more summer produce love…

as i’ve said, one of the great things about summer is the abundance of fresh produce.  this recipe makes good use of vine-ripened tomatoes, fragrant fresh basil, and an artisan bread for an easy and elegant appetizer.

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ingredients…

a crusty baguette or other dense bread, sliced into appetizer-sized pieces

2 (or more!) large cloves garlic, cracked

Extra-virgin olive oil

3 small plum tomatoes, halved and seeded

20 fresh basil leaves, sliced into thin ribbons

coarse salt

directions

1.  grill or toast the bread.  some like the bread to have a nice char, but crispy is the key.

2. rub the bread with the cracked garlic to infuse it with flavor

3. chop the seeded tomatoes and place into a medium bowl.  i prefer them fairly finely chopped, but use your own judgment.

4.  toss in the basil ribbons and loosely combine

5.  drizzle with olive oil, spinkle with coarse salt, and mix gently until well coated

6. spoon on to toasted bread slices, serve and enjoy!

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love how simple this is to make!

i’m sure you’ve seen versions of this cake on Pinterest and other blogs, but when i agreed to make one for one of my daughter’s candy-craving freinds, i had no idea it would also be a breeze to put together!

i started with a simple 8-inch 2-layer yellow cake, frosted with a creamy chocolate icing, and assembled using about 5 large-sized kit kat bars (broken into pieces) and a large bag of m & m candies.

it’s a bit tricky to cut the first slice, but well worth the effort!

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just nuts about this cake…

I made this cake for my daughter to take to work and since it was such a hit, I thought I’d share it here. It’s a delightful blend of pecan and coconut flavors, with a hint of caramel for sweetness.

 

 

 

 

 

Yields one 6-inch cake

Caramel Coconut-Pecan Cake Ingredients

2 cups (10 ounces) all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon table salt
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/3 cup Caramel Syrup (recipe to follow)
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup unsweetened coconut milk
1/2 cup pecans, toasted and chopped

Caramel Syrup Ingredients

2 cups sugar
1/4 cup water, plus 1 cup water
1/2 teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt

Salted Caramel Frosting Ingredients

2 sticks (1 cup) room temperature butter

1 brick (8-ounces) room temperature cream cheese

1/2 cup salted caramel (homemade or store bought, if you cannot find salted caramel, add about a teaspoon of sea salt)

3-4 cups powdered sugar

Assembly Ingredients

2 cups pecans, toasted and chopped
1 cup unsweetened shaved coconut, toasted

 

 

 

 

Directions

  1. Prepare the caramel syrup and set aside to cool to room temperature before moving on to next step.
  2. Set oven rack in middle position and preheat to 350℉. Butter two 6-by-2-inch round cake pans and set aside.
  3. Combine flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt in a medium bowl, set aside.
  4. In a stand mixer using the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugars on medium high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 to 3 minutes.
  5. On medium-low speed, slowly pour room temperature caramel syrup into bowl. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition Add vanilla until combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
  6. With mixer running on low speed, add dry ingredients in 3 additions, alternating with coconut milk (in 2 additions), beginning and ending with dry ingredients, and beating in each addition until barely combined. Remove bowl from stand mixer.
  7. Fold in pecans by hand with rubber spatula, scraping bottom and sides of bowl.
  8. Divide batter evenly between prepared cake pans; spread batter to edges of pans with rubber spatula and smooth surfaces.
  9. Place cake pans on 1/2 sheet pan and bake about 20 minutes, then rotate pans.  Continue baking until a toothpick inserted into center of cakes comes out clean, about another 20-25 minutes.
  10. Cool in pans for 10 minutes, then invert cakes onto wire rack.
  11. Cool cakes completely, about 1 hour before frosting

Caramel Syrup Instructions

  1. Combine sugar and 1/4 cup water in a stainless steel saucepan, stirring until the mixture feels like wet sand.
  2. Set pan over medium heat and cook until amber color, about 20 minutes. Brush down sides of pan with a wet pastry brush if necessary to prevent crystallization.
  3. Remove the pan from heat and slowly pour in one cup of water. The caramel will sputter.
  4. Stir until the sputtering subsides, then add the salt and stir to combine.
  5.  Pour into a heat proof bowl and let cool completely.

