my blog! I thought I'd take a brief break from my peach mania to post something a little different.  After all, variety is the spice of life!

Coca Cola Cake is one of those good old-fashioned recipes that is frequently found in many church and community cookbooks--especially in the south.  This cake is moist and chocolaty and combines so many of my favorite ingredients-- cocoa... butter...marshmallows...and Coke!  If you are wondering what this concoction tastes like in a cake or that it's too strange to taste good, trust me, its heavenly! You boil the cocoa, butter, and Coke together for both the cake and the icing and the cake tastes like fudge.  The marshmallows completely melt into the batter and you don't taste Coke at all.  I think it's possible that the carbonation  keeps the cake moist and adds some volume??? I'd be interested to know the answer to that if anyone out there knows, so I'll throw that out to you, dear readers.

I've always wondered how this cake came about.  I imagine a housewife long ago having to whip up a dessert on the fly and looking into her pantry and seeing only Coke, marshmallows, and cocoa, she magically invents Coca Cola Cake.  I have no idea if that was the case, or if it was invented by the Coca Cola company in a test kitchen, but however it came to be, it's pretty darn good.

For the Cake
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups miniature marshmallows
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 cup coke
3 tbs cocoa
1/2 cup butter milk
2 eggs, beaten
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Mix flour, sugar, and marshmallows in a bowl and set aside.

In a saucepan, bring butter, Coke, and cocoa to a boil.  Pour this over the flour mixture.  Stir until marshmallows are almost melted.  Add buttermilk, beaten eggs, baking soda, and salt.  Mix until combined be careful to not over beat.

Pour into a greased and floured 9x13 pan.  Bake 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

For the Frosting:
1/2 cup unsalted butter
6 tbs. coke
3 tbs. cocoa
1 box (3 3/4 cups) powdered sugar
pinch of salt
optional: 1 cup of chopped pecans

Bring butter, Coke, and cocoa to a boil.  Remove from heat.  Add sugar and nuts and beat until combined.  Pour over cooled cake.

Friday, August 5, 2011

My First Guest Post: Peach and Toasted Pecan Cake with Peach Cream Cheese Frosting

I had the privilege of guest posting today over at Fleur-De-Licious  for the lovely Hannah.  This is my first guest post ever, so please head on over there to see the recipe for this yummy cake! If you've never checked out Hannah's blog, you are missing out.  Please go on over and say hello!

I made a fresh peach and toasted pecan layer cake with peach cream cheese frosting.  What can I say, I can't stop the peach madness! :)  I really loved this cake and to see the recipe just click on the link! :)

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