Friday, January 29, 2010

The Cake Mix Doctor's Fresh Strawberry Cake with Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting

I know I'm going to disappoint some of you because I'm not posting the actual recipe.  I don't believe in copying a recipe exactly and posting it here...'cause that's cheatin'! 

So, I can tease you with a picture or two right? 

I made this cake Wednesday for Rebecca's birthday.  And was yummy!

This was an easy cake to's from The Cake Mix Doctor ReturnsAnd if you don't have this book, or Anne Byrn's first book, The Cake Mix Doctor, really should.  Being able to start a cake with a mix and "doctor" it has really saved me countless times!

I will show you how to make strawberry fans to garnish the cake.  These look fancy, but they're easy as pie. 
Just take a clean strawberry, and make several thin cuts from bottom to top, but NOT all the way through.  Gently spread the slices out with your fingers, and place on top of the cake.

I didn't do anything to dress up the cake other than garnish it with the strawberry fans and some more fresh strawberries around the base.  Simple, but pretty.  And Rebecca LOVED it. :-) more picture just to torment y'all.

Like most desserts in this house, this didn't last long.  I made this 2 days ago.  And it's gone...all gone.  I am having strawberry cake withdrawl.   

Ah well...this cake tasted like a summer's day in January, so I hope you try to make it sometime. 

God bless your table tonight!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Slumber Party Fun

Our sweet Rebecca turns eight next week, and she decided to start celebrating early with a slumber party.  I told her long as the guest list was small, 'cause we all know little girls are very capable of chatting and giggling in the dark until the wee hours of morning.  Frankly, I do require a decent amount of sleep...six hours is minimal for me. 

So earlier this week, Rebecca and I planned out our menu.  She wanted to make:

I used store-bought pizza dough and sauce, and topped it with cheese, pepperoni, and one had pineapple and ham for the grownups. :-)  It went so fast, I didn't get any pics, sorry. 

Mini peanut butter kisss cookies

Little milkshakes in dixie cups

Oh, and a movie with popcorn later on.  All-rightly I told her...I can handle that. 

The mini dessert ideas came from an Amercian Girl cookbook she got for Christmas.  All I did for the cookies was make Bakerella's peanut butter cookie dough, rolled them into marble-sized balls, and top them with a single chocolate chip instead of a Hershey's kiss.  I fired up the blender and made the milkshakes, using plain white dixie cups and coffee stirrers for straws.  Everyone was full...and happy. 

Here's all the girls at the table (and Gabriel too) 

And here's my kitchen afterwards...but it was fun making a mess!

 The next morning, David made waffles, eggs, and sausage, but none of the girls ate any breakfast...but I had a yummy waffle with cinammon sugar and whipped cream...delightful! 

At any rate, the party was a success.  Rebecca was very, very happy, and that means Momma was happy too.

Excuse me while I (yawn) go take a nap!

God bless your table tonight!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Cheesy Shrimp and Rice Casserole

Oh's been a few days (12 and counting) since my last post.  But I must say...between the ham I made for Christmas, and roasting my first turkey a few days later, I didn't have to cook for days.  We had plenty of meat in the fridge.  We finished the ham, and even after 3 days of turkey, we had enough left to make a simple turkey pot pie using the rest of the turkey gravy as well.  Rebecca was in seriously mourning when we ran out of mashed potatoes...bless her heart! 

After all that...the hubby went back to work...and life got BUSY again.  But I hope you missed me.  In the meantime...I've been tweaking the settings, and uploading things on my new, PURPLE laptop, so I finally feel like I have time to post a recipe. 

Anyway, I was rummaging around in the deep freezer and came across 4 pounds of beautiful shrimp, and though it would a nice change from all the meat. 

So I made this casserole...1/2 the kids liked it (meaning the older two), and the 2 younger kids wouldn't touch it.  Oh well...David had seconds, and took more to work, so I was satisfied.  I'd made something simillar many years ago using a prepackaged rice mix, and didn't care for it because it was so salty!  Now I take the time and use plain, regular rice...and it turns out so much me!  If you'd like, brown rice can be substitued for white...just keep in mind it takes 2x as long to cook, so allow extra preparation time.

Cheesy Shrimp and Rice Casserole

2 pounds unpeeled, medium/large shrimp (I used 16-20 count)
2 cups white/brown rice
1 large onion, chopped
2 medium green peppers, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning
1 can (10.75 ounces) cream of mushroom soup
1 can (10.75) ounces cream of chicken soup
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 1/2 cups panko/bread crumbs
salt and black pepper to taste

We're going to cook the shrimp first.  Bring 4 cups of water to a boil in a large pot.  Once the water is boiling, add the shrimp (do not peel beforehand!), and cook for 2 minutes.  We don't want the shrimp cooked through...they will finished cooking in the oven later.  Overdone shrimp taste like rubber...we don't want that! 

Drain the shrimp immediately to a ice bath to stop the cooking process.  Peel, devein, and set aside.  Since my shrimp were big, I cut them into thirds.  If you look closely, you can see the shrimp are just a bit raw in the middle. 

I like everything in a casserole to be the same makes a nicer presentation, and saves us from cutting the kids' food at the table. 

Now, this is important...SAVE the water you cooked the shrimp in.  It'll still be about 4 cups. 

This stock will give the rice a nice flavor...more so than using plain water.  If you are pressed for time, you can skip this step...but I really think you'll become a believer if you make and reserve the stock. :-)

Now bring the stock back up to a boil, salt to taste, and add the rice.  Cook according to package directions, but reduce the cooking time 1-2 minutes.  You want the rice to be just a little wet, so it will mix into the casserole better, and not be overcooked by the time it's all done.  Still with me?  Good!

On to the rest of the dish!  In a large skillet over medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons of butter...

add the garlic, peppers (from the garden, hence all the pretty colors), and onions, along with the dried thyme and Old Bay.  (I confess, when I found the shrimp, I saw some frozen leeks I'd put up from the garden last year, and used them instead).

Season with a little salt and pepper, and saute for 5-6 minutes until crisp-tender, ...remember we're finishing this in the oven, so we don't need to cook the veggies very long. 

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. 

Once the rice is done, add the vegetables to the pot, along with the shrimp...

the canned soup (I only got a picture of the cream of mushroom, the other can chickened out...but I got him in there ;-)...

and the cheese.  I love cheese!

Give the pot a good stir, then spread evenly into a greased 9x13 casserole pan.  Oh, and for good measure...sprinkle a little more cheese over the top.  It can't hurt, right?

In a small, microwave-safe bowl (I nearly always use a pyrex measuring cup), melt the remaining 2 tablespoons butter.  Stir in the panko/bread crumbs until well coated. 

Spread the buttered crumbs over the top of the casserole, and bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes, or until you see the edges bubbling.  You can broil it for just a couple of minutes to brown the top to your liking...but don't leave the kitchen or you'll burn it!

Let stand 5-10 minutes before serving. 

Here's a close-up...divine isn't it?

As I've said already, not everyone in our house ate this, but those of us who did though it was great...creamy, cheesy rice with tender shrimp...perfect for a cold winter's night.  And to all of my Catholic readers out there...don't forget to bookmark this post so you can make it during Lent.  It's coming up soon!

Enjoy...and God bless your table tonight!