Old Fashioned Chocolate Layer Cake

Old Fashioned Chocolate CakeFor Good­ness Cake

To say that my daughter has varied inter­ests would be the under­state­ment of the cen­tury. She has a long list of activ­i­ties she enjoys par­tic­i­pating in, and they are all over the map. Drama Club? Yep. Ceramics Class? Woo Hoo! Gar­dening Club? Sure. Soft­ball? Def­i­nitely! Blue­grass Fiddle? Yee Haw! Add a little paint or glitter and basic car­pentry into that mix, and you get the idea. She is like a box of choco­lates, and deter­mi­na­tion should have been her middle name instead of Jane.

On top of every­thing else, my daughter loves to cook. It makes sense that she would, given how much of my time I devote to cooking and food—she gets it through osmosis. Her love of cooking goes beyond the usual: she has become obsessed with cer­tain shows on the Food Net­work. Guys Gro­cery Games would is one, but she has gone Coo Coo for Cocoa Puffs over the Kids Baking Cham­pi­onship.

I admit, I found myself watching with her because it was fas­ci­nating. These kids were cre­ating some amazing desserts—all on their own. Well, almost. They had to have had some help. (At least I have to tell myself that so I can feel better, because some of the items they made would have been dif­fi­cult for most adults…including me.)

Either way, it made my daughter more daring and con­fi­dent in the kitchen. (Me too!) I let her do more on her own. In fact, since my Dad’s Birthday cel­e­bra­tion is this Sunday, I am going to let my daughter make Papa Dave’s favorite birthday cake…all by her­self. ( I will still be mon­i­toring. Giving an 8 year old, with a wild imag­i­na­tion, free reign can be a bit messy!)

Here is the recipe inspired by America’s Test Kitchen. I’ll let you know how it goes…

Old Fash­ioned Choco­late Layer Cake
Adapted from Amer­icas Test Kitchen
Serves 10 to 12

Their notes: Do not sub­sti­tute semi­sweet choco­late chips for the chopped semi­sweet choco­late in the frosting—chocolate chips con­tain less cocoa butter than bar choco­late and will not melt as readily. For best results, don’t make the frosting until the cakes are cooled, and use the frosting as soon as it is ready. If the frosting gets too cold and stiff to spread easily, wrap the mixer bowl with a towel soaked in hot water and mix on low speed until the frosting appears creamy and smooth. Refrig­er­ated left­over cake should sit at room tem­per­a­ture before serving until the frosting softens. Read more…

Crispy, Crackly Apple-​​Almond Tart

Antique french Parisian postcard  from  Bon Anniver­saire

Last Sunday my mother turned 70. (She’s going to love that I pub­lished that.) Since this is one of those big birth­days we, of course, had to do some­thing big to mark the occa­sion. So, as per usual in my family, we ate. We ate very well. And we drank. We drank very very well. (The French do know their way around fer­mented grape juice.)

Since I was hosting the soiree, I decided that it would be fun to do a “70 in Paris” theme so we had the Eiffel Tower cen­ter­piece on the dining table and every­thing we ate and drank was French. We even tried to speak in French but, well, at least we tried…

There were a number of tasty items on the menu including gougeres (cheese puffs), a won­derful country pate (my son took it in his lunch as a sand­wich the next day…um, okay?), a bacon, egg and asparagus salad (per­fect for this time of year) and a few other bacon and butter laden offer­ings to round things out. Vive La France!

While it was all super tasty (yay me!) I think by far everyone’s favorite dish was the Crispy, Crackly Apple Almond Tart. I noticed more than one person sneaking back for a second slice, and not all of the thieves were under five feet tall.

I first made this was for our cook­book club last month. It was a big hit. It’s a little tricky if you aren’t accus­tomed to using filo dough, but I have to say that it was easier this time around. So easy in fact, that my 8 year-​​old daughter but­tered and sug­ared all of the layers on her own. It’s spreading the almond cream that takes patience so that you don’t rip the filo.

Add a little scoop of ice cream (I rec­om­mend Tal­enti Salted Caramel gelato—it will make your mouth happy), and you have a simple, but oh-​​so-​​good, and def­i­nitely oh-​​so-​​French, dessert.

