Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Late Birthday Mega-post!

So, my birthday was on the 4th of July, & I have a lot of catching up to do! I hope everyone had a safe & happy 4th, if you even celebrate it. I probably wouldn't, if it weren't my birthday. :)

I ended up having a sleepover at my sister's house, since all of her housemates were gone for the weekend. It was fun, since I got to see my great friend, Jeremy! (My sister even took me to birthday breakfast at Blossoming Lotus, where Jeremy works!) As per usual, I made a crapload of food & packed too much, but whatever. Here is a delicious recipe, slightly adapted & simplified, that I got from the July/August issue of Vegetarian Times.

Corn-Quinoa Salad

*1 cup quinoa, rinsed & drained
*1 1/2 cups water
*1/2 teaspoon salt
*1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels
*1 1/2 cups halved cherry or grape tomatoes
*1 cup diced cucumber


*1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
*1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
*3 tablespoons maple syrup
*1 tablespoon grainy Dijon mustard
*1 teaspoon salt
*fresh pepper to taste

Bring the water, quinoa, & salt to a boil in a saucepan. Reduce heat to low, cover, & simmer for 15-20 minutes, until water is absorbed. Set aside, covered, to rest. If using fresh corn, blanch it for 1 minute, then rinse & drain. If using frozen, just wait a bit. Whisk together the ingredients for the dressing. Use a large bowl, so you can add the tomatoes, corn, cucumbers, & quinoa. Stir everything together & chill until serving time.

*The original recipe calls for blanching the frozen corn as well, but I've tried it both ways, & it seemed unnecessary. It also calls for 1 cup of finely chopped red cabbage, but I didn't have any on hand.

I also made some "lazy sushi" fixins, but didn't take pictures---nori sheets, sushi rice, sliced cucumbers, avocado chunks, pickled ginger, & wasabi...it wasn't pretty, but it was tasty, except for the gross pickled ginger I got at Fubonn. Not sure why, but it was cut too thick, & had lots of stringyness, not to mention chemicals galore. I only bought it because I couldn't find any other brands the day I went, but it was tossed out after failing in so many ways. Blargh.

I made my own birthday cake because it's fun & I love to bake! Sadly, not many of the people I hang out with on my birthday like cake, so I made a half-batch of my favorite, summery cake, printed years ago from the O Magazine website (It's no longer available, apparently).

Here's my adapted, mini-version of it:

Butter Cake with Lemon Cream Frosting

Lemon Curd:

*3 large egg yolks
*1/2 cup sugar
*2 lemons, zested & juiced
*1/4 cup butter, cut into several pieces


*1 1/4 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
*1 1/8 teaspoons baking powder
*1/4 teaspoon salt
*6 tablespoons butter, softened
*3/4 cup sugar
*1 1/2 large eggs (I know, it's weird to divide an egg in half)
*6 tablespoons milk
*1 teaspoon vanilla


*3/4 cup heavy cream
*1/4 cup of prepared lemon curd

Filling & Topping:

*1/3-1/2 cup strawberry or raspberry jam
*1/3 cup or so leftover lemon curd
*fresh raspberries & strawberries

Prepare the lemon curd first. Bring a medium pan, with an inch or two of water in it, to a boil. Once it reaches a boil, put a metal bowl on top & reduce the heat the medium-low. Combine the egg yolks, sugar, lemon juice, & zest in the metal bowl. Whisk over the simmering water, stirring constantly, for about 10 minutes, or until the mixture is thickened & pale yellow. Remove from heat & add the butter, in pieces, whisking till combined. Pour into a jar or small bowl & set aside to cool. There will be more than you need, but I'm sure you can figure out how to get rid of the rest! :)

Preheat the oven to 350*F.
Butter & flour a round cake pan, either 8" or 9"; set aside. In a small bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, & salt; set aside. In a mixer, cream together the butter & sugar till fluffy. Add the eggs & beat till fluffy again.

Combine milk with vanilla. With mixer on low speed, add half of the dry ingredients, stirring till mostly incorporated, then add half the milk/vanilla, stirring till combined. Repeat, stirring just enough, but not too much. Pour cake batter into the prepared cake pan & bake till a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean (mine took about 25 minutes, but it depends on your pan size & oven).

