Texas Bandana Cake, final version

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Final version of the full-sized cake. Lots of practicing and sketching went into making this cake and I’m pretty proud of the way it turned out.

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It’s not perfect; there are definitely a few things that I’ll do differently next time (lifting rolled fondant up and draping it over a cake is a TWO PERSON job!), but not bad at all, for an amateur.

I’ll let you know how it does in the competition.

Texas Bandana Cake

As I mentioned a couple of days ago, my mom is an employee of the State of Texas. Because of this, every year she participates in the State Employee Charitable Campaign. The campaign is gearing up this week, in conjunction with the Texas State Fair. They are having a kick-off party on Tuesday, with a “State Fair” theme and all participating employees are being asked to donate a cake for a cake walk/cake judging. I am thrilled that Mom asked me to make her cake. It is going to be Texas-shaped, draped with red fondant and decorated with a bandana pattern and rope trim. I don’t have much experience working with fondant and have even less experience piping intricate patterns, so I made a test run with a cupcake today. I am pretty pleased with how it worked out and have already figured out what modifications I will make with the coloring, rope trim, piping, etc. when I make the cake tomorrow. In the meantime, Boy and Girl really enjoyed sharing this for dessert tonight:
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I’ll finish the cake tomorrow afternoon and will posted photos when it’s all done.

Tarragon Roast Chicken, Potato Pancakes and Asparagus with Hollandaise

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Although being able to make a good roast chicken is supposed to be the sign of a great cook (or maybe BECAUSE of this), I have been intimidated by roasting a whole chicken. The kids are usually a little frightened of meat that actually LOOKS like meat and prefer, boneless, skinless little portions of protein. In spite of all this, I decided to give roast chicken a try. I made this chicken by fusing together two roast chicken recipes:
the first one was included on the back of Colorado Spice Company’s Tarragon Chicken Rub and the second one is Ruth Reichl’s Roast Chicken recipe from her book Garlic and Sapphires (all three of her books are fabulous and you should read them NOW, if you haven’t already).

Basically, I followed the rub directions, but doubled the olive oil, because I was roasting two chickens, instead of one (as specified in the recipe), and then added the lemon and followed the time and temperature instructions in the Ruth Reichl recipe. My oven has a thermometer (as most ovens now do) that can be inserted into meat and then plugged into the side of the oven that will alert you when the interior of the meat has reached a certain, programmable temperature. I LOOOOVE this feature because I’m lazy and forgetful because it’s very helpful and convenient. The chicken turned out beautiful and juicy (although my camera flash makes it looks bland and pale). I will definitely be roasting chicken this way again.

For the potato pancakes, I used this recipe from epicurious. They were delicious, but when they tell you to press the moisture out of the potatoes, they aren’t kidding. Don’t try to save time on that step; you’ll regret it. We served them with sour cream on the side.

The hollandaise was left over from Boy’s special birthday breakfast and was delicious over some simple steamed asparagus.

We ate this dinner last night with my little brother and his wife, who announced to Boy and Girl (Hubby and I already knew) that they were going to have a new baby cousin in May! Little Brother has started a “New Dad” blog that you can check out here:
Little Brother’s “The New Dad” blog

It will be VERY exciting to have another little sprout around next year and Little Bro and his wife (who is a teacher) will make wonderful parents. We are VERY excited and plan to spoil this child rotten.

Galveston

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For those of you who weren’t already aware of this, I was born on Galveston Island, which was devastated two weeks ago by Hurricane Ike. (Btw, being “BOI”, or “born on the island” is considered a big deal in certain circles. Not MY circles, unfortunately. My mother is an employee of the State of Texas and her office has oversight of the medical school (UTMB, or University of Texas Medical Branch) there. A lot of Hubby’s family is also from that area and spent many fun summers on Galveston’s beaches. It’s an important place, to both of our families.

Here is a link to some photos, uploaded by administrators at the medical school, that show the impact of the Hurricane and the efforts that are being made to clean, rebuild and restore it. They are absolutely amazing.

UTMB Hurrican Ike photos

(Do not be alarmed by photo # 1686 in the “After the Storm” set. It looks like a disembodied arm, but it is actually a prosthetic-type arm that is used to teach students how to take blood pressure.)

Eggs Benedict

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This was Boy’s special birthday request. We had a super busy morning on his actual birthday, so I made it for him for today, instead. This is his all-time favorite breakfast and he would have it every day if they made childrens’ chewable Lipitor.

This is super-easy to make:

Poach the eggs. I have a handy-dandy poaching pan from Wal-Mart that holds simmering water in the bottom and has little non-stick cups for 4 eggs, with a glass lid, so you can see when they’re getting done, but you can also do it in simmering water (add a little vinegar, I’m told, to help the whites hold together better).

While the eggs cook, prepare the Hollandaise sauce.

Toast the English muffins (lightly – I used whole wheat ones, because I’m THE MEANEST MOM EVER).

Slightly warm (microwave 15 seconds) the Canadian Bacon slices.

Put it all together:
One muffin half, topped with a ham slice, topped with an egg, topped with some sauce and then sprinkled with paprika.

Hubby sliced the kiwi for me and then got all cute and called it “Kiwi Constantine.”

Would you like some Juice Justinian with that?

Update 1-31-12:

I now poach my eggs directly in simmering water (add a little vinegar) and use this hollandaise recipe for Eggs Benedict, instead.  MUCH better.  Here’s an updated photo:

Potato Frittata with Prosciutto and Gruyere

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I forgot to mention that I made this for our “Ike” company, as well. It was really tasty and VERY easy. I forgot to take a photo of it after it was cut, so this isn’t the greatest illustration, but the one on Food & Wine’s website is better, anyway.

This dish is great for breakfast, but would also be a great lunch or dinner (with a little salad?) or a truly superb late-night snack. When we lived in Northern Virginia, I had a buddy named Mila (short for Milagros) from Spain who would make something very similar to this, called a “tortilla” (which is, of course, very different than a Mexican tortilla). We would have playdates together when the kids were small (she moved away from the DC area before I did) and she would always bring a freshly made “tortilla”, which the kids and moms all enjoyed. I regret not staying in touch with her and her adorable daughter.

Spiced Chicken Thighs with Yogurt Sauce

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Spiced Chicken Thighs with Yogurt Sauce from Cooking Light magazine

Just re-created the broken glass-ruined chicken for today’s lunch. We didn’t feel like having the whole piece of meat and weren’t in the mood for couscous, so we sliced the chicken up really thin and then we wrapped it (with the yogurt sauce and some steamed broccoli) in some flatbread and ate it that way. Pretty yummy, but you definitely don’t want to mess with turmeric right after a manicure. My fingertips are going to be stained yellow for the rest of the day. 🙁

If I do this again, I would use romaine lettuce, or even spinach, in place of the broccoli. I just used what I had on hand, but something leafier (and without such a strong flavor) would have been better.

Toasted Almond Chicken

Another one that I forgot to take a photo of, but it was pretty good. This is from an old Southern Living cookbook that I had around. Every once in a while, I get bored of choosing recipes and planning menus and set the family loose in my cookbook collection and recipe files. This is one that Hubby picked out.
Southern Living Toasted Almond Chicken
(click the name above for the recipe)

This was pretty tasty, considering how easy it is. It is pretty high in fat, though, and isn’t GREAT for that amount of calories. The good thing about this recipe, though, is that it’s pretty innocuous and inoffensive. I can’t imagine that anyone would dislike this. I would probably spruce it up a little with some herbs (chopped fresh parsley maybe? or tarragon?) if I make it again. It’s pretty rich, so I would recommend a very light, simple side dish to go with it.