Simple advice for a better life.

Birthday Party AppetizersWhether you are cooking at home, dining out, or ordering take out, there are almost always some leftovers to deal with after the fact.

There is nothing wrong with having leftovers.   After all, you spent time and money on this food, so you deserve to enjoy it to the last morsel.

Some prepared dishes are not suitable for later use as a leftover…they lose their taste and texture, so it is best to just part with them right there and then.

Numerous others, on the other hand, are still great for at least one or two meals, or even to be frozen for that rainy day when you have no time or desire to cook.

Some people do not like leftovers, and never keep them.  However, if you are like me, you don’t mind them, and feel that you get your money’s worth if you use them.

Most Europeans don’t believe in leftovers….maybe because they hardly ever have any.

They serve their meals already preportioned per plate, and make just enough to feed the crowd they accounted for.  The portions are large enough to satisfy the consumer, so there is no need, or room, for seconds.  Therefore, there are no leftovers.  Any remaining food on each plate, which hardly ever happens, is discarded.  It is almost impolite to ask for a “Doggie Bag”.

Here in the USA we have no problem asking the waiter/waitress to pack up our leftovers to take home with us.

It is very important to keep track of your leftover food in your fridge, which is one of my pet peeves.  I almost feel like I am a fridge police, whether it is at home or at work.

There is nothing worse than seeing “old” food sitting in the fridge way past its safe consumable time.

My personal time line for using up leftovers in up to 3 days…4 being the absolute max.

Now I will share my best way of using up leftovers, and keeping your fridge fresh, and ready for restocking.

Since most of us work full-time, and don’t have much time for cooking during the week, we prepare extra food on weekend, to hold us over for couple of days.  Then by mid-week, it’s time for some take out.  By Thursday we have leftovers to use, or lose.

I consider Thursday  a “Leftover Smorgasbord Dinner Day”.  We pull out all the leftovers from the past few days, and add something new if needed, and call it a day.

Everyone is to create their own plate of food from the smorgasbord spread available.  We also use disposable dishes and utensils that day, to save time on clean up effort.  Whatever food is remaining after this dinner, gets discarded for good.

This is the BEST way to free your fridge of leftover food, and to prevent any food from hiding in there for too long.

Since we have no dishes to wash on this day, we devote our time to cleaning up the fridge, and getting it ready for fresh food from Friday or Saturday shopping.

It works very well every time, and it also is fun, economical, and stress free.

I suggest you try it too, and share your comments.

Have fun!

Dark Chocolate Ganache CakeMy daughter’s birthday was fast approaching, so I was researching many cake recipes with lots of dark chocolate (her favorite ingredient).

For the past three years I have been making her favorite Chocolate Cake with Fleur de Sel Caramel Filling, but this year I wanted to do something different.

She selected a Dark Chocolate Torte with Dark Chocolate Ganache, so I took her up on the idea, and baked the above pictured torte.

The original recipe was posted by Tarra Knight from Texas, in Taste of Home, however I tweaked it a little, and printed my version here.

It earned high marks from the birthday girl, and all the guests.

This cake freezes very well, but the fresh raspberries had to be removed before freezing, and replaced with fresh ones before serving ( we served the leftover cake  at Thanksgiving).

 Cake Ingredients:

  •  4 oz semi-sweet chocolate, chopped (I used Bakers chocolate for baking)
  • 2 oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped
  • 1 1/2 cup hot coffee (I used Dunkin Donuts Caramel flavored)
  • 4 eggs
  • 3 cups white sugar
  • 3/4 cup Canola Oil
  • 2 tsp. Vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (I used Gold Medal Unbleached)
  • 1 cup dark Cocoa powder, unsweetened
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup warm water ( for torte punch)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract (for torte punch)

Ingredients for Ganache:

  • 14 oz semi-sweet chocolate, chopped (I use Baker’s chocolate for baking)
  • 4 oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped
  • 3 cups heavy cream for whipping (1 1/2 pint)
  • 7 tsp. light corn syrup

Cake Directions:

  1. Line the bottom of 3 – 8 inch round cake pans with parchment paper, and grease it generously (I also dab a little Crisco under the paper to keep it in place).
  2. Place the chopped  chocolate in a medium bowl, pour the hot coffee over it, and stir with a whisk until all chocolate melts, and smooth mixture forms.
  3. Cool to room temperature.
  4. In a large bowl, beat the eggs, adding sugar gradually, until creamy and light lemon color (the mixture resembles vanilla pudding).
  5. Mix in the oil and vanilla.
  6. Gradually add the chocolate mixture, continuously beating.
  7. Set aside.
  8. In another bowl mix the flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt.
  9. Gradually incorporate the dry ingredients into the wet mixture, alternating it with gradual addition of the buttermilk.
  10. Divide the batter equally between the three cake pans.
  11. Preheat the oven to 325 degree F.
  12. Bake 30-35 minutes, or until the toothpick test is clean.
  13. Remove from the oven, and cool in pans for 10 minutes.
  14. Remove from pans unto wire cooling racks, to cool completely.

