Monday, May 31, 2010

Monkey see, Monkey pitch a hissy fit, Monkey do the dishes

It was a lazy Sunday morning, and I was feeling well rested, benevolent, practical, and hungry.   As I slouched into my comfiest pants and headed for the kitchen, these impulses combined into what I considered to be an excellent idea:  I would make a big breakfast for my beloved family. 

The benevolent part:
My dear husband was out running his little butt off in 85 degree heat for god know how many miles.   My growing son needed sustenance for a full day of preparing for his upcoming final exams.

And my darling daughter had recently returned from a three day camping trip with her class, sunburned, exhausted, and sporting a wicked head of matted frizz.

They deserved a home cooked meal, and damn it, I was going to give it to them.

The practical part:
I had a tub full of egg whites leftover from the Lemon Icebox Squares AND several tubes of refrigerated biscuits that my Mom had bought when they were on special at Ralph's (buy one, get one free, plus a coupon!)  I wouldn't even have to go to the store.

This translated into the following menu*:
  • Egg white frittata with pancetta, scallions, crimini mushrooms and freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • Crispy smoked bacon
  • Monkey Bread with cream cheese frosting
Almost bursting with the amount of goodwill I would be generating, I set to work.   My son strolls through a few minutes later.

Him (still in his pajamas at 10 am):  What are we doing today?
Me:  Um, how about studying?
Him (opening fridge door between us in clear sign that my answer is of negligible interest to him): We're out of grapes.  You need to buy some more grapes.

He leaves the room having grabbed the sports section and a handful of pretzels, leaving the open bag on the counter and the rest of the paper on the carpet.

I am slightly less delighted with my plan at this point, but still feeling mildly cheerful.   Then my daughter stomps into the kitchen.

Me:  Good morning, honey!  How did you sleep?
Her:  (mumble grumble mumble grumble snarl)
Me:  Well, that's nice.
Her  (Spying the cinnamon sugar and perking up immediately): What are you making?  Are you making cinnamon rolls?  Oh my god! (She is now screaming and jumping up and down) Mom's making THE CINNAMON ROLLS!!!

She runs into the other room, shrieking at her startled brother and grabbing him in a frenzied dance of glee.  He runs into the kitchen after her, and they both start yelling incomprehensibly at me in unison.

Me (maintaining a semblance of calm in the midst of my growing irritation):  No.  I am not making the cinnamon rolls.  They take too long.  I am making Monkey Bread.  It's really good.  You're going to love it, trust me.   Would either of you like to help me make it? 

Their faces fall.  His is almost comically disappointed, like someone stole his puppy.  Hers, however, is a red mask of fury.

Him (pleadingly): Can you at least make the ones like Grandma makes?  Those are easy, aren't they?
Her (almost blue in the face): It's not FAIR that we aren't having cinnamon rolls!  I HATE monkey bread!   WHY are you DOING this to me?!?**

I am completely bewildered about how I became the bad guy here, when I am, in fact, the benevolent, practical adult in the room.  I respond accordingly.

Me:  OK. Fine!  I will eat every last bite of the monkey bread myself, and give a little piece to Daddy.  You get NONE!  Now, GO AWAY!

They retreat.  I am now quite put out.   

After a few cleansing breaths, I continue snipping the dough and shaking the bag of cinnamon sugar energetically.  My daughter begins to hover around the periphery.

Her (now all sweetness and light): Can I help?
Me:  No.
Her:  Can I have a piece of the dough?
Me:  No.
Her: I'm sorry I yelled at you.
Me:  Still no.

I put the bread into the oven, and begin frying the bacon.  My son comes into the kitchen, takes a piece of bacon, and goes away again.

Me:  I saw that!

My husband comes back from his run.   He takes the ear buds out of his ears, grabs two pieces of bacon, sweats on the counter, and leaves.

Me:  I saw that!
My daughter:  Can I have some bacon?
Me:  No.

