Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Red Velvet Cake for Christmas Round 2

When my family went to my cousin's for Christmas Round 2 in Kingston, AR, my cousin Melissa asked me to bake a red velvet cake to bring for dessert - so of course, I obliged! Now, I have a bit of a confession to make: I use box mix for most of my cakes... I said it. But! For my red velvet cake, I do make my own cream cheese frosting and I added chocolate chips this time to the cake batter for a new touch. So the recipe here is a little bit of a let down, I'm afraid, haha. But basically I just followed the directions on the back of the box and added a cup of chocolate chips to the batter. Here's the trick though - apparently you need to roll the chocolate chips in the dry batter first to keep them from sinking to the bottom... Oops, lol. Well, I will do that from now on, but this time I hadn't learned this trick yet, so the chips did indeed all sink to the bottom, haha. However, since I made the cake in three circle pans (which means that I doubled the recipe and used two boxes of mix), the chocolate chips were layered too! So it worked out. But like I said, I used two boxes because I don't think two layer cakes have enough height to look as fancy as I want them to. :o) However, four layers is too much... So I use the other fourth of the cake mix to make a pan of 12 cupcakes too. Another tip: it's VERY important to grease the pan AND flour it - or you can use the baker's spray that has flour built in, but make sure it has the flour. Otherwise, your cake won't come out of the pan. It seems pretty elementary, but I have definitely made this mistake before, so I'd rather someone read this again than forget. So, bake the cakes, let them cool for like 15 minutes in the pan and then turn them upside down on a cooling rack and them let them cool completely! While they are cooling, I make the frosting. It's super easy - use one box of cream cheese, one stick of butter, one box of powdered sugar, and a splash of vanilla. I usually wind up making another batch to be able to fully frost the cake and the cupcakes, but I do them one at a time - and you will likely have leftover frosting if you make two full batches. After the cakes have cooled, depending on how evenly they baked, sometimes they need trimming so that the cake won't have a hump on top. To keep the cake level, you can alternate laying them upside down and right side up with the first layer facing down, the middle layer face up, and then the top layer face down. The frosting will set off the imbalance between the second and top layers. I like to be pretty generous with my icing in between the layers, and then on top too. I have found that it is easiest to use a spatula to frost the cake. Then you are done! Well, you can garnish the cake with pecans, cake crumbles from any trimming, and/or chocolate chips. If I use pecans on the cake, I make sure to leave some of the cupcakes without them so as to accommodate anyone who is either allergic or just doesn't like them. Anyhow, here are my pictures!


I guess it was a hit! :o)

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Lippert Family Christmas Dinner

This year, for the very first time!, my mom asked me to make the Christmas day feast for dinner with my family. I was very excited to take on the task, and I am just as excited to document it below!

Hors d'oeuvres Table Menu

Fresh Fruit with Lemon Yogurt and Caramel Fruit Dips
Homemade Fudge
Pumpkin Bread
Cream Cheese Pumpkin Dip with Graham Crackers
Cheese and Crackers
Chocolate Covered Pretzels
Greek Hummus with Triscuits

Christmas Dinner Menu

Baby Spinach Green Salad with a Raspberry Vinaigrette
Rock Cornish Game Hen in a Cherry Glaze
Traditional Sweet Potatoes with Marshmallows
Roasted Fresh Green Bean Bundles tied with Green Onions
Bowtie Pasta in a Almond Garlic Cream Sauce
Fresh Homemade Rolls
Cinnamon Crumble Apple Pie

Dinner Recipes

Baby Spinach Green Salad with a Raspberry Vinaigrette:

I found the recipe for the vinaigrette on which I have linked below. I had made a raspberry vinaigrette before with a different recipe that was thicker and used fresh raspberries which added a pretty pink color. The two offered very different flavors - both of which were good, but I think next time I will add the raspberries for the texture and color that I liked for the first time I made it. For the salad base, I simply used a bag of baby spinach and then garnished with candied walnuts and parmesan cheese. Here is that link:

Rock Cornish Game Hen in a Cherry Glaze:

To cook the hen, I just followed the directions on the back of the packaging which simply required you to fully thaw the chickens and then roast them in the oven for about an hour and a half at 350 or 400 degrees continuously basting with butter throughout their cook time. As opposed to the recipe directions for the sauce below, I chose small enough hens so as to be able to serve each of my guests a whole chicken to make for prettier plates. Also, I probably actually cooked the hens for almost two hours basting them every 10-15 minutes or so and I flipped the hens in order to brown them a little bit on the underside after the first hour and a half. Despite the extra cooking time, they turned out wonderfully moist, and I didn't have any complaints! For the glaze, I found the recipe on which you can find here: The only alterations I made to this recipe were that we didn't have any rum around the house, so I replaced it with brandy instead. Also, I cut the cherries in half before I added them to the sauce, because I found them too large in their original condition for my taste. The sauce was *very* fragrant, which had me a little worried, but I thought that it actually complimented the hen meat very well afterall!

