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Best. Cake. Ever.

chocolate cake white fristing sprinklesI love cake. I looooove cake. I love cake with frosting and cake without frosting (and frosting without cake). When I was growing up, one of my grandma’s would always have a yellow cake with chocolate frosting whenever we came to visit. The other grandma lived with us, and would often make a sheet cake and just leave it out. I was in high school. I’d grab a slice for breakfast. Often. It’s was totally delicious.

My grandmas are both gone and buried, and now I must bake my own cakes. Because, let’s be honest here, once you become a mom, NOONE bakes cake for you. (Having said that, if someone were to surprise me with a birthday cake like this one, I would be in love with you forever.) I have tried a dozen different cake recipes, and they all end abysmally.

rich chocolate cupcakes darkAt long last, I have reached the end of the rainbow, folks. I have found the recipe of gold. My cake-guru, funky friend Joni (Joni’s blog) sent me her amazing chocolate cake recipe. The cake is so awesome you should make it to celebrate occasions like “Hey! We’re in the kitchen!” or “We have a kitchen!” or “We rent a kitchen!” or “We know someone with a kitchen!” Jonie is awesome enough that she baked this cake while in labor for her daughter, Ella (birth story here). Here’s the recipe:

BEST. CAKE. EVER.

chocolate cake white frosting sprinkles

Ingredients:
1 cup Sugar
1 3/4 cup Flour
3/4 cup Cocoa Powder
1 1/2 teaspoons Baking Powder
1 1/2 teaspoons Baking Soda
1 teaspoon Salt
2 Eggs
1 cup Milk
1/2 cup Vegetable Oil
2 teaspoons Vanilla Extract
1 cup Boiling Water

Directions:
– Heat Oven to 350 F.
– Stir together dry ingredients.
– Add egg, milk, vanilla & oil.
– Beat 2 minutes on medium.
– Stir in boiling water (batter will be thin).
– Pour into two 8 or 9 inch pans (prepared with grease and flour).
– Bake 30-35 minutes, or until toothpick is clean.

To make CUPCAKES: Bake about 19 minutes. Makes 24.

peanut butter cupcakes tower chocolateCHOCOLATE FROSTING

Ingredients:
1/2 cup Butter
2/3 cup Cocoa Powder
3 cups Powdered Sugar
1/3 cup Milk
1 teaspoon Vanilla

Directions:
Beat ingredients together. For whipped frosting, beat longer. Use a whisk attachment, if you have it.

For VANILLA FROSTING, omit cocoa powder

homemade peanut butter frostingFor PEANUT BUTTER FROSTING, beat together these ingredients:
1/2 cup Butter
1 cup Peanut Butter
About 3 cups Powdered Sugar
Milk to consistency

Enjoy the richness!

By ekwetzel
2011-07-12

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Week 47 – The Joy of Cooking

meal spring home cooking mahi mahi

The Delicious Spread

I. Love. Cooking. And I have missed being able to cook these past few months. Between moving and being pregnant and giving birth and taking care of my newborn, I have been able to do very little cooking since I started this blog post 47 weeks ago. Well…I’ve at least not been able to do nearly as much cooking as I’d have liked.

Since the birth, however, I’ve cooked nothing. Unless you count the rhubarb cobbler from Week 46. Or the leftovers I re-heated in the toaster oven.

Until now. I was finally able to cook. A real meal. With separate dishes. I did the whole thing with a sleeping baby in my ring sling, and I felt Ah-Maz-Ing. The food was yummy, yes, but the sense of satisfaction that I held in my heart was worth far more to me. I felt like I not only accomplished something, but also like I was reclaiming a part of “the old me.” In addition, I was glad to be able to give the gift of a meal to Mr. Wetzel. Cooking is one of our favorite “love languages.”

