Savory Corn Waffles with Spicy Maple Butter Sauce

The Event

Apparently, I work best with a deadline.  I always have great intentions to post every week, but life keeps getting in the way, and the next thing I know, weeks have flown by!  But a deadline can sometimes kick my butt into getting something done in a timely fashion.

Take this cool Cooking Improv Challenge, hosted by Frugal Antics of a Harried Homemaker, for instance.  What a great idea this is!  Each month, she provides a theme, and anyone who’d like to participate gets to go wild, making up whatever kind of recipe that makes their skirt fly up, as long as it fits the theme.  As soon as I heard about this, I knew I wanted to play along.

This month’s theme is Corn and Butter.  Perfect for a steamy July, don’t you think?  Delicious sweet corn has just started showing up lately, and we are loving it.  Corn is so versatile, too.  Did you know you can make ice cream out of corn?  Souffles?  All KINDS of fun things can be done with corn.

The Recipe

My first thought was to do a dessert, just because it’s less obvious.  However, it seems as though I’ve done nothing *but* desserts on the blog lately, so I decided instead to go for a delicious yet healthy savory dish.  I had a feeling this recipe was going to work out, as soon as I came up with it.  But WOW!  It came out so amazingly good the first time through that we were practically licking our plates.

My boyfriend, who is notoriously picky, was raving after the first bite.  Then closing his eyes with each bite to savor.  What more can a cook ask for, than a reaction like that?

Plus, these waffles are super quick and easy to make.  Just mix up the batter, put the first one in, and clean up the minimal mess while it’s baking.  By the time you are ready to serve, you can sit down to eat with everyone else, with no mess hanging over your head.  As an extra added bonus, waffles freeze great, so you can save any extras for a quick and easy dinner on another night.  Or maybe brunch on the weekend.

The Spicy Maple Butter sauce I made for this is yummy too, but we actually loved it best with just a fried or poached egg on top.  Cut up the egg and let the warm, runny yolk run down over the waffle….. it just doesn’t get any more satisfying than that.

So, thanks Kristen, for coming up with such a fun event.  I can’t wait to see what everyone else came up with for Corn and Butter!  (see the blog hop links at the bottom of this post for other posts).

 

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The Stats

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Cooking Improv Blog Hop



Brooklyn Blackout Cakelets

It’s time once again for a Slice of Cake (aka The Cake Slice monthly baker’s group)!  This month’s cake is the Brooklyn Blackout Cake, which is a cake that was once made by now-defunct Ebinger’s Bakery, but which lives on in Brooklyn’s fondest memories.  Apparently, lots of people have attempted to recreate the cake, with varying levels of success.    This recipe comes from Tish Boyle’s The Cake Book and is her version of this three-layer devil’s food cake, filled with creamy chocolate pudding, and topped with chocolate frosting and cake crumbs.

Since we’re still trying to get in shape here at the DFD house, I pondered how to make this big, gorgeous, tempting chocolate cake a little less dangerous.  With all that chocolate in there, tweaking the flours and butters (as I did with the Cinnamon Swirl Cake) wouldn’t make that much of a dent.  So instead I just decided to limit our exposure – I left the recipe alone, but only made 1/3 of it AND made that into small, individual cakelets, rather than one cake.

I used a mini-loaf pan to make these instead of a regular cake pan, but you could definitely do the same with a muffin pan, or a smaller cake pan.  Because I did these as minis, I couldn’t really do the 3 layer action, but 2 layers worked just fine.  My boyfriend has been scarfing them all week.

This was an easy cake to make and quite delicious.  The cake (moist and chocolatey) and the pudding (creamy and chocolatey)  are each wonderful in their own right and could definitely be used separately.  I got my frosting a little too stiff and would add a touch of milk next time to smooth it out, but otherwise was also easy and yummy.  This is another keeper (so far, everything from this book is) and someday, I will be doing the full blown 3 layer version of this cake, for sure.