Traditional Sweet Potatoes with Marshmallows:

I found this recipe on Food Network's website. I followed this recipe pretty closely, but I doubled the cinnamon and almost another whole cup of marshmallows to top them. This was a delicious recipe for sweet potatoes - and even my mother, who doesn't like sweet potatoes, thought they were good. My daddy said they were the best he'd ever had. Yumm! Here's that link:

Roasted Fresh Green Bean Bundles tied with Green Onions:

To make the green bean bundles, I picked out a handful of fresh green beans per person in the produce section at the grocery store, and trimmed the ends. Then I laid them out on a cookie sheet and brushed them with olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper. Then I put them in the oven for 20 minutes at 350 and then turned them at the half way point. We all decided that they could have been in the oven for a bit longer - probably almost another ten minutes or so. With about 5 minutes left, I put the green onion stems in the oven to soften. After the green beans and the green onions had cooled a bit, I put the green beans in the oven and then tied them with the green onions. Then I salted and peppered them again before serving. I actually love doing this with asparagus, but my family preferred green beans - so I switched out the vegetables.

Bowtie Pasta in an Almond Garlic Cream Sauce:

I found this recipe on However, I left out the peas. I also think that I added quite a bit more butter than the recipe called for. I did have to blanch the almonds which I had never done before - because I could only find whole almonds with the skins on. To blanch the almonds, you boil water, and pour over the whole almonds - let them sit for 1 minute (not longer). Then strain the almonds and run cold water over them. At this point, you should be able to slip off the brown covering. I had also never worked with a whole garlic prior to this - as I usually buy the garlic cloves in the jar, but I never use them all in time before they start to mold, ew. I thought it was really neat to peel the fresh garlic and then crush the cloves. I will definitely use it from now on - it's much cheaper too! The pasta turned out great - and my sister even took the rest home. I had made it a part of the menu just for her because she is a vegetarian (so the game hen wasn't going to cut it for her). But everyone seemed to enjoy it. See the full recipe here:

Fresh Homemade Rolls:

To make pretty rolls, my mom has always just bought Rhodes frozen rolls. So I figured why mess with perfection. To bake, we start by greasing a muffin pan with shortening and then greasing the frozen rolls with shortening (to prevent sticking to plastic wrap). You put 2 rolls per muffin cup, and then loosely cover with saran wrap. Let set for about 3 1/2 hours at room temperature to rise (this depends on room temperature - they will rise faster if kitchen is really warm). After risen to desired height, bake at 350 degrees 15 to 20 minutes until golden brown. Brush with butter for a shiny look. Remove from pan promptly to cooling rack or to a basket lined with cloth towel - to prevent bottoms from getting condensation from cooling. Be careful pre-baking so as to keep the rolls from falling. I prefer to serve my rolls with a strawberry jam and of course a pad of butter. They are always a huge hit.

Cinnamon Crumble Apple Pie:

For dessert, I wanted to make something traditional, so I went with an apple pie recipe that I found at Epicurious too. I bought the amount of apples indicated in the recipe (3 1/4 lbs.) plus one apple or so. When I went to cut them, I felt that there were too many apples for just one pie, but not quite enough for two pies as they sank a little bit so I probably should have cut the extra apples too. I did go ahead and make two pies, so I doubled the filling ingredients to coat the apples. Also, I didn't care for the crumble topping - I wanted it to be more apple-crisp like but this was more like sugar clumps on top. It tasted good though, just wasn't quite what I was expecting. Do make sure to serve it warm and with the ice cream though! Here is the link:

I felt that the meal made a pretty plate, and it was certainly delicious. I paired the game hen with a Chenin Blanc - which I felt was a great complement although it isn't my favorite white wine. I also thought that each of the sides went well with the hen. I'm sure that my family would have told me that they enjoyed it whether they did or not, but I think their compliments were sincere! And I am pretty hard on myself, but I thought that it was a great Christmas dinner - especially for my first ever!

Welcome to my food blog! :o)

I'm very excited about starting a blog I can really get into sharing with others as for any of you who know me are aware - I have tried the blog thing before, but I have yet to be successful in keeping it up to date! So, since I really love cooking and baking my own food and also love tasting other's creations as well - I think this time will really work! I am keeping this blog to both document my food experiences for myself as well as share them with others to witness and maybe even learn from my successes and failures too! I am dedicated to posting about my food, how I made it, what to pair with it, tips and lessons, as well as pictures of it! Thanks for stopping by, and I hope that you enjoy reading as much as I am enjoying writing! :o)