Monday, May 28, 2012

It's Officially Summer

Memorial Day is the unofficial start of summer. Time for lazy days, easy cooking, less baking and lots of icy beverages. Easy cooking means more cooking on the grill, a method that produces great tasting food and doesn't heat up the house.

When I don't know what to fix for dinner, my husband is always ready to cook something on the grill. The problem with that is someone still has to figure out the rest of the meal, that would be me.

One of my go-to side dishes is an easy potato salad that has a vinaigrette dressing, not mayonnaise, that makes it a healthier alternative. Snappy green beans fresh from the garden bring color, fiber and nutrients to the table. If the onions are strong smelling, cover with cold water, soak 15 minutes, drain and pat dry and you'll have a milder flavor.

Country French Green Bean and Potato Salad

Take this appetizing summery salad on picnics because it doesn’t need to be chilled. Because I slice the potatoes before cooking they don’t need to be peeled, but you can also boil the whole potatoes and peel and slice them before making the salad.

Serves 4 to 6

 2 lb. Yukon gold potatoes, sliced 1/4 inch thick

3/4 teaspoon salt, divided

3/4 lb. green beans, cut into 2-inch pieces

1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

1/4 teaspoon sugar

 Place potatoes and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a medium saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer about 10 to 12 minutes or until fork tender. Remove from heat and drain. Place in large bowl.

 Cook green beans in boiling water until tender-crisp, about 4 to 6 minutes. Drain and add to potatoes.

Combine lemon juice, Dijon mustard, sugar and remaining salt in a small bowl. Whisk until blended. Gradually whisk in olive oil. Pour over warm potato mixture and toss to mix. Cool to room temperature. Serve at room temperature or chilled.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Celebrate Norwegian Constitution Day with Whipped Cream Cake

May 17, today, is Norwegian Constitution Day., syttende mai. Blotkake, Norwegian Cream Cake, celebrates this patriotic holiday by highlighting fresh spring berries. This celebration is similar to the American 4th of July. Everyone wears red, white and blue and many march in parades. It commemorates the signing of the Norwegian Constitution in 1914 that declared Norway to be an independent nation. All over Norway, elementary school districts arrange a parade with marching bands and children parading through the community. The longest parade is in Oslo where as many as 100,00 people travel to the city to participate in the festivities.

This delicate cake slathered with whipped cream and decorated with blueberries and strawberries represents the national colors present in the flag. It tastes best the day it is made. The recipe below has the strawberries whipped with the cream giving it a delicate pink color.

Strawberry Cream Cake
Makes 10 to 12 servings


¾ cup cake flour
            ¾ cup + 1 Tbsp. sugar
            4 large eggs, room temperature
            ¼ teaspoon salt
            ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
            1 tablespoon water
            1 teaspoon vanilla


3 cups chopped strawberries, 1/2 inch pieces
            1 tablespoon sugar
            4 ounces (1/2 package) cream cheese, softened
            1 ½ cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
            1 teaspoon vanilla
            1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream

 Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line the bottom of two 9-inch round cake pans with parchment paper or waxed paper. Spray the paper lightly with nonstick cooking spray. Sift the cake flour with 1 tbsp. sugar.

 Place the eggs, 3/4 cup sugar, salt, cream of tartar, water and vanilla in a large mixer bowl. Beat on high with a whisk attachment until thick and lemon colored, about 5 minutes. When the whisk is lifted, the eggs will form a thick ribbon that dissolves.

 Fold in the cake flour (see How to Fold p. 27) and mix until blended. Pour into the prepared pans and spread evenly. Bake 13 to 16 minutes or until the center springs back when touched lightly with a finger.

 Cool pans 10 minutes on a wire cooling rack. Run a thin metal spatula around the edges of the pans loosening the cake. Carefully remove the cakes from pans and peel off the parchment paper. Cool completely on the wire cooling rack.

 Make the topping. Mix the strawberries with the sugar in a medium bowl and let stand 5 minutes for the filling. Beat the cream cheese, confectioners’ sugar and vanilla in a large mixer bowl on high with a whisk attachment until creamy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Gradually add the whipping cream while beating on low. Increase speed to high and continue beating until soft peaks form. Beat in strawberries and beat about 30 seconds. 

 Place one layer of the cake on a serving dish. Spread with 2 cups strawberry whipped cream, spreading to the edges. Add the second layer and cover with the remaining strawberry whipped cream. Chill at least 2 hours before serving.  Garnish with additional strawberries, if desired. Cake must be refrigerated.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Cinco de Mayo or Derby Day?

Tomorrow is May 5, the running of the Kentucky Derby or to some, Cinco de Mayo. Did you know that Cinco de Mayo is actually an American celebration, not celebrated in Mexico? It commemorates the Mexican battle of Puebla and isn't considered an important date date south of the border.

Mexican troops defeated French troops on this date in 1862, but the victory didn't last long and the French eventually occupied Mexico for 3 years.

Whether you celebrate Derby Day or Cinco de Mayo, the day is perfect for a party or just a special dessert. For me, Tres Leches Cake is the dessert to make.

This light sponge cake is baked in a 13x9 inch baking dish making it easy to take and share. The title, Tres Leches, translates as "three milks" but my version actually has more. Strawberries are abundant and reasonable priced at the moment so top with fresh berries.

Tres Leches Cake

This traditional Hispanic dessert is currently very popular in the United States. Tres Leches translates as “three milks,” and this cake is literally drenched in sweet milks—whipping cream, evaporated milk, and condensed milk. Whole milk is an extra! I like to serve it with a little whipped cream and mixed fresh berries.

Makes 24 servings 

                        2 cups all-purpose flour

                        2 teaspoons baking powder

                      1/4  teaspoon salt

                      3/4       cup butter, softened

                   1 1/2      cups sugar

                        4 eggs, separated

                        1 teaspoon vanilla

                        1 cup whole milk

                      1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar


                      3/4  cup whipping cream

                        1 (15-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk

                        1 (5-ounce) can evaporated milk

Heat oven to 350°F with rack in middle. Grease and flour a 13 x 9-inch baking pan.

Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in medium bowl.

Beat butter until creamy in bowl of a heavy-duty mixer on Medium speed. Gradually add sugar, scraping down sides of bowl occasionally, and beat 2 minutes. Beat in egg yolks, scrape down sides of bowl, and add vanilla. Beat 2 minutes more until mixture is very light and creamy.

Reduce mixer speed to Low. Add flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with the whole milk in 2 additions. Scrape down sides of bowl after each addition. Beat until smooth, but no longer than 15 seconds.

Place egg whites and cream of tartar in bowl of a heavy-duty mixer fitted with the whisk. Beat on High speed until whites form soft peaks. (When you lift beaters, whites should form peaks that fall softly down.)

Add whites to batter with a folding motion. Bring a rubber spatula across the beaten whites in a motion parallel to the counter, slide the spatula down the back of the bowl, and pull it back in the other direction, lifting at the end. Rotate bowl as you fold. Pour batter into prepared pan.

Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. The cake may not be browned. Place cake pan on wire cooling rack and pierce cake generously with a fork or skewer.


Combine whipping cream, condensed milk, and evaporated milk in medium bowl and mix well. Spoon generously over the cake. Continue to add more liquid as topping is absorbed. You may not use it all. This cake must be stored in the refrigerator.

Baker’s Notes: It is easier to separate the egg yolks from the whites when the eggs are chilled. Do this about 1/2 hour before starting the cake.

Condensed milk has lots of sugar added, and evaporated milk does not—read the labels carefully.

Secrets to Success: Be sure bowl for beating egg whites is free from fat so that the whites will whip well.