This tart can be served warm or at room tem­per­a­ture. I like to serve it a room tem­per­a­ture so that I can make it ahead of time. It would be a per­fect addi­tion to any Spring brunch buffet table. and, it makes for a won­derful break­fast when paired with a cafe au lait…

Crispy, Crackly Apple-​​Almond Tart
Adapted from Around My French Table by Dorie Greenspan
Read more…

Cashel Blue, Spinach and Smoked Salmon Tartlets

Go Green
To most people mid-​​March means St. Patrick’s Day. When they think about Irish food and drink, those same people gen­er­ally think of pota­toes, corned beef, cab­bage, lamb and Guinness.

While those ingre­di­ents are fre­quently fea­tured in Irish cooking, the Emerald Isle has so much more to offer. Their cheese alone could occupy most of your time—and don’t get me started on the char­cu­terie. The Irish know their way around a butchery. While trav­eling through Ire­land years ago, one of the things that sur­prised me most was the incred­ible seafood. (I’m not sure why I was sur­prised. It is an island after all.) The seafood…it was sensational.

Mus­sels, Her­ring, Shrimp, Cod, Crab, Had­dock, Skate and Salmon (both fresh and smoked) could be found on most menus along with many other native species. Fish was mostly pre­pared simply but ele­gantly, and with obvious skill. Occa­sion­ally, if you were lucky, you could find a seafood pie. (Yes, topped with pota­toes). Yum!

This year for St. Patrick’s Day, set the green beer down and do some­thing truly Irish like these Smoked Salmon tartlets from the cook­book The New Irish Table by Mar­garet Johnson. You’ll be glad you did. Erin Go Bragh!

Cashel Blue, Spinach and Smoked Salmon Tartlets
Cour­tesy of The New Irish Table by Mar­garet Johnson
Yields 30 Tartlets

Like oys­ters, which con­nois­seurs prefer in their most nat­ural state, oak-​​smoked Irish salmon is often eaten simply with a squeeze of lemon and a slice of brown bread. But its flavor pairs so well with other ingre­di­ents, it’s no sur­prise to also find it in a pate, atop roasted pota­toes, or com­bined with blue cheese and fresh spinach in these tartlets from David Foley, chef-​​owner of the Wild Geese Restau­rant in pic­turesque Adare, County Lim­erick. Chef Foley fills hand­made pastry cases with the mixture,but these use frozen filo dough shells. Read more…

Easy Self-​​Rising Biscuits

Easy Self-Rising Biscuits Break­fast, It’s What’s for Dinner

Break­fast is one of my favorite things—Sunday break­fast especially. It may or may not include eggs but, in my mind, it will always include a serious carb—something really bad for you, loaded with butter, and smoth­ered in sticky-​​sweet good­ness. Or, if you’re really lucky, savory pepper-​​y goodness.

Weekend break­fasts have lately been dis­ap­pointing. We just haven’t been doing the Big Sunday Family Break­fast, which could be blamed on a lot of things; there are just too many activ­i­ties going on. The main reason though? My kids have become cereal fiends.

I have one son who, given the oppor­tu­nity, will eat cereal morning, noon and night. The other two are not quite as devoted, but they can do their own damage. And don’t get me started on the 46 year-​​old…

We easily go through five boxes a week, and the boys aren’t even in high school yet. (I buy milk two gal­lons at a time, every other day, and it’s only going to get worse).

In order to make up for my break­fast defi­ciency (and to use the increasing number of eggs that we have been get­ting from the chickens), I have been forced to make break­fast for dinner during the week.

Break­fast for dinner is a woe­fully under­rated din­ning option. (I mean hun­dreds of Denny’s can’t be wrong!) There ain’t  no better com­fort food than some fluffy scram­bled eggs and warm bis­cuits with straw­berry jam or honey. Let’s just be frank, sausage gravy is almost always a good idea. (Holy cow! My mouth is watering…) Add a little thick cut bacon, (I do mine in the oven.) or a ham steak, (I fry it up in a skillet.) and I am in heaven.

The best part is making enough bis­cuits to have a mini ham or bacon bis­cuit sand­wich the next morning. (It is entirely pos­sible that I was a lum­ber­jack in another life.) And if you happen to have some left­over Southern style col­lard greens (‘cause doesn’t every­body?) throw those on your bis­cuit with the ham or bacon for an out of body experience!

Easy Self-​​Rising Bis­cuits
Adapted from King Arthur’s Flours
Yield: about 1 dozen 2-​​inch biscuits

These bis­cuits are pleas­antly crunchy on the out­side, moist and tender on the inside. Read more…