Author Archives: Paula

12, No 6, No, 5 Layer Cake

SLCIt was not a joyous week. Work was beyond difficult. I can only hope next week is better. Thankfully, Friday ended on an upbeat note. My Faithful Assistant’s asthma has been a little out of control but after a month on a different inhaler, he is much better. And my College Boy is home for Spring Break. What better way to celebrate the weekend than with a nice cake.

I saw a video for a southern gem; an 18 layer cake. Well that clearly wasn’t going to happen. I decided that I would make as many layers as I could using one batch of batter and my two round cake pans. Let me tell you, this wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be. The basic method for making a multi-layer cake is baking a bunch of thin layers. But there is a HUGE difference between making a regular thickness cake layer and a thin one. Please pay attention to what I tell you and you will meet with at least 6 Layer Cake success.

6 Layer Cake
Batter for a yellow cake made with your favorite mix – in my case that was Immaculate
Parchment paper
Round cake pans
12 oz chocolate chips
2 cups heavy cream

You will make the frosting first and then bake the cake.

  1. Heat the cream in the microwave for four minutes. Don’t allow to boil.
  2. Pour hot cream over the chocolate chips. Let sit for a couple minutes and then stir until combined. Chill for two hours and then whip. If it isn’t whipping fast enough, add a splash of cream. When it’s whipped, refrigerate it.
  3. Prepare the cake batter according to the instructions.
  4. Using your cake pan, trace six circles and cut them out.
  5. Pour 1/2 cup of batter in a round cake pan sprayed with cooking spray AND lined with a circle of parchment paper. This is key. Don’t skip this step or you will have serious issues getting the super-thin layer of cake out of the pan.
  6. Bake for 5-7 minutes until done but not browned.
  7. Remove from the pan and allow to cool and move on to the rest of the layers. With the average sized cake pan and box mix, you should be able to get 6 layers.
  8. When all the layers have been baked and cooled, place one on your cake plate, cover it with frosting, and so on until you have all the layers on the cake. Frost the top and sides.

I am often disappointed with cakes. They never have the right frosting to cake ratio. Or the cake is dry and the frosting tastes like sweetened lard. This cake solves that problem. The cake layers are balanced perfectly with basically chocolate whipped cream. Like many of my desserts, it isn’t too sweet.

Of course, this method can be used for any type of cake you like. I was thinking it would be nice as a Carrot Cake or a Red Velvet Cake. I was also wondering how it would work to make different colored layers for say, your favorite college basketball team during March Madness.

I hope my baking adventure inspires you to try something new this weekend.

Enjoy!

Easiest Black Bean Soup EVER!

EBBSEI still remember the taste of the Black Beans and Rice I had at a restaurant in Ybor City. We were visiting my grandparents in St. Pete Beach. It was a very difficult time for our family and our mom decided that several weeks in Florida were needed. As a parent now, I can only imagine what was happening in her world that caused her to make that decision. Whatever it was, it must have been awful for her. And sadly, she is no longer with us so I can’t talk to her about it. The difficult times she experienced trying to raise five kids largely alone make me appreciate all she did for us. Of course, typical of a kid and then a young woman with my own life and issues, I never said those words to her. I regret that very much.

Back to the restaurant and the Black Beans and Rice. Delicious. I remember the bite of the vinegar and the saltiness of the ham. I had never had Black Beans and Rice before. We are descendants of Eastern Europeans, and beans and rice weren’t in our family cuisine.

Thankfully, they are now. My Faithful Assistant will make them as an after school snack! For years, I have been on a quest for the quintessential Black Bean Soup. I scour the internet looking for something easy and flavorful all the time and after reading dozens of recipes, I have come up with one that I think combines the best of them all into one super simple recipe.

Easiest Black Bean Soup Ever
3 cans black beans
2 cups salsa
1 medium onion, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, crushed
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
Cumin
Cayenne

  1. Saute the onion and garlic in a little olive oil until translucent.
  2. Combine everything in a slow cooker or stock pot.
  3. Cook on low for 4-5 hours.

Did you notice I didn’t say drain and rinse the beans? I read up on that too. It’s water, salt and starches from the beans and can be a nice way to give your Black Bean Soup a little thickness.

As the soup heated and all the aromas started filling the house, I was in heaven. The smells didn’t bring back bad memories of our struggles. They brought back memories of new experiences, the warm Florida sun, the beach, and many other things. I think it’s safe to say that I will never suffer as a parent the way my mother must have. She had a very difficult life that was sprinkled here and there with some brightness. I’m going to choose to remember the brightness.

Enjoy.

Springtime Cake Bites

SCBLate into the winter each year, our church has a Spaghetti Lunch and Dessert Auction to raise funds for summer youth programs. It’s loads of fun to see all the clever creations all the amazing bakers come up with. I also enjoy trying to find something new and exciting to make each year. We’ve made a really fun Angry Birds cake, a Mustache cake, and Snapchat cupcakes.

I had a lot of success with my Festive Rum Cake Balls. Not only did they taste great, they got me over my fear of dipping! I feel like a dipping pro now! So I decided to invest in some small cookie cutters for the express purpose of making cake bites to sell at the Dessert Auction.

