Saturday, September 27, 2014

Beet cake for potluck

Back in 2013 I discovered that my family's carrot cake is perhaps even better when made with beets. The Benevolent Overlord thinks there is no reason to ever make carrot cake again unless made with beets. I have been hankering for a slice of beet cake, but given a desire to eat healthier, above all smaller portions and less sugars, I was not going to make a cake and have it hanging around the house. Bad idea. Bad. Luckily, the beginning of the semester came to the rescue: the Labor Day Departmental Pot Luck!

I love cream cheese icing, but decided I needed to jazz it up somehow. While the cake baked and cooled I did some happy Internet searching, and settled on a Honey Ginger Buttercream Frosting from as the filling layer. As you can see I slathered it on nice and thick.

For the actual icing that I would use to ice and decorate the cake, I went with Wilton's Cream Cheese Icing. Instead of the orange juice I used ginger liquor, and instead of the grated orange peel I used dried ginger - grated ginger would clog the icing tips. An issue I had was the icing was highly volatile and softened much quicker than usual, even given the temperature or the room. As The Benevolent Overlord pointed out, alcohol has properties that will soften butter. Note to self - ginger liquor gave a fabulous flavor, but makes icing harder. 

Carrot cake is very crumbly, so I started with a thin layer of icing just to seal in the crumbs:

I edged the cake with a cheerful yellow basket weave - always fun to do! - and topped it with beets:

The color is obviously off, but here's a close-up of the beets:

I am particularly pleased with the beet tops. And you know, the beets I peeled for this cake did have a bumpy look, even if not quite so "dog turdy" in appearance as these. While doing the veins in the leaves, I managed to brush the piping at the top of the basket weave, which was already compromised by the heat/alcohol. There was no saving the edge without mussing it up, so I added a helpful caption in case someone was wondering what kind of cake it is:

Hah! The hosting professor's daughter was quite fascinated with how I got my elbow in the cake, so I got a story out of it as well. 

Over all, it was a truly delicious cake, even if I do say so myself. The beets and the ginger married beautifully, and everyone liked it. We got to take leftovers home, so we ended up having only two pieces, which is plenty. Yes, we had it for breakfast the next day. Decadent!

And here's the full view: 

I will definitely make this combo again, and am glad I discovered the ginger icing!

Monday, September 8, 2014

What to do with lots of squash? Part 1.

We love delicata squash! So, now that we live in a house (the landlord said we can do anything we want with the yard), we decided to plant some. We put them in a plot behind the cedar trees. However, only a few of the seeds in the package are actually delicata - most are butternut squash. We love butternut as well, so we are only slightly disappointed. Over the summer the plants have grown, and above you see how they are growing up over the cedars and around the cedars.  It is hard to capture in a photograph, but it is pretty awesome.

The first butternut squash was emergency harvested as a deer had nibbled on it. Here is a picture of it from its non-nibbled on side, along with (left to right) everclear being infused with a mint variety nicely called "julep" (I'm looking at you TMV and LH!), everclear infusion based on Samovar Blend tea (KT, this one is for you!), and my felted teacosy. The beer in the background is leftovers from a departmental pot-luck (more on that later. Maybe). When I cut into the squash a few days later, it smelled more fragrant and delicious than any butternut squash I have ever purchased.

One day a week or so ago the Fuzzband - although I think we decided to call him Benevolent Overlord after Doug Berman, who is titled thus on Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me! (The best radio show in the 'verse!)... So, Benevolent Overlord declared we need to find at least ten butternut squash recipes. Well, I did. I went through our cookbooks, because I am a cookbook person. We have a pretty exciting lineup of butternut squash and pumpkin recipes!

Here is recipe #1 (complete with an attempt at food photography):

This is perhaps my favorite cook book: 400 Best-Ever Soups,
edited by Anne Sheasby (Hermes House, 2008). The recipe is on p. 150.

Squash Soup with Horseradish Cream

1 butternut squash
1 cooking apple
2 Tblsp butter
1 onion, finely chopped
1-2 tsp curry powder - I used hot + extra for garnish
900 ml / 3 3/4 cup vegetable stock
1 tsp chopped fresh sage - I used dry
150 ml / 2/3 cup apple juice
lime rind, shredded, to garnish - I did not use this
salt and black pepper

Horseradish cream:
4 Tbsp heavy whipping cream
2 tsp horseradish sauce - I used freshly grated
1/2 tsp curry powder - again, I used hot

  1. Peel squash, remove seeds, chop the flesh. Peel, core, and chop apple
  2. Heat the butter in a large pan. Add the onions and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes until soft. Stir in the curry powder. Cook to bring out the flavor, stirring constantly for 2 minutes.
  3. Add the stock, squash, apple, and sage. Bring to boil, lower the heat, cover and simmer for 20 minutes until the squash and apple are soft. 
  4. Meanwhile, make the horseradish sauce: whip the cream until stiff, add the horseradish and curry. Refrigerate until ready to serve on soup.
  5. Puree the soup. Return to pot and add apple juice. Season to taste. Reheat gently, without bringing to boil.
  6. Serve the soup  in bowls topped with a spoonful of the horseradish sauce and a dusting of curry powder. Garnish with shredded lime rind, if you like.

It was delicious! Seriously. And it was even better the next day. While "best ever" is an absolute I don't like to put in writing outside hyperbole on Facebook, this book sure does live up to its name. Benevolent Overlord said it was the best squash soup he has had - and we've had some darn fine ones. I would rate it at a solid 8 out of 10, Benevolent Overlord at 9/9.5! Regardless, we are remembering this one.

If you try this, I would love to hear how yours turns out, how you modified the recipe, etc.

While my food photography is crappy, to say the least, here is one more shot:

P.S. The drink shown above is actually worth a note in and of itself. It is a mudslide with banana... (Ooo! The webpage has some other promising recipes, too!)We made our own creamed whiskey for the mudslide, since we had the ingredients for it, and did not want to go out and buy Bailey's, the most famous creamed whiskey and staple in home-bars as well as commercial bars. I have to say, the home made turned out more to our palette than then purchased version. What is left of the creamed whiskey now stored in an old everclear bottle in the fridge waiting for further adventures.