May 31, 2011

3 Tier Fondant Covered Cake - my niece's baby shower cake

3 Tier Polka Dot Cake

My family prefers to host baby showers after the baby is born. This time I was hosting for my sister's newborn baby girl and I decided I wanted to make a cake, in addition to luncheon I was going to serve. However, I had a personal challenge, to make a 3 tier fondant cake.

I have made numerous 2 tier cakes before, such as this princess castle cake, but I really wanted to go for the 3rd tier this time. I had a worry of leaning tower of cake pisa since I don't use dowels or anything like that to affix the cake. Generally, I use cake recipes that are a bit heavier, like pound cakes, and so the layers usually stay put.

I decided on a marshmallow fondant to give the cake a more polished look. I was really nervous about using it again as I don't have a lot of experience with it. But I experimented more with it this time and the recipe is so fantastic and really quite easy to use. Once you get the hang of it, it's a total green light. As I told people before, I will probably never go back to basic butter cream to ice cakes unless it's a specific look I'm going for.

Marshmallow Fondant

Pink and white was the theme to the baby shower and the invites had variations of pink polka dots on them so I wanted to continue with that. Unfortunately, I realized I didn't have small circle cookie cutters so I used a melon baller to cut out the cute colored polka dots in variety of pink and white fondant. I affixed them in place with a little bit of butter cream and found a ribbon I liked from the local craft store. Simple but so pretty. The cake topper is a rollout cookie I cut into the letter E with white fondant also cut out with the same cookie cutter. I used a shish kabob wooden skewer to keep it upright and atop of the cake.

I have to admit, not to toot my own horn, but I feel like I really outdid myself. I was so surprised with the outcome and how well it turned out. I had so much fun doing it to and to see the end product turn out was such a good feeling. Family and friends all thought it was beautiful and I am so happy that I was able to add something memorable to commemorate the birth of my little niece.

Welcome to the world, little "E".


May 27, 2011

Garden Fresh Carrots: Photo Friday

Garden Fresh Carrots

This photo was taken last year. Carrots from our garden. Oh how delicious it looks.

Carrots from the Garden - Macro shot

I'm not the gardener but the chef in our house. Gosh, I'm looking forward to some fresh carrots this year. My mouth is watering from anticipation.

Happy Weekend folks!

May 25, 2011

Quark Cheesecake with Almond Crust: gluten-free, sugar-free

Quark cheesecake with Almond flour Crust

This weekend marked another wedding anniversary. To my surprise, my hubby, who is on record for not being the most romantic guy out there, came home with 18 long stem red roses! Then my parents brought a dozen white roses! I have never had such a huge bouquet of flowers before in my life! I kept thinking "this is what a celebrity must feel like all the time!"

Quark cheesecake dipytch

One of my hubby's favorite desserts is cheesecake. Earlier that week, I can picked up a container of creamy quark cheese. Quark is a fresh cheese and I have heard it is often used in cheesecake in many European countries.

Since I am still adhering to a low carbohydrate way of eating, I did not use any wheat flour, instead opting for an almond flour crust and used splenda as my sweetener of choice.

Quark cheesecake

The cheesecake was a hit, with my daughter eating 2 pieces! I also made my own simple raspberry sauce, sweetened with splenda too.

It was a good long weekend.

...

Quark Cheesecake with Almond Crust: gluten-free, sugar-free
makes 10-inch cake

crust:
1/2 cup butter, melted
2 cups almond flour
3 tbsp splenda
1 tsp cinnamon

filling:
500g container Quark
1/3 cup butter, room temperature
3/4 cup splenda
3 eggs
3/4 cup heavy cream
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 tbsp. almond flour
Pinch of salt

For the crust, mix together all the ingredients and press into a 10 inch spring form pan and slightly up the sides. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, cream together the quark, butter and splenda until smooth and fluffy. Add each egg, one at a time, until fully blended. Mix in the heavy cream, vanilla extract, almond flour and salt, scraping down sides, until all mixed together.

Pour the cheese mixture onto the prepared crust.

Wrap the bottom of the spring form pan with tin foil. Place the tin foiled lined spring form pan into a shallow pan filled with 1 inch of water.

Bake in preheated 300 degrees F (150 C) oven for 1 hr 30 minutes.

Turn the oven off and let the cheesecake rest in the oven for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool until it reaches room temperature, about an hour. Cover and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.

Use a knife on the edges of the cheese cake to prevent from sticking when releasing the springform pan. Cut and serve with your favorite sauce.


May 20, 2011

Lavender - Photo Friday

Lavender-plant

I've been intrigued about edible flowers lately but I haven't done much research into it yet.

My hubby brought home this lavender plant for me on Mother's Day and I thought it would be edible but alas, it said not for ingestion. I thought ALL types of lavender were? Guess not.

Long weekend here for us. We have no plans but to enjoy the weather and do some work around the house maybe.

Happy Friday!

May 18, 2011

Salad with Fried Egg - Low Carbing

Green-Salad-with-Egg-lunch

I have been on a low carb diet for the last week and a half. There has been a lot of proteins (various meats and eggs), lots of vegies and fruits (lettuces, peppers, onions, raspberries, strawberries, etc) and virtually no carbohydrates. Yes, no bread, no potatoes, rice and pasta. There has been no cookies, cakes, ice cream and you can forget the stolen handfuls of chocolate chips (which I'm pretty known for around here).

