4/28- HH6 April Challenge- Sachertorte

 This month's HH6 Challenge was to create a dish or meal from a a country that you have lived in, been stationed in, or visited, outside of the US. Sounds like a fun one, right? Considering I've only really been out of the country once, that narrowed my choices pretty quickly. Back in 2004, before I got married, my family and I went to Europe for 2 weeks. We went to Venice; Salzburg; Mossbach, Germany; Munich; Heidleberg; Vienna; and finally Prague.  

My favorite cities we saw were Venice and Vienna. Coincidentally, those 2 cities had my favorite foods of the trip! Our first European meal was dinner in a very quiet Venice. We found a little tiny restaurant that was mostly empty, sat down and picked our meals. This is where it got sticky. I couldn't remember what I ate, and neither could anyone else in my family! There are no pictures of our entrees, either. The only pictures of that meal are of gelatto. While that was certainly delicious, gelatto wasn't quite what I wanted to make for this challenge.

So, on we go to Vienna. I believe on our last night in the city, we went to Demel and each picked out a dessert to take back to our (super awesome!) hotel. We each picked out a different kind of cake, or torte, and then booked it back to the hotel so we could sample them all. I did take pictures of them before they vanished, but I did not write down anything about what kinds of cakes they were. Once again, nobody else could remember either! My good friend Google helped me out though! I looked up Demel, and through their website figured out that the cake on the far left of the picture was a Sachertorte. Here again, Google came to my rescue and led me to a recipie by Wolfgang Puck. I figured it must be pretty accurate since he's from that region himself. The next obstacle to tackle was to find the time to bake it! I'm late posting this because of Rebecca's birthday (see the previous post for that adventure), Easter, out of town guests, and life in general. Better late than never though, right?

So a Sachertorte is a light chocolate cake that is sliced horizontally into 3 layers. An Apricot preserve sauce is put in between the layers, and then the whole cake is covered with a chocolate glaze. Because I happened to bake this on a particularly humid and monsoon-y morning, the cake didn't rise as weel as it should have, so it was really difficult to slice it horizontally. I ended up with 2 very uneven layers instead of 3 gorgeous ones. I guess I won't be getting a job at Demel anytime soon. :) It still tasted pretty good though! Ok, without further ado, I present you with my Sachertorte!

4/22- Rebecca's First Birthday Cake!

I can't believe that the baby that inspired this blog is a year old already! Even though she's been out of the "oven" for a year now, I haven't come up with a better title yet. She was the inspiration, I can't let go of that! Anyway, I decided that she needed a spectacular cake for her first birthday, so I rolled up my sleeves and dove into the land of fondant! Being a Food Network junkie, I'd always wanted to try it, so I figured this was my chance!

I found an amazing-sounding chocolate cake recipe on allrecipes.com, so I decided that would be my base. Then since her room is chocolate brown and light pink, I decided I'd go with strawberry buttercream frosting. Let me tell you, the combination was just perfect! The cake was super easy to make (I made 4 of them. Yes. FOUR).  The buttercream is easy enough, but I ended up makig 4 batches of that as well. Let's just say that trying to make my life easier by making it ahead of time and freezing it did not work out. Note: you CAN NOT freeze this kind of frosting and then use it later. It separates and gets all gloppy and runny at the same time, and is absolutely disgusting. If you're like me, you'll try it and then end up scrambling to make 2 more batches of it when you're supposed to be fondant-ing and put yourself into a frenzy because you're running out of time before the party and the baby just woke up so now you have to do it all with both kids awake and you'll never get it done and what are you going to do??? Thankfully, my mom and sister rode to the rescue and helped me finish assembling the cake so I avoided total mental breakdown. Moms and sisters rock, don't they?

So I got the cake layered, crumb-coated, and all set to go in the fridge, only to discover that it wouldn't FIT! I'd made the base too big and it just wouldn't go in! Thankfully my sister and I managed to squeeze it into my parents' extra fridge. Phew! I also threw together 2 smaller cakes- one for Rebecca to demolish, and one for my brother-in-law who is allergic to strawberries. I got the smaller ones covered and decorated and finished them up rather quickly. Rolling out the fondant to cover the massive cake was more difficult. It took me 3 times to get it to not stick to the counter, and then the dang rolling pin poked through when I finally got it on the cake. I patched it up as best I could since there was no way I was getting it back off, and I think it still turned out ok. I worked on the cake until about 9:30 the night before her party, and then got to work assembling her toy kitchen. Now THAT was a project, but that's not exactly related to the cake, so I digress. :)

The cake was really fun to make, all things considered, and I hope to have an occasion to play with fondant again sometime soon! I've already warned my husband that this could become an addiction, and I've actually already had someone tell me they'd pay me for a cake! How cool is that?!

