Thursday, October 29, 2009

Prep for the Dead Man's Ball - Halloween 2009

The kitchn has a great offering of Halloween appropriate wines which I LOVE. I picked up some Sinister Hand myself, but the others are great options to bring along to a party.
I tried not to let myself go too crazy with food on Halloween, but omg, I've already spent way too much money, so what's a little more? And if I don't make something I thought I might, no big deal, right? Right.

Let's start with drinks. Aside from the standard beer and wine people bring (and I have that appropriately covered as well - pun definitely intended - or you can always make your own a la etsy), we'll have:
Sangria a la Buzzie & Billy Bob
I'm also making a couple of cocktails, one very sangria like, one a little more. . . . uh. . . weird and margarita-esque.
Swamp Water (thanks to inspiration from Martha, of course)
(exact recipe to follow)
lime juice
green fruit juice blend
perhaps rimmed with a spicy salt
TruBlood (also inspired by Martha)
recipe to follow; I can't decide if I'm going sangria-esque or sticking with the brandy punch option. I'm just PRAYING it is as inky dark red as it looks in the photo.

Onto the nibbles. . .
Halloween candy, of course
Pumpkin spice cupcakes with cinnamon cream cheese frosting (appropriately spooked out with spiders or spider webs or eerie faces)
Guacamole - I'm thinking I'll let it go all brown and gross looking and call it swamp sludge or something; ooh, Soylent Green!!
Fire roasted salsa - I've been wanting to make this for a while, and I think fire roasted salsa will look spookier than my standard pico de gallo. I'm going to make it using all the same ingredients I usually do, but I'm going to roast all of the veggies and then blend them in food processor. Pureed people perhaps?
Mushroom and goat cheese bruschetta - aka Innards on Toast or something
- for this one I'm going to roast up a bunch of wild mushrooms and toast some baguette slices (rubbed with garlic). A smear of goat cheese on the toast, a dollop of yummy roasted mushrooms and a drop of truffle oil - ce magnifique!
Maybe some Pear and roquefort cheese bites - Moldy something or others no doubt
- roasted pear til it's soft, topped with a chunk of cheese and speared with a toothpick
Or maybe just a cheese plate if I start running out of time, which is most likely.

I ordered up a ton of stuff from Safeway that's getting delivered tomorrow, and Saturday morning is going to be busy busy busy!!!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Pork Loin with Apples

Fall again, which seems to translate to pork and apples for me more often than not. Definitely apples anyway, and pork and apples are a classic combo. Someone requested a nummy pork dinner after a perfect fall day of pumpkin patching and carving and I happily obliged - though not until 10pm or so. I tried to soothe the masses with a tasty apple drink in the meantime:
Apple Jack o'Lantern
1 1/2 shots of brandy (I used some VSOP I had)
a few dashes of Angostura bitters
apple cider
- can be served warm or cold. I'd love to add a little something else next time - - fizz perhaps? I put fizz in all my cocktails.

Roast Pork Loin with Apples
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 (2-pound) boneless center cut pork loin, trimmed and tied (I totally forgot this step, whoops)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 medium onion, thickly sliced
2 carrots, thickly sliced
2 stalks celery, thickly, sliced
3 cloves garlic, smashed
3 sprigs fresh thyme
3 sprigs fresh rosemary
(I used a few dashes of dried and it turned out fine)
4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter - I used I can't believe it's not butter
2 apples, cored and cut into 8 slices - I used Braeburns
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 cup apple cider
2 tablespoons dijon mustard

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

In a large ovenproof skillet heat the vegetable oil over high heat. Season the pork loin all over generously with salt and pepper. Sear the meat until golden brown on all sides, about 2 to 3 minutes per side. Transfer the meat to a plate and set it aside.

Add the onion, carrot, celery, garlic, herb sprigs, and 2 tablespoons of the butter to the skillet. Stir until the vegetables are browned, about 8 minutes. Stir in the sliced apples, then push the mixture to the sides and set the pork loin in the middle of the skillet along with any collected juices on the plate. Transfer the skillet to the oven and roast the loin until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of the meat registers 140 to 150 degrees F, about 30 to 35 minutes.
Pork cooked this way will be slightly pink. If desired, cook the pork to 160 degrees F, but be aware that this lean cut will not be as moist at the higher temperature.

