Thursday, February 21, 2013

Simply Delicious Strawberry Cake

I rarely use a cake mix but every now and then you come across a recipe that screams, "It's okay to use a cake mix!" This recipe has so many ingredients that I don't think it really matters if it's from scratch or not, it is truly Simply Delicious.

A recipe from Paula Deen and it is just a wonderful cake. We started getting strawberries from South Florida a few weeks ago and I think the best strawberries are always the earliest strawberries. When we began to get the fresh strawberries in so early it was a gentle reminder of this cake. I also thought it was a good time to make this cake when I had the whole family at home for dinner otherwise I would be eating the whole cake and that's not a good thing. I think this is all of my grand daughters' favorite cake, anything pink or strawberry.

Simply Delicious Strawberry Cake
Makes 1-9-inch cake
1 (18.25-ounce) box white cake mix
1 (3-ounce) box strawberry-flavored gelatin
1 (10-ounce) package frozen strawberries in syrup, thawed and pureed
4 large eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup water
Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting (recipe follows)
Garnish: fresh sliced strawberries
Preheat oven to 350*. Lightly grease 2 (9-inch) round cake pans.
In a large bowl, combine cake mix and gelatin. Add pureed strawberries, eggs, oil, and 1/4 cup water; beat at medium speed with a mixer until smooth. Pour into prepared pans.
Bake for 20 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Let cool in pans for 10 minutes. Remove from pans, and cool completely on wire racks. Spread Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting between layers and on top and sides of cake. Garnish with fresh sliced strawberries, if desired. Store cake, covered, in the refrigerator up to 3 days.
Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting
Makes about 4 cups
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 (10-ounce) package frozen strawberries in syrup, thawed, pureed, and divided
1/2 teaspoon strawberry extract
7 cups confectioners' sugar
In a large bowl, beat cream cheese and butter at medium speed with a mixer until creamy.
Beat in 1/4 cup strawberry puree' ; reserve remaining puree' for another use. Beat in extract. Gradually add confectioners' sugar, beating until smooth.
Note: For pinker frosting, add 2 to 3 drops of red food coloring to frosting.

I didn't find it necessary to add any food coloring, the cakes were definitely pink.

I loved the fragrance of those pureed' strawberries and the garnish of the fresh strawberries only made this cake better.

When I make this cake again I will probably place the strawberries on the outer edge for a prettier presentation.

If you try this cake you won't be disappointed and it would make a spectacular dessert for Easter or even for a Summer function. No one would ever guess that it was made with a box cake mix and what doesn't taste outstanding with a cream cheese frosting?

I am sharing this post for Foodie Friday hosted by Michael Lee at Rattlebridge Farm. Click Here to see other outstanding shared recipes.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Chicken with Wild Mushrooms

My most favorite cookbook author is Ina Garten and she has a new book out (came out on Oct. 31) called Barefoot Contessa Foolproof. Of course, I had to get this book the day it came out. I just could not wait and I think this is her eighth book and I have them all.

The very first recipe I prepared from this book was Chicken with Wild Mushrooms and it is absolutely delicious. I prepared it for my family since they are most often my Guinea pigs and got rave reviews. I knew that I probably would want to prepare this for our dinner party group that met last Thursday and once again this recipe got rave reviews from there as well. Everyone wanted the recipe.
Chicken with Wild Mushrooms
2 (3 1/2-to 4-pound) chickens, cut in eighths
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
All purpose flour
1/2 cup good olive oil
8 whole garlic cloves
1 1/2 pounds assorted wild mushrooms, such as porcini and cremini, stems removed and (1 1/2-inch) diced
8 sprigs fresh thyme, tied with kitchen string
1/4 cup dry sherry
1 tablespoon minced garlic (3 cloves)
2 cups white wine, such as Pinot Grigio
2 cups good chicken stock, preferably homemade
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
Pat the chicken dry with paper towels and sprinkle both sides liberally with salt and pepper. Place 1/2 cup flour in a bowl and dredge the chicken in the flour. In a large (12-inch) ovenproof pot such as Le Creuset, heat the oil. Add the chicken in three batches (don't crowd them!) and brown lightly over medium-high heat for 3 to 5 minutes on each side. Remove the chicken to a plate and continue until all the chicken is browned.
Add the whole garlic cloves, mushrooms, and thyme to the pot and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the sherry and cook for 1 minute, scraping up the brown bits. Add the minced garlic and cook for 2 more minutes. Add the wine, chicken stock, 1 tablespoon salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper and bring to a simmer. Add the chicken (large pieces first), cover, and place in the middle of the oven for 30 to 35 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through (about 165 degrees on an instant-read thermometer).
Remove the chicken to a bowl and discard the thyme. With a fork, mash together the butter and 1/4 cup flour and add it to the sauce. Simmer, stirring constantly, over medium heat for 5 minutes, until slightly thickened. Season to taste (it should be highly seasoned), put the chicken back in the sauce, and serve hot.
 I always prep everything before beginning a dish.

