Sunday, April 28, 2013

My Nephew's 14th Birthday Cake!

Yesterday was my nephew's 14th birthday! I remember his birth day as if it just happened. Rushing to the hospital to keep my little niece company in he waiting room as she worried about her mommy. We didn't have long to wait for her baby brother's arrival. We were all so excited to meet Baby Davis! The baby is long gone and in his place is a quiet and thoughtful young man. I've made a few of his birthday cakes and this year was no different. Davis asked for a plain vanilla cake and I found a great recipe on the blog - The Cilanthropist, which she found on Food That Really Schmecks! I doubled the recipe found below.

My sister gave me the idea for the sports theme. I decided to represent all the sports he plays, soccer, basketball, baseball and golf. I baked 5 pieces of cake and 2 pieces out of Rice Krispies. I covered the cake with buttercream and with tinted fondant. For the lettering, I used Wilton sugar sheet lettering, they were super simple to use! I also used food markers for the detailing. Lastly, I used buttercream and mini dowels to assemble the cake. This is not a fast process. I always bake my cakes the day before decorating so they are completely cooled. The decorating took about 4 hours. It was all worth the time to see my nephew's smile!

Happy Birthday, Davis!

Snow White Vanilla Cake:

1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick)
2 cups granulated sugar
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
3 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 cups ice water
1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract
4 egg whites, beaten until they hold stiff peaks (set aside while you make the batter)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Prepare cake pans by spraying with non-stick spray or greasing the pans; then place parchment round in the bottom of the pan and spray or grease that as well.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream butter and sugar together until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Meanwhile, whisk together flour, salt and baking powder in a large bowl. To make the cake batter, add the flour mixture and the ice water to the creamed butter, alternating between wet and dry ingredients and beating after each addition After everything is well mixed, add the vanilla and almond extracts, mix again to incorporate, and then fold in the beaten egg whites until the batter is smooth. Divide evenly between the prepared pans, smooth the top of the batter, and bake for approximately 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool the cakes completely on cooling racks, then remove from the baking pans and discard the parchment. Cakes can be prepared ahead of time - kept well-wrapped they can be refrigerated for 2 days or frozen for 1 week.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Balsamic Roast Pork

Tonight, we had a rare night off of baseball so dinner was a little more complex than sandwiches, soup and salad. I made pork loin roast that I put in a balsamic marinade before going to work. Fiv minute prep and an hour oasting time. I alo did twice baked potatoes and green beans. Everyone enjoyed the meal and it was low on the mess scale!

Balsamic Pork Loin:

1.5-2 lb pork roast
3 tbsp steak seasoning (I used McCormick's Grill Mates Montreal Steak)
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1 cup oil (I used safflower oil)

Place the pork in a gallon Baggie. Mix the other 3 ingredients in a small bowl and then pour over roast. Seal bag and let marinade at least 4 hours. When ready to roast, place the pork loin and marinade into a glass baking dish. Loosely cover with aluminum foil and roast for 60 minutes in a 350* oven. Remove from oven and let rest for 10 minutes before slicing.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Easy Sunday Dinner: Crockpot Beef Roast with Brown Mushroom Gravy

Today we had a great family day! We slept in and had a nice breakfast to start the day. In the afternoon, we took our golden doodle to a romp with about 25 other doodles including one of his litter mates. Then because we had a house showing, we had a decidedly unhealthy lunch of sundaes from the local custard shop! Sometimes, you just have to be a kid and eat dessert!

For dinner, I wanted to do something simple so I made a roast with brown mushroom gravy. I also made mashed potatoes. The prep this morning was about 15 minutes with most of that involved in peeling the spuds. Tonight, the total kitchen time was 30 minutes! This is a great weeknight or any busy day meal!