Transfer the pork a cutting board and cover it loosely with foil while you make the sauce (I let my pork sit for about 20 minutes as I cooked the sides; I just covered the whole pan with foil and left it sitting on top of the oven to stay warm). Arrange the apples and vegetables on a serving platter and set aside. Remove and discard the herb sprigs. Return the skillet to a high heat and add the vinegar scraping the bottom with a wooden spoon to loosen up any browned bits. Reduce by half then add the cider and reduce by about half again. Pull the skillet from the heat and whisk in the mustard, and the remaining 2 tablespoons of cold butter. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper, to taste.

Remove the strings (if you remembered to trim and tie your pork, which I did not) from the roast and slice into 1/2-inch thick pieces and arrange over the apple mixture. Drizzle some sauce over meat and serve the rest on the side.

I served this with twice baked sweet potatoes and Brussels sprouts. For the sprouts, I skipped the cheese and tossed in some dried cherries before serving.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Kick Ass Steak Sandwich

A great use for leftover steak, or you can always make steak specifically for it. If you're of the veg persuasion, portobello mushrooms are a fab sub for the steak and just as tasty. I'd score the top of my mushie and drizzle it with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper, and grill it up.

Roasted peppers
Sliced french bread
Steak - cooked to your preference, grilled, pan seared, broiled, etc.
Pesto butter:
2 tbsp pesto
1 tbsp softened I Can't Believe It's Not Butter (I had some leftover garlic bread butter that I used, which is ICBINB, minced garlic, and grated parmesan/romano cheese)
Mix pesto and butter together to make a spread for bread.
Balsamic Onions:
One onion, sliced into 1/4" slices
Cook until soft in olive oil, then add 2-3 tbsp of balsamic vinegar and remove from heat, stirring until vinegar is absorbed by the onions.

Spread pesto butter on one half of the bread. Top with peppers, steak, balsamic onions, and top with the second piece of bread. So, freaking, good.

Turkey Stroganoff

I could make this recipe every week and happily nom away. It's fast, easy, and super tasty. Win! SB friendly, of course; for phases 2 or 3.

Turkey Stroganoff
1 tbs olive oil
1 medium white onion, chopped
3 cups sliced mushrooms
1 medium red bell pepper, chopped
1/3 cup chicken broth
12 ounces of whole-wheat egg noodles
6 Jennie-O turkey meatballs - (my new favorite find; they are SO good) once you've nuked them, cut them into quarters
1 cup nonfat sour cream
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp black pepper

In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring constantly, for 5 minutes. Stir in mushrooms, bell pepper, and broth. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender and liquid has evaporated, about 6-8 minutes.
Add turkey and sour cream. Heat.
Serve over cooked noodles.

Chicken and Biscuits

Well, it IS possible. You can make a South Beach version of Chicken n Biscuits. I'm not a huge fan of this dish in general, but was determined to make a nice comforting SB version.
Starting with this recipe for the main dish, and recipe for Carquik biscuits from this site and tweaked them to make my final dish. I wasn't wild about the whole wheat flour in the dish - it made it look a bit weird and seemed just a tad gluey on reheating the next day; maybe next time I'll use more broth.

SB Chicken & Biscuits
1/4 cup butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped baby carrots
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons Splenda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
3 cups chicken broth (or more as needed for desired consistency - I wanted a thicker sauce)
1 (15 ounce) can peas, drained
4 cups diced, cooked chicken meat (I used a rotisserie chicken for this)
cooking sherry or Dry Sac
fat free half and half

2 cups Carbquik
1/2 fat free half and half cup
1/8 cup water
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp dried basil
Preheat oven to 350ºF. Place dry mix & baking soda in mixer bowl. On low speed, slowly add liquid until dough forms. Do not overwork dough.
Break into 6 equal portions; roll dough into balls and smoosh flat to be placed on top of the casserole mixture before baking.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly grease a 9x13 inch baking dish.
In a skillet, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Cook and stir the garlic, onion, celery, and carrots in butter until softened; add in the mushrooms and 1/4 c of the sherry and let the liquid cook down a bit until veggies are tender. Mix in the flour, sugar, salt, 1 teaspoon dried basil, and pepper. Stir in broth, and bring to a boil. Stirring constantly, boil 1 minute, reduce heat, and stir in peas and half and half. Simmer 5 minutes, then mix in chicken. Transfer mixture to the prepared baking dish.
Place the prepared biscuits on top of the casserole and bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes. Cover with foil, and bake for 10 more minutes.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009


Have I seriously never shared my sangria recipe here? Ever? But, that's MADNESS. I make it all the time! In the case of a sudden zombie apocalypse wherein we are trapped in this apartment unable to go outside for food or beverage, we will always be able to subsist on canned goods and sangria because I ALWAYS have the fixins on hand (and I have a bit of a canned food hording problem).
While I'm sure this sangria is very good based on its 400 plus rave reviews, it's a bit labor intensive for me.