I start whipping the cream cheese frosting.  My daughter has set the table, fed the dog and the guinea pigs, and poured me a Diet Coke.

Her: Now can I help?
Me:  No.

The monkey bread comes out of the oven.   My husband emerges freshly showered and takes another slice of bacon.

Me:  I saw that!

I put the frittata in the oven to finish, turn the bread out, and glop on an enormous amount of frosting.  I am now being openly worshiped by everyone.  My sense of well-being and equanimity is fully restored.  Our family is gathered around the table, and I smile kindly upon them all.  Still, I make them wait an extra couple of minutes while I take a few photos.  Then I relent.

Me:  Go ahead.  And it's OK to eat with your fingers.  In fact, it's better that way.  And young lady?
Her (mouth full to bursting, and grinning at the same time);  Yesph?
Me:  You can help with the dishes.  While your brother does his math.

Monkey Bread
Adapted with awe from a recipe found by google search at this website.

1/2 c. sugar
2-3 Tbs. cinnamon
3 large or 4 small packages of refrigerated biscuits
1 c. packed brown sugar
3/4 cups (1 1/2 sticks) butter

Butter a large bundt or tube pan, and preheat the oven to 350.  Combine sugar and cinnamon in a large plastic bag and set aside.  Cut each biscuit into quarters, and drop 8-10 pieces at a time into the bag of cinnamon sugar.  Shake until well coated, then layer the pieces in the prepared pan.  Repeat with all of the biscuit pieces.  Set the pan aside.   Put the brown sugar and the butter into a small saucepan, and place over medium heat.  Stir as butter melts until combined, then boil mixture for one minute.   Allow to cool for another minute, then slowly pour over the biscuits in the pan.    Bake at 350 for 35 minutes, or until puffed up and golden brown on top.    Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then invert onto a serving plate.    Top with cream cheese frosting, if desired.***

Cream Cheese Frosting

1/2 c. (1 stick) butter, softened
4 oz. (1/2 package) cream cheese, softened
1 1/2 c. powdered sugar
1-2 Tbs. milk or cream
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Combine butter and cream cheese with an electric mixture until well blended.  Add the powdered sugar and mix well.  Stir in the vanilla, and enough milk to make the frosting easily spreadable.   Drop by spoonfuls onto the warm bread.   Allow it to melt into the bread and add to the gooey goodness.  

* Hence, the hungry part.
** Pre-teen hormones are not our friend.  For example, I'd never even made Monkey Bread before, so how does she know she hates it? 
*** You know you desire it, so go ahead.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Foodie Girls Lunch Brigade - Episode 16

After a rogue breakaway episode of uncontrolled mania involving french fries, doughnuts, and the 405*, I am proud to report that with our latest foray, the Foodie Girls have regained a semblance of dignity, if not downright civility, respectability, and even, dare I say...gentility? 

Episode 16 - The Sweetsalt Gestalt

On a quiet stretch of Riverside Drive, in a land far, far away from industrial chic skid row sausages and stand-around-the-parking-area pancakes, there lives an outpost of the east coast summer house life.   A little clapboard slice of Martha's Vineyard, complete with a hand-lettered shingle hanging outside the door, whitewashed walls, and marble counter tops with earnest-looking girls in aprons behind the old-fashioned cash register.  A glass apothecary jar of "pure Toluca Lake Tap Water" belies its quaint title with the slices of lime and cucumber cunningly floating among the ice cubes within.  A blackboard hanging high above the narrow seating area lists the cheeses of the day and the requisite coffees and teas, while a line of hungry people waits patiently to order.   Two Le Creuset pots of homemade soup bubble on a hot plate.    Plank tables for larger groups and mini wrought iron settings for two are nearly all full, and a golden doodle waits outside for her owner to return.   Sunlight streams through the windows onto a vase of daisies.  Daisies, for heaven's sake!   I don't think it is possible for a place to evoke a sensibility any more perfectly than Alex Eusebio's Sweetsalt Food Shop.   It's got charm practically oozing out of every pore.

