Friday, October 14, 2016

orange spiced crumb cake . . . a new Fall staple


I'm really excited to share this recipe with you!

I discovered it last Fall while watching Brunch @ Bobby's, one of my favorite shows on Food Network.   If you know me well, or if you've followed me for very long, then you know that my favorite time of day to entertain is brunch.

I'm always looking for new recipes to add to my brunch menus . . . and this recipe for orange spiced crumb cake will be a new staple for my Fall and Winter menus.

It's moist . . . flavorful . . . and has a tender crumb. And oh! the streusel topping . . . it's perfection, too! And there's a lot of it. I think the ratio might be 50% cake / 50% streusel . . . oh my!

What makes this crumb cake a perfect recipe for any Fall gathering is the addition of cardamom and orange . . . a combination made in heaven.  And because it's baked in a 9 x 13 inch baking dish, it yields enough to serve a crowd.

I noticed that it tastes even better on the second and third day. I'm sure it's even better on the fourth day, but I wouldn't know because it's always gone before that.

It's also a great recipe to bake the day before hosting a gathering, since the flavors intensify with every passing day.  You can spend the extra time you'll have the day of your gathering with your family and friends, instead of in the kitchen (smile).

My crew gobbled up the first batch within 48 hours!

It was so good that I quickly baked another batch to share with our Littles' teachers. I cut big 5 x 5-inch squares, wrapped them in cellophane sheets, and then tied them with big burnt orange-colored bows. Our youngest daughter's teacher told her that it was her favorite treat yet!

I keep oranges in our fridge these days, just so that I can make this crumb cake at a moments notice!

We have guests coming from out-of-state to stay with us soon (I'm so excited!), and I think a beautiful platter piled high with orange spiced crumb cake will surely be on our breakfast table . . . along with my favorite strata with spicy Italian sausage, Gruyere, spinach, and shallots

Fall entertaining can't get much easier than this! Enjoy, friends!

Crumb Topping 
1 1/2 cups pecans, optional 
2 sticks unsalted butter, melted 
3/4 cup light brown sugar 
1/2 cup pure cane granulated sugar 
2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour 
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom 
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon 
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt 
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg 
.     .     .     .     .     .     . 

1 stick unsalted butter, melted, plus more for greasing 
3 cups all-purpose flour 
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar 
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder 
1/2 teaspoon salt 
1 cup whole milk 
1/4 cup canola oil 
2 teaspoons finely grated orange zest 
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract 
2 large eggs 
.     .     .     .     .     . 

3/4 cup confectioners' sugar 
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted 
2 teaspoons orange juice 
1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest 
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract  
.     .     .     .     .     .     .

For the crumb topping
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. 
Spread the pecans in an even layer onto a baking sheet and toast in the oven, stirring once, until lightly golden brown and just fragrant, about 8 minutes. Transfer to a baking rack and let cool slightly before coarsely chopping.
Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over high heat until it begins to turn light golden brown. 
Whisk in both of the sugars and cook until smooth. 
Take the pot off the heat and add the flour, cardamom, cinnamon, salt and nutmeg and mix until clumps begin to form. Refrigerate the crumb mixture for 15 minutes.

For the cake

Heavily butter a 9- by 13-inch baking pan. 
Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. 
Whisk together the melted butter, milk, canola oil, orange zest, vanilla and eggs. 
Add the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir until just combined. 
Scrape the batter into the prepared baking pan, smoothing out the surface. 
Scatter the crumbs in large clumps over the cake; the crumb layer should be quite deep.
Bake until the crumbs are golden and firm and a tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out with a few moist crumbs, about 55 minutes. 

Transfer to a rack to cool.

For the glaze 

Whisk together the sugar, butter, juice, zest and vanilla.
Once the cake is cool, drizzle the glaze over it and cut into 9 pieces. 

Serve on a platter.
recipe courtesy of Bobby Flay

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Friday, September 30, 2016

Mexican pot roast tacos and fresh guacamole

Welcome, Fall!

It finally feels like Fall is here in Northern Virginia. I thought I would've settled into a blogging routine by now, but I'm having a hard time staying home. There is so much to see and explore. It is my first Fall in the country, after all! 

The Farmers Markets have transformed into stunning Fall fares. They remind me of the farms that my mom, sister, and I visit during our annual Fall trips to Solvang . . . loads of pumpkins, towering corns stalks, pots of mounding mums, bunches of colorful Indian corn, crates full of apples, squash and gourds . . . and some even sell home-made cider donuts, cookies, and pies! 