I'm pretty sure my sangria goes likes this:
2 bottles of inexpensive red wine (I seriously grab whatever looks familiar and is under $10 a bottle)
1/2 - 1 cup of brandy
1 cup of orange juice
1 small bottle of fuzzy water - lemon, lime or orange flavored work well
apple - sliced or cut into small cubes or wedges
orange - sliced
lime - sliced
lemon - sliced

If you have time, combine the oj and brandy and let the sliced fruit sit in this mix in the fridge for a couple of hours ahead of time, stirring occasionally. Add the red wine, taste and add sugar if you'd like; (I typically don't, but every once in a while it could use a couple of tablespoons) and refrigerate for another couple of hours. Add the fuzzy water just before serving and there you go. Sangria.

For white peach sangria:
2 bottles of white wine - I typically go with a pinot grigio, but again, whatever is inexpensive or on hand
1/2 - 1 c peach vodka
1 c peach nectar
1/2 bag of frozen peaches
1/2 bag of frozen mangoes
1 small bottle of fuzzy water - lemon or orange

For this one I combine the vodka, wine and nectar and refrigerate for a couple of hours, adding the frozen fruit and fuzzy water just before serving.

I also do white "antioxidant" sangria which is similar to the above but I use raspberry or blueberry flavored vodka, with blueberries, raspberries and strawberries as my fruit; the mixed berry fuzzy water and maybe some strawberry nectar or blueberry pom as the juice. This isn't so much a traditional sangria, but because it's made in the same style, I go with it on the nomenclature.

Finally, we have what I'll call "camping" sangria. This is for when you're making your sangria elsewhere and you don't want to be lugging 80 thousand ingredients around with you. Shockingly enough, it tastes just like sangria I've had at restaurants the world over, particularly in Mexico where they prefer it sweeter and more citrusy.

2 bottles of red
1 20 oz. bottle of Sierra Mist or other way too sweet lemon/limey soda
1 c of oj (most people have this in their fridge for you to pilfer, or you can get a small container of it easily)

Combine ingredients.
Aaaaaand that's it. Garnish again with the sliced fruit, but this is all that's necessary for a completely passable sangria. Shocking, I know. It doesn't pack the punch of the sangria with the added alcohol, but it's still tasty and refreshing, and let's face it, we don't always need extra alcohol.

*** Updated to include this recipe my stepmother found, which I clearly did not write since I would never suggest such a thing as adding more juice to get "less alcohol per glass" ***
Party-in-a-Pitcher Sangria

PER SERVING (1 generous cup): 125 calories, 0g fat, 5mg sodium, 13g carbs, 1.5g fiber, 7g sugars, 0.5g protein -- POINTS® value 2*

This sangria is CHOCK-FULL of fruit and deliciousness. Just don't underestimate the alcoholic intensity of fruit chunks that have been chilling in there for a while -- they're POTENT, people!

1 bottle red wine
1 can Sprite Zero (or 1 1/2 cups of any diet lemon-lime soda)
1 cup Diet Ocean Spray Cranberry Pomegranate (or another flavor of Diet Ocean Spray)
1 cup sliced strawberries
1 small orange, peeled and chopped
Half a Fuji apple, chopped
Half a slightly under-ripe banana, peeled and chopped
1/2 cup pineapple chunks (if canned, packed in juice)

Place fruit in a large container that will not stain easily (like a glass pitcher or a high-quality plastic one). Cover fruit with wine and cranberry drink, and give mixture a good stir.

Cover and refrigerate for at least 10 hours. (It's TOTALLY worth it. Quit whining.)

Once ready to serve, add soda and give it a good stir. Pour and be sure to get a nice amount of fruit in each glass. Enjoy!

P.S. If you like your sangria with less alcohol per glass, add more of the cranberry drink until it tastes juuuuuust right.


