Buttermilk Spice Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting


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Words cannot express how excited I am to be back in the kitchen and hanging with my NCJ Peeps again!  Jamison is now eight months and I sort of have this whole Mom thing down (or at least I’m not pulling my hair out) so I felt like it was the right time.  But I really missed you all!  For a while there it was a major accomplishment for me to take care of my son and bathe myself so I couldn’t imagine trying to bake a cake and take pictures of it!  Yeah right, I thought, but I was determined and so here I am folks.

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I made this cake for my dear hubby’s birthday.  Even though he said, “Oh it’s just another day, don’t do anything for me”, I gave him the side eye and completely ignored him.  We all know guys like to be spoiled sometimes and what better way to say I love you than with some yummy cake.  This was my first time making Spice Cake so I was kind of nervous but it was so good, like really really good!  Luckily I dropped it off at my husband’s office for him and his coworkers so I wouldn’t eat half of it and go into a sugar coma.

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Ingredients

2 cups brown sugar
1 stick butter, softened
1/2 cup vegetable oil
5 large eggs, separated
2 cups all-purpose flour or cake flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup buttermilk

Roasted Walnut and Cream Cheese Frosting:
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/2 stick butter, softened
3/4 pound (about 3 cups) confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup roasted walnut pieces

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Lightly grease and flour 3 (9-inch) cake pans or one 13/9 inch pan. 

Sift the flour, baking soda, baking powder, spices and salt into a medium-size mixing bowl. In two small bowls separate the egg yolks from the whites. 

In a large mixing bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed, cream the brown sugar and butter, about 3-4 minutes. With the mixer running, add the oil in a steady stream. Add the egg yolks, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition.  Alternately add 1/3 of the flour mixture and the buttermilk to the batter, mixing well. With the electric mixer, in another large mixing bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form, then fold them into the cake batter with a spatula. Be careful not to over mix or the egg whites will fall and all that hard work will be for nothing!  

Pour the batter evenly into the prepared pans. Bake until the center springs back when touched, about 25 – 40 minutes.  Your cook time is going to greatly depend on what type of pan you use and how much batter you put into the pan.  The egg whites will cause the batter to rise a lot so only fill the batter about halfway in the pan.  Check cake with a wooden toothpick and remove once toothpick comes out clean.  Remove from the oven and cool on wire racks.  After the cakes have cooled, invert them onto sheets of parchment paper. Slice each cake in half and set aside.

On a cookie sheet, roast walnuts in oven for about 15 minutes.  Remove from oven and allow to cool completely.

Spread a layer of the frosting over 3 layers of the cake. Place the layers of cake on top of each other and top with the fourth layer of cake. Frost the top of the cake with the remaining frosting leaving the sides exposed.   If you’re like me and want to keep things simple use a 13/9 inch pan, allow cake to cool in pan and spread frosting on top once completely cooled.  Sprinkle top of cake with roasted walnuts and slice the cake into individual servings.  

Roasted Walnut and Cream Cheese Frosting:
In a large mixing bowl, with an electric mixer, cream the cheese and butter.  Add the sugar, 1/2 cup at a time, mixing after each addition. Add the vanilla and mix well. 

 

 

Recipe adapted from Food Network

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Roasted Turkey Sandwich with Onion Jam and Brie

By show of hands, who here loves onions?  Ok I won’t be able to see you but you know who you are!  I have a love/love relationship with onions that goes way back.  In my humble opion they are the best condiment and can be eaten with almost anything.  Since we’re sharing, here’s a quick run down of few of my favorite onion dishes: onion rings, french onion soup, caramelized onions, raw onions, white onions, yellow onions, red onions…you get the picture!

I know that the title of this post begins with “turkey sandwich” but the real star of this post is the onion jam.  So when my fellow classmate from culinary school made some I thought, “Why haven’t I thought of this before?!”.  We tasted it with toasted baguets and if it tasted that good on plain bread I knew it would be awesome on a sandwich, burger…just about anything!

After a few days of eating the traditional Thanksgiving turkey I came up with this yummy sandwich that I hope you all enjoy!