So: here was our meal in three dishes:
– Mahi Mahi from Trader Joes
– Parmesan Asparagus, adapted from a recipe I found on AllRecipees.com
– Garlic Mashed Potatoes

yummy close up asparagus trader joes mahi mahi mashed

Mahi Mahi, Garlic Mashed Potatoes & Parmesean Asparagus

How to make this meal at home…

Mahi Mahi from Trader Joes: Buy it in the frozen section. Thaw. Bake at 400 for 12ish minutes. I think. (Read the package)

Parmesan Asparagus: Pour the following into large ziplock bag: crushed garlic, olive oil, sea salt, pepper, parmesean. Add asparagus. Shmoosh it around and leave on the counter to drip and drizzle all over itself for a bit. Pour out onto cookie sheet & bake at 400 for 12ish minutes (the same as the fish! woo hoo!)

Q: Erin…how much of each ingredient should I put in the bag?
A: I dunno. Eyeball it.
(If you’re worried, look up “Parmesan Asparagus” on Allrecipes.com for a guideline. I just eyeballed it. And I put in way more Parmesan than called for. Because Wetzels love cheese.)

Garlic Mashed Potatoes: Sliced potatoes & boiled them (about 40 minutes). Separately, diced up the heads to my garlic greens and heated them in copious amounts of butter in a small skillet. Once potatoes were done, I mashed them with a potato masher (you can also use a mixer). Added garlic-butter mixture, plus a little extra butter (to taste) and some milk (about 1/4 cup), to make the potatoes creamier.

YUM!!!!!

week 47 ekwetzel terries berries blogWEEK 47

Radishes
Apples
Baby Bok Choi
Garlic Greens
Asparagus
Spinach
Mixed Spring Greens
Leeks

By ekwetzel
2011-05-30

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Week 46 – Rhubarb In the Raw

rhubarb plant in my yard

The rhubarb plant in my yard

It is ridiculous how expensive rhubarb is.

I mean, seriously? The stuff grows like a weed. And it’s as sour as all get out. Most people have no clue what to do with it. But it’s not exotic; it’s just like the “stand-off-ish” fruit-vegetable* of the produce community. (*Is it a fruit? A vegetable? Do I care enough to wikipedia it? No)

But I loooooove rhubarb. I grew up with rhubarb growing in our yard; the patches grew and grew year after year. We always had plenty of rhubarb. It’s a family joke that we never had enough rhubarb pies, though. As it goes, my dad would get his “one rhubarb pie a year.” I’m not sure how strict that “one a year” rule was, but I remember pie came and went quickly. The rhubarb, however, lasted all summer.

From the time I was quite young, I’d mosey out to the yard with a kitchen knife, slice a stalk off at the base, and decapitate the big leafy head right then and there. Then I’d suck and chew my heart out. Raw rhubarb is so sour, but so poignant and tasty. And I loved it.

When we bought our house last August, one of the little treasures about it was that there was a rhubarb patch already started in the yard. Can you say heaven? I can. Achem: “Rhubarb.”

So, when we got rhubarb in our CSA, I chuckled. I didn’t need any extra. And I gave it away.

Here’s a yummy recipe for rhubarb cobbler, courtesy of my Mom. It’s suuuuper easy:

Yummy Strawberry-Rhubarb Cobbler!

Strawberry Rhubard Cobbler

Mix together the following ingredients in a large/medium bowl:
– 1/4 teaspoon Cinnamon
– 1/4 teaspoon Ginger
– 3/4 cup Sugar
– 2-3 Tablespoons Flour
– 2 sticks Rhubarb
– 1 cup Strawberries
(You can use more strawberries & rhubarb if you want. I often use at least these amounts, and pile on a bit more)

strawberries rhubarb diced sliced

Be sure to slice the rhubarb & strawberries!

mixing up cobbler fruit

Mixing up the fruit & spices.

Mix together the cobbler topping in a separate bowl, out of the following ingredients:
– 1 1/2 cups Instant Oatmeal (or 1 cup regular Oatmeal)
– 1/2 cup Brown Sugar
Then, smash in about 1/4 cup Butter for consistency. I use a fork or my hands.

Place fruit mixture in the bottom of a dish. Top with crumbly cobbler topping.