Thursday, October 1, 2009

Cakes Cakes Cakes

Fall and baked goods just go hand in hand in my mind. The warm spice flavors and the brisk weather are a perfect match and I start adding cloves and or cinnamon to just about everything come October 1st, even though that's typically summer in San Francisco. So what if it's 76 degrees out? I want a pumpkin spice latte!!! (Not that you need to get yours at a worldwide chain; you can make them yourself too.) Apple cake, banana bread, and of course - oh yeah - my pumpkin spiced cupcakes with cinnamon cream cheese frosting. Mulled wine, apple cider. . . the list of fall treats just goes on endlessly.
Now that I am wracking my brain to create some delicious and perfect treat for my beloved Buzzie's bday dinner, I stumbled across some mind blowingly good sounding fall cakes thanks to the kitchn. I had been tossing around the idea of not trying to compete with her beloved Red Velvet (which I have never made, and me thinks now is not the time to try it out for the first time) and just doing a cheese course; perhaps using a wheel of cheese and decorating it to look like a cake (with goat cheese rosettes around the edges to act as frosting perhaps) when BAM. The Kitchn beats me to it (sort of).

(also, Truffle Tremor? Swoon.) I don't think I need a 3lb wheel of cheese for 6 people though; even though we COULD eat the whole thing. That's just it - we might.

Onto the cakier cake options (some still with my beloved goat cheese even!). . .

Harvest Cake with Goat Cheese Frosting
Makes one 9” layer cake

For the cake:
2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/3 cup grated carrots
1 cup grated zucchini
1 cup finely grated beets
3/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup raisins
1 1/3 cup pure maple syrup
2/3 cup safflower, canola or other mild-tasting oil
4 eggs

For the frosting:
15 ounces (about 2 cups) fresh goat cheese, at room temperature
6 ounces (about 3/4 cup) cream cheese, room temperature
1 1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 cup pure maple syrup

For garnish
8-12 walnut halves or 1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts

Arrange oven racks to divide oven into thirds. Preheat oven to 400° F Grease two 9in x 2in cake pans, dust with a spoonful of flour and tap out. Line each with a round of parchment paper.

Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt into a bowl. In another bowl, stir together carrots, zucchini, beets, nuts, and raisins.

In a large mixing bowl, beat maple syrup and oil together until emulsified. Add eggs one at a time, beating until batter is smooth. Add flour mixture in three or four batches, mixing gently until mixture is even. Gently mix in the vegetable mixture. Divide between baking pans.

Place one baking pan in center of each of the racks. Bake 25-35 minutes, until a skewer or paring knife inserted into centers comes out clear and cakes are pulling away from the sides of pans. Cool on a rack about 5 minutes, then gently remove from pans. Cool to room temperature before frosting.

To make frosting:
Using an electric mixer or a wooden spoon and a strong arm, beat goat cheese and cream cheese together until light and fluffy. Add powdered sugar and beat at low speed until well blended. Beat in maple syrup. Chill about 30 minutes, until firm.

To assemble:
Following our instructions on how to frost a layer cake, cut four strips of parchment or wax paper to line cake plate under the cake's edges. Place first cake layer on plate. If it has a peaked top, carefully shave it off using a bread knife or sharp slicing knife. Using an off-set spatula or table knife, spread with frosting, pushing it to edges. Place second layer, top down, squarely on first layer. Spread a thin layer of frosting over entire cake to eliminate crumbs. Frost with remaining frosting. Arrange walnut halves and/or flowers around edge. Can also be garnished by gently pressing handfuls of finely chopped walnuts into frosting.

NOTE: The recipe has been updated to reflect a larger quantity so that layers can be bigger. We have tested it several times and find this recipe works better when feeding a crowd. Of course, for a smaller cake you could halve the recipe and bake it in smaller pans, or in one pan and slice that layer into two layer for a more thin cake.

Banana Nut Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
Butter, for greasing pans
3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pans
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 eggs, beaten
3/4 cup veggie oil
4 large ripe bananas, mashed
1 cup chopped pecans
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 c sour cream (as suggested by reviewers)

1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup butter (1 stick), at room temperature
1 pound confectioners' sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup chopped pecans
(or this one)

Cook's Note: This recipe is not formulated for a wedding cake, but for a normal size everyone can use. Increase as needed if you are making tiered or extra large cakes.

Butter and flour 3 (9-inch) round cake pans; set aside. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a mixing bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Add the eggs, oil, banana, sour cream and vanilla to another bowl and mix the wet ingredients separately. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir just until the dry ingredients are moistened; do not beat. Mix in nuts.

