Tag Archives: birthdays

Make A Wish…

It’s birthday time again!

This past weekend the family celebrated Smidget’s birthday. For the special occasion, I wanted to make something tasty and different for dessert. We had some apricots that needed to be eaten up, and since they are Smidget’s favorite, I figured it would be great to have a cake that used the fresh flavor of the apricots. Remember that time I made the plum cake that was a Dorie Greenspan recipe? Well, that’s just what I did again, but this time with apricots!

Dorie does say in her cookbook that other stone fruits can be used instead and even gives some directions on her favorite combinations of fruits and spices. Since the plum cake was such a success, I decided to barely mess with the perfection of Dorie’s recipe. One of my favorite parts about the cake was the subtle hint of spice that came from the cardamom. Dorie recommends using cinnamon with the apricots, but I knew it was all about the cardamom.

Needless to say, it was delicious. The cake was moist and sweet, with that hint of spice thrown in. The apricots that delicately dimpled the top were sweet, juicy, and just a tad tart in the best possible way that apricots are. Instead of just leaving the cake un-topped like I had previously, I took some of the mascarpone cheese we had (anybody else tempted by the cheese’s recent appearance on the shelves at warehouse stores?) and whipped it together with a hint of honey for sweetness, creating a delectable and not-too-sweet frosting.

The birthday went well, Smidget seemed to really enjoy the day and her present load. I’m actually listening to one of her presents right now…SMASH soundtrack, anyone? But it was the cake that really ended the whole day on a high note. Plus, with the fresh fruit and cheese and honey topping, it was actually a rather healthy cake! At least that’s what I’ll keep telling myself.

Dimply Apricot Cake with Mascarpone ‘Frosting’

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
Scant 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup (packed) light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/3 cup flavorless oil, such as canola or safflower
Grated zest of one orange
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
8 fresh, ripe apricots, halved and pitted

1. Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter an 8-inch square baking pan, dust the pan with flour, tap out the excess, and put the pan on a baking sheet.
2. Whisk the flour, baking powder, salt, and cardamom together.
3. Working with a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or a hand mixer in a large bowl), beat the butter at medium speed until soft and creamy, about 3 minutes. Add the sugar and beat for 2 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating for a minute after each addition. On medium speed, beat in the oil, orange zest, and vanilla. The batter will look very light and smooth, almost satiny. Reduce the mixer to low-speed and add the dry ingredients, mixing only until they are incorporated.
4. Run a spatula around the bowl and under the batter, just to make sure there are no dry spots, then scrape the batter into the pan and smooth the top. Arrange the apricots cut side up in the batter, jiggling the apricots a tad just so they settle comfortably into the batter.
5. Bake for about 40 minutes, or until the top is honey brown and puffed around the apricots and a thin knife inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Transfer the cake to a rack and let cool for 15 minutes – during which time the apricots’ juice will return to the fruit – then run the knife around the sides of the pan and un-mold the cake. Invert and cool right side up.

Recipe adapted from: Dorie Greenspan’s Baking from My Home to Yours

 

Mascarpone ‘Frosting’

6 oz. Mascarpone cheese
1 Tbsp. honey
Splash (about 1 tsp.) of whipping cream

1. Whisk together the Mascarpone cheese and honey, adding a splash of whipping cream to smooth and loosen the cheese. Whisk until thoroughly combined and reached desired consistency and flavor.

Buffalo Chicken Mac and Cheese

My dad celebrated his 59th birthday last week, complete with a delicious vanilla cake with cream cheese frosting (sorry to all, but I won’t be sharing that recipe. It’s a secret!) And now, a bit about my dad:

Years ago he added a new part to his morning ritual (my dad is both a simple and complex man, but he’s always one to stick to his rituals with only a dash of spontaneity when needed)* which consisted of going on walks to get some more exercise. On his first trip out he could barely walk a mile without being winded and tired. Long had he strayed from his high school and college days on the football field and at the ice rink and while he kept the strength, it took a bit to get back into the swing of things. He also used to walk, from what I can remember, every morning – out the door around 5am and on the sidewalks surveying the neighborhoods and, in the winters, the local school ice rinks with a report back on their condition for skating. These days, thanks to his work schedule, he is only able to walk on weekends but how far he goes greatly makes up for that loss. A typical weekend walk is now up to 10 miles and sometimes he goes even further.

Yet, walking is not the only or even the favorite way he continues to get exercise. As mentioned, my dad played hockey when he was young. It was a sport he grew to love from his father and one that he eventually passed down to me. A few years ago Smidget found that a group of guys at the bank she worked for had formed a team and dad signed up. He has been playing ever since, even though Smidget left the bank years ago. They compete against other teams to try to win the championship (which they did this past year!) in the winter and scrimmage against each other every Thursday night in the summer.

Check out my Dad on the ice!