 

Ingredients

For onion jam:

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 medium Vidalia or other sweet onion, thinly sliced

1 medium red onion, thinly sliced

¼ teaspoon dried marjoram

¼ teaspoon dried rosemary

¼ teaspoon dried thyme

½ teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon honey

1/3 cup dry red wine

¼ cup balsamic vinegar

¼ cup red wine vinegar

For sandwich

Toasted baguette

Brie cheese

1 tbsp mayo

1 tbsp Dijon mustard

Sliced or deli turkey meat

Directions

1. In a medium skillet set over medium-low heat, add the olive oil, Vidalia  onion and red onion. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are soft and  translucent, 15 to 20 minutes.

2. Stir in the marjoram, rosemary, thyme, salt and black pepper and cook for  2 minutes. Add the honey, red wine, balsamic vinegar and red wine vinegar and  stir to combine. Reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring frequently, until the  mixture is thickened and the liquid is almost evaporated, 35 to 40 minutes.

3. Transfer the onion jam to a bowl and cool completely. Serve at room  temperature, or transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 5  days.

 4. Cut baguette lengthwise and lightly toast cut side up.   Layer sandwich in this order: bread, Dijon mustard, onion jam, turkey meat, brie cheese, lettuce (if desired), mayo and bread.

Turkey sandwich an NCJ Original

Onion Jam Recipe adapted from Tasting Table

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Candied Yams

Thanksgiving is finally here and me, my mom and dad are busy cooking, baking, sauteeing, boiling and grilling and I couldn’t think of anything I’d rather be doing.  Put two of my favorite things together, family and food, and I’m a happy girl 🙂

Candied yams are a classic soul food dish and I grew up eating them at Sunday dinners with my family and definitely during holidays.  I’ve seen several versions where they’re baked and topped with marshmallows, but in this version the sweet potatoes are lightly boiled and sauteed with a brown sugar butter sauce on top of the stove.  They cook pretty quickly and can be ready to go in 40 minutes.  However, if you have the time allow them to slow cook for several hours.  I think this allows the syrup to caramelize and makes a sweeter (and yummier) dish.

Ingredients

4-6 medium sweet potatoes peeled and sliced in 1/2 inch segments

1 stick of sweetened salted butter

1/4 tsp nutmeg

1/4 tsp ginger

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp real vanilla extract

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup white sugar

Directions

Peel potatoes and cut into 1/2 inch medallions.  Boil potatoes until they pierce easily with a fork but are still firm.

In separate pot melt butter and brown sugar together add all seasonings.  Add sweet potato medallions and cover with brown sugar cinnamon mixture.  Simmer 30-40 minutes with a lid on the pan until potatoes have caramelized.  Be careful not to stir too much or potatoes will fall apart.  Serve warm.

Recipe adapted from The Joy of Soul Food

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Roasted Turkey

When you think of Thanksgiving one of the first images that come to mind is THE Thanksgiving turkey.  Placed at the center of the table with all the trimmings, surrounded by the delicious side dishes and your family sitting around the table waiting expectantly for that first slice.  This is exactly why I’ve avoided making one all these years.  I usually defer to my mom, the turkey maker, to pull off this classic dish with no help from me.  But since I began this cooking journey I decided I needed to be brave and if I could make a delicious turkey then so could you NCJ Peeps!

 

I’m not ashamed to admit it….one of the most intimidating things for me to cook has always been a turkey.  Most cooks have their achilles heel and this has for a long time been mine.  I mean first of all it’s huge and it just looks intimidating;  like it’s daring me to mess up and make a dry burnt bird.  But with the encouragement of my friend Monica and this awesome recipe from Alton Brown I decided I was not going to let this bird beat me…I’m smarter than the turkey, lol!

 

Within the first 30 minutes of roasting I could smell the savory herbs and spices throughout my entire house and I knew this was going to be good.  Soaking the turkey in a brine allows the spices, and yes salt, to penetrate the meat itself so no additional seasoning is needed.  The meat stays moist and no basting is needed as long as you watch the internal temperature and pull the bird out of the oven as soon as it reaches 161 degrees.  If you want you can sprinkle an herb mixture on the skin of the turkey before roasting it but I would advise against using anything with salt.  The meat is so flavorful and juicy from the brine that none is needed.

 

Needless to say I absolutely love this recipe and will be using it whenever a turkey is needed.  I usually make some changes to a recipe to put my spin on it, but this one is good as is.  I was like a proud mama pulling my turkey out of the oven and was even prouder when I saw the faces of my family when they tasted it.  I highly recommend using this recipe if this is your first or fiftieth time making a turkey.

In the spirit of  Thanksgiving, I am thankful for God’s grace & mercy, my family and my friends.  What are you thankful for this holiday season?