The fragrance of those first few ingredients was amazing and it was wafting through my whole house.
When I prepared this for my family I used only chicken breasts since I had already planned to serve this dish at our dinner group and thought using chicken breasts would make for a nicer presentation. In place of the two chickens I used six whole chicken breasts and it was a perfect switch. This recipe makes plenty of sauce and it is a excellent dish to serve for a dinner party. As it happened, I watched Ina do this recipe on her program as well and she talked about the fact that it was a great make ahead dish because all you had to do was reheat it and serve. She was so right and for the dinner party I was doing we had at another friends home, I was co-hosting so it easily transports too.
It is a fairly rich dish so when doing it for my family I simply served it with fresh pole beans and fingerling potatoes. For the dinner party we served it with a Mixed Green Salad with strawberries and a balsamic vinaigrette and Hericot Vert. I often forget that many of Ina Garten 's recipes call for more salt and pepper than I normally care for so when I make this dish again I will half the salt and pepper. The sauce is absolutely delicious too and I can see this atop some basmati rice, oh YUM.
As I expected Ina has another winner of a cookbook and I will enjoy trying many other recipes from this new book.
Thank you for visiting my blog. I am linking this post to Rattlebridge Farm for Foodie Friday.

Friday, February 8, 2013

YaYa Dinner Group

A couple of years ago I started a dinner group just for very close friends, there are eleven of us. We had all been friends for twenty years or more and our husbands are also friends. I believe that in this day and time that is extremely unusual. We often do get together for lunch and are in other organizations together so we see each other often. This idea of mine to start a dinner group came together after I had read an article in a magazine of a group in Birmingham, AL and they had been doing this since their college days. I loved this idea because often when you are having lunch you chat briefly, have lunch and then we are off to our next appointment, not really having those quality conversations. Our group meets once a month, the first Thursday of each month. So I started what we call the YaYa dinner group. We on occasion include our husbands who by the way get together for dinner at a restaurant on the evenings we are having our dinner group if they are not included.

Last night we had our dinner party, it was at the home of one of the other girls but I co-hosted with her. I think everyone enjoyed themselves because I didn't get home until midnight. Yes we had a great time.

Our theme of course, was a Valentines theme and I wanted to share some of my photos. This is the arrangement that I did for the table.

I also did small mercury glass containers using the same flowers as in the arrangement to sit at each place setting for each guest to take home with them. A reminder of a wonderful evening with friends.
The place card holders were old French silver ones that I had used for my daughters bridesmaids luncheon which we had at our home several years ago. The cards had an antique look about them with little birds at the top. It tied in with everything else as I will show you. My daughter did the names for the cards. We don't usually do place card holders but I thought it was a fun addition and mixed up everyone who don't normally sit together.
Our hostess has a very large dining room that accommodated everyone.
At each place setting a different bird plate a part of a collection of antique bird salad plates belonging to our hostess. They were stunning. The red clear glass chargers were mine and the dinner plate was her wedding fine china.
YaYa Dinner Menu
Spinach Salad with feta, strawberries and bacon
topped with a Balsamic Vinaigrette
Ina Garten's Chicken with Mushrooms from her new book, Foolproof
Haricot Vert
Come Home to Mama Chocolate Cake
Followed by Chocolate Martini's
I had prepared the Chicken dish and the Chocolate Cake, everyone loved both as well as our entire menu.

It was a fun and enjoyable evening, we adjourned to the family room as we drank our chocolate martini's and we played a game, how many songs can you think of that have LOVE in the title. Our group range in age from 70 to 59 so as you can imagine some of us could think of some that go wayyyyyyyy back. Our hostess had two lovely prizes for the winners and we did in fact have a tie. The prizes, some bling jewelry. It was a lot of laughs and as we read the songs we had listed we had to sing them or at least give it a try.

A wonderful evening with good friends, delicious food and lots of conversation and laughter. Making memorable moments.

I am linking this post to Rose Chintz Cottage for her HOME party and Savy Southern Style for Wow us Wednesday. Click HERE to view other participants of this lovely blogging party.