Monday, June 11, 2012

Chocolate Swirl Pancakes


In my house, we do tons of pancakes, especially for birthdays. This year for my daughter's 14th, we made these and topped them with a little butter and syrup. One picked maple and one picked Hershey's. We splurge on the special days!

I started out by making a batch of regular pancake batter (Pioneer, Jiffy, Bisquick, etc). It's easier to make it in something with a pour spout like my Mom always did. Then make a second batch of batter substituting 1/2 cup of cocoa powder and 2 TBSP sweetener for 1/2 cup of the dry mix. Pour the chocolate batter into a quart bag and cut off about 1/4" from one corner. For fluffy pancakes, you want to stir just enough to moisten everything but still have lumpy batter.

On a hot skillet or griddle, pour out your plain batter into circles. Then using your bag of chocolate batter, make swirl designs in the pancakes. I had lots of leftover chocolate batter, so I made mini chocolate pancakes with it.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Rainbow Cream Cake

This year, my daughter made a very specific request for her birthday cake: this picture below, maybe a little shorter. Now I know she prefers chocolate cake  I know she likes brownie ice cream cake. But otherwise, she doesn't usually get specific on this kind of thing. AND she didn't even know we were having a surprise party. She thought we would just hang out the 4 of us and eat a 4 foot long cake....

 Quite a beast for 4 people, eh? Since we were in fact having a party, I decided to take a stab at it, in smaller scale, in the neighbor's kitchen, so she wouldn't get suspicious on why we had such a large cake for 4 people the day before her birthday.  
It looks hard. And it sounded hard. But once I had a plan, it was really no problem at all. Here is how it all went down. After a derailment when I snuck to Walmart at 7am for supplies, and my car battery died and left me stranded in the parking lot. Good thing for my neighbor who was up waiting for the baking!

2 boxes white cake mix
2 boxes instant vanilla pudding mix (optional, this is my box cake secret)
eggs, oil, water that boxes require
food coloring (I did 1 primary and 1 neon)
Spray 5 round layer cake pans with baking spray (cooking spray plus flour). Preheat oven as directed.
Mix batter according to package directions (1 package at a time if using a stand up mixer) adding the pudding mix to the dry ingredients. Separate batter into 5 bowls and repeat process with the other box. Each bowl will be half of each batch which will prevent them from rising differently due to the time they were mixed.

Decide what colors you want your cakes to be. I suggest picking 5 and doing 2 shades of  each. For example: Red and Pink, Orange and Yellow, Lime Green and Bright Green, Light Blue and Bright Blue, Lavender and Violet.

One bowl at a time, start your light shade by adding a few drops of food coloring until you get the desired color. Pour half the batter from that bowl into one side of the pan, and use a rubber spatula to spread it just on one half. Add more coloring to darken the remaining batter in your bowl. For example: 10 drops of pink food coloring made my pink, then 10 more drops of red coloring made the other half red. Once you have tinted and poured out all batter, bake about 20 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean.

Let cakes cool at least an hour before frosting. For some reason, mine split themselves down the centers. I stacked the halves on top of each other, and ran a knife down the center side to make them even and make the bottom surfaces flat.

My cake had WAY too much whipped cream (a 50/50 cake to cream ratio). Partly because I wanted it to be well covered and partly because I wanted to use up the cream. You can either make your own whipped cream or just do cool whip. I used 2 quarts or cream with a little sugar, but would've make it work with 1 if I worked sparingly.
Once you have your cake surface ready (a cake board and fancy foil shown, but a cutting board and tin foil is fine), spread a line of cream down the center. Working from the center out, spread cream between two of the half circles like a sandwich and place on the cream line on the board. One at a time, spread cream on the sides of the half circle shaped cakes and add them to the cake on the board. Use the remaining cream to cover the top and sides.

Decorate the top with the sprinkles or fanciness of your choice. For full effect, use rainbow candles. This was nearly a fire hazard with 14 of them!

Sweet and Sour Kielbasa

2 lbs kielbasa
1 can pineapple chunks and juice
1 large onion
1 green bell pepper
1 spicy pepper (your choice, I used poblano)
1 cup cherry pie filling (I buy the sugar-free)
2 TBSP cornstarch
2 TBSP vinegar ( I used apple cider)
1 TBSP soy sauce
2 TBSP brown sugar

Cut kielbasa into 1/4" slices, and onions and peppers into bite-sized chunks. Add them to the crock pot with the pineapple chunks setting the juice aside.

Mix pineapple juice, pie filling, cornstarch, vinegar, soy sauce and brown sugar. Pour into the crock pot over kielbasa and veggies and cook 4-6 hours on low.

If you don't have cherry pie filling ( I was just using up some that was leftover), just use a 1/2 cup of maraschino cherries and increase brown sugar to 1/4 cup.

If you opened a can of pie filling and have the rest to use up, put it on ice cream, pancakes, mix it into plain yogurt, or use it in a parfait with vanilla pudding and vanilla wafers.