Enjoy and Happy Thanksgiving!

♥ Nina

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Ingredients

1 (14 to 16 pound) frozen young turkey

For the brine:

1 cup kosher salt

1/2 cup light brown sugar

1 gallon vegetable stock

1 tablespoon black peppercorns

1 1/2 teaspoons allspice berries

1 1/2 teaspoons chopped candied ginger

1 gallon heavily iced water

For the aromatics:

1 red apple, sliced

1/2 onion, sliced

1 cinnamon stick

1 cup water

4 sprigs rosemary

6 leaves sage

Canola oil

Directions

2 to 3 days before roasting: Begin thawing the turkey in the refrigerator or in a cooler kept at 38 degrees F. Combine the vegetable stock, salt, brown sugar, peppercorns, allspice berries, and candied ginger in a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Stir occasionally to dissolve solids and bring to a boil. Then remove the brine from the heat, cool to room temperature, and refrigerate.

Early on the day or the night before you’d like to eat: Combine the brine, water and ice in the 5-gallon bucket (I bought a cheap one from Home Depot) . Place the thawed turkey (with innards removed) breast side down in brine. If necessary, weigh down the bird to ensure it is fully immersed, cover, and refrigerate or set in cool area for 8 to 16 hours, turning the bird once half way through brining.

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F. Remove the bird from brine and rinse inside and out with cold water. Discard the brine. Place the bird on roasting rack inside a half sheet pan and pat dry with paper towels. Combine the apple, onion, cinnamon stick, and 1 cup of water in a microwave safe dish and microwave on high for 5 minutes. Add steeped aromatics to the turkey’s cavity along with the rosemary and sage. Tuck the wings underneath the bird and coat the skin liberally with canola oil.

Roast the turkey on lowest level of the oven at 500 degrees F for 30 minutes. Insert a probe thermometer into thickest part of the breast and reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F. Set the thermometer alarm (if available) to 161 degrees F. A 14 to 16 pound bird should require a total of 2 to 2 1/2 hours of roasting. Let the turkey rest, loosely covered with foil or a large mixing bowl for 15 minutes before carving.

 

Recipe adapted from Alton Brown, Food Network

 

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Baked Mac n Cheese

Every family has their holiday traditions and my family is no different.  My mom makes the dressing, turkey and cakes while my Dad makes the greens, sweet potatoes, mac n cheese and sweet potato pie.  The peach cobbler has become my specialty but this year I decided to help my parents make Thanksgiving dinner with the hopes that when I have my own family someday I won’t burn the house down!

 

I know the turkey is the star of Thanksgiving but in my family baked mac n cheese is just as important.  My Dad tried many recipes and methods before making the perfect version and even though this is not his recipe it’s pretty darn good.  Don’t tell them I said this, but my sisters are mac n cheese snobs and they ate the whole pan, lol.  So I would call that a major success.

This year I’ll be peeking over my Dad’s shoulder to see what he puts in his mac n cheese so hopefully I’ll be making an update to this post in the near future 😉  In the meantime enjoy!

♥ Nina

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Ingredients

2 tablespoons butter

1/4 cup finely chopped onion

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 cups milk

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon dry mustard

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 (8 ounce) package elbow macaroni

2 cups shredded sharp Cheddar cheese

2 cups shredded Colby Jack cheese

1 cup shredded mild Cheddar cheese

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat, add onion and saute for 2 minutes.  Stir in flour and cook 1 minute, stirring constantly.  Stir in milk, salt, mustard and pepper; cook, stirring frequently, until mixture boils and thickens.

Bring a pot of lightly salted water to a boil.  Add macaroni and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until al dente; drain.  Do not over cook or macaroni will be mushy.

Add the cheddar and American cheeses; stir until cheese melts. Combine macaroni, 1 cup of mild cheddar and cheese sauce in a 2 quart baking dish; mix well.  Sprinkle the top of the macaroni with remaining cheddar and bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes, or until hot and bubbly.   If you like a brown crust on your macaroni, broil on low heat for 3-5 minutes.  Let cool 10 minutes before serving.