Crockpot Beef Roast:


3 lb Beef Round Roast
1 pkt Lipton Onion and Mushroom Soup Mix
1 pkt Ranch Dressing
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 cup beef broth

Place the roast fat side down in the crockpot. Mix the 2 packets and cream in a bowl and pour over the roast. Add the beef broth to the crockpot. Cook on low for 9-10 hours. Remove meat and let rest for 15 minutes before slicing. Reserve sauce for the gravy recipe.

Brown Mushroom Gravy:

2 cups reserved sauce
2 tbsp corn starch
1/4 cup cold water
Salt and pepper

Mix the water and corn starch. Heat 1/2 cup of the reserved sauce in a skillet over medium heat. Add the water and corn starch mixture when you see the sauce start to boil. Slowly add the remaining reserved sauce while stirring constantly. Salt and pepper to taste.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Campfire Cooking

Last weekend we went on a family camping trip with some friends. It was a beautiful weekend to spend outdoors. We hiked in the afternoon and taught the kids what stones skipped the best across a creek. The kids had a great time imagining themselves as explorers. Part of the adventure was cooking over hot coals. Our friend, Trey, is an avid camper and had just purchased a Dutch oven that he brought along to try out. When you cook with a Dutch oven, you place it on hot embers and also cover the top with more embers.

On Saturday night, Trey and his wife, Kristi made a really yummy stew and then another hearty dish for breakfast the next morning. The recipes are both from

Cowboy Stew:

1 lb. ground beef
1 onion
3 potatoes
(all cans are about 15 oz.)
1 can green beans
1 can baked beans
1 can black beans
1 can tomato soup
1 can corn
1 can diced tomatoes
1 tsp Chili powder
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 bay leaf
Salt and pepper

Cut potatoes into 1 inch cubes. Dice onion.
Preheat dutch oven to 350 degrees with all coals underneath.
Brown ground beef and onion. Add potatoes and all cans, undrained.
Add spices (more or less if you like bland or spicy). Cover with lid. Cook until potatoes are soft (about 45 minutes). Stir every 5 minutes while the stew is cooking

Sausage and Egg Casserole:

1 lb. pork sausage links or patties
1 box frozen hash browns
12 eggs
1/2 lb. cheddar cheese
salt and pepper

Grate cheese. Preheat dutch oven to 325 degrees. Cut or tear the sausage into little pieces and dump into The dutch oven. Stir until sausage is cooked. (or heated if using precooked sausage)
Add hash browns. Stir and fry until hash browns are browned.
Remove from coals. Mix eggs and pour over top of potato/sausage base. Season with salt and pepper. Cover Dutch oven and add coals to the lid to cook the eggs from above. When eggs are cooked, sprinkle cheese, cover and cook for 5 minutes to melt cheese.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

GF Depression Cake - Egg, Butter and Milk Free Too!

I found this recipe on Facebook last week. It was not GF, but that was a simple conversion. A friend told me this is called Depression Cake as it was first made during the Depression Era when egg, milk and butter were scarce and expensive!

I topped the cake with Hershey's chocolate frosting which does have butter and milk so you will want to top it with your favorite frosting if you have a milk allergy. This cake took about 5 minutes to prep and the frosting was just as easy! If you are hesitate to bake as it seems too daunting, I encourage you to try this recipe!!

GF Depression Cake:

3 Cups GF multi-purpose flour
6 Tbsp. cocoa (unsweetened)
2 Cup white sugar
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt

2 tsp. white vinegar
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
10 Tbsp. vegetable oil
2 Cup water


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Mix first 5 dry ingredients in a greased 9 x 13 baking pan. Make 3 depressions in dry ingredients - two small, one larger (see #3 in photo below). Pour vinegar in one depression, vanilla in the other and the vegetable oil in third larger depression. Pour water over all. Mix well until smooth.

Bake on middle rack of oven for 35 minutes. Check with toothpick to make sure it comes out clean. Cool.


1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine
2/3 cup HERSHEY'S Cocoa
3 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Melt butter. Stir in cocoa. Alternately add powdered sugar and milk, beating to spreading consistency. Add small amount additional milk, if needed. Stir in vanilla. About 2 cups frosting.