Ganache directions:

  1. Place the chopped chocolate in a medium bowl.
  2. Place a medium saucepan on the stove, pour in the heavy cream and corn syrup, and bring to boil.
  3. Pour the boiling cream over chopped  chocolate, and stir with a whisk until smooth and creamy.
  4. Set aside for at least 30 minutes, to cool it off slightly, stirring occasionally.

Assembling the torte:

  1. Slice off the “hump” from each cake top, to create even and flat top cake rounds.
  2. Cut two rectangular pieces of waxed or parchment paper, about 6 inches wide.
  3. Place these two pieces slightly overlapping, on a cake platter.
  4. Place the first cake round on top of the waxed paper.
  5. Prepare the torte punch by mixing the warm water with the vanilla extract.
  6. Dip a pastry brush into the torte punch, and brush the  cake top with it to moisten it.  Use 1/3 of the torte punch on each layer.
  7. Spread 1/2 cup of ganache on top of the cake.
  8. Place the second cake layer on top of the ganache.
  9. Sprinkle the cake top with the torte punch, as previously.
  10. Spread 1/2 cup of ganache over this cake layer as well.
  11. Place the third cake layer on top of the ganache, with the trimmed off top down.
  12. Spread the rest of the ganache over the top and sides of the cake.
  13. Decorate the top with candy, or fruit.
  14. Keep it refrigerated for couple of hours, or overnight, to firm up the ganache.

Enjoy this yummy torte, which is very “chocolaty” rich, yet semi-sweet at the same time.

 

Strawberry Mousse Cake – Recipe

Strawberry season in my garden is here, hence perfect time to share a recipe for a delicious Strawberry Mousse Cake.

It’s quite simple to prepare, since it requires ready-made Lady Finger cookies, cake mix, whipping cream and fresh strawberries.

If you wish, you may prepare your own sponge cake from scratch, but this time I decided to use a cake mix.

Also, you may use the Lady Finger cookies as they are, or trim them off to the level of the cake, as I did.

This cake is best served the same  day, or the next day, at the latest, otherwise it will lose its freshness and texture.

Ingredients:

  • 1 round 9″ vanilla sponge cake, cut in half horizontally, and trimmed off 1/2 inch around the edges)
  • 1 box of Lady Finger cookies (I used up 22 pieces)
  • 2 Tbs. Strawberry Jam, melted
  • 2 lbs. fresh strawberries, cleaned and stems removed
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 4 Tbs. granular sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 2 1/2 tsp. unflavored gelatin (I used Knox brand)
  • 1 cup whipping cream

 

 

Directions:

  1. Puree 1/2 of the strawberries in a food processor, or a mixer.  Set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl mix the sugar, egg yolk and vanilla.
  3. Mix in the strawberry puree.  Set aside.
  4. In a large saucepan, mix gelatin and milk, and heat it until gelatin has dissolved.
  5. Pour in the strawberry mixture and continue heating until it all blends together.
  6. Remove the mixture from heat, and place the saucepan in cold water, to cool off to room temperature.
  7. Using a mixer, whip the heavy cream until stiff peaks form.
  8. Gently  fold it into the cooled  strawberry mixture.  Set aside.
  9. Dip one end of the Lady Finger cookies into strawberry syrup, or melted jam.
  10. Line a 9 inch spring form pan sides with Lady Finger cookies (dipped side down), and cover the bottom of the pan with first layer of sponge cake (as shown above).
  11.  Slice some of the remaining strawberries in half, and arrange on top of the first layer of the sponge cake.
  12. Pour half of the mousse over the sliced strawberries.
  13. Place the 2nd layer of the sponge cake over the mousse layer.
  14. Pour the remaining mousse over the cake layer, and smooth it out evenly.
  15. Refrigerate for 4 hours, to set.
  16. To decorate the top of the cake, arrange the remaining strawberry slices over the top of the mousse.
  17. Dip a pastry brush in melted strawberry jam, and brush over the top of the layered strawberries.  I also brushed some melted jam over the trimmed tops of the Lady Finger cookies.
  18. Keep refrigerated, until ready to serve.

 

Enjoy!

 

Upside-down cakes always intrigued me, since the beauty of the cake is at the bottom of the pan rather than at the top, and revealed after it is fully baked and inverted. Fancy that?

Pineapple upside-down cakes are so colorful; bejeweled by maraschino cherries.

I call it a “double-decker” pineapple cake, because two upside-down cakes are stacked up to create the finished product.

