Tuesday, April 27, 2010

So sophisticated

I love cheese. And I won't lie; I've had some pretty fancy cheese. But I also like regular, everyday cheese. One weekend last summer, a guy asked me out and for our first date, I got to choose the restaurant. Three hours before our date, he sent me an email telling me he couldn't come because he had looked up the restaurant's menu and determined that I was "too sophisticated" for him. Little did he know that I was looking forward to that restaurant's fried cheese curds. I ended up going alone the next night - because you shouldn't let a boy keep you from your food.

Here in Oregon, we have the standby Tillamook cheddar. Most groceries sell the regular brick of medium cheddar, the sharp, and sometimes the white cheddar. If you go to the factory, you will have the chance to taste - and buy - some flavored cheddars. Jalapeno cheddar, garlic and chili cheddar, and my new favorite, the sharp white and cracked black pepper cheddar. While they have dressed it up a bit, it is still the standby cheddar and goes great with regular food. Crackers, tacos, and chili all got a chance to be paired with the flavored cheddars. And last night, I mixed in some black pepper cheddar with my cornbread batter. Topped with chili, it becomes so sophisticated.

You could use this tasty cornbread recipe from Epicurious or you could just perk up your favorite box mix. I'm not here to judge. Same goes for the chili. It's easy to make from scratch, and I would recommend that if you have the time, but there are some fine tasting cans out there. This dinner is all about the cheese.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

pure poison

Drew's birthday was last weekend. Elizabeth made him a beautiful twelve layer Chocolate Cinnamon Torte. It reminded me of the frozen Viennetta cakes from my childhood, but tasted so much better. It is a unique combination of thin layers of cinnamon cake and light creaminess. We drank mimosas with strawberry purée and enjoyed the spring afternoon. My friend Erik remarked, "Drew and Elizabeth are the king and queen of afternoon parties." Cheers.

This wasn't the first time she's made this cake, so I asked Elizabeth to tell me the torte story. Here it is:

It kind of takes forever to make so you can see I have taken to making my self comfy in our little kitchen.

I first had it as a kid in Switzerland. My mom had this "Good Housekeeping" cookbook from the 50's and would let us pick whatever cake we wanted for our birthdays. The cookbook had a full page picture of it, it was probably the size of my head, and it seemed almost unreal. Leave it up to my brother to take my mom by her word and pick it for his birthday cake one year. I think I remember her cringing a little, but she did it and it was pretty mind blowing. My mom is a great baker and it seems to have become something of a family tradition.

12 layers of cinnamon crisps layered with cool unsweetened whipped cream, topped with dark chocolate curls and maraschino cherries and walnuts--I'm just sayin'... my brother calls it "pure poison."

Monday, April 5, 2010

Raise your glass, raise your spoon

Easter dinner is a big deal with my family. Like Thanksgiving and Christmas, we have a traditional meal. I can easily rattle off the menu - and the order in which it appears on the buffet. Everyone contributes. The cardamom rolls make an appearance. There are potato casseroles. My uncle brings his special peanut carrot salad. My aunt makes deviled eggs. And we have ham, turkey, and all the fixings.

After the Easter egg hunt, we have pineapple lemon fluff. Oh-so-yellow and light, this dessert says Spring. My Grandma Jean used to make it, but now I have taken over the dessert duties. This Easter marked the fourth anniversary of her death. Raise your glass, raise your spoon in honor of delicious food, happy memories, and sweet grandmothers.

Pineapple Lemon Fluff

2 boxes lemon pudding (not instant)
1 can crushed pineapple, strained
1 pint whipping cream, whipped w/ 1-2 TB sugar

Cook pudding on stove top, per box directions, using 1 cup less water for two boxes. This will create a thicker pudding. (Reserve the egg whites.) Cool pudding. When cool, stir in strained pineapple. Whip egg whites until stiff peaks form. Carefully fold the whipped egg whites into the cooled lemon pudding mix. Top with whipped cream.