I often have people asking why I would do it. Here are some various reasons:

My cravings have been overboard. It has been a non-stop gluttony of baked goods & other sugary-processed goodies that I just could not get enough of. Serious, serious addition and I was just feeling unhealthy, unhappy and out of control about it. What I like about low carb dieting is that it is a disciplined diet that is easier to stick to since there are basic rules to abide and in return, it completely, if not significantly, reduces the craving factor.

I want to reset my tastes and insulin sensitivity. Much like a fasting diet, suddenly, my tongue tastes the raspberry sweeter than before and I need less salt on my food. I'm hoping that my pancreas resets and that my cells help respond better to insulin levels. That in turn helps to not store all that fat into my cells.

Lets be honest, I want to lose some pounds. I have people telling me "you look fine, you don't need to lose weight!" and I don't want to sound like I'm one of those annoying "skinnier bitches" who complain about the last 10 pounds. Honestly, I just want to get back into my shorts that I wore last year. It's been a long winter and frankly, my behind has responded accordingly.

Salad-&-Egg-Lunch

There are downsides such as having to meal plan but many diets and lifestyles require that. It is not as flexible and sometimes it can get boring, the seemingly same meals but it doesn't have to be so. You can step it up and be creative. It has inspired me to come up with different ideas since I can't just reach for a cookie or handful of goldfish crackers(!) when I want a snack. Other times, on days when it's so busy, I like that I can just have the same meal and not be stressed about what to make.

I will only be eating this regimented for a short time so it's really not that big of a sacrifice. I will incorporate back the "white carbs" (pasta, rice, etc) with time but in smaller portions and of course in whole grain versions. Yes, I'll have cake and ice cream too but less often and in smaller portions hopefully. Sometimes my diet and life needs a shake up, to restart me and recharge me. This way of eating offers that. Life gets boring without a few bumps in the road.

Why low carb versus a sensible, moderation diet with lots of vegies and fruits, just like the food pyramid suggests? That just doesn't always work for me. This diet challenges me but cuts my cravings and it is manageable in terms of my own personality and behaviors. No, it's not for everyone but you have to find what works for you. This one does it for me.


May 16, 2011

Potted Basil

Basil1

I have often heard from my friends that they never have luck at growing basil. I, on the flip side, have always been very lucky that it flourishes.

My basil is planted and kept indoors. Its home is between 2 large windows in my kitchen. Other than having to keep watering it everyday (it dries out quickly in this location), it is so happy that it gives it produces plenty of fresh basil all season long.

Basil2

Though I have several herbs growing, basil is one of my most anticipated herbs each spring. On pizza, in salads and making fresh pesto, I love it.

I'm so happy the growing season is here! FINALLY!

May 13, 2011

Radishes: Photo Friday

Radishes

The spicy taste and crunchy bite has me popping them like candy. I've been enjoying a lot of radishes this week.

May 10, 2011

Summer Splash Cocktail

Summer Splash HighBall

The weather is beautiful today and on twitter, people are chatting about outdoor patios and drinks.

So, I thought I'd officially kick off the backyard get-togethers with a cocktail of my own.

A nice and easy drink to sip amongst friends.

...

Summer Splash Cocktail
makes 1 drink

2 ounces orange juice
1.5 ounces your favorite rum
1 ounce pineapple juice

Mix together and pour over ice filled glass.

May 5, 2011

Stop and taste the yogurt...

Yogurt with Strawberries & Granola

How often do you actually stop, take a moment to enjoy & experience something that would otherwise be an auto-pilot part of your day. To make something pretty to eat, even if it's just for you and no one else, irregardless of how small it is?

I was thinking about this the other day. If I want a snack, I often grab it out of the fridge or pantry and eat it while I'm doing something else. I take no time to make it more visually appealing or even really mentally register every bite. More times than not, I have finished my snacks (or meals!) and barely remember eating it at all.

yogurt

My yogurt received some attention today and I swear, it tasted so much better.

Why don't take an extra 10 minutes to do something nice for yourself today. No matter how small.

May 3, 2011

Taco Pie

Taco Tortilla Pie

Tired of tacos?

Taco Tuesday with a twist.

We all have our typical dinner meals we make over and over. I get bored with it after a while as does the rest of the family. So what if you can take your usual recipe and slightly tweak it?

Does visually changing the look make a difference?

Yes!

Hello Taco Pie.

My children love tacos and I was a bit afraid of what they would say when they saw this. Told them it was taco pie, cut them a slice and down the hatch it went. Always a pleasing experience when children approve.

It is layered similarly like a lasagna. Take your favorite taco recipe and layer the seasoned ground beef with the soft tortilla shells, slather of tomato sauce and sprinkling of cheese with each layer. (I used 3 tortilla shells).

Bake for 20 minutes at 350F. Cut into slices and serve with your favorite taco toppings (salsa, sour cream, shredded lettuce or guacamole).

Taco Tuesday just got a bit spicier :)
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