I have an insane amount of photos and recipes to share with you . . . and I'm way behind on posts.  I have so much that I actually feel a little overwhelmed. I think I need to just pick a few of my favorites, like this one, and then move on to new Fall-inspired posts and recipes, like these . . . 

the best ever orange cardamom crumb cake

simple Fall centerpieces

I hope you've been following along on Instagram! Because although I haven't posted much - I share photos of our Virginia happenings, almost daily.  It's a great way to see what I'm up to between posts. 

I shared on Instagram several weeks ago that we were going to host our first dinner since moving to Virginia. 

If you follow along, then you probably remember this photo. I couldn't wait to get home to take a quick shot of all my Farmers Market finds.  All of these beautiful vegetables were the ingredients for our dinner, and that pretty "pumpkin" was part of a table centerpiece.

I was able to pick up everything we needed for our dinner (except the meat) at the Farmers Market. 

Since we were approaching the end of Summer, I thought I would prepare a fun and delicious dinner. So I made Tyler Florence's Mexican pot roast tacos, along with his amazing recipe for guacamole. 

Seriously, the best spicy pot roast recipe ever. Ever!

And . . . the best guacamole ever. Tyler's recipe calls for olive oil. Yes, olive oil! A finishing drizzle of this tender, sweet oil gives it the most luxurious texture.  It's so good!

I made the Mexican pot roast and sauce the afternoon before our dinner party to help me save time the day of our gathering. I transferred everything to a crock pot and refrigerated it over night.  

I set the crock pot on low a few hours before our friends arrived, so that it would be the perfect temperature for dinner. 

I knew that I had a lot of chopping and prep work for the fresh guacamole and salsa the day of, so I was purposeful to do as much as I could the day before. 

Ok, so back to this amazing dish . . .

It's one of those "chop, chop, in the pot" kind of meals. It's easy to prepare and FULL of flavor, especially if you like warm, spicy dishes. 

My husband, who is incredibly particular about meat, LOVED it! After several hours in the oven, the beef was so tender that I was able to shred it with a fork. It melds into the sauce and just becomes pure deliciousness! *You know it's good when your guests ask you to email them the recipe!

I set up a 'taco bar' indoors with all of Tyler's recommendations . . .

Mexican Pot Roast Taco garnishes
.     .     .     .     .     .
finely shredded white cabbage 
 fresh cilantro leaves 
feta cheese, crumbled  
radish, sliced paper thin  
fresh guacamole
fresh salsa
warm corn tortillas
.     .     .     .     .     .

It's a great meal to serve to a small or big crowd, as everyone can pick and choose their favorites. 

I also served a huge bowl of sugar baby and orange watermelon. I wish I had remembered to take a photo, because it was quite impressive with its bright red and orange hues. After all, watermelon is a must-have with Summer meals, right!?

The weather was perfect, so we hosted dinner, dessert, and games - outdoors. 

We enjoyed a wonderful evening, and look forward to hosting many more dinners as we head into Fall.

Mexican pot roast tacos
.     .     .     .     .     . 
2 pounds beef shoulder 
Kosher salt 
Freshly ground black pepper 
Extra-virgin olive oil 
2 cloves garlic, smashed 
1 large onion, sliced 
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes, (recommended: San Marzano)  
1 Tablespoon ancho chile powder 
1 Tablespoon cayenne pepper 
1 Tablespoon ground cumin 
3 bay leaves 
fresh medium corn tortillas 
Kosher salt 
.     .     .     .     .     .  
3 cups finely shredded white cabbage 
1/4 bunch fresh cilantro leaves 
feta cheese, crumbled  
radish, sliced paper thin  
.     .     .     .     .     .


Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Sprinkle the chuck roast on all sides with a fair amount of salt. 

In a large Dutch oven or other heavy pot with a tight-fitting cover, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the roast and brown it on all sides, taking the time to get a nice crust on the outside. Remove the roast and set aside.

Add the onions and garlic cloves to the pot and cook until lightly browned, 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the ancho powder, cumin and cayenne. 

Add the crushed tomatoes and the bay leaves, and stir. Return the roast to the pot and add the cilantro. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cover with lid, place in the oven, and cook until the meat is fork tender, about 3 hours.

Carefully transfer the meat to a cutting board and shred with a fork. Pour the liquid into a blender and puree. *I use an immersion blender, as it's much quicker and cleaner.