Note: you will make more caramel syrup than is needed for the recipe, but it is difficult to make a smaller batch.

Frosting Instructions

  1. Cream together the butter and cream cheese on medium-high speed for 5 minutes. (The whisk attachment on a KitchenAid stand mixer does the job quite effectively!)
  2. Pour in the salted caramel and beat until well combined.
  3. Reduce the mixer speed and slowly add the powdered sugar, about ½ cup at a time, until it is wholly incorporated.
  4. Increase the mixer speed and beat for a few minutes more until really light and fluffy.

 

 

 

 

 

Assembly

  1. Trim each cake horizontally to level off the surface, if needed.
  2. Place a dollop of frosting in the center of your cake plate, then surround with strips of waxed paper to keep plate edges clean while decorating.
  3. Anchor bottom layer of cake to frosting dollop, then top with about 3/4 cup icing, spreading evenly to edges.
  4. Top with 2nd layer (upside down for flat surface) and spread remaining icing evenly over the top and sides of cake.
  5. Sprinkle toasted pecans evenly on the side of cake, pressing lightly to adhere.
  6. Sprinkle unsweetened coconut on top, then gently remove waxed paper strips from beneath the cake
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fabulous folders (and so much more)

while i love to keep my countertops clutter-free, there are certain things that are just too important not to keep handy.  for me, that was quickly becoming a collection of menus, recipes, and other paper detritus that was promising to become problematic.  i’d toyed with attaching them with stainless steel magnets to the side of my refrigerator, but it didn’t really hide them as effectively as i’d hoped. 

then, along comes martha stewart and staples to the rescue!

their new line of home office products is chock full of those perfect solutions to the vexing problems of creative home organization and, like a kid in a candy store, i delighted in gathering several options for current and future use.

my current favorite are the vertical files that enable me to tuck away all of those important papers but still keep them within reach.  as you can see from the photo below, the vertical alignment reduces the footprint substantially and the tasteful designs blend nicely into my kitchen decor.

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check out the entire line at http://www.staples.com/sbd/cre/products/martha-stewart-home-office/index.html

and for more inspiration, please visit http://alotonyourplate.wordpress.com/2012/06/01/fab-find-martha-stewart-home-office-w-avery-chalk-board-labels/.  she inspired me to write this post!

 

 

 

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some summer favorites

summer is just around the corner and  full of favorites, but the abundance of fresh produce is among the best. here are two very simple and delightful ways to enjoy two of summer’s quintessential offerings: fresh corn and melon.

best corn on the cob

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if you’re not grilling or roasting corn over an open flame, the next best method is by far one of the simplest.

husk and clean the corn while bringing a large pot of water to a boil. once you’ve got rolling boil, add 2 tablespoons of sugar and 2 tablespoons of white vinegar to the water and bring back to a full boil. now pop in your corn, cover and remove from the heat. let steam for 7 minutes and enjoy your perfect corn.

melon with basil and chili

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of course, the fresh melons of summer are simply perfect on their own. but when you’re looking to add a little spice to your life, one of my favorite ways to do that is by tossing fresh cut melon with thinly sliced basil ribbons and chili powder, or even just a little sea salt, to bring out the complexity of the flavors. honeydew, cantelope, even watermelon are all good options for this preparation method. experiment with the proportions and you’ll find a blend that suits your taste just beautifully.

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take me out to the ballgame…

while i am about the furthest thing from a sports fan, i do enjoy the sheer wholesomeness and camaraderie of a baseball game.  summer wouldn’t be complete without at least one night in the bleachers, enjoying hot dogs and beer and company of good friends.

in honor of opening day, i whipped up these simple ‘baseball cupcakes’ using red M&Ms to serve as stitching…

play ball!

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A flock of cupcakes…

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While March in Connecticut came in like a lamb and out like a lion (ok, maybe a lion cub…), I couldn’t resist ending the month by making these adorable cupcakes.

I followed the recipe here (http://www.landolakes.com/recipe/3481/lamb-cupcakes), but you could just as easily use any favorite cake mix and a sticky frosting to achieve the same result.  A facebook friend suggested using pink marshmallows to give them that ‘Easter’ look, but I’m a purist when it comes to tending my flock…

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