This means on Thursday nights he doesn’t like to eat too much so he’s not too full to skate, but he doesn’t want to eat anything heavy either so he doesn’t feel weighed down. Hence – Thursday has become our family’s Pasta Night. A bit of a carbo load, plus just really tasty food. Recently I have been trying to mix up Pasta Night a bit so it isn’t the same ol’ pasta and red sauce over and over again. Once we used the parsley we got from the farm share we belong to for pesto, as the farm had recommended to. Then, I decided to try something completely different from our family’s usual: Buffalo Chicken Mac and Cheese.

It was a success! Not only did it taste great, but dad said he even felt better playing that night after dinner. The hot sauce was just enough to be spicy, but not too much and the cheese really pulled the dish together (nyuk, nyuk, nyuk).

Buffalo- Chicken Macaroni and Cheese
Prep: 35 minutes         Total: 1 hour 15 minutes         Makes: 6-8 servings

7 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for the dish
Kosher salt
1 pound elbow macaroni
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
3 cups shredded rotisserie chicken
2 cloves garlic, minced
¾ cup hot sauce (preferably Frank’s)
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons dry mustard
2 ½ cups half and half
1 pound yellow sharp cheddar cheese, cut into 1-inch cubes (about 3 ½ cups)
8 ounces pepper jack cheese, shredded (about 2 cups)
2/3 cup sour cream
1 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
½ cup crumbled blue cheese
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

  1. Preheat the oven to 350° and butter a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil; add the pasta and cook until al dente, about 7 minutes. Drain.
  2. Meawhile, melt 3 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and celery and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in the chicken and garlic and cook 2 minutes, then add ½ cup hot sauce and simmer until slightly thickened, about 1 more minute.
  3. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the flour and mustard with a wooden spoon until smooth. Whisk in the half and half, then add the remaining ¼ cup hot sauce and stir until thick, about 2 minutes. Whisk in the cheddar and pepper jack cheeses, then whisk in the sour cream until smooth.
  4. Spread half of the macaroni in the prepared baking dish, then top with the chicken mixture and the remaining macaroni. Pour the cheese sauce evenly on top.
  5. Put the remaining 2 tablespoons butter in a medium microwave-safe bowl and microwave until melted. Stir in the panko, blue cheese and parsley. Sprinkle over the macaroni and bake until bubbly, 30 to 40 minutes. Let rest 10 minutes before serving.

Adapted from Food Network Magazine, April 2010 issue

*Yeah, figure that out! 😛

Joyeux Anniversaire!

This past week happened to be the Birthday Week of dearest Smidget!

As part of her array of gifts, she was given a classic dessert for her birthday cake as made by Kiwi. Now, I’m not gonna give you the recipe for one simple reason: you should already have it.

Yell and scream all you want. Cry and kick, just please don’t hit the knees, but I’m sure if you go to your cookbook collection you will find that you have the necessary book to make this cake. And if you don’t, get it. Now.

Which classic culinary catalogue did this cake come from? Why, only one of the greatest cookbooks in the world! The one I was able to give to myself as a birthday present! The one that changed the way American women cooked! That’s right: Louisette Bertholle, Simone Beck and Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking!

See? Ya have it, don’t cha?

The cake is Reine de Saba avec Glaçage au Chocola, or for those non-French speakers like me, Chocolate and Almond Cake with Chocolate Icing. I will admit, I used the recipe for the cake, but then made up my own Chocolate Buttercream because I wasn’t energized enough to make Julia’s version. Plus I was getting ready to go to the amazing Sullivan’s Steakhouse with my parents for birthday dinner. Best steak ever. 14 oz, dry aged, New York Strip. With a Roasted Red Pepper Truffle butter. I died.

But I had to come back to life for this:

In case you are thinking to yourself “Scruffs (cause, of course, you call yourself Scruffs), I daresay, I do believe I recognize that delectable delicacy” why then you’d be right! If you recall from that delightful movie Julie and Julia, at one point towards the end both of the ladies are making cakes. They show Julia frosting one and then go back to see what’s going on with Julie. Well, Julie brings out the cake to her husband, begins to slice it, and while she gets her cake server he takes his fork and just digs right in. They end up smearing it all over each other.

This is that cake.  Although that did not happen. Proof, you cry? Here. But if I don’t show up tomorrow morning, you’ll know why. Aka, Smidget will have killed me. And I don’t have a cake to come back to life for this time.

So there you have it. A great cake, for a great Smidget!

And it tasted pretty darn good too!

Also, among the other gifts Smidget got was a small canning pot. Ya know, to can things in. So that should be happening soon, which I believe will prompt this conversation in our house:

In your Easter bonnet, with all the frills upon it…

Happy Easter!

Or for those of you, like  myself, who don’t celebrate Easter, Happy Weekend!

I may be a few days late, but there’s  a good reason for it. One of my staff members celebrated his birthday this Easter so in our staff meeting on Monday we celebrated with cupcakes! I had asked him prior what he preferred and all he said was “Chocolate”. I took that and ran, which not only made me out of breath, but also apparently brought confused looks to my staff member’s faces. Kidding, of course, they totally expected it.