Cream cheese frosting, and cake crumbs, were used as finishing touches to complete this cake’s decor.

I was inspired by Paula Deen’s recipe, but made several modifications to satisfy my own taste, thus creating a similar, yet different cake.

 Cake Ingredients:

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 5 large eggs
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 3 cups cake flour (I used Softasilk by Pillsbury)
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/8 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 1/4 cup low fat buttermilk
  • 14 slices of pineapple (2 -20 oz cans- there will be left overs)
  • 14 maraschino cherries (about 1/2 of a 10 oz jar)
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 cup unsalted butter,melted
  • Cooking spray (I used Baker’s Joy which has flour incorporated in it)

Cake Directions:

  1. Place butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl, and beat until light and fluffy.
  2. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each.
  3. Mix in vanilla extract, and set aside.
  4. Use a medium bowl to mix flour, salt, baking soda and baking powder ( I use a whisk)
  5. Mix in some of the buttermilk into the egg mixture, then mix in some flour, then buttermilk again and end with flour.
  6. Mix all for a minute longer and set aside.
  7. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, and place one oven rack in the middle of the oven, and the second rack just below it.
  8. Place foil paper on the middle rack, where you will rest the cake pans to prevent any overflow dripping down to the bottom of your oven.
  9. Spray bottom and sides of two 9 inch round cake pans with cooking spray, and flour  them, or use the Baker’s Joy spray with flour, as I did.
  10. Sprinkle 1/2 cup of  brown sugar over the bottom of each cake pan.
  11. Drizzle each with 1/2 cup of melted butter.
  12. Arrange 7 slices of pineapple over the sugar-butter mixture to cover the bottom of each pan.
  13. Place a maraschino cherry in the middle of each pineapple slice.
  14. Pour 1/2 half of the cake batter over the pineapple in one pan, and spread the remaining half of the batter in the second pan.
  15. Place cake pans over foil on the middle oven rack, and bake for 45 minutes, or until the toothpick test comes out clean.
  16. Remove from the oven, and cool for 1o minutes in pan, on a cooling rack.
  17. Invert cakes onto a cooling rack, and let them cool completely.
  18. Once cooled, I inverted them again, and trimmed off the top of each cake, to make it flat for easier stacking.
  19. Place one of the cakes, with pineapple on the top, onto a cake platter, and stack the other cake on top of the first one, also with pineapple on the top, since this will be the final top of the finished cake.
  20. Prepare Cream Cheese frosting, and frost the sides of the cake.
  21. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve.

Cream Cheese frosting Ingredients:

  • 8 oz. Philadelphia cream cheese (not Fat Free or even 1/3 less fat – this will make the frosting too thin)
  • 4 Tbs unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp. pineapple juice (left over from the canned fruit)
  • 1 cup confectioners sugar

Directions:

  1. Place the cream cheese and butter in a medium mixing bowl, and mix until well incorporated and creamy.
  2. Beat in vanilla extract and pineapple juice.
  3. Add confectioners sugar and mix well until smooth and creamy.

Happy frosting, and enjoy the delicious cake.

 

TIP:  I placed two pieces of wax paper over the cake platter, slightly overlapping at the center, before placing the cake on it for frosting, to prevent the icing from getting on the platter. Once I completed frosting the cake, I gently pulled out each piece of wax paper from under the cake, and discarded it.

 

 

Happy Thanksgiving!

 

It’s Thanksgiving time again, hence my sincere THANK YOU to ALL , for visiting my blog, reading the posts, leaving lovely comments, and spreading the word to your family and friends.

I truly appreciate your time and effort, since the more readers I have, the greater the drive to continue creating new posts.

I also would like to thank everyone for visiting and following me on Facebook , Twitter, and Pinterest

THANK YOU!

Now with the holiday shopping increasing, please note my blog also contains an icon for Amazon.com (top right hand corner).

If you click on it you will open up their website, then continue your shopping as usual.

Your shopping this way will earn points for me, which is a great plus for my blog, for which I am very appreciative, and thankful for your support.  

THANK YOU!

This year my Thanksgiving will be kind of low key, only my husband and I will celebrate it together, as our children and their families, are spending this holiday with the families of their spouses, or significant others.

We are looking forward to a “full house” at Christmas time, as it will be our turn to have everyone celebrating together with us in our home.

If you still are looking for recipes to bake something for this Thanksgiving, the above pictures are of a Pumpkin Roll, and very moist Corn BreadClick on these links to be directed to complete recipes.

If you prefer cakes over pies, you can give these a try as well:

Elegant, yet quite simple to make, Fruit Tart.

 

  

Apple Sheetcake, or Apple Torte.

 

Easy and very tasty, Jewish Apple Cake.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING TO ALL!!

 

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