Bake at 350 F for about 45 minutes.

Prepping cobbler for baking

Prepping cobbler for baking

csa rhubarb speing greensWEEK 46

Braising Mix
Arugula
Rhubarb
Leeks
Garlic Greens
Asparagus
Radishes
Apples
Carrots
Baby Bok Choi

By ekwetzel
2011-05-28

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Eggplant Parmesan

This recipe for Eggplant Parmesan was requested by Sherri Erickson. I will post a picture once I have one available. It serves 2-4 people, depending on the size of the eggplant. I use a 9″ casserole dish.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 Eggplant, peeled and chopped. (You can slice it into round pieces about 1/2 inch thick, or you can chop it into 1 inch square cubes)
  • Melted butter (about 1/2 stick)
  • Bread crumbs (Last time I made it, I didn’t have bread crumbs, so I ground up croutons in my mortar and pestle)
  • Can of tomato sauce sauce (16 ounces should be fine)
  • Shredded cheese, preferably mozzarella; although, I used Gouda last time, and it came out yummy

DIRECTIONS:
Once the eggplant is prepared, set up an “assembly line” so that you can easily dip each piece of eggplant in the butter, coat it with breadcrumbs, then place it in your casserole dish.  Prepare each piece one by one.  Your hands will get messy, so you may want to use a fork or tongs to move the eggplant through each station.

Try to keep the eggplant squished next to each other in the casserole, but if you have to put one piece on top of another to make them all fit, that’s okay.

Pour sauce over the eggplant. If you want to season the sauce, feel free to do so according to taste (Basil might make a good subtle flavor. A garlicy sauce might add quite the punch).  You don’t have to flavor the sauce, though, especially if you have flavorful breadcrumbs.

Sprinkle with cheese, according to desire.  We’re cheese-aholics in the Wetzel household, so I always go overboard.

(VARIATION: Last time, I sliced some mushrooms and put them on top of the cheese. It was yummy.)

Cook for about 45 minutes in a 350 degree oven. Cover the casserole with foil for most of the time, and take the foil off for the last 10 minutes or so to let the top broil.

*NOTE ON COOKING TIME: it’s hard to overcook this dish. If you have thicker pieces of eggplant, you may want to cook them longer, about 1 hour. I say, 10 minutes longer is better than 10 minutes too short!

Enjoy!

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Week 10 – Recipes Schmecipes

This is not a blog series about how to cook the food you get from the farm.  You will not find regular recipes listed that are appropriate for the “exotic” and “unusual” ingredients you get from your local farmer.  There are several reasons for this:
(1) The food that is local for me may not be local for you. I live in the Pacific Northwest, but the Internet is world-wide. I want this blog to be applicable emotionally, across the barriers of space and time. (She says, as she gets out of her DeLorean.)
(2) I am not a gourmet chef. Other people with better zeal for ingredients and food combos can let you know interesting dishes in the style of the Food Network or other complex cooking resources.
(3) I don’t think you need fancy recipes to eat local food. For the most part any summer veggie can be diced, salted, tossed with oil, and it’s ready to eat.  Winter veggies may need to be diced or chopped; then they can be pan-fried, roasted or grilled; and finally seasoned with salt or other spices (to taste) and they are ready to eat.

Your farm is not exotic. It is not unusual. It is right around the corner. The sooner we stop thinking of cooking vegetables as this enormous and daunting task, the sooner we’ll all eat a lot more vegetables.

A few basic principles with vegetable preparation are:
– Add salt. Veggies are often bland. They need salt.
– Add a fat. Cook in lard or butter. Coconut oil is also good. Toss raw veggies in olive oil.  The nutrients from the veggies will better be absorbed into your system in you eat them with fats. (Author Nina Planck is a big resource for this wisdom.)
– Use the internet; there are a lot of good recipe ideas out there if you get stumped, and you can always alter them to make them simpler. For instance, I found a fancy recipe that included roasted beets and a homemade honey mustard dressing.  Before I found it, I never knew how to eat all the beets we got from the farm (and, boy, do we get a LOT!). Now, I know if I roast them and include honey or honey-mustard, they taste delicious.
– Go by the tips of your taste buds! Trust your gut, be bold, and if you screw up a dish, don’t fret. The more you prep veggies, the better you’ll become, and the more you’ll trust yourself.