As you can see, my biggest problem was that we were in such a rush to eat them, that I barely took time to slap them on a plate to get a picture.

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Salted Rumpsteak and Roasted Potatoes with Chimchurri Sauce

In an effort to improve my photography, I am participating in the Donna Hay Styling & Photography Challenge 2012, hosted by Simone at JungleFrog Cooking. Simone is an incredible food photographer herself, and this is one way she helps the rest of us try to get better.

Each month, Simone selects a recipe from the Donna Hay magazine. Then, participants attempt to recreate the photo as closely as possible.

The Challenge

This month’s challenge gave us a choice of two images – Salted Rump Steak and Roasted Potatoes with Chimichurri Sauce (photos by Ben Dearnley). We could choose to recreate either recipe, or both. Here are the images we had to choose from:

Salted Rump Steak
Salted Rumpsteak from Donna Hay Magazine. Photo by Ben Dearnley.
Roasted Potatoes with Chimichurri Sauce
Roasted Potatoes with Chimichurri Sauce from Donna Hay Magazine. Photo by Ben Dearnley.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Results

As you can see, two very delicious looking pictures with lots of interesting textures, props and lighting. I had serious doubts my feeble photography skills could even come close!

But, I persevered. I decided to do the steak picture, since I have a round pizza stone that looks much like the stone in the picture. I don’t have anything even remotely like that rack the potatoes are in, so I wrote that one off right off the bat (well, the picture. Of course, I made the potatoes anyway. Yum!).

Making the recipes was quick and easy (my notes about the recipes are below the recipes,at the bottom of this post).  Setting up the pictures – not so much.

I didn’t have anything like that marble-y looking background, so at first I just set my stone on my wooden kitchen table. A couple of shots immediately showed that that totally changed the whole color and feel of the shot.  I pondered  for a while, trying to find something to use as a background. Finally, I realized that my kitchen floor was about as close as I was going to come! So, I pushed the table out of the way, and moved the whole thing to the floor.

One major obstacle was the size of my baking stone, which is much larger than the stone in the original picture. This meant that my skewers were shorter than the stone (instead of longer), and if I just put the steak on there, it left too much stone all the way around. So, I moved everything on to the stone. That worked fairly well, I thought. Not exactly like the original, but close enough for government work.

After much tweaking and moving and cursing and trying to get a clean, clear, directly overhead shot without a tall tripod, I finally ended up with this picture. I tried my darnedest to get that little oil ring next to the jar of chimichurri, but the stone just sucked it up too fast. After the fact, I now notice that I’ve got the knife in the completely wrong place. But here’s the kicker – I was fussing so much with the steak and the chimichurri sauce and the knife and all that – I totally forgot to put the potatoes in the second jar!!

Salted Rump Steak
Salted Rumpsteak from Donna Hay Magazine. Photo by Ben Dearnley.
Salted Steaks
Salted Steaks photo by Valerie Williams

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I still cannot believe I did that. Sigh. What a dork.

Oh well. For a first try, I think it came out pretty well and I certainly learned a lot, which is, of course, the point! The biggest lesson? I need to spend a lot more time before hand thinking about how I want my pictures to look and styling the whole thing. Usually I’m so rushed trying to get a decent shot before the food gets cold, that my pictures come out kinda lame. Huge opportunities for improvement! This was a fun and interesting exercise and I’m looking forward to the next challenge.

 

The Recipes

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Cinnamon Swirl Buttermilk Pound Cake (Lightened)

Have I ever mentioned that I love cinnamon?
Oh, do I.  I love, love, love it!

So I was very happy to see that this cake was chosen to be April’s Cake Slice cake – the Cinnamon Swirl Buttermilk Pound Cake.  NOW we’re talkin’!

