Strawberry Cream Almond Cake

I love strawberries and cream. In fact, I can’t eat strawberries without cream – it just feels wrong. So I put them in a cake.

Ingredients:

1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup almond flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon pure almond extract (separated)
1/2 cup milk (whole or 2%)
1 pound strawberries, washed and thinly sliced (I sprinkled a little sugar on them as well).
1 1/2 cups heavy cream

Tools:

Mixing bowls
Measuring tools
Paring knife for strawberries
Electric mixer
Spatula
Whisk
Sharp knife, at least 8 inches long (to cut the cake in half, lengthwise)
1 8-inch round springform baking pan (buttered and floured!)

Plump.

Plump.

Sweet.

Sweet.

It's hard...but just try it.

It’s hard…but just try it.

Creamy and dreamy.

Creamy and dreamy.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder, and salt.

In another bowl, with a mixer (this is where a KitchenAid is handy) mix together sugar, and add one egg/egg yolk at a time until fully mixed. Add the almond extract. Then add the milk and flour mixture, one cup (each) at a time, until it is just blended. Don’t over mix; your cake won’t rise and will end up hard as a rock. Keep it light and fluffy.

Pour the batter into your floured and buttered pan and place in the center of the oven.

In the meantime, pour the heavy cream and the other 1/2 teaspoon of almond extract into a mixing bowl and mix – for several minutes, until it turns into whip cream. Set aside.

When the cake is baked, about 30-35 minutes later (and your toothpick comes out clean), let it cool completely. Release it from the springform pan and, while gently holding it in place, cut the cake in half lengthwise. VERY carefully, remove the top half and set aside….I used a wide spatula to help so it didn’t break.

Spread half the whipped cream and strawberries on top of the bottom half of the cake, leaving an inch all around the sides. Add the top half of the cake and spread the remaining whipped cream and strawberries on the top, arranging the fruit as you wish. Refrigerate before serving. Serves 6-8.

Spring is here! At least, in theory…Multi-Bean Soup.

Anyone else live in Chicago? So you know the calendar seasons mean very little. It’s still cold in my city but technically, it is Spring, so I’m going to dust off my light jackets, open-toed heels, skirts and breezy blouses to wear again in about 4-6 weeks.

I have been a little obsessed with eating fiber lately, and I swear it has nothing (everything) to do with losing some weight before summer gets here, so here’s a wonderful recipe I like to call the Million Bean March! Although it’s more like 15 beans. But it’s so high in fiber you’ll be thanking me (or cursing me) the next day or two. It’s made with chilis so it has an extra kick.

Gross.

Now, I work full time so cooking is done in my free time, in between all of my other obligations, so quick and healthy dishes like this are always at the top of my “to make” list, especially during the working week.

Here’s what you’ll need:

Ingredients:

1 16 oz. bag of Goya dried 15 bean mix (usually found in the “ethnic” foods aisle).
4 cups chicken stock.
4 cups water.
2 green onions (chopped)
4 cloves garlic (minced)
1 serrano pepper (sliced)
1 jalapeño pepper (sliced)
1 Tbls Gumbo seasoning mix*
1/8 tsp ground cumin
Kosher salt and black pepper to taste
Dash of paprika
About 2 cups extra boiling water to replenish (on the side)

Tools:

Large pot
Sharp chef’s knife
Cutting Board
Measuring tools

All the good stuff...

All the good stuff…

First, bring the water and chicken stock to a boil.  Add the beans, and bring to a boil, then simmer and cover.

The basics

The basics

In the meantime, chop your vegetables. The beans are going to take longer to cook so take your time.

When you’re done, add the seasonings and veggies, bring to a boil again, then simmer, and cover. Stir occasionally, replenish the water if it falls below bean level.

CAM01201

Bit o' cumin...

Bit o’ cumin…

 

In about 90 minutes or so, the soup was done. Now, you can also soak the beans overnight to soften them, but I don’t always remember the night before to prep food for the next day’s dinner, so don’t worry if you forget to do it – your soup will still come our very nicely.

 

Final Picture

*This is a mix of dried onions and garlic and some cajun spices. Replace with dried onion, garlic, paprika, black pepper, salt, thyme, dried basil, celery seed, and cayenne.

What? It’s been more than 8 weeks since my last post?!

Impossible!