 

*An NCJ Original*

 

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Pound Cake with Vanilla Bean Icing

Ingredients

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 1/4 sticks unsalted butter, softened

1 3/4 cups granulated sugar

1 1/2 tsp vanilla

1 Vanilla bean

4 large eggs

1/4 teaspoon pure lemon extract

1 cup buttermilk

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle. Generously butter pan using a paper towel to spread the butter evenly.  In a medium bowl combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside. Beat together butter and sugar in an electric mixer at medium speed (I use setting 4 on KitchenAid mixer) until pale and fluffy (about 5 minutes). Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition, then beat in vanilla and lemon extract until well combined. At low speed (“stir” setting on KitchenAid mixer) add flour mixture and milk alternately in batches, beginning and ending with flour mixture, mixing until just combined.

Spoon batter into pan, smoothing and spreading evenly. Gently tap pan on counter to eliminate air bubbles.

Bake until the tip of a knife or skewer inserted into center of cake comes out clean, about 1 hour. Cool in pan 1 hour, then invert onto a rack and cool completely, about 1 hour more.

 

Vanilla Bean Glaze

Ingredients

1 vanilla bean, split and scraped OR 1 tablespoon Nielsen-Massey Vanilla Bean Paste – 4 oz

2-3 tablespoons whole milk

approximately 1 cup confectioners’ sugar

Directions

Split vanilla bean and scrape seeds into whole milk. Let sit in a spouted container, such as a large pyrex measuring cup, for about an hour. Add confectioners’ sugar gradually, whisking, until you get desired consistency–about 1 cup. You want to make sure that it’s not too runny, or it won’t dry white on the cake, and will run off too quickly. It should take a few seconds to whisk it, and it will feel too thick at first–keep whisking until you get desired thickness. If too thick, add a teaspoon or so of the vanilla milk.

Once the cake has cooled, drizzle glaze over top.

 

Adapted from: Sweetapolita (http://sweetapolita.com/2011/03/vanilla-bean-bundt-cake-with-vanilla-bean-glaze/)

 

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Rosemary Scented Pork Loin Stuffed With Roasted Garlic, Dried Apricots and Cranberries and Port Wine Pan Sauce

 

I made this dish for a cooking competition and it got me to the 4th round!  If you opt to roast a smaller portion rather than a whole pork loin, select the more flavorful rib end. A 4-pound roast will serve 8. Also make sure to adjust your cooking time so the meat won’t over cook.

 

Ingredients (16 servings):

 

3 tablespoons olive oil

16 whole peeled garlic cloves

2 tablespoons minced garlic cloves

1 (8 pound) whole boneless pork loin, patted dry, at room temperature

Salt and freshly ground pepper

3 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary (snip with scissors), divided

16 dried apricots (or similar amount of your favorite dried fruit)

1/3 cup dried cranberries

Heavy kitchen string or twine

1/4 cup apple jelly

1/4 cup port

1/2 cup chicken broth

2 tablespoons apple jelly

2 teaspoons cornstarch

 

Directions

 

‎1. Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 250 degrees. Heat oil in a small skillet over medium-low heat. Add whole garlic cloves and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and golden, about 5 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon; reserve oil.

2. Turn pork loin fat-side down. Slit lengthwise, almost but not quite all the way through, to form a long pocket, leaving a 1/2-inch border of unslit meat at each end. Brush cavity with some of the reserved garlic cooking oil, and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper and 1 Tb. of the rosemary. Line cavity with sauteed garlic and apricots; sprinkle in cranberries. Tie loin together with kitchen twine or heavy-duty string at 1 1/2-inch intervals.

3. Brush with remaining oil, and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Set roast, fat-side up, diagonally or curved (so it fits) on a large, lipped cookie sheet or jellyroll pan. Warm 1/4 cup apple jelly along with the minced garlic and remaining rosemary. Brush mixture onto meat.

4. Roast until a meat thermometer stuck into the center registers 125 to 130 degrees. (Start checking at about 1 1/2 hours.) Remove from oven; raise oven temperature to 400 degrees. Brush loin with pan drippings, return to oven, and continue to roast until the loin is golden brown and a meat thermometer stuck into the center registers 155 to 160 degrees, about 20 minutes longer. For even more attractive coloring, broil until spotty brown, 3 to 5 minutes.

5. Let roast rest 15 to 20 minutes; transfer to a carving board. Stir juices around pan to loosen brown bits. Pour through a strainer into a small pan, and stir in port, chicken broth and remaining 2 Tbs. of jelly; bring to a simmer. Mix cornstarch with a couple of tablespoons of cold water; whisk into sauce. Simmer until lightly thickened. Slice pork and serve with a little sauce.

 

Adapted from: Allrecipes

 

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