Springtime Cake Bites
1 box yellow cake mix, prepared according to the instructions on the box. A rectangle is fine.
3 cups powdered sugar
2- 6 oz bags of Wilton Candy Melts

  1. Bake your cake and allow to cool for about 10 minutes. It should still be warm.
  2. Crumble the cake into a large bowl. Add the powdered sugar and mix well. The resulting mixture should be quite sticky.
  3. Press onto baking sheet. It should be about 3/4 inch thick.
  4. Chill for 30 minutes.
  5. Using your cookie cutters, cut a bunch of cake bites. Just like you do with cookie dough, press it back together and if needed, chill again. Continue cutting cake bites until you are out of batter.
  6. Chill your bites for another 30 minutes.
  7. Melt the candy melts according the instructions on the package.
  8. Carefully did, one at a time. I find the easiest way to cover the bites is to plop into the bowl and use a fork to flip so all sides get coated.
  9. Gently remove onto a sheet of waxed paper.
  10. Chill until set.

My test run went very well. My Faithful Assistant was very pleased with the final product. We was very happy to be the taste tester. He did pay close attention to the dipping process so he will be able to help next time and cut the prep time in half.

If you’re interested in something for a more adult audience, use rum or whiskey in place of half the water (or milk) in your recipe. Our cake bites were made with about 3 oz of whiskey. They have a nice flavor but they aren’t too boozy.

I’m excited for our Auction next week. Our congregation is not only generous but so creative. And I love how involved the youth are in an event that benefits them. It’s a great way to get them interested in helping others as they help themselves.

Enjoy!

Super Fast Red Beans and Rice

SFRBRIt’s been a very long couple weeks. Finally this weekend, we have almost nothing to do. I couldn’t be happier. I felt it was important to welcome in this stress-free weekend with a healthy and delicious dinner. Of course, with a starving teen at home, speed is life.

This morning, I decided to make a more concerted effort to have more meat free meals. My initial plan was to make some Vegetable Wontons but alas, no wonton wrappers. Plan B was nonexistent. That left me wandering. I meandered around, when the Vegan meats in the refrigerator case caught my eye. I decided to grab some Tofurky Andouille Sausage, veggies, and make a colorful, healthy dinner.

Super Fast Red Beans and Rice
1 cup rice, cooked, and set aside – about three cups
1/2 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
3 stalks celery, chopped
1/2 red pepper and 1/2 yellow pepper, sliced
1 cup crushed tomatoes
I can red kidney beans
2 cups vegan broth
4 andouille sausages, sliced

  1. Saute onions, celery and garlic in a small amount of olive oil until slightly softened.
  2. Add the sausage and cook for 5 minutes.
  3. Add the tomatoes, broth, beans, and cooked rice. Heat through.
  4. About five minutes before you are ready to serve, stir in the sliced peppers and heat until they have warmed. They’ll still be crisp. You’ll love it!

If you have never tried vegan sausage, the first thing you will notice is the texture. It’s very different than traditional meat sausage. After a few bites, you should be able to move beyond it. As for the flavor, it was great! You may have noticed that I didn’t add any spices to my dish. You could easily add some salt and pepper and maybe a little cayenne; maybe even some cumin. I didn’t because I wanted to really taste the flavors of the sausage. I was not disappointed at all. And for those in my household who are actually afraid of a little heat, there wasn’t too much of that at all!

With Lent right around the corner, you may be looking for some meatless meals. I encourage you to try some vegan sausage or other vegan meat substitutes. If you’re worried about protein, you shouldn’t be. The Tofurky Andouille Sausage has 29 grams of protein per serving! And it appears to be a pretty good source of iron too!

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Mommy Ramen

MRI’ve been very intrigued by a newish trend in dining: The Fancy Ramen Bowl. The prices for this delightful dish can range from $10 to $20. But thanks to some really great boxed broth, you can now make your own at home!

Mommy Ramen
1 box Imagine Ramen Broth
8 oz. ramen noodles
6 oz. pork – I used Irish Bacon
Shredded carrots
Sautéed mushrooms
Bean sprouts – the white ones
Chopped green onion
Boiled egg, slice in half

  1. Saute the pork with a little oil. Set aside.
  2. Boil the noodles in the broth.
  3. When the noodles are done, layer the noodles in the bottom of a large bowl. Add some broth.
  4. Add a few slices of the pork, some of the veggies, and two egg halves.
  5. Sprinkle the chopped green onion on top.

The beautiful about this is that it’s so easy to customize. You can have a whole bunch of everyone’s favorite fresh chopped veggies and they can choose what they want.

My Faithful Assistant was pretty happy when I told him I was stopping to get some stuff to use to make ramen. A friend of his had made some recently and he was a little envious. He did have a little feedback, of course. He said he would skip the carrots next time, and more broth, and a different kind of mushroom. We both loved the bean sprouts though!

Our Mommy Ramen was ready very fast, and it certainly didn’t cost $10 a bowl to make. I can’t wait to have it again!

Enjoy!