Sometimes it’s nice to combine vegetables that are in season together, and sometimes it’s nice to just eat certain veggies by themselves. For instance, I like to chop up my white kohlrabi, boil it, and do the same to a couple potatoes, and then mash them up together for a mashed potato-kohlrabi side. It has a hint of a mashed cauliflower taste, in my opinion.

To illustrate how easy it is to prepare in season foods, I will share with you a recipe for my favorite salad: Shopska salad.  Below is my take on this traditional Bulgarian salad.  You can omit or add ingredients depending on what you have available, or what your tastes are.  The core of the salad in the cucumbers, tomatoes, salt, and oil (I always have at least these four, but the proportions fluctuate depending on what’s in my kitchen and what taste I’m feeling like having more of); a simpler version of this recipe would be to say, “Chop tomatoes and cucumbers. Add salt and olive oil. Enjoy!”

SHOPKSA SALAD

Prepare the following ingredients, and put them in a medium bowl:
– 1 cucumber, chopped
– 2 medium tomatoes, diced OR 1-2 cups of cherry tomatoes, split in half
– ½ sweet pepper, chopped (I prefer orange or red peppers)
– 1 or 2 whole scallions (the green + white parts), diced

Salt liberally.

Add 1 cap of red wine vinegar (about 1 teaspoon).

Liberally pour extra virgin olive oil over the salad (I never measure, but I probably pour between ¼ and ½ cup, depending on the amount of veggies).

Toss!

You can dish it up right away, but if you let it sit on the counter for at least 30 minutes, with a dishcloth covering it, the oils will make a nice “sauce” for dipping fresh, sliced bread into. When serving, I always add crumbled or shredded feta on top of each salad bowl, at least an ounce per person. I don’t buy it pre-crumbled, I do that myself (it tastes better). The salty and creamy cheese really helps to round off this light and delicious summery treat!

Enjoy!

By ekwetzel
2010-09-10

WEEK 10
We received 2 tomatoes in the share, but I forgot to include tem in the “group picture,” so they are featured separately, above.
(Clockwise, from the eggs)
Eggs (again, the farm has young hens, and they are laying smaller eggs this week, so we received 18 eggs instead of the normal dozen)
Arugula
2 Onions
2 Beets
Summer Squash
4 Red Potatoes
Haricot (Green Beans and Purple Beans)
4 Ears of Corn
Head of Garlic
Cucumber
2 Heads of Lettuce
(In the middle, from the left)
Carrots
Broccoli
Apples

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Homemade Crêpes

One of our favorite breakfast foods in the Wetzel household is homemade crêpes.  (I tried to get our family to call them “pankettes” (say: pan-KETZ) as a spin-off of pancakes, but it didn’t take!)

It used to be that crêpes were an exotic French delicacy, but they are now showing up at fairs all over the place. One of my favorite things about crêpes is how versatile they are: Mr. Wetzel likes melted cheese or peanut butter in his; I prefer to roll mine up, and top them with one (or all) of the following: drizzled honey, sliced strawberries (I like to warm them up right before serving), freshly whipped cream, cinnamon.  Other delicious things to add on (or in) your crêpes include Nutella, jam, and maple syrup.  Be inventive: go salty or sweet as your tastes will swing you!

I have a sweet tooth, so I opt for the fruity and creamy toppings. What amazes me about crêpes is I can top them with sweet things like honey and strawberries and feel like I’m eating the most decadent dessert on the planet, but there is no sugar in crêpes! Here is my recipe:

In a bowl, whisk together the following:
–    2 Eggs
–    ½ cup milk
–    ½ cup water
–    2 Tablespoons melted butter or oil
–    Dash salt
After the liquid ingredients are combined, whisk in 1 cup of flour.  Whole wheat flour works just as well as white flour, and I actually prefer the taste of whole wheat crêpes.

