May 3, 2016

Recipe: Light and Fluffy Lime Tres Leches Cake



Confession:  I don't love the soggy consistency of most Tres Leches cakes.   It's one of those cakes that people either love or hate, so I set out to create a newfangled Tres Leches to win over the haters, while still paying homage to the original.

This recipe uses much less of the Tres Leches (3 milks) mixture than most.  I replaced the evaporated milk with light coconut milk to lend a bit more body and flavor.  Lime zest and juice are featured throughout the recipe -- cake, leches, and frosting.  The cake is topped with toasted coconut and the sides get a coating of crushed graham cracker.  What results is a light and bright-tasting cake, reminiscent of key lime pie.  

Try it for yourself and let me know what you think!


Light and Fluffy Lime Tres Leches Cake


Yield:  One 10x10 single layer cake
Bake time:  25 minutes
Chill time:  1 hour

For the cake
1 box French Vanilla Cake Mix
4 large eggs
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1 1/4 cups water
Zest of one lime

For the leches
4 oz. sweetened condensed milk
4 oz. light coconut milk
1/3 cup heavy cream
2 Tablespoons fresh lime juice

For the whipped cream and garnish
1 cup heavy cream
2 Tablespoons powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Zest of 1 lime
1/2 cup toasted coconut** (optional)
1 sleeve graham crackers, reduced to crumb (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 F.  Grease a 10x10 pan*, use a sheet of foil or parchment to create an overhanging sling to make the cake easy to remove.  Grease the sling.  

Step 1:  In a large bowl, combine the cake mix, eggs, oil, water, and lime zest.  Mix on low speed to combine, then beat on medium speed for two minutes.  Pour batter into the baking pan and bake for 20-25 minutes.  Cake should spring back to the touch, or a toothpick inserted in center should come out clean.

Step 2:  Let cake cool for 5 minutes.  While cake is cooling, whisk together the three milks and lime juice in a bowl till smooth.  Poke holes in cake all over with a bamboo skewer or a fork.  Then, pour the mixture evenly and slowly over the top of the cake.  Use a rubber scraper or offset spatula to spread the milk mixture over the top and to give it an opportunity to seep into all of those holes.  Refrigerate the cake for a minimum of one hour.  

Step 3:  When cake is chilled, remove from refrigerator.  Use a thin spatula or butter knife to loosen the sides of the cake that touch the pan.  Lift both sides of sling to remove cake.  Transfer cake to a square cake board or plate.  Discard sling.

Step 4:  Whip chilled cream to medium peaks.  Then add powdered sugar, lime zest, and vanilla.  Use the whipped cream to frost the top and sides of the cake.  Chill until ready to serve or decorate.

Step 5 (optional):  Sprinkle toasted coconut on the top of the cake.  Gently pat crumbled graham cracker on the sides of the cake.  Chill until ready to serve.

*This cake can also be made in a 9" or 10" round pan.
**I toasted sweetened flaked coconut in a sauté pan over medium heat for a few minutes, then set it aside to cool.

March 12, 2016

Recipe: Easy Peaches & Cream Baked Oatmeal Casserole


This recipe is a great alternative to a bowl of mushy old oatmeal. The oats on the top retain their chewy, nutty consistency, and the fruit makes the flavors bright and fresh.  

The casserole can be prepared the day before (my kids love to do this), so all you have to do is stick it in the oven in the morning.  It also reheats beautifully as leftovers.  I enjoyed the last square this morning, heated up for a minute in the microwave, drizzled with a little milk and sprinkled with just a touch of brown sugar.

Peaches & Cream Baked Oatmeal
  • 1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1/3 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
  • 1 teaspoon real vanilla extract
  • 3-4 ripe bananas, peeled and sliced
  • 2 cups diced peaches or nectarines 
Preheat the oven to 375F.
Lightly grease a 9x13 glass casserole dish. 

Step 1:  In a medium bowl, mix the oats, half of the pecans, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. Stir to combine.

Step 2:  In a liquid measuring cup, combine the honey, milk, egg, butter, and vanilla.

Step 3:  Spread the sliced bananas in a single layer over the bottom of the casserole dish. Top with half of the peaches. 

Step 4:  Sprinkle the dry oat mixture over the fruit in an even layer. Pour the liquid ingredients evenly over the oats.  Sprinkle the remaining nuts and peaches over the top. 

At this point, you can cover the pan and refrigerate until ready to bake, or bake right away.

Step 5:  Bake for 35-40 minutes, until the top is browned and the oats have set. Let cool 10 minutes before serving.

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Credit where credit is due: I adapted this recipe from the Baked Blueberry Oatmeal recipe found at http://pattylkinsella.com/blueberry-baked-oatmeal/

March 5, 2016

Recipe ~ Easy Oven Roasted Pork Carnitas for a Crowd


Tender
Juicy
Flavorful
Crispy
Caramelized
Pork Love

CARNITAS!

Carnitas are the stuff of Mexican food magic. I've been experimenting for ages, trying dozens of recipes, techniques and tips from online, friends, cookbooks, and through shady back-alley dealings to find a way to make knock-your-socks-off restaurant quality pork carnitas at home.  I have a big, hungry family, and  I like to be able to make big batches of food that will last beyond a single evening's meal.


With the glee of a taco lover on Tuesdays, I'm pleased to share that I've perfected my own recipe for family-style carnitas that come out beautifully every time and taste just as good as the ones I've had at my favorite Mexican restaurants.  So, without further ado, here's my recipe for carnitas for your tacos, enchiladas, burritos, tostadas, breakfast scrambles, and more.  Enjoy!


California-Style Pork Carnitas
(yield:  3 pounds)

6-7 pound boneless pork butt/shoulder
kosher salt, black pepper, garlic powder
vegetable oil
Fresh orange wedges
Fresh lime wedges

Step 1:  Season pork liberally with salt, pepper and garlic powder on all sides.  Over high-heat in a large sauté pan or cast-iron skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil.  Sear pork on all sides  (look for a golden brown crust).  Remove from heat and wrap in a double layer of foil.  Set on a wire rack placed on a foil wrapped baking sheet (for easy cleanup later).

Step 2:  Bake in a 265° F oven for 8 hours.

Step 3:  Remove from oven.  Remove foil.  Place cooked pork in a large bowl.  Use two forks to shred.

At this point, if you don't plan on serving all the pork at once, you can set some aside to save in the refrigerator, while you pan-fry the amount you're going to use.  The pulled pork will keep for a week in the refrigerator and can be pan fried on demand. 

Step 4:  To get the crispy, caramelized exterior on your pork that makes carnitas so incredible, heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large sauté pan or cast-iron skillet.  When oil is nearly smoking hot, add a single layer of shredded pork.  Squeeze an orange wedge over the pork and toss the depleted wedge of orange into the pan as well.  Let pork sit over high heat until golden brown on one side.  Use a spatula to flip over, and brown other side.  Once your carnitas are nice and golden and crispy, give them a taste.  Season with a little salt or pepper if needed.  Discard the piece of orange.  Serve carnitas with wedges of fresh lime.

I like to serve my carnitas with fresh ancho peppers, seeded, sliced, and sautéed till soft and blistered in a bit of olive oil.







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