The Problem

As I’ve mentioned previously, however, we are working on getting healthier at my house. Learning to eat real, and at the same time trying to lose a little weight. That made this oh-so-tempting Cinnamon Swirl cake a bit of a problem. When confronted with a delicious cake like that, just sitting there on the counter…. calling to us to eat it….

Well.  I don’t think my willpower is *quite* that strong.

So, a little tinkering on this recipe was in order.  Judging by the other bakers in this group, the original recipe is just about perfect as it is, if you’re not worried about the calories. But at my house, a few changes made this a recipe we could enjoy without guilt (and who doesn’t want that?).

The Tinkering

One of the first things I decided was to do baby bundts instead of a full-sized bundt – automatic portion control.  I know my man, and when cutting a slice from a full-sized cake, well, let’s just say that the number of servings indicated on the recipe is likely to be less in real life.   So, individual servings takes care of that little problem.

Next, I swapped in white whole wheat flour in place of the all purpose.  This added a little nutrition in the form of whole grains and fiber, but did you also know that white whole wheat flour is just a little bit lower in calorie than all purpose flour?  Bonus! I left the cake flour alone, so as to hopefully keep from altering the tenderness *too* much.   Next time, I may experiment with some whole wheat pastry flour to see how that affects the texture.

I reduced the butter in the cinnamon swirl by half, and it worked fine.  Still delicious as could be.  Oh, and I increased the cinnamon to 1/2 tsp (original recipe only calls for 1/4), just ’cause I love it.  Then, I swapped in greek yogurt for some of the butter, and reduced the sugar just a bit, in the cake batter recipe.  Still came out plenty tasty.

Nothing too drastic, but enough to drop the calories per serving by about half and increase the nutritional value a bit.  Oh yeah – I left out the orange zest too, just because I didn’t have any (we didn’t miss it, though I’m sure it would be lovely).

The Outcome

A dense, tight crumb (as a pound cake should be), with a lovely cinnamony, slightly crunchy layer in the middle – this is right up my alley. Delicious by itself, topped with a dusting of powdered sugar, or with some vanilla ice cream on the side, it’s a bit of sweet happiness at the end of a meal, with no guilt to dim the glow.

Once again, I’ll tell you that this is a good book. Every recipe I’ve tried so far has been delicious (even with my tinkering). So I’m not going to provide the original recipe.

Instead, here’s my somewhat healthified version.    Zapped in the microwave for 10-20 seconds and topped with powdered sugar for after dinner, or just plain in our lunch boxes, we’ve been enjoying these little baby bundts all week.

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Individual Warm Chocolate Cakes

This month’s Cake Slice baking group cake is a fun and easy one – Individual Warm Chocolate Cakes.

Compared to some of the others in the book (The Cake Book by Tish Boyle), this recipe is pretty quick and simple.  There are only 6 ingredients, all normal pantry and fridge items.    It really didn’t take much time at all to put the batter together, and it bakes up in only 10-15 minutes (your times may vary).

Interestingly, each baker found this cake a little different – for some, it was a molten cake, with a flowing liquid center.  For others, it is just a delicious little cake.  For me, it was not liquidy, which is exactly how I prefer it (I’ve never been a fan of the molten thing).

I only filled my ramekins about halfway because I wanted to make smaller portions (trying to watch the calories, you know).  This worked out fine.  The little cakes rose up above the ramekins anyway, making me wonder if filling them more would even work, but then they did sink as they cooled.  Perhaps filling them more would have resulted in a denser cake, rather than a higher-rising one, but we liked them this way just fine.

The smaller portion was perfect for me – this is a delicious, chocolatey cake with a shattering, crisp crust from the sugar-dusted sides of the ramekins in which they are baked.  We tried them dusted with powdered sugar (yum), with a dollop of meringue-style whipped topping (also yum), and also topped with some mini-marshmallows, quickly browned under the broiler (again, yum).

This recipe would also probably work great for entertaining – just make up your batter and fill your ramekins ahead of time.  After 10-15 minutes in the oven, just serve them directly from the ramekins, or inverted onto a plate or bowl.  You could make them even smaller to stretch the recipe farther, if needed, and to make them easy to handle for guests.

