Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Buffalo Summer

It's summertime! I'm just a few hours away from boarding a plane and flying home for a visit! I tend to go home to see my parents twice a year, Christmas and summer. That way I get to see both of the Buffalo seasons, winter and July. 




Well, that's how the old joke goes. I'm more in the camp that Buffalo has four distinct, yet unequal seasons. 

Fall starts rolling in immediately after Labor day. In mid-September, the leaves start to turn and the sweaters and jeans quickly reappear. I think it's Fall that WNYers live for. I always loved Fall because it meant going back to school. But then again, I'm a nerd and totally loved school. Feel free to make fun of me.

Yes, winter is long and snowy, but you'll rarely hear a local complain about it. "What is winter without snow?", they will tell you. I remember several Christmas eves, driving through blinding snow to get to my grams house. 



Spring is rainy and cool and it tends to last from early May until mid June. It gives you plenty of time to plant your gardens and clean up from the winter mess. 

Summer pops it's head in around early July and brings sticky, hot weather. We didn't have air conditioning in my childhood home. I was only ever upset about it for one or two weeks a year. You don't get 100 degree days in Buffalo, but humidity will make you wish you had a cold drink in your hand all day. 



One easy way to tell that it was summer in my childhood home? Check the freezer for ice cream. If it was summer, there was a solid shelf of Perry's ice cream. If it wasn't summer, there was probably just half a shelf. My dad seriously loves Perry's ice cream. (Remember, I took him to the Perry's ice cream factory last year? It was his birthday present, he loved it.)

You might remember that I'm lucky enough to be a Perry's Inside Taster! This means that once or twice a year, then send me ice cream! This is super important these days, because my Wegmans in New Jersey have stopped carrying the brand! (Worse day ever) This summer, I received a large box of dry ice and three containers of Perry's. Three containers of ice cream that were all destined for something different. 



First, the French Roast Coffee. I never saw this ice cream. The package arrived and I put the containers in the fridge. I left for a conference. When I came home, the ice cream was no longer in the fridge. The boyfriend may or may not have eaten the entire container of ice cream himself. He wouldn't fess up.

Next, Otto's Cupcake. I saw this ice cream a few months back, during Sweet 16 basketball time. It's chocolate ice cream, with pieces of chocolate cake and orange frosting swirled in. Let me be clear though, the frosting swirl is orange in color, not orange in flavor. My dad and I both had some and discussed this point for a good five minutes. We were both expecting orange flavor because we didn't read the box before we ate it. This ice cream was tasty.

Finally, All Natural Dark Chocolate. This ice cream made its way into those ice cream sandwiches you see above. I was inspired by these brownie ice cream sandwiches from Smitten Kitchen. 

I knew that I still had a container of chocolate Perry's in the freezer and thought nothing would pair better with the ice cream, than peanut butter. I whipped up a batch of my favorite peanut butter bars, divided the batter in two and sandwiched almost the entire container of ice cream between the two slabs of peanut butter bar. The boyfriend thinks my ice cream to cookie ratio is off. He's just crazy, these ice cream sandwiches are amazing.  Give them a try! Or come over, I have a whole pan of them to share!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Happy Fourth Birthday WITK!

I've been MIA a lot recently but I just had to remember to wish WITK a Happy Fourth Birthday! This year has brought a lot of change and writing at WITK (and WITC) really helped me through a tough time. WITK has been with me through lots of changes and I always like to take this time of year to reflect on how much has changed and how far I've come!


Four years ago, I was living in Colorado. I was packing up my Boulder apartment and getting ready to move across the country, again. My boss had accepted a position at Yale and was bringing a few of his students and postdocs with him. Food blogs were new to me and I thought it would be a great way to stay in touch with my friends across the country.


Three years ago, I was in the midst of moving from Connecticut to New Jersey. I was a few days from starting my first real job and busy deciding what to wear. WITK went from three days a week posting to just two and I was trying to figure out how to cook dinner for two instead of one.


Two years ago, WITK was in the midst of its first big food challenge (Why Bother 2012!) I was enjoying my first summer as a real employed person. Easily distracted, I neglected to cook dinner and made lots of sweets. My coworkers happily gobbled up the resulting desserts.


Last year, it was a tough time and I was in the middle of my summer of unemployment. Recently laid off and seeking a new full-time gig, I threw myself into WITK and my new venture - Wilde in the City. With two blogs to distract myself from the lack of interviews, my third blogoversary gave me a great reason to make a seriously involved cake. So delicious.


This year, I find myself at a new job, getting ready to buy a house and juggling everything rather poorly! Over the past four months I have racked up over 70,000 frequent flier miles, traveled to six different countries and finally made it to Hawaii. All this travel has been tough on WITK, I cooked very little over the past four months.

In order to properly celebrate four years online, I made WITK a beautiful cake. I've been meaning to make something from the SprinkleBakes cookbook for a while now. I flipped through the pages until I found this cake - the Neapolitan cake. Three different flavors, baked from a single batter, this cake was a great combination of flavors. My favorites? I preferred the strawberry and vanilla layers. The chocolate layer wasn't flavorful enough for me. If I were to make this again, I'd use some melted chocolate for flavoring the chocolate layer.

Happy Birthday Wilde in the Kitchen! Thanks for being there for me though all the changing times! Also, many many thanks to all of my internet friends out there! Without you on the other end of the internet, it would just be my mom reading these posts! Thanks for coming along for the ride.

