Thursday, January 10, 2013

Lemon Angel Torte

Doesn't that look yummy?  It may not be picture perfect, but it will taste like summer on this January day.  This cake was made with store-bought ingredients and went together very quickly.

I love to make things from scratch for several reasons.  1) It is usually cheaper, 2) It is usually healthier, and 3) I like to cook.  However, I am always on the look out for a deal.  If I can pick up ingredients for a semi-homemade meal or dessert, I will do it in a flash.  I got the Angel-food cake on a buy one get one free deal.  This one has been in the freezer.  The lemon curd is from a Jello mix I got on a clearance shelf.

The pudding is cook and serve.  I'm not a fan of instant puddings, but if you like them feel free to use them.  I called my mother when I was cooking the pudding.  A nice chat later and into the refrigerator it went.  I do tend to think instant pudding tastes different than the cook and serve stuff.  Maybe it is because I grew up eating it.  I don't really know, but I don't mind taking the time to cook it.  I have made lemon curd from scratch many times.  It is wonderful, but I didn't have the ingredients on hand to do that today.  My whole outlook is 'make do with what you have'.

So, I cooked and cooled the pudding.  I took the cake out of the freezer and let it defrost a little bit.  It is easier to slice or cube cake when it is still a little bit frozen.  I cut it into 3 pieces and layered the pudding between the layers.

I like to let some of the pudding ooze down the sides.  It always makes my kids say, "OOOOOOOO!"

I don't put pudding on the top, but you can if you like.  I prefer to top it with whipped topping.

The assembly took less than 5 minutes.  My son ran to get his camera because he wanted a picture.  Nothing warms my heart like my son getting excited about the things I make in the kitchen.

If the cake had broken up while cutting it, I would have layered the cake cubes and pudding in a bowl and topped it with the whipped topping.  Then instead of a torte, you have a trifle!  This would be very tasty with fruit too.  I didn't have any today and no one is going to complain.  You can use any type of cake and any type of pudding.  Let your imagination run wild!  

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Fettuccine Alfredo Your Way

I love recipes that are tasty and can easily be modified to suit your tastes and your budget.  Homemade Fettuccine Alfredo is the perfect example.

We love to add things to our Fettuccine Alfredo.  Often we add broccoli, sometimes grilled chicken, maybe mushrooms.  It depends on what we have, what we can afford and our mood.  A lot of the time we have it plain.  Our kids love this dish too.  They tend to pick out the mushrooms, but I'm happy to take their discards.  This is not a soupy Alfredo like you often get in restaurants.  This is the real deal.  The kind they used to make right at your table in nice restaurants.  It is just as quick as heating up the soupy stuff from a jar and tastes a million times better.  My husband found this recipe in the New York Times Cookbook.  He has been making it for 20 years.  I am usually in charge of any add-ons.  For the dish above I browned pancetta and mushrooms, and lightly steamed broccoli.

Here are the ingredients for the basic recipe.  We doubled it so we would have lots of left-overs for lunches this week.

1 pound fresh pasta (we always use the dry in a box)
1/4 pound butter (1 stick) cut into 8 pieces
freshly ground pepper to taste
1 cup half-and-half (we often just use milk, but it is better with half-and-half)
1/4 pound grated Parmesan cheese (about 1 cup)
2 large white truffles, sliced (optional)   Very optional.  We have never used them.

I will say the Parmesan cheese makes a big difference.  Buy the most expensive one you can afford.  We have made this with the stuff from a jar right through to Parmigiano-Reggiano.  It will taste best with better quality cheese, but it is good with any.

We bought 1/4 pound of thinly sliced pancetta, which I cut up and browned.  Pancetta is an uncured Italian bacon.  It has a cleaner taste than American bacon, but we have used regular bacon many times.  Then I sliced some white mushrooms and browned them.

I steamed the broccoli while the pasta was boiling and set the add-ons aside.  

Once the pasta was drained my husband went to work.  This method is a bit different, but the result is sublime.  For this recipe you drain the pasta and turn the burner down to low.  Put the drained pasta back into the pan and stir it to dry out.  Then you begin adding the butter.  Add about 1/3 of it and stir until it is melted and coating the pasta.  Repeat two more times.

When the butter is all incorporated, begin adding the cream or milk.  Pour in about 1/3 of it and stir until it is absorbed.  Repeat two more times.  This happens more quickly with cream than with milk.

You can see when it is absorbed.

Next you begin  adding the cheese.  It gets more difficult to stir now because the cheese melts and is sticky.  Add about 1/3 and stir until it is melted and you don't see pieces any more.  Then add some more.  If you add it all at once it will create a big blob that is hard to break up.

It creates a lovely, thick sauce this way and it only takes a few minutes.  Use a rubber spatula to scrape all the yumminess into a serving bowl and add your extras.

Serve with black pepper and extra cheese, if you like.  We usually don't bother with extra cheese, but some people may want more.

I highly recommend putting the pot to soak while you eat.  It will be much easier to clean if you do.

This is such an awesome dish and so impressive to serve to guests.  You can add just about anything you like to it.  Lots of people love grilled shrimp or peas.  I'm not a fan of either, but that is the true beauty of this dish.  You make it your way.  Enjoy!