Saturday, December 21, 2013

Grandmother Paula's Red Velvet Cake

Can you feel it?  The Christmas spirit, that is??

This time of year is magical.  My parents and grandparents made this time of year so special and unforgettable growing up.  From hearing Santa on the roof, to spotting Rudolph's shining red nose in the Christmas Eve sky, to impatiently waiting at the top of the stairs with my little sisters on Christmas morning, waiting until we were given the go-ahead to come scrambling down the stairs to see what goodies Santa had brought.

Even as an adult, those memories make this time of year just as special.

As I sit here illuminated by the glow of the Christmas tree lights, I'm thankful for the blessings that have come my way.  Among all the holiday shopping, parties, and gift wrapping, it's always fun to bake traditional Christmas goodies.    It just wouldn't be Christmas-time without some homemade sweet treats.  

When it comes to traditional holiday desserts, I can't think of any cake more reminiscent of the season than a strikingly-red, Red Velvet Cake.

This recipe from Paula Deen turned out beautifully.  I made it for our annual Christmas party/luncheon at work, and it was a big hit.  This cake had a somewhat dense, yet tender texture that was moist and perfect.  I did not use Paula's icing recipe after reading the reviews.  It incorporated melted marshmallows, and several reviewers noted that it was a little too sweet.  Instead, I used one of my favorite, classic cream cheese icing recipes and simply added a cup of shredded coconut to give it a twist.

This one will definitely be my go-to recipe in the future.  

Bon Appetit and Merry Christmas, my friends!!!

Red Velvet Cake
Adapted from:  Grandmother Paula's Red Velvet Cake, from Paula Deen

2 cups sugar
1/2 pound (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
2 eggs
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
2 ounces red food coloring
2 1/2 cups cake flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon vinegar 

Cream Cheese Icing (recipe below)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
In a mixing bowl, cream the sugar and butter, beat until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time and mix well after each addition. 

Mix cocoa and food coloring together and then add to sugar mixture; mix well. Sift together flour and salt. Add flour mixture to the creamed mixture alternately with buttermilk. Blend in vanilla. 

In a small bowl, combine baking soda and vinegar and add to mixture. Pour batter into 3 (8-inch) round greased and floured pans. 

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from heat and cool completely before frosting.

Cream Cheese Icing:
Adapted from:  Annette Harrell
1 (8 oz.) pkg. cream cheese
1 stick margarine, room temperature
1 lb. confectioners sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
1 cup sweetened, shredded coconut

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat cream cheese and butter until creamy and smooth. Add vanilla. Slowly add small portions of the confectioners sugar and mix on low until well blended. Stir in shredded coconut.  

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Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Tostadas Salsa Verde

Oh, how I love this dish.  First of all, Brad and I adore Mexican food.  We make it a point to fit it into our schedules at least once a week, if not more.  Secondly, this dish is so easy and flavorful, that I made it three times within the same week.  See, we had extra ingredients on hand after the first night, and I didn't want them to go to waste.  The solution?  Enjoy it multiple times, of course!

Making use of a rotisserie chicken makes this meal even easier.  If you can't get your hands on a rotisserie chicken, simply poach some chicken breasts ahead of time and shred the meat.  In fact, that's what the original recipe called for.

The tortillas are covered with shredded cheese and then baked to crispy, cheesy perfection.  Then, they are topped with a mixture of tender chicken, salsa verde, fresh cilantro and ground cumin.  This all bakes in the oven until piping hot, and then it's served with a mountain of shredded lettuce, tomatoes and sour cream on top.

Um, yum!

It sort of reminded me of a Mexican pizza of sorts.  You'll love this, folks!

Bon Appetit, my friends!

Tostadas Salsa Verde
Adapted from:  Great Food Fast by Martha Stewart, pg. 211

4 (6-inch) flour tortillas
3 ounces shredded (3/4 cup) pepper Jack cheese

2 1/2 cups (10 ounces) shredded chicken (from a rotisserie chicken)
1 cup jarred green salsa, plus more for serving

1/4 cup chopped, plus 2 tablespoons cilantro

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

1 cup shredded iceberg lettuce

3 plum tomatoes, diced

1/4 cup sour cream

Directions:Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Arrange tortillas on a rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle cheese evenly over tortillas; bake until golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, toss together chicken, salsa, 1/4 cup cilantro, and cumin. Spoon mixture evenly over tortillas; bake until heated through, about 8 minutes.

Top with lettuce, tomato, and sour cream. Sprinkle with remaining cilantro. Serve immediately, with additional green salsa, if desired. 

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