Actually, there is good reason – I have started a new job, been looking for/found/started packing for a new apartment, and I am moving this weekend. I have cooked many a beautiful thing over the last couple of month, but not in a kitchen I called my own, nor with any decent lighting to photogaph. Plus, it’s really cold in Chicago and I’ve been hibernating.

Forgive me my absence, but I am hoping that in a couple weeks, the move is done, my kitchen is in order, and my camera is recharged, so I can once again provide you guys with beautiful and fun recipes using what you have in your kitchen.

Until then, here is one of my favorite Julia Child vidoes – practice at this and I promise you, your omelettes will quickly become the centerpieces of meals!

December Dinner Party!

Happy December! It hasn’t snowed yet in Chicago, and you know what, I’m okay with that. But I think I want snow by Christmas, otherwise the hot chocolate just won’t taste the same…

As you may know, I have decided to host monthly dinner parties to try out new recipes on my friends and family, and sometimes, strangers. Last month, I held my first dinner and made a lovely Boeuf Bourguignon. This month, I decided to try a mushroom risotto.

Now, I also made sweet potatoes with toasted garlic and a spicy, cayenne flavored chocolate cheesecake, but I will reserve those recipes for another time, mainly because I was not happy with how my cheesecake looked in the end (I had a bit of oven trouble and had to take it out halfway through, fix the problem, then continue baking it.) Although it tasted great, nice and creamy with a spicy kick, I’ll make it again with better pictures and no oven trouble to deal with!

My guests brought rieslings and chardonnays to pair with this meal, per my request for white wines.

The recipe for the mushroom risotto is here! Click me!

Here are some lovely photos of the final event, with Pastiche Events’ very own Patty Sue providing us with Christmas Crackers to play with!

These photos were taken by the very gifted Greg Sidelnik, who is officially invited to every event because his pictures are just awesome.

The table is set

The table is set

The gorgeous and fragrant risotto.

The gorgeous and fragrant risotto.

Deeee-lish.

Deeee-lish.

Final dish

Final dish

Slicing the cheesecake.

Slicing the cheesecake.

Rich and creamy with a kick!

Rich and creamy with a kick!

White Wine Mushroom Risotto

I have a confession to make: I’m homeless.

Well, no, not really, I’m not homeless, but I am “in-between” homes. I am currently staying with some friends in the Logan Square neighborhood of Chicago, but also cooking at my boyfriend’s house, which means a lot of my personal cooking tools and supplies are in storage. I don’t always have the ingredients I need in the pantry I happen to be nearest to, and my pictures are taken in different locations. Additionally, the light in one of the kitchens in which I cook is absolutely terrible, so you’ll have to bear with me until I get my own kitchen, which, believe me, will leave all of us with a far better experience. I expect that to happen sometime soon. Until then, you’ll have to bear with some awesome pictures, and some not-so-awesome ones!

Risotto is all about timing. I prepared the stock, mushrooms, did all my chopping before I even turned the stove on, so that it would all go smoothly. This takes about 2 hours, so start according to what time you want to serve it (it should be served almost immediately upon finishing! Don’t stress if it’s not exactly right away though.)

Ready to go!

Ready to go!

Mushrooms

Mushrooms

Extra mushroom "paste"

Extra mushroom “paste”

Mushroom "paste"

Mushroom “paste”

Sautéing mushrooms

Sautéing mushrooms

Toasting the rice.

Toasting the rice.

Adding the wine

Adding the wine

Adding the stock

Adding the stock

Final additions (liquid, mushroom, paste).

Final additions (liquid, mushroom, paste).

Carmelized onions

Carmelized onions

Photo courtesy of Greg Sidelnik

This feeds about 8 people.

Ingredients:

About 20 ounces assorted mushrooms (I used cremini, bella, oyster, and shitake) washed and sliced/quartered.
4 cloves of garlic, mashed.
1/2 cup fresh aged parmesan, grated.
1/2 cup fresh parsley, washed finely chopped
1 bottle white wine (I used sauvignon blanc)
1 tsp truffle salt
1 Tbl truffle oil
4 cups Arborio rice
2 small onions, diced
6-7 cups (two cartons, roughly) chicken stock
Several tablespoons of olive oil (keep the bottle handy)
1 large onion, sliced longwise (for carmelized onion topper)
Kosher or sea salt to taste

Tools:

Cutting board
Sharp knife
Cheese grater
Measuring tools
1 small saucepan
2 large saucepans (for risotto and to sauté mushrooms.)
Food processor
Mixing spoons, including a slotted one.

