Monday, July 18, 2011

2011.06.30 - Baked Ziti with Summer Veggies, Salad, Macrina Chocolate Cake

A birthday this week + some time = a proper birthday cake for R.  The cake was the main event, so I tried to keep things relatively light with a veggie-heavy pasta bake and a salad (that was also from leftovers, shame on me).

Baked Ziti and Summer Veggies

I despise red sauce, so any pasta bake dish I can find without it is a godsend.  This has plenty of vegetables in it, and could hold even more if you wanted.  The filling is enough to hold it together, but it isn't soggy at all and the pasta remains pretty distinct (this definitely isn't mac and cheese territory).  You could omit some of the cheese on top if you want to be more health conscious. 

Modifications: I couldn't find yellow squash anywhere (it has been a long cold "spring" and "summer" here in Seattle and the produce is very late), so I substituted it with zucchini.  I thought that I had mozzarella cheese in my fridge, but it turned out it was Trader Joe's shredded gruyere mix, so I used that instead.  I omitted the garlic, oregano, and red pepper.  I multiplied the recipe by 1.5 to serve more people, which was essentially a doubling of the filling because how do you get 1/2 an egg?

Farmers Market Salad

This is a wonderful main dish salad when served fresh and warm.  I had made this for dinner the night before and had a ton left over, so I refreshed it with some shredded carrots and more lettuce and served it as my side salad.  That is probably a hostess faux pas, but I don't want to waste food!  Although this salad is best warm, it is still pretty good cold as leftovers. 

Modifications: I omitted the olives (ew), basil, shallots, and thyme.

Mom's Chocolate Cake from Macrina Bakery

This was my first cake with an infused syrup brushed between layers.  I am not sure what to think about it -- I couldn't really tell if I liked the addition or not.  An annoyingly large amount of vanilla was required for it (that stuff is expensive!), so I was expecting better.  This cake batter is quick to put together, refreshingly not calling for creaming butter and sugar together.  Everyone loved the cake, but I thought it tasted somewhat flat.  I think I should have used better quality chocolate in the frosting.  Although I love Macrina Bakery, I haven't tasted the original, so I don't know how it compares. 

Modifications: I baked two 8 inch rounds (because I don't have 3 round pans except in the 6 inch size) and just layered them, instead of baking one large cake and torting it for the layers.  I halved the frosting recipe because I couldn't stomach using 4 sticks of butter at once, and it was more than enough frosting.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

2011.06.16 - Roast Beef Salad, Rhubarb Tea, Banana Bread Bites

Roast Beef Salad is a cult favorite with the Thursday dinner crew.  It is M's favorite in particular, and the first thing I made for her after she had little F and could risk the dangers of listeria again :)  When summer rolls around (which is in fits and starts in June in Seattle), I like to make this a lot.  The rhubarb tea was my first foray into a rhubarb beverage.  The banana bread bites were part birthday cake/part contribution to the year of banana bread and were delicious.

Roast Beef Salad

Roast Beef Salad is a great simple weeknight meal.  Some chopping/tearing, some assembly.  The most difficult part is whisking up some dressing.  I am NOT a mustard person, but the touch of dijon in this dressing really adds something.  I like serving this with rye bread and extra roast beef on the side, in case someone wants a straightforward sandwich, or they just want to plop some salad between two pieces of bread (recommended!).  This recipe only has a 3/5 rating on Real Simple's site and is very simple, but for some reason me and some others just find it very addictive.

Modifications: I realized at the last minute that I didn't have balsamic vinegar, so I went with a substitute of apple cider vinegar and some sugar.  It still tasted good, but the dressing was missing the depth of flavor that balsamic provides.

Rhubarb Iced Tea

I've been cooking more and more with rhubarb over the past few years, and have tried to branch out from the tried and true strawberry and rhubarb combination.  This drink is simply steeped and sweetened rhubarb.  It was very tangy and had an interesting flavor, although I didn't find it very refreshing (something about the sour/tangy-ness).  Next time I would try to lighten it up with club soda.

Modifications: I used agave sweetener instead of honey, since I hate squeezing large amounts of honey out of the bottle (don't have the grip strength!).

Banana Bread Bites

O...M...G pretty much sums up A's reaction to this banana bread.  The base for these bites was a very rich, butter-based banana bread, and it was amazing.  Dipping in candy melt chocolate was merely gilding the lily.  I had no clue how the recipe author could have rolled this banana bread into cake balls without the aid of frosting or something -- it wasn't *that* moist.  So after a failed, crumbled attempt, I decided to cut out squares to dip in chocolate instead.  It was just as good!  Even without the chocolate, this is my new go-to banana bread recipe when I want something more dessert-like than snack- or breakfast-like.