Cool about 5 minutes in the pan, then invert onto a cake rack to cool completely. I put mine in the window sill & the smell was intoxicating!

Once the cake has cooled, slice it in half. Place the bottom half on a pretty cake plate, then spread the jam evenly across the bottom, before topping with the top layer. Spread about 1/3 cup of lemon curd on the top layer, if you desire; I did & it was tasty!

Whip the cream until it forms soft peaks. Fold in the 1/4 cup of lemon curd, then spread onto cake. Garnish with fresh fruit, or leave it simple. Refrigerate until close to serving time. Since it's a butter cake, it should be served at room temperature, or it may appear dry. The whipped cream is quite stable, due to the eggs in the lemon curd. I had my cake sitting out for a few hours & it was fine.

After being spoiled by everyone, I had another event to attend---my friend Scott is moving back to New Jersey, so there was a shindig at Ara & Drew's house yesterday. I ran around town all morning, hitting up the Joann's sale with Coral, & buying some cutesy fabric, a couple sewing patterns, & a pack of blank cards (for stamping with these cute stamps from Mom!).

A future apron, once I can get past my fear of the sewing machine:

After Jo-Ann's crazy-sale-o-rama, I ran to Limbo (highly recommended for inexpensive, amazing produce---usually local/organic!!!) & Trader Joe's for some more party food fixin's & beer. Once home, I made a batch of pineapple salsa, which is always unique & tasty, but I forgot to take a picture. :(

But!...the main reason for shopping was to buy some lemons, raspberries, & Earth Balance, so I could make this cake for Scott, who's a vegan.

The recipe is adapted from How it All Vegan!, & I used it to bake a kinda-similar cake to my birthday one. No vegan lemon curd though, since I began baking this thing two hours before the bbq started. Whew!

Lemon Cake & Frosting

*1 1/2 cups flour
*2 teaspoons baking powder
*1/4 teaspoon salt

*3/4 cup sugar
*3/4 cup vegan milk
*2 teaspoons lemon extract
*zest of one lemon
*1/4 cup oil
*1 egg replacer (I use Ener-G)

Preheat oven to 350*F. Grease & flour an 8" or 9" cake pan & set aside. In a medium bowl, sift together the dry ingredients; set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients. Beat in the dry ingredients, until just combined. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes in the pan, then invert onto a cake rack to cool completely.

I sliced mine in half, similar to the birthday cake, then spread homemade strawberry jam on the bottom layer.

Prepare the frosting by beating together:

*1/4 cup margarine, softened
*2 1/4 cups powdered sugar, sifted if lumpy
*2 tablespoons vegan milk
*1 teaspoon lemon extract

I was in a hurry, so I just went "rustic" on the cake's ass, by spreading the frosting over the top & letting it run down the sides, before placing raspberries & lemon slices on the top.

It was devoured by the people at the bbq before I could take shots of the inside. Scott was so thankful that I baked it for him. I'll miss you, Scott!!

Here are some random recent pictures...

$3 goes far at Limbo:

A hunk of fancy gianduja from Smels! Help me figure out what to do with it, before I eat it all!

A lovely sun hat from my sister.

The Grand Central cookbook, which I've been drooling over for months, also from Smels (she even got me wooden Portland Farmer's Market coins, so I can buy fresh ingredients for the G.C. recipes!!!!).

Ethan is taking me camping a.s.a.p. & got me a bouquet of sunflowers & a cheesy, singing, Twilight card, as sort of an inside joke. :)

The cute, vintage apron that Coral made me! She's amazingly crafty & sweet! And her boyfriend, Ryan, even fixed my car's leaky trunk (He also fixed my Gran's sewing machine a month ago. I feel so fortunate to have so many great people in my life!)

Gorgeous pink poppies that my sister & I saw in Northeast.

Has anyone else gotten one of these in the mail?! This came awhile back, but it was sort of funny. I thought someone had it sent to me as a joke, since I just turned 31, ha ha. Oy.

Sorry for the ginormosity of this one. Ruben thanks you for your time...snore!

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