Divide the batter among the prepared pans and bake for 23 to 28 minutes, or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool the cake layers in the pans for 10 minutes, and then turn them out onto a rack to cool completely. While the cake cools, make the frosting.

In a bowl, blend together the cream cheese and butter. Gradually add the confectioners' sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Beat in the vanilla. Stir in the pecans, or reserve them to sprinkle over the frosted cake. Fill and frost the cake when it is completely cool.

And of course I'm thinking up ways to de-Dean this recipe and healthify it a bit, but you know, sometimes you've just gotta go for it. We'll see. Reviewers complain that the cake isn't fluffy enough and is more like a dense bread - they suggest adding another egg or more water. . . can you imagine a banana cake with ganache frosting? Nom.

Banana Almond Cake with Salted Caramel Frosting
(yes, I just said that) Please do visit the blog, Savour Fare, as it offers up some fab photos and tips. Like this one!:
Now listen closely, because I am going to tell you the secret to baking a good cake: Beat the hell out of it before you add the flour, and beat it as little as possible afterwards. When you’re creaming butter and sugar, beat it until the mixture is not just combined, but fluffy, and nearly pure white. Add the eggs one at a time, beating between each addition, and then beating some more. Once you add the dry ingredients, just stir until barely combined. What you don’t want to happen in cake is the development of gluten. Line the bottom of the pan with parchment cut to size, and spray with Baker’s Joy, and your cake will release perfectly.

1) Freeze your cake layers before you start decorating.
2) Split the layers with a serrated knife, and while you’re at it, cut off the domed top of the layer.
3) If you’re planning on decorating a lot of cakes, invest in a turntable. They’re not very expensive and make the process easier.
4) Secure your bottom layer to a surface (a small cake can be transferred from the decorating surface with a spatula, but for a larger cake you might want to build it on a cardboard round), then spread filling on each layer and stack, checking to make sure it remains level.
5) Don’t skimp on the frosting. There’s no sense in making a delicious cake and using frosting from a can. You can tell. Powdered sugar will do in a pinch, but the best buttercreams are sugar syrup based (and this particular buttercream, which is made with whipped caramel, might be the best thing you’ve ever tasted)
5) Start with a thin layer of frosting on the outside of your cake (called a crumb coat), chill, then add additional frosting.
6) If the cake is primarily for looks, have a thick layer of frosting — it will hide more imperfections. If you’re willing to embrace some imperfections, aim for a thinner coat of frosting so the sweetness doesn’t overpower the cake.

Almond Banana Cake with Salted Butter Caramel Frosting and Chocolate Icing

Cake and Frosting from The Wedding Cake Book by Dede Wilson, Icing from

For the cake
3/4 c. banana puree (2 sm bananas)
1/4 c. buttermilk
1 c. + 2 T flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
2 oz butter
2/3 c. sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp almond extract
1 egg
1 oz. almond flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Add extracts and egg and beat until thoroughly combined. Combine buttermilk and banana in one bowl and dry ingredients in another, and add them in alternate batches to the butter sugar mixture. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes or until a cake tester shows its done.

Salted Butter Caramel Buttercream (8 cups)
Ordinarily, buttercream frosting is the one time I would tell you to use unsalted butter, but with this caramel flavor, salted butter adds the perfect note of salt.
4 c. heavy cream
4 c. sugar
2 c. water
1 lb salted butter

Combine sugar and water, heat until amber, following directions for caramel in the hazelnut praline paste recipe. Immediately add the cream. Cool 10 minutes, put in mixer bowl and cool until firm (but not ice cold). Whip with an electric mixer with balloon whisk attachment until the caramel is fluffy, add butter 2 T at a time and whip until butter is incorporated. Use before chilling.

For the icing:
7 T butter
2 heaping T cocoa powder
3 T milk
1/2 tsp vanilla
8 oz. powdered sugar

In a small saucepan, melt the butter, add the cocoa powder. Allow to bubble for 30 seconds, turn off the heat, then add the milk, vanilla and powdered sugar. Stir until combined, let cool slightly, and pour over frosted and chilled cake.

Sweet Potato Layer Cake with Orange Cream Cheese Frosting

2 pounds tan-skinned sweet potatoes (about 3 medium)
3 cups cake flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup sugar
1 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
4 large eggs
2/3 cup plus 1/4 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
2/3 cup plus 1/4 cup dried cranberries

1 8-ounce package cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
31/4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
2 tablespoons frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup sliced candied orange peel
3 tablespoons sugar

For cake:
Preheat oven to 400°F. Pierce potatoes with fork; place on small baking sheet. Roast potatoes until soft, about 1 hour. Cool, peel, and mash potatoes. Measure 2 cups mashed potatoes; cool to lukewarm (reserve any remaining potatoes for another use). Reduce oven temperature to 350°F.