4/19- Grilled Salmon with Fresh Lime Cream

I can't believe I haven't posted this one before! This is one of our family's all-time summer favorites. It's light and refreshing, and good for you too! It's from a random little Betty Crocker magazine thing I grabbed in the check-out line one day, and I'm SO glad I did! There are a few in there that we just love! This one's really easy, too!

1 tsp grated lime peel
1/4 c lime juice
2 T honey
1 T chopped fresh or 1 tsp dried dill weed
2 tsp canola or soybean oil
1 1/2 lb salmon fillets, cut into 6 pieces
1/2 tsp salt

1/3 c fat-free mayo
1 tsp grated lime peel
2 tsp lime juice

1. In small bowl, mix lime peel, lime juice, honey, dill weed, and oil.
2. In 8 inch square glass baking dish (I use a zip loc bag) arrange salmon skin side up in single layer. Pour marinade over salmon; turn in marinade to cover all sides. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 20-30 minutes.
3. Brush grill rack with oil. Heat coals or gas grill for direct heat. Remove salmon from marinade; discard marinade. Sprinkle salmon with salt. Place skin side down on grill. cover and grill over medium heat 10-15 minutes or until salmon flakes easily with fork. (Maybe I buy crapy salmon or something, but it never takes that long to cook!)
4. Meanwhile, in small bowl, mix all lime cream ingredients with wire whisk. Serve with salmon.

I am telling you, you will LOVE this recipe! The lime cream is really what makes it. I always add a little extra lime juice and zest to give it a touch more flavor. It doesn't taste like mayo at all, I promise! Oh man, now I'm hungry. I usually serve this with some grilled veggies like squash and zucchini, and Parmesan Cous Cous. Delicious!

4/15- Sausage and Pepper Calzone

I posted this one in February of last year (here's the link for the recipe: http://las8704.blogspot.com/2010/02/sausage-and-pepper-calzones.html) but I'm posting it again because I made an improvement on it. I happened to make these again on an absolutely gorgeous day, and I just plain didn't feel like having billions of pans to wash afterwards. So I looked down at the sausages I'd bought, and decided it would be faster to grill them. Then I looked at the peppers and onions, and decided I'd grill them too! WAY less clean up, right? So that's exactly what I did. I tossed them all on the grill, cooked them up beautifully, got squirted with grease from the sausages a few times, and then pulled them off and chopped them all up. I also didn't have much mozzerella, so I just used the whole tub of cottage cheese. It tasted AMAZING! The extra flavor from the grill was absolutely delicious. I will make these this way from now on! Fewer dishes to clean, and that unmistakable summery flavor from the grill just made these calzones a million times better! (In my humble opinion, of course. ;) )

As a side note, the very first time I ever made these, I didn't have peppers so I threw in zucchini and squash instead, and they worked really well too! I had planned to do that this time, but my co-op veggies didn't show up in time. Oh well, next time! Also, I always end up with WAY more filling than I need somehow. I discovered that the extra filling tastes great on Ciabatta rolls for sandwiches for lunch; my husband has also eaten it on top of rice on leftover night without complaint. :)

4/10/11- Penne with Pancetta, Spinach, and Buttery Crumb Topping

Well, that's what the recipe is called, anyway. I couldn't find pancetta at the store, so I used Prosciutto. I almost forgot to add the spinach, and I completely forgot I was out of bread crumbs, so there went the "buttery crumb topping." So I guess it was really more like "Penne with Prosciutto and Spinach" but it was still pretty good!

The original recipe is from Cooking Light again, but as usual, it's really easy to make it not-so-light. It's really not a complicated recipe, but when you have 2 little human creatures either "helping" you, or getting into anything an everything in the house while you cook, and 2 canine creatures stealing the human creatures' toys and/or standing right behind you in hopes that food hits the floor, even the simplest things become complicated. Some days I marvel at the fact that I manage to get something even remotely edible on the table in time for dinner. Anyway, this particular one wasn't one of my best, or calmest, efforts, but it worked!