First, bring the chicken stock to a low simmer. Leave it for future use, simmering.

Prepare your mushrooms, garlic, cheese and parsley (slice, mash, grate, and chop, respectively!)

Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat in a large saucepan. Add garlic, sauteéing for several minutes until you can smell the garlic. Remove the garlic, discard. Add almost all the mushrooms – reserve about a half cup of mushrooms on the side. Sauté the mushrooms over low heat, covered, until they are soft and palatable.

In the meantime, add the remaining mushrooms, truffle oil and truffle salt to a food processor, and process until you have a “mushroom paste.” Set aside.

Prepare the caramelized onions. Over low heat, heat some olive oil, and add the onions you’ve sliced lengthwise. Let them cook over the low heat, stirring occasionally, until they are a deep golden brown color (it took me about an hour! So start them at this point!)

Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in another large saucepan over medium heat. Add the diced onions and salt generously. Add the Arborio rice and toast for a few minutes (mixing well to coat with oil.) When the rice is well coated, add enough white wine to cover the rice. Stir frequently until it is absorbed. Now, add the heated chicken stock, again, to cover the rice. Stir until it is absorbed yet again. Repeat a third time, and this time, stir in the cooked mushrooms and the mushroom paste. Check for seasoning, you might need more salt.

Stir until all of the liquid is absorbed and the rice is cooked “al dente” and creamy. Serve right away, sprinkling fresh parmesan and parsley on the top for flavor and color.

Serve to your guests, enjoy the oohs and ahhs, and happy eating!

Maple Pecan Pumpkin Cheesecake

This Autumn, I crossed another item off my bucket list and traveled to the tree-filled mountains of Vermont to see the leaves change. We stayed at the beautiful Stowehof Inn with a gorgeous view of the trees, ate everything maple, climbed Mt. Mansfield, visited the von Trapp Family Lodge (yes, I did run around singing “The hills are aliiiiiiiive…..with the Sound of Music!”) and ate at the Ben and Jerry’s factory. Oh yes, it was quite a week. I also bought way too much maple syrup so I need ways to use it…hence this Maple Pecan Pumpkin Cheesecake.

This cheesecake is divine and pretty easy to make. I would usually make my own pumpkin puree, but I’ve had a hectic week so hey, canned puree had to suffice. Cheesecakes need several hours to cool and firm in the fridge, but otherwise are super easy to make.  Serve with whip cream or maple ice cream. Enjoy!

Yummy sweet pecans

Crust…refrigerate it until you’re ready to use it!

Make your batter…taste it as you go and adjust the flavor!

Purty and DELICIOUS.

Ingredients:

9-10  graham crackers, finely ground
5 tablespoons butter, cold
3 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, room temperature
3 large eggs, at room temperature for 30 minutes
1 (15-ounce) can pure pumpkin PUREE (not filling!)
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, separated
2 teaspoon ground nutmeg, separated
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups pecans, chopped (a few seconds in a food processor
1 egg white

Tools:

9-inch springform pie pan
Food processsor
Baking sheet
Aluminum foil
Mixing bowl
Measuring tools

First, let’s make the pecans!

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Take the chopped pecans, and mix together with an egg white, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp nutmeg, and the maple syrup. Mix together well so they’re all coated. Then spread evenly over a baking sheet lined with foil. Bake for about 25 minutes. Let them cool, break apart, set aside. These will go on top of the cheesecake.

Maintain oven temperature.

Beat the cream cheese until it’s soft. Add the pumpkin puree, sugar, 1 tsp each cinnamon and nutmeg, sugar, eggs, and salt. Beat together until fully smooth and mixed well, about 5 minutes.

Pour mixture into your prepared pan. Sprinkle pecans evenly over the top. Bake for about 1 hour and 15 minutes, until the cheesecake slightly jiggles but is generally firm.

Let it cool completely, then chill overnight or for at least 6 hours.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Third Toast’s First Monthly Dinner!

So, if you don’t follow me on Facebook, then you probably had no idea that I have decided to try out different recipes on actual humans. On November 12, The Third Toast hosted its first dinner, featuring seasonal ingredients. On the menu was:

Radicchio beet salad with goat cheese
French potatoes with thyme
Boeuf Bourguignon
Plum tart

It was a two day cooking adventure that ended in good food and good company. I can’t wait to do it again!

Digging in!

Success!