Butter and flour two 9-inch-diameter cake pans with 2-inch-high sides; line pans with parchment. Sift flour and next 6 ingredients into medium bowl. Combine oil, 1 cup sugar, and brown sugar in large bowl; whisk until smooth. Whisk in eggs 1 at a time, then mashed sweet potatoes. Whisk in flour mixture in 3 additions. Stir in 2/3 cup walnuts and 2/3 cup cranberries. Divide batter between prepared pans. Bake cakes until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Cool cakes completely in pans on racks.

For frosting:
Using electric mixer, beat cream cheese and butter in large bowl until fluffy. Beat in powdered sugar, scraping down bowl often. Beat in orange juice concentrate and vanilla.

Cut around pan sides; turn out cakes. Peel off parchment. Place 1 cake layer, flat side up, on platter. Spread 3/4 cup frosting over. Top with second cake layer, flat side down. Spread remaining frosting over top and sides of cake. Combine orange peel, 3 tablespoons sugar, remaining 1/4 cup walnuts, and 1/4 cup cranberries in small bowl. Stir to coat with sugar. Transfer to sieve; sift off excess sugar. Sprinkle fruit and nut mixture decoratively atop cake. Chill until frosting sets, at least 2 hours. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover with cake dome; keep chilled. Let stand at room temperature 1 hour before serving.)

Finally, they rave about this one; but I just don't know. . .
Oh, one more thing. Holla!

Steak Diane

My parents rave about this recipe so a very special lady, it's time to try it out. Still trying to decide if I want to serve it with everyone's favorite mashed sweet potatoes, or maybe some asparagus, and a Caesar salad of course.

South Beach Steak Diane
serves 4
4 (3 oz) beef tenderloin
5 tbsp trans free margarine
1/4 c onion, minced
1/4 c mushrooms, sliced
1/2 tsp garlic, minced
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp mustard powder
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp dried parsley
fresh chives to garnish (optional)
salt & pepper

Place each 3 oz piece of tenderloin between wax paper and pound with a mallet until the steak is about 1/2 inch thick.
Pat meat with paper towel to dry; season with salt and pepper.
In a large skillet, melt 3 Tbsp of the margarine and cook meat on medium to high heat for 2 minutes on each side.
Remove the meat from skillet onto a plate and keep warm.
In the same skillet, melt 2 Tbsp of margarine and saute the mushrooms, onion and garlic until veggies are semi-soft.
Add the mustard powder and Worcestershire, mixing well.
Add the meat to skillet and cook until meat is done to your liking.
Remove the meat and keep warm; combine lemon juice and parsley in the skillet and cook until warmed.
Pour sauce over the meat and garnish with chives; serve.

Buttercream & Creamcheese Frostings

They can't all be South Beach. . . .

Buttercream Frosting
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
2 tablespoons milk
3 drops food coloring, or as needed (optional)
  1. Cream room temperature butter with a hand mixer, the paddle attachment of a stand mixer, or a wooden spoon until smooth and fluffy. Gradually beat in confectioners' sugar until fully incorporated. Beat in vanilla extract.
  2. Pour in milk and beat for an additional 3-4 minutes. Add food coloring, if using, and beat for thirty seconds until smooth or until desired color is reached.
This probably needs to be doubled up for most cupcake batches.
2/3 c cocoa will make it chocolate.
Use "clear" flavorings for WHITE icing (regular vanilla will tint it a bit).
Dries well for sugar cookies.
Refrigerate for an hour before using to thicken enough for piping.

Cream Cheese Frosting
2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 cups sifted confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. In a medium bowl, cream together the cream cheese and butter until creamy. Mix in the vanilla, then gradually stir in the confectioners' sugar. Store in the refrigerator after use.
Optional tweaks - 1 - 8 oz. cream cheese, 1/4 c. butter, and 2 c. powdered sugar, 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla.
Add one more cup of sugar if you like a sweeter frosting; this one is very cream cheesy and not that sweet.
Might want to halve the recipe for smaller cakes (this frosts two 9" cakes).
Not stiff enough for any super fancy decorating schemes.