I tried the same book again (what can I say, it’s time to start the search for the perfect recipes and ya gotta start somewhere) that I used for the Cookies and Cream Cupcakes. They had a simple recipe for chocolate cupcakes, which unfortunately burned on the bottom a bit. I think it may have resulted from a mixture of a long baking time (25-30 minutes? really?!) and a poorly functioning oven. However, the cupcakes were still the most moist ones I’ve made from scratch. I topped them off with a chocolate buttercream and little chocolate birds nests with Cadbury chocolate eggs.

I put out 16 for a 12 person staff and after an hour they were all gone, which I think bodes well! Try them out and tell me what you think!


Chocolate Cupcakes with Chocolate Buttercream and Chocolate Bird’s Nests
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup milk
3 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
11.5 oz chocolate chips (one bag) melted and cooled slightly

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 24 standard muffin cups with paper baking cups.
2. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Add oil, milk, eggs and vanilla; beat with electric mixer at medium speed 2 minutes or until well blended. Stir in melted chocolate until well blended. Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups, filling three-fourths full.
3. Bake 25 to 30 minutes (I found I needed less than 22 minutes) or until a toothpick inserted into centers comes out clean. Cool cupcakes in pans on wire racks 10 minutes. Remove from pans; cool completely on wire racks.

For the frosting:
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons boiling water
1 and 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
Pinch of salt
As much chocolate as you want, melted and cooled

1.  Combine cocoa and the boiling water, stirring until cocoa has dissolved.
2. With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat butter, confectioners’ sugar, and salt until pale and fluffy.
3. Reduce speed to low.
4. Add melted and cooled chocolate, beating until combined and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
5. Beat in the cocoa mixture.
6. Let sit at room temperature while the cupcakes cool.
7. Pipe as desired onto cupcakes (I simply spread the frosting on the cupcakes so it worked with the topper).

For the Birds Nest Topper
1 11.5 oz bag of chocolate chips
1 5 oz can of chow mein noodles
1 bag of Cadbury’s Chocolate Mini Eggs

1. Melt chocolate, add chow mein noodles, stir until all noodles are covered in chocolate.
2. Form small birds nests with chocolate chow mein noodles on wax paper or silicone mats.
3. Top with Cadbury Chocolate Mini Eggs.
4. Put in cool place (even the freezer) to set.
5. Remove from wax paper or silicone mats and place on frosted cupcakes.

Cupcakes Adapted from: Favorite Brand Name’s 100 Best Cupcake Recipes; Frosting Adapted from: The Curvy Carrot; Birds Nests adapted from old Girl Scout activity

Also, as a side note, there is now a page on Facebook for From Tundra to Times Square! Like it to be notified about updates and other fun!

Birthday Blunders…

I have recently been made aware of a terrible situation that is occurring throughout elementary (and even middle, junior high, and high) schools throughout the land. Yes, that’s right, the land.  And this tragic topic is:

Summer Birthday Shunning.

As a summer birthday girl, I personally can relate to the issue at hand. All throughout elementary, middle, and high school there were parties, celebrations, goodies, whathaveyou for the people who had birthdays in their respective months. AKA September babies had a party in September, October babies in October, etc.

There is nothing wrong with celebrating birthdays, nothing at all, they are a reason to let loose and have a bit of fun, but there is just one problem. The summer’s are always overlooked.

Those born in May/June/July are never celebrated within the school year. It sucks. Our lockers are never decorated, our teachers never say “Happy Birthday!”, we never get a little celebration in class, no cake, no candles, nothing. We get to sit on our couches (or at our jobs once we’re old enough) all summer long and celebrate only with those close friends, and our family.

Every fall we get to school and our teachers go “oh, we’ll celebrate our summer birthdays now since we missed them!” and then they don’t. So they say “oops, we’ll celebrate in the spring!” but they forget, and we don’t. And then comes “well we’ll just do it next fall, ok?” but it doesn’t happen. Ever. Not ok.

And so, over this past summer as our staff this year got to talking I realized we have quite a few (aka 3 or 4) summer birthdays on staff. So I mentioned to another of these summer birthdays that we should have a little party! This idea was really enforced when the main office we work for had an August/September birthday party. It had to happen. And so, at our past staff meeting, it did.

And I made cupcakes, naturally.

Fall themed cupcakes for summer birthdays? Why not. It’s almost equinox anyway! Plus who doesn’t LOVE fall?! Absolute favorite season ever.

Now, as per usual in this kitchen and at this school, it’s a box mix for the cakes. Spice cake to be specific.

But the frosting, that I made up. In the kitchen. On the spot. So it was something like 2 8oz packages of cream cheese, two capfulls of lemon extract, some melted butter, and enough powdered sugar to get that consistency you want. So if it’s too thick, more butter, too thin, more sugar. Oh, and orange food coloring. Well, red and yellow to make orange, but you get the point.

It was great, everyone on staff loved them and raved about the frosting. So, hurrah for made up cream cheese frosting! I would suggest making it for any sort of work, or even family, function, it will be the hit of the night! Enjoy!

Also, the little sugar guys are Betty Crocker, I got them from Wal-Mart who is already hitting the fall/Halloween season!

The little Owl is soooooo cute!

Who? Me? Really?