One Year Ago: Milky Way Cake
Two Years Ago: Buffalo Sponge Candy Cake
Three Years Ago: Pomegranate Moon Pies
Four Years Ago!!!: Chocolate Cupcakes with Chocolate or Peanut Butter Frosting

Neapolitan Cake
Adapted from SprinkleBakes

The bake times for these cakes were way off. The cookbook suggested that all three cakes would take about the same amount of time in the oven. This wasn't the case however and it's mostly because you have to add extra water to the flavored layers. It takes much longer to bake out all this excess water. I've listed both the suggested and actual bake times in this recipe. Keep in mind that your oven could be a bit different and you should check the doneness with a toothpick. Poke it in the center, when you pull it out there should be only crumbs clinging to the toothpick.  Happy baking!

Cake batter
3 sticks (24 tablespoons) unsalted butter
3 cups sugar
6 cups cake flour, sifted
2 tablespoons baking powder
12 egg whites, room temperature
2 cups milk (I used skim milk with a dash of heavy cream)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3-ounce package strawberry Jell-O
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup hot water

Icing
1 pound cream cheese, removed from the fridge 20 minutes ago
1/2 pound (16 tablespoons) butter, softened
1 pound (about 4 cups) powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 325ºF. Grease three 9-inch round pans with butter. Line pans with parchment paper (I used wax paper because it was what I had!), butter the paper.

In a large bowl, whisk egg whites until stiff peaks form. You can also do this with a hand mixer or in your stand mixer. You'll have to transfer the whipped egg whites to another bowl if you use your stand mixer.

In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until smooth and fluffy.  Sifter together flour and baking powder. Add vanilla to milk.  Add 1/3 of the flour mixture to the creamed butter. Mix on low until incorporated. Add 1/2 the milk, mix until blended. Add flour, milk and then flour, mixing until smooth after each addition.  Add egg whites all at once. Gently fold in the egg whites, try not to beat too vigorously and deflate the egg whites.

Divide the batter into three equal batches (I used a food scale to ensure I had three equal amounts). Add 1/4 cup hot water to the strawberry Jell-O. Stir until gelatin is mostly dissolved. Add this to one of the batches of batter and stir until there are no streaks remaining. Pour into one of the prepared pans.

Mix remaining 1/4 cup of hot water with cocoa powder, it will form a slurry. Add cocoa mixture to the second batch of batter. Pour into the second prepared pan. Pour remaining vanilla cake into the third pan. Bake cake layers as follows.

Vanilla - Suggested (30-35 minutes), Actual (33 minutes)
Strawberry - Suggested (30-35 minutes), Actual (45 minutes)
Chocolate - Suggested (25-30 minutes), Actual (40 minutes)

Remove cake layers from the oven and let cool in the pans for 10 minutes. Remove from the pans and peel off paper from the bottom. Let cool cakes completely before cutting. Level the tops of the cakes and stack while you prepare the frosting.

Beat butter and cream cheese until smooth. Add vanilla extract and beat until incorporated. Add powdered sugar, one cup at a time, until the entire pound of sugar is added. If it's too thick - add 1 teaspoon of milk. If it's too thin, add more powdered sugar, one tablespoon at a time.

Assemble the cake - Chocolate layer on the bottom, spread about 3/4 cup frosting on top of the chocolate layer. Add vanilla layer and top with 3/4 cup frosting. Top with strawberry layer and top with 1 cup frosting. Spread cake with a thin crumb coat (Here's a nice video to learn how to crumb coat!). Pop it in the fridge for about 1 hour to harden.  Remove from the fridge and frost with the rest of the frosting. You can get fancy, but I just went with a smooth outside and a swirly top.

Feed this cake to lots of people, there is a lot of butter in here!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

CTB 2014 - Williams-Sonoma - Italian

I always have three easy meals in my back pocket. A few things that I can always whip out in case of late hours at work or an empty fridge. These three meals are 1. Risotto, 2. Omelets, 3. Quiche. Any of these meals also acts as an "Empty out the fridge" kind of meal. To this end I always have Arborio rice, eggs and a pie crust in my house. Always.


Each recipe is pretty much the same. Brown/saute some items in a pan. Cook the main part of the dish (rice or eggs). Combine the sauteed food with the main ingredient and finish the dish. Dinner is usually ready in thirty minutes (22 if it's risotto!).


This week I made another quiche (I always made some omelets yesterday). Why? I didn't have time to go to the grocery store this weekend. Because I was busy playing in the park. Totally legit excuse.

What are your go to dinners when you don't know what to make for dinner?

One Year Ago: Funfetti Mallomars
Two Years Ago: Parmesan & Garlic Salad Dressing & Cranberry Salad Dressing
Three Years Ago: Mango-Lime Muffins

Quiche with Sweet Peppers & Sausage
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma - Italian

1 rolled, refrigerated pie crust
1 pound sweet Italian sausage
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1 yellow bell pepper, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
6 eggs

Preheat oven to 350 ºF.  Unroll pie crust and press into a deep dish pie pan.  Top with a piece of aluminum foil and fill with dried beans or pie weights.  Bake pie crust for 8 minutes.  Prepare filling while the crust bakes.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Lightly coat skillet with cooking spray. Add sausage and onions.  Cook for about 5 minutes, or until sausage is browned and onions are starting to soften.  Add peppers and cook for 3-4 minutes, until they begin to soften.  Add parsley, salt and pepper and stir to coat.

In a large bowl, whisk together eggs.  Add contents of the skillet and stir to mix.  Pour egg mixture into the partially baked pie crust.  Return to the oven and bake for 30 minutes.  Pie crust should be golden on the edges and the egg should be set in the center (it shouldn't jiggle when shaken).

Slice into 6-8 pieces and serve.  You can go wild and grate some Parmesan cheese over the top!
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