Return the shredded meat to the pot, add the pureed liquid, and stir to combine. Add salt and pepper to taste.


assembling your Mexican pot roast taco
.     .     .     .     .     .
Lay some shredded beef on a warm corn tortilla, and top with guacamole and salsa. 
Garnish with cilantro leaves, sliced radishes and cotija (or feta) cheese.
.     .     .     .     .     .

.     .     .     .     .     .
6 ripe avocados
3 limes, juiced   
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, smashed then minced
2 serrano chiles, cut into rounds
1 big handful fresh cilantro with stems, about 1/2 cup, finely chopped
Extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
.     .     .     .     .     .
Halve and pit the avocados. 
With a tablespoon, scoop out the flesh into a mixing bowl. 
Mash the avocados using either a fork or potato masher, leaving them still a bit chunky.  
Add the remaining ingredients, and fold everything together. 
Drizzle with a little olive oil, adjust seasoning with salt and pepper and give it 1 final mix with a fork. 
Lay a piece of plastic wrap tight on the surface of the guacamole so it doesn't brown and refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving.  
Yields about 4 cups  
.     .     .     .     .     .

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Thursday, September 8, 2016

cinnamon sugar cookies . . . and apples, apples, apples for Teacher!

I'm re-sharing this post from last year's back-to-school week.

Our 6 and 7-year-old will be attending a new school this year, and it starts a few weeks after the rest of the school district, so we're enjoying these last few days of Summer break . . . and prepping for back-to-school!

I hope you enjoy this first tribute to apple season!

.     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .

WARNING . . . There are a lot of photos of apples!

I like to send a "Welcome back!" gift with my kids on their first day of school to give to their teachers.

Last year, I sent a big bag of home-made chewy chocolate chip and toffee cookies.

And this year, we baked cinnamon sugar cookies in the shape of apples!

I bought several varieties of apples at the Farmer's Market earlier in the week . . . Gala, Pink Lady, Braeburn, Golden Delicious, Granny Smith, and Red Delicious.

The kids had no idea that there are so many varieties. We even had an apple taste-testing!

Pink Lady and Granny Smith were our favorite!

We decorated our cookies based on the apples we brought home from the Market.

And these were the home-made APPLES our 5- and-6-year old brought their teachers on the first day of school . . .

I packaged them in clear cellophane bags and then tied them with rustic rope. We carefully placed them in a simple brown gift bag cushioned with brown shredded paper.  They were darling!

Here are the kids' interpretations of the apples. They did a great job!


Golden Delicious & Granny Smith 


Pink Lady
Did you notice the pink sanding sugar?
This was the girls' favorite apple!

I used my favorite sugar cookie recipe, and added cinnamon and a little nutmeg to give the dough warm hints of Fall. These spices were a great addition!

cinnamon sugar cookies
.     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .   
2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
12 Tablespoons (1 ½  sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 egg, room temperature
 powder sugar (instead of flour) for rolling out dough
.     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .    

To make the cookies, in a bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt . . . set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the flat beater, beat the butter and granulated sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Beat in the vanilla and egg. Reduce the speed to low and add the flour mixture in three additions, scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition. Mix until just combined.

Form the dough into a flattened ball, wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 3 hours or as long as overnight.

Preheat an oven to 350°F.

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. 

On a lightly floured powder sugar surface, roll out the dough to 1/4-inch thickness. Using cookie cutters, cut out desired shapes. Transfer to the prepared baking sheets, spacing cookies about 2 inches apart, and bake until just golden around the edges, 10 to 15 minutes, depending on the size of the cookies. Transfer the pans to wire racks and let cool for 5 minutes, then remove the cookies from the pans and let cool completely.

Makes 10 to 20 cookies, depending on cutter size.

Sugar Cookie GLAZE
2 ¼  cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
2 Tablespoons light corn syrup
1 Tablespoons milk
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

.     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .

Combine ingredients and mix until smooth
Using a small paint brush (or the tip of your finger), spread on top of cookies
Sprinkle sanding sugar on top of GLAZE when it's wet

The secret to a 'clean' sugar edge is not letting the glaze drip down the sides of the cookie.
A thick glaze is also key.
After the glaze has been mixed, add 1 Tablespoon of confectioners' sugar at a time, 
until you get the desired consistency.
Have fun!

LET'S STAY in touch!

LET'S STAY in touch!
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Thank you so much for stopping by!
I love reading your comments and appreciate them so much!

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