After the mixture is combined, let it sit so that the flour can soak.  I prefer to let it sit overnight. In the winter, I’ll whip it up the night before and leave it on the counter with a towel over it. In the summer, when the weather is warmer, I’ll put some ice cubes in a larger bowl and snuggle the bowl of batter down into it; this keeps it chill enough.  I do not put the batter in the fridge, because it makes it move differently when you are trying to get it to spread out and cook on the skillet.

Once you have the batter, you’re all set to make the crêpes. The process is very similar to pancakes.  It helps to have a flat skillet or griddle that is already hot or medium hot. Pour about ¼ cup of batter onto the skillet, and immediately pick up the skillet and move it around to help spread the batter out and far and wide as it will flow.  As it flows, it will stick and cook.  If you get little drizzles and the crêpe doesn’t look perfect, don’t fret! I like to pretend that these are crêpes with legs or squid-like tentacles; we joke around with them and make them talk (or scream “Nooooo!” as we eat them).  It sounds weird, but it’s really quite funny!

You don’t need to let the crêpe cook long on each side! The thinner you get ‘em, the quicker they cook. Typically, little concave bubbles will appear (as with pancakes).  Using a spatula, flip the crêpe so that it can cook a little on its other side. I find a thin, large spatula works best. If you don’t flip it perfectly, just help it along with your fingers; crepes are not a messy, battery food at this point.

If you want to melt something inside your crêpes, this is the point at which to do it. You don’t need much! If you choose cheese, use shredded cheese, and go easy on it.  If you want chocolate crêpes, use about 5-7 semi-sweet morsels (or your choice of flavor).  One the crêpe is flipped, put the filling in the center, then fold the sides over it…almost like a burrito.

I often keep all the crêpes warm on a plate in the oven until we’re ready to eat.  If you have any questions, let me know.  And, if you try this recipe and have success, I’d love to hear about it!

;o) Next time I make crêpes, I’ll be sure to add a picture!

By ekwetzel
2010-09-03

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Homemade Yogurt

Adapted from Michael Reeps’s recipe.  Michael has a lot of helpful pictures, facts and tips about the yogurt making process that I have not included here.

What You’ll Need:

  • 1 Half gallon of milk
  • 2-3 Tbs of plain yogurt (as a starter)
  • 1 8-10 Qt stock pot
  • 1 4-5 Qt pot with lid
  • 1 Metal or plastic spoon
  • 1 Dial thermometer with clip
  • 1 Heating pad

Instructions:

  1. Create a Water Jacket. Place larger pot in sink. Place smaller pot inside it. Fill larger pot until water line goes about half way up the side of smaller pot.
  2. Sterilize Equipment. Place your thermometer and spoon in the large pot of water. Place smaller pot upside down over larger pot. Heat water until boiling.
  3. Add Your Milk. Carefully pour your milk into the smaller pot. Clip your thermometer to the rim of the smaller pot.
  4. Heat to 185°F, stirring frequently.
  5. Cool to 110°F. Carefully place pot of milk in cold water bath. Stir occasionally.
  6. Pitch Your Yogurt. Pour your 2-3 Tbs of yogurt into your 110°F milk.
  7. Stir, Cover & Warm. Stir milk well to distribute yogurt you just pitched. Cover with lid. Set heating pad to medium and place on a cutting board. Place pot of pitched milk on top. Cover with a dish towel.
  8. Wait Seven Hours. *Michael recommends waiting 7 hours…I would wait 10 hours as I prefer thicker yogurt.
  9. Remove from heating pad and uncover yogurt. Use a spatula to see that milk has curdled. Stir vigorously to mix curds in with liquid.
  10. Pour into Containers. Chill Overnight.
  11. Be sure to reserve 2-3 Tbs of your yogurt for you next batch!

Related Posts:

Making Yogurt Make Itself

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