This recipe will definitely be going into my keeper file and will probably see lots of use.  Thanks Tish!

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“Cut-the-Crap” Whipped Topping

We’ve been trying to Get Real here at my house.  I think I’ve mentioned before that I have high blood pressure and that heart disease and stroke runs in my family.  Well, I’ve recently gotten re-motivated to make over our eating and health habits, this time for good!

You probably know that the conventional medical answer to high blood pressure is to eat a low-fat, low-cholesterol diet and if that doesn’t work, you take medications.  I tried the low-fat, low-cholesterol thing and even lost 35 pounds a few years ago, with no effect on my BP whatsoever.  So I’ve been taking medications for several years.  They even had to change my medications a couple of times to higher dosages, and multiple medications.

And, even ON those multiple, high dosage medications, my blood pressure was still above the recommended numbers (under 120/80 is considered normal.  Anything 120/80 and higher is bad).

Enter – Real Food and Yoga.

For the last couple of months, I have nearly completely eliminated processed foods from my diet.  I say nearly because, as you might expect, I’m nowhere near perfect.  I do eat out at restaurants and we do buy a few processed snacks and things.  But for the most part, I’ve been cooking everything from scratch with whole ingredients – I’ve even mostly stopped using canned goods like tomatoes and beans, instead using fresh tomatoes and dried beans that I’ve cooked myself, in an effort to get as much processed sodium products out of my diet as possible.

In addition, I started doing yoga.  I’ve been doing it almost daily for about 6 weeks now.

Guess what?  My blood pressure dropped like a stone.  It dropped so low that I stopped taking meds because I was getting light-headed from *low* blood pressure.  This from the person whose BP wouldn’t budge for years with conventionally recommended diet, exercise and medications.  Neat, huh?

Now, I’m no doctor, so if you have high blood pressure too, don’t go throwing your meds in the trash on account of what I have to say.  Always be sure to check with your doctor and make sure what you plan to do *works* before you take any rash actions.   I don’t know how much of my health improvement is due to the diet, and how much is due to the yoga, and frankly I don’t care.  This is my path going forward.  I’m hooked!

“Cut-The-Crap” Whipped Topping

You may be wondering what *any* of this has to do with whipped topping?

Well, I’ll tell you.

Not really surprisingly, if you think about it, after changing my diet and doing daily yoga, I started to drop a few pounds without even really trying.  Which, of course, motivated me to actually try and see how well I could do.  I’ve just been tracking calories and trying to reduce portions and such – nothing too drastic, but some additional weight loss would definitely help my blood pressure issues and just make me feel better about myself in general.

When it came time to make these adorable Individual Warm Chocolate Cakes, I didn’t want to totally blow my weight loss trend, y’know?  Instead of serving these little cakes with a big, delicious (but fattening) scoop of vanilla ice cream, I decided to try this “Cut the Crap” Whipped Topping I found in the Biggest Loser Dessert Cookbook.

However, there was one problem.  The original recipe called for 3/4 cup of light agave syrup.  From what I can see, agave syrup is about as healthy as high fructose corn syrup.  Yes, it’s made from a natural source (but so is HFCS) and apparently doesn’t spike your blood sugar, but it’s about as processed as processed can get.

So I decided to try it with raw honey instead.  Turns out, I could use even less honey than the recipe called for and it worked just fine (may use even less next time).  It gives the topping a lovely, floral honey flavor that we really enjoyed at my house.  Next time, I think I will try it with maple syrup – I bet that will be good, too.

The advantages of this whipped topping recipe over, say, whipped cream, is that it keeps really well in the fridge without losing its fluffiness.  And, you can even freeze it, according to the book (haven’t tried that yet).  And, on top of it all, it’s healthier.  A whole half cup of this topping is only 69 calories (obviously loaded with sugars, though, so if you’re diabetic or watching your sugar, please take note).   We didn’t use anywhere near a half cup – a couple of tablespoons is more like it.

