Chocolate Birthday Cake

Chocolate Birthday CakeBirthday Week
Every year the hours between May 12th and May 18th are utterly chaotic. During that time there are three birthdays, usually one Mother’s Day and dozens of sports activities. This year we added drama performances, band performances, and other end-of-year school activities just to spice things up.

Despite all of this, we managed to have a family celebration to cover all birthdays and Mother’s Day. My husband ordered a bunch of catered BBQ and my sister made a birthday dessert for those who were celebrating. This is how we ended up with a chocolate cake, 2 dozen red velvet cupcakes, and this Berry Blitz Torte.

The chocolate cake was for my boys, the cupcakes for my daughter, and the torte was for me. All was tasty. But, I am torn as to which recipe to highlight…because of a gift I got from my sister.

My regular readers may remember my inner debate about whether or not to get an Instant Pot. Well, that problem has been solved. And, I have already used it.

Not gonna lie, it’s pretty cool. 

I made a chicken and couscous dinner in 15 minutes. Yes, I could have done something similar the old fashioned way in about 45. But, the promise of being able to make actual food quickly on a busy night when we would normally get take-out is just fantastic. I’m still trying to get the hang of it and the kids are begging me to try the yogurt setting. So, I’ll have to give you an update once I’ve used it a bit more.

In the meantime, you need to make this cake if for no other reason than you want to… 

Chocolate Birthday Cake
Adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s Cocoa-Buttermilk Layer Cake
The frosting on this cake needs an hour in the fridge to set, so make it in plenty of time to set the icing and bring the cake back to room temperature.  Read more…

Tres Leches Cake

Tres Leches CakeViva Cake! 
We eat Mexican food a lot—easily twice a week if not more. So, when Cinco de Mayo rolls around it makes it kinda difficult to come up with something “special” to mark the occasion. The easiest way to do something different, in my opinion, is with dessert. (And don’t forget the tequila…)

About four years ago we took a trip to Mexico and while down there I came across a gorgeous neon pink tome of a cookbook called, appropriately, Mexico, The Cookbook. It is 704 pages long and filled with recipes that come from all regions and categories—like classic, everyday, and special occasions. Since it has been part of my collection, I haven’t even come close to making a dent. But, when I am looking for something authentically Mexican, this is where I turn.

I chose the recipe because it’s tasty and also because very few desserts scream Mexico as much as this one. (Except maybe flan.) If you have never had a truly good Tres Leches Cake you are in for a treat. (Plus it’s way less frustrating than flan…)

This particular recipe has strawberries in it. You could leave them out if you wish. I’ve eaten it both ways. If you are planning a get together for Cinco de Mayo, or even if you are not, I highly encourage you to give this cake a shot.

Tres Leches Cake
Adapted from Mexico, The Cookbook by Margarita Carrillo Arronte Read more…

Strawberry Rye Tart

Strawberry Rye TartStrawberry Fields Forever
I planted my summer garden the weekend we got back from our Spring Break trip and already the plants are getting big.

I chose to move my garden closer to the house this year for a few reasons. The first is that with our busy schedule it is easier to remember to water the plants if the droopy garden is staring you in the face.

The second reason is chickens. My chickens will eat my entire garden if I let them—not just the bugs. Tomatoes are their favorite with peppers a close second.

The last and probably the most important reason is that having my veggies in a planter box by the side of my patio forces me to only grow the stuff that we will actually eat. I have a tendency to over-plant because I find it fun to share the wealth with others who love home grown veggies but don’t like to garden (or can’t because of space). My husband doesn’t see it the way I do. He just sees waste—and he may have a very tiny point. So I limited myself to four tomatoes, a bell pepper, green beans, cucumbers, and snap peas.

However, our plans went sideways because I took my daughter with me on the trip to the nursery. She is my gardening partner-in-crime and a bit of a bad influence. When she gets excited about growing something, I have a hard time saying no. This is how I ended up with two square planters full of strawberries…

Assuming I can keep the kids from devouring them off the vine, the potential for a lot of strawberries means that I have been looking for something other than shortcakes, jams, or pies as a way to use them.

This recipe came up in two different searches on two different websites. I couldn’t escape it. So I had to try it—if only because I was intrigued by the rye flour. The original recipe called for vanilla sugar in the mascarpone. I decided to use regular sugar and the seeds from one vanilla bean because I love that vanilla flavor. I also substituted honey for the sugar in the mascarpone because it tastes like spring.

Strawberry Rye Tart
Adapted from King Arthur Flour 
Read more…

Marinated and Grilled Mediterranean Leg of Lamb

Marinated and Grilled Mediterranean Leg of Lamb On the Lamb
Growing up we didn’t do Easter Brunch. We ate Easter dinner at my Grandmother’s and there were strict rules that had to be followed. Along with the purple water glasses, it wouldn’t have been Easter without some asparagus, scalloped potatoes, and a leg of lamb.

My Grandmother took the traditional approach to preparing her leg of lamb which included stuffing whole cloves of garlic in small cuts all over the leg before roasting and serving it alongside some mint jelly. (Heaven forbid, we not have the mint jelly.)

As the rebel of the family, I like to buck tradition and butterfly my leg of lamb before I throw it on the grill.

Grilling a butterflied leg of lamb is super easy and you can play around with different flavors with the marinades or dry rubs. You could go Greek, Moroccan, Tejano, or whatever floats your boat. Of course, everything depends on the crowd. Not everyone wants to be transported to the markets of Marrakech for their Easter dinner—even if a grilled leg of lamb would be very tasty with couscous and grilled veggies. (Sign me up though…)

For Easter, I like to tone it down a bit and go with more Mediterranean flavors like this recipe for Marinated and Grilled Mediterranean Leg of Lamb — if you are able, try to marinate the lamb overnight. It is a simple yet flavorful marinade that will produce a tasty meal when served with grilled veggies, some roasted new potatoes, and a bit of a chocolate bunny for dessert.

Marinated and Grilled Mediterranean Leg of Lamb
Adapted from Epicurious
Yields 8 servings

Our butchers will be happy to butterfly and trim the fat from the leg of lamb for you.

The uniform thickness of a butterflied boneless leg of lamb makes it easy to grill and serve. If you don’t have access or inclination to grill outdoors, the lamb can be cooked on a hot, lightly-oiled and well-seasoned, 2-burner, ridged, grill pan. Cook it uncovered, turning over once (about 12 to 14 minutes per side).

We recommend marinating the lamb overnight and up to 24 hours. Read more…

Sautéed Asparagus with Pancetta and Leeks

Sautéed Asparagus with Pancetta and Leeks

Amy is taking the week off from writing her blog. And, the Piedmont Grocery staff is filling in with this wonderful, seasonal recipe that highlights asparagus. Local fresh, green stalks have recently hit our shelves, and this means…spring!

This recipe for Sautéed Asparagus with Pancetta and Leeks makes a dish that is so delicious, it might be considered addictive. Our recipe says it serves four, but you just might want to double it.

And what is great about this recipe is that there is no carefully wrapping the stalks in the sliced meat. It is a very straightforward, one-pot dish that can be prepared quickly on a weeknight.

Toss some salmon in the oven to roast, slice up some crusty bread, and you have yourself a delicious meal that is fit for fine restaurant dining.

Sautéed Asparagus with Pancetta and Leeks
Yields 4 Servings
Read more…