The FGs, of course, are also quite a charming bunch, when we so choose, and we responded immediately to the surroundings.   For example, we saw a cheese plate at a surrounding table and responded by immediately ordering one of our own.   We also were quite responsive to the menu, which made our mouths water, albeit very unbecomingly.   While we exuded an air of ladylike decorum at first, the gloves came off when it became abundantly clear that FG6 had no intention of giving away more than a few bites of her short rib roll.   After determining that it would not be undignified to indeed order more than one short rib roll, peace was restored.

The aforementioned cheese plate was a thing of beauty, and would be on the must list for any future visit.   The caveman blue cheese, in particular, was marvelous, as was the kumquat chutney provided alongside the selection.  It was a great deal at $15, and the staff was happy to provide extra bread so we could savor every last bite on the platter.

It was a good thing that we had that sustenance, however, as the rest of our lunch took quite a while to emerge from the kitchen of the charming people.   It's one thing to look like a sleepy beach town sandwich shop, but it's quite another to operate at the pace of one during an LA lunch hour.   At last a flurry of quaint tin plates arrived, and we fell to.

There was universal acclaim for that coveted roll, which layers deep, rich coffee-braised short rib meat, onion confit, a slathering of goat cheese, and wild arugula on a fresh brioche bun.   As FG3 said when she sat down, "All I want is that short rib sandwich."   Good thing we ordered two.  The shrimp po' boy was also quite tasty, with plump, juicy shrimp carrying a nice edge of heat into the crunch of potato chips and spicy aioli.

The champagne chicken salad, with grapes and shallots, was light and completely refreshing, but not something you'd crave when you left.  Opinions split on the BLT, with some enjoying the sweet addition of a fruit chutney, but FG6 found the combination off-putting.    A pile of leafy mixed greens accompanied everything, and the portion sizes were more than ample for us to eat our fill.

Our fill, that is, of the "salt" part of Sweetsalt.   We most definitely had room for dessert.   The place stocks Cake Monkey Ding Dongs, homemade caramel corn** and filled cookies from local bakers, but we mostly stuck with the chef's offerings:  Bread pudding and creme brulee***.     Both were fantastic!   The bread pudding, especially, was heaven on a fork, with each perfectly creamy, cinnamon-y bite laced with a caramel sauce that was to die for.    When we went around the table naming our favorite part of the meal, FG9 was quick to say she'd be back for dessert more than anything else.   

All in all, it was a pleasant, delicious lunch.   There were some definite high points, but I have to say that in this instance, my penchant for rhyming titles actually hit the nail on the head.  Something about a meal at Sweetsalt is greater than the sum of its parts****.   That must be the true measure of charm.

FG Final Verdict:  Sweetsalt Food Shop is ON the List!
Pricing Information:  Sandwiches $8-10, salads $7-9, soup $4-8, cheese platter $15, desserts $2-4
FG Value Rating:  Fair Deal

Want to know where we're going next?  We do, to!  We will post the answer on our website as soon as we figure it out.

* The email exchange went something like this:
Me to the FGs:  "Frysmith and Buttermilk Truck are TOGETHER today for lunch at the Howard Hughes center near LAX.   Shows how hooked I am that I'm actually considering fighting the traffic.   Talk me down, ladies!"
FG3 to Me:  If we car pool we'll be there in 30 minutes. I'm ready to roll!

** Specifically, Orange Chipotle Caramel Corn and Bacon Truffle Caramel Corn.  I got some of that last one to go and can only say, Amen to that!

*** We tided ourselves over while we waited for the main desserts with this chocolate turtle cookie.  There was marshmallow involved. Nuff said.

**** I double checked the definition of "gestalt" before I hit save, just to be on the safe side.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Book lovers brunch gets rave reviews

Here is what is written on the jacket of my friend Heidi's book, The Girl Who Fell from the Sky:

"Haunting and lovely, pitch-perfect, this