Anyway, with that long, involved introduction, here’s my version of this yummy whipped topping that I can use without feeling guilty:

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Banana Boston Cream Pie

I’m late! I’m late! For a very important date!

Sorry y’all – I’m a few days late posting for this month’s Cake Slice. I unexpectedly had to go out of town for a week, so I made sure to make this cake the day before I left, but then didn’t get the post put together in time. It’s all my sister’s fault.

That’s my story and I’m stickin’ with it!

Seriously, though, this cake was a good one. My boyfriend was very excited when I informed him that this month’s cake was Boston Cream Pie. He lurves Boston Cream Pie, so he was quite impatient for this one to get made. Almost every night he would ask me, “Are you making Boston Cream Pie tonight?” Poor baby, he’s so deprived, isn’t he?

Unfortunately, because I was rushing to get these pictures taken the night before I left town, they didn’t come out very well. They were all of them very overexposed. So don’t judge this cake by these less than amazing pictures – this is a delicious, easy to make cake that will keep in your fridge for several days.

I decided to add some banana to mine, and I’m glad I did. The cake is delicious in its own right, but we do like our bananas at my house, and that extra banana-y sweetness was delicious. I think it might be wonderful with some sliced strawberries in there, too.  This recipe will definitely be going into my keeper file – which is good, since I expect my boyfriend will be campaigning for it regularly.

If this is your first visit, this cake was baked as part of the Cake Slice baking group. We are currently baking from The Cake Book by Tish Boyle. You should buy it. It’s a good book.

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Buche de Noel – Two Ways

I’ll be honest, I almost didn’t make this month’s cake for the Cake Slice group.  Between craziness at work (plus everyone getting ready to leave for holiday vacation), monthly staff meeting, doctor appointments AND being informed that our Christmas celebration was going to be early (this past Sunday) due to family members traveling on Christmas day, well…. the cake just about got ditched. I guess a complicated, time-consuming recipe really isn’t the best choice to schedule for a week before Christmas.

But I really wanted to make it, so I decided to set aside the Saturday before and bring the cake for our Christmas dessert.

Contrary to what many people say, I found this cake to be pretty easy to make.  Time-consuming, definitely.  But hard?  Not so much.  As long as you give yourself plenty of time to make all of the components at your leisure, you can make this cake, with all of its accoutrements, without stress.  Many of the components can even be made days in advance

I’m not going to give you the recipe this time, because really, you should just go buy this book.  It’s worth it!  And it’s a really long recipe, not to mention that all the extras (meringue mushrooms, chocolate leaves, praline paste, etc.) have their own separate recipes.

Instead, I’m just going to share my learnings with you.  Then, when you go to make one, you’ll breeze right through it.  And you *should* make one.  It’s fun!  It’s festive!  And it just tastes darn good.  Everyone at our Christmas dinner was very impressed with these cakes and all agreed that it was just as delicious as beautiful.

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I couldn’t decide how I wanted to decorate this buche de noel, and the cake makes one very long roll.  So I just cut it in half and did it both ways.  It was fun to try to make it look as professional as possible (obviously I have a long ways to go, but it was fun anyway).

So, take it from me – next time you want to wow your in-laws, put together a buche de noel.  They’ll think you’re ahh-mazing!

 

White Chocolate Toffee Bars (Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap)

Sometimes it’s hard to get into the swing of Christmas – there’s so much to do, so much going on, that it seems like the whole season just swoops on by before I’m ready! But one thing I have managed to get done this year, at least, was one good cookie swap.

The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap, that is! This was a fun event dreamed up by Lindsay of Love and Olive Oil, and Julie of The Little Kitchen. With their hard work and amazing organizational skills, they coordinated over 22,000 cookies getting sent around the world as part of this swap! Thanks to both of them for putting together this opportunity for me to participate in a cookie swap, even though most of my close friends are in another state. If you would like to be notified when they do this again next year, go to this page to sign up.

