Cream Cheese Pound Cake

I tried to make a vanilla cake with caramel swirls in it last week. My husband doesn’t bake, so I make my own birthday desserts and this sounded like such a tasty way to celebrate. However, I wanted to try making it in advance so I wouldn’t be disappointed on my birthday if it failed—it failed. 

The yummy caramel sauce I made to swirl into the cake melted into the bottom of the cake and made the cake soggy, greasy, and overly dense. Thank goodness for my hacker’s intuition.

I realized that swirling caramel sauce into the batter wouldn’t work because no matter what, it would melt and sink. Instead, I’d have to choose a simple but dense cake to go with my caramel sauce. 

The obvious choice was a pound cake. I read through a number of recipes and decided on this one for cream cheese pound cake: http://www.marthastewart.com/315556/cream-cheese-pound-cakes

I halved the recipe since this makes two pound cakes and I only needed one. I’m including the measurements I used because in the comments section, there were some people who noted mistakes in the original recipe. I’m not sure if they are correct or the original recipe, but my halved version makes one awesome pound cake:

1 ½ sticks butter

4 ounces cream cheese

1 ½ cups sugar

3 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 ½ cups flour

½ teaspoon salt

I have to say this recipe turned out really well. The batter looked like freshly-churned ice cream. It was light, fluffy, and flavorful (My son and I always try a lick from a spatula once we put a cake we’ve made in the oven).

Our cake only needed 60 minutes, but I did need to cover it with foil after about 40 minutes to keep it from over-browning. Between the flavor and the texture, I don’t think I could have picked a better recipe. It included helpful details (instead of simply saying “beat until light and fluffy,” it included estimates for how long that should take) that made the end result the success that it was. Instead of icing, I paired it with homemade caramel sauce, but it would go great with sliced strawberries, any kind of compote, or simply a cup of coffee or tea. I will definitely be using this recipe again!

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Honey Ham and Swiss Crescent Twists

Quite honestly, this is a recipe that popped up in my Facebook newsfeed. I know these things are really just advertisements, but this sounded so good (and so simple) that I went out and bought the necessary ingredients last week. Then, when I realized I’d forgotten to get the roast for last night’s dinner out of the freezer, I decided to do Try It Tuesday a day early. You can find the recipe for the Honey Ham and Swiss Crescent Twists here: https://www.pillsbury.com/recipes/honey-ham-and-swiss-crescent-twists/5f4a21e9-e44b-4bca-bdc6-975e363d2220

Yes, this was simple. Yes, they tasted great (in my opinion… luckily I made pepperoni rolls as a backup for my finicky hubby and son).

The website says these are meant to be appetizers, but refrigerated dough tends to have the best taste and texture fresh out of the oven. While they wouldn’t be bad after sitting on a table with other appetizers for an hour or so, they certainly wouldn’t be at their best. But I really feel these work better as a lunch or light dinner served with salad, fruit, or a steamed veggie.  I also think serving them with a dipping sauce like honey mustard or apricot jam would add some pizazz. 

My only complaint is that the ham and cheese didn’t stay in the dough very well as I was twisting them. The problem seemed to stem from the fact that I’d chopped the filling into little squares like the recipe photos show. Next time, I’ll try laying the whole slices between the sheets of dough instead. Since you slice through the sandwiched ingredients anyway, I think the twists will still look nice while being more manageable.

Enjoy! I sure did!

Peanut Butter Cup Pudding

Our favorite grocery store had bags of peanut butter cups on sale for $1.25. I also have been needing to take it easier than I (or my two-year-old) am used to thanks to a somewhat difficult pregnancy, so I’ve been looking for quick, fun activities I can do with my son between rests. He’s much more willing to play quietly and independently when I find these sorts of things. It’s also pretty warm out, so I’m reluctant to turn on the oven. 

All of this inspired me to look up some pudding recipes during a kick count (baby number 2 is an active little guy). I came across this recipe and decided it was a better choice than avocado pudding (yum!) simply because I had all of the ingredients: https://www.hersheys.com/reeses/en_us/recipes/peanut-butter-cup-pudding.html

I got all of the equipment and ingredients out on the table then called my son over. This was such a great recipe for him to help with because there was so much for him to do: count and unwrap the peanut butter cups, use the chopper, dump ingredients, stir, and, of course, lick the spoon. For both of us, the hardest part was not eating the peanut butter cups while we unwrapped them and waiting to taste the pudding until it had had a chance to chill.

I really liked that the recipe used vanilla pudding. I’m sure chocolate would taste great, too (or even banana cream), but the vanilla let the peanut butter be the star of the show. I used sugar-free pudding, but regular or even cook and serve would work, too. I would avoid using pre-made pudding cups, however, because the peanut butter wouldn’t mix in smoothly. That said, in order to get the best texture here, you need to make sure to mix vigorously and long enough to achieve a smooth pudding. If you’re doing this by hand, it takes a few minutes. Also, it’s important to let the pudding chill for an hour or so. Not only does this improve the texture, but it makes the taste of the artificial sweetener less pronounced if you’re using sugar free.
All in all, this was a great success. My son and I enjoyed making and eating this treat. I’m sure I’ll pull this out again in the summer months when it gets really hot.

Chicken Fricassee

I have a problem: I save waaaaayyy too many articles and recipes in Facebook. Perhaps as some sort of nesting or simply as a part of my need to organize and clean in order to stay sane, I recently started going through those links and getting rid of things. Today’s recipe has been towards the bottom of my saved links in Facebook for months, so I decided to make it for dinner tonight.

During my four-plus years in France, I sampled many traditional dishes: petit-salé, cassoulet, pot au feu, blanquette de veau, but never fricassee; so I was excited to give this Martha Stewart rendition a try. I only made 2 changes to my version: two boneless chicken breasts instead of whole chicken pieces and no tarragon at the end (I really don’t like that herb). You can find the recipe here: http://www.marthastewart.com/925889/chicken-fricassee-fricassee-de-poulet-lancienne

The key to this recipe is to chop and measure out everything in advance. None of the steps is complicated, but there is quite a succession of things to do. If you aren’t immediately ready to move on to the next step, you can get overwhelmed. This fact alone made it a poor recipe choice for me. At 35 weeks pregnant, it required too much standing and bustling around the kitchen at the end of a busy day. I’m just not used to needing to rest this much. Lesson learned.

As for my family’s evaluations of the end result, I’d say they were generally unimpressed. My son has recently boycotted napping and it finally seemed to be catching up with him today. I think he would have liked it more if he had been in a better mood. After all, it’s basically chicken, carrots, and celery (and I served it over oven-roasted potatoes). You can’t go wrong with that combination in my household. But even I felt a little disappointed. I enjoyed the rich sauce and mushrooms, but it was a lot of work for a stew. I’d happily eat this again, but only if someone else prepared it.