Archive | June, 2012

Veggie Corn Dogs and Broccoli Raab

29 Jun

Also known as Friday Night Dinner.


Broccoli raab has many monikers. Brocciletti, rapini, broccoli rabe…call it what you will. This bunch is special because we grew it in our backyard. Cooked in a little olive oil with a few drops of lemon juice, salt, and pepper, it is bitter and tangy.

I don’t know of any pseudonyms for corn dogs, but I like them anyway, even in vegetarian form. Morningstar makes a good one. They taste just like the real thing. A little “junk food” balanced with some healthy greens to start the weekend.

Note Chef Jonathon’s artistic placement of the ketchup and mustard. As if you could ignore it!


Summer Salads

26 Jun

I’m not a big salad eater. Never have been. But there’s something about digging into a big, colorful bowl of vegetables when the temperature outside is soaring…it makes me feel virtuous.

That feeling usually lasts until I am digging into a big, chilly bowl of ice cream approximately 2 hours later. Hey, nutrition is all about balance and moderation, right?

Salads and ice cream: two foods meant for summer days.

Here’s a simple spinach salad that we ate a couple of weeks ago. Easy-peasy.

Baby spinach leaves + grilled chicken breast + chopped cucumber + chopped strawberries + green onions + candied walnuts + spicy apple cider vinaigrette.

More about the ice cream in the coming months!

Spinach Salad with Strawberries

Spinach and Strawberry Salad

Urban Gardening Part 2

23 Jun

There is some truly beautiful veg coming out of the backyard garden already.

Just a couple of days ago we discovered that there is a small grapevine winding its way in and out of a trellis back there. It was pretty exciting to see big bunches of unripened grapes hanging off of it. If anyone would like to offer up wine-making tips, I’m all ears.

Jon is working these into our dinner tonight.  Carrots, baby zucchini, and young garden beans. I’m beginning to realize that the term “victory garden” might have had a double meaning; all of these vegetables in the yard are a definite WIN!




Baby Reveal Cake – Who Will You Bee?

11 Jun

If you haven’t heard of a Baby Reveal Party by now, I can confidently say that you are:

A. Not a cake decorator. 


B. Not pregnant.  Or you just don’t know it yet.

 There’s this whole trend happening where expecting mommys and daddys host a party for family and friends to announce if they are awaiting a baby boy or girl. These parties almost always include a “reveal cake,” made by dying white cake batter either pink or blue. The cake is iced in a gender-neutral color, masking the secret within until it is cut open. And you know what’s crazy, and kind of awesome? Most parents who are throwing gender reveal parties aren’t privy to the sex of their babe before cutting that cake, either!

 Gender Reveal Party

I made this cake for sweet couple last weekend based on a handwritten note, sealed in an envelope, from their OB-GYN. It’s strangely awesome to have this knowledge of someone else’s kids before they do, even if it’s just for a few hours. 

“Who will you bee?” Get it?

 There are 2 bees on the cake because this particular couple is expecting twins, which potentially adds another layer of dimension (or color?) to a gender reveal cake.  Before they sliced into the reveal cake, they played a guessing game – mustaches or lipstick? What combination will the babies be? Because in addition to reveal cakes, gender reveal parties usually also include illegal gambling. Hey, with these kind of odds, who wouldn’t take a shot? What’s your guess?    

So with bated breath…    

 The cake is sliced…    

And the proud parents discover…

Twin Gender Reveal Cake

One of each! A boy and a girl! A mustache and a lipstick!

Congratulations Leah and Andy!

Candy Mustaches and Other Fun Kids Projects

7 Jun

It’s been a few years, and I am still delighted/terrified that Wilton lets me go on television to demonstrate their products.

Hours and hours of preparation and anxiety all boil down to a few minutes of  show-and-tell. If all goes well, I make it through the segment without the use of expletives, and people watching see how easy it is to make awesome treats at home.

This segment is all about getting kids involved in baking and decorating. You might be inspired to try one of these projects with your own kids. Candy mustaches, anyone?

Mostly I’m posting this for my mother, who complains fairly regularly that she’s unable to see any of the segments I tape. I’ve been all over the country, but to date haven’t had an opportunity with a Chicago station. That changes on July 4. I’ll be on ABC during the 11:00 news with more summertime cooking and baking ideas for the kiddies. Tune in, if you’re not out on a jet ski or getting your burgers on the grill.

Ruffled Ombre Birthday Cake

4 Jun

This weekend, I spent a few hours baking and decorating a cake for my Grandmother’s 90th birthday party, and I was giddy with happiness while I was doing it. I do a ton of baking at work, and I test a lot of cake decorating tools too, but it’s been ages since I baked and decorated a full cake and loved every second of it. For a moment, it made me nostalgic for my bakery days, and the routine of building, icing, and finishing cake after cake after cake. And what better reason to fall into a frosted reverie than your Grandma’s birthday? To celebrate 90 great years? I’m lucky that I had the chance to make this cake.

Ombre cakes are all the rage right now, and my hip Grandma deserved a hip dessert. This lavender ruffled number fit the bill. My grayed out photos don’t do the colors justice, but the top of the cake was the palest shade of purple possible, and faded very slightly into 3 increasingly darker shades.

To get the color variance, I first dyed all of my frosting the palest shade. I iced the top of the cake fully and crumb coated the sides. The remaining frosting was divided into four equal parts. One part stays as it is, then the other three take additional icing color until the desired shade is reached. A lot of ombre cakes seem to have visible divisions between the colors because each shade is dramatically different from the last. To keep the dip-dyed effect super subtle, add just a bit of icing color to your frosting at a time, until each shade is just slightly darker than the last. It makes a gorgeous, undetectable gradation of color.

I used a Wilton #116L tip to achieve the ruffled effect around the top and sides of the cake. It worked great even though I’m not left-handed. The best part of this decoration? It requires zero piping skills. Actually, the shakier you are with a bag and tip, the better and more natural these ruffles will look. If you’ve never picked up a decorating bag, and this is the first cake you ever attempt, chances are good that your ruffles will look ruffly, as long as you hold the bag with the wider end of the tip down and keep it near the side of the cake.

Happy birthday Grandma, and many, many more!

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