So, each of us were to make 3 dozen cookies of one recipe, then send 1 dozen to each of 3 bloggers, whose contact info we received from Julie and Lindsay. In return, we would receive 3 dozen cookies different cookies. Then, we will all post our recipes on the appointed day (today). A great way to stock up on delicious goodies for the holiday season AND get some yummy new recipes.

I had planned to take pictures of the cookies I received to put up here, but alas, they were gone so fast, no pictures got taken (my boyfriend, the King of Sweet Teeth, was in hog heaven with all those cookies around). Somehow, a picture of the empty containers wouldn’t quite have the same impact. Thank you to Lauren of West Coast Girl, East Coast Life for some seriously delicious Eggnog Snickerdoodle cookies. Can’t wait for that recipe to get posted!  And also many thanks to Anh-Chi of Foodie Next Door for the yummy ginger snaps!

I agonized for a long time about what kind of cookies to send. My first couple of thoughts were, of course, recipes I’ve made for friends that were popular. But they weren’t really appropriate for shipping. Finally, I settled on these toffee bars. Beautiful, delicious and festive, AND they (hopefully) travel well, being firm bars.

I hope that the recipients of my cookies received them in reasonable condition. I stuffed the boxes with so much parchment paper and bubble wrap, there was barely enough room for the cookies!

Enough rambling – here is my recipe for White Chocolate Toffee Bars.  These are easy to make, make a bunch, and can be easily customized with toppings of your choice.  Enjoy!

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2 Cyber-Monday Deals for your Xmas list

Today’s a great day to save some dough on gifts for the cooks on your Christmas list. Amazon’s got some fantastic Cyber-Monday deals going right now on must-have items for every serious kitchen.

Although every cook has their own preferences, I’m pretty sure either of these items would be a big hit in that special cook’s stocking or under his or her tree. So, if you’ve got one on your list, take a moment to check out these deals and perhaps get a couple of names crossed off early:

 
6 Quart KitchenAid Stand Mixer – $259.99 (reg. $499.99).

I received an old KitchenAid as a gift several years ago and boy, am I glad I did! This workhorse is an absolute must in my kitchen – I use it for making cookies and cakes, kneading bread and more. It’s a champ that works overtime and just never quits. One of the cool things about a KitchenAid is that once you have the stand mixer, you can get a million and one attachments to extend its functionality. Want to make your own fresh pasta? Get these pasta attachment s. Like to make fresh, homemade ice cream? Take a look at the ice cream attachment. How about making your own sausage? They’ve got attachments for that, too. I can’t imagine any cook not being thrilled to receive a mixer like this. This deal is $259.99 (regularly $499.99) PLUS a $50 mail in rebate, which makes this almost 60% off. Great deal!

 
Shun 6″ Chef’s Knife – $89.95 (reg. $157).

I haven’t used a Shun knife myself, but it is a well-respected brand, and a really good chef’s knife is essential for anyone who is serious about cooking. Many of them are very expensive, so $89.95 for this name-brand knife is a pretty good deal. And it’s beautiful, too! A chef’s knife is used daily, and doing those chopping and slicing tasks with a high quality knife will completely change the experience for you (I *can* attest to that, from firsthand experience) and change prep from a chore to a joy. Contrary to what some celebrity chefs trying to hawk their wares will tell you, you don’t need a whole big set of knives. A good chef’s knife, a paring knife and a bread knife will get you through almost everything. If the cook on your shopping list is still struggling along with a cheapo knife, delight him or her with a sharp, beautiful knife like this one.

These are just a couple of items that jumped out to me as great deals on items I (or any cook) would love to have. You can see all of Amazon’s cyber-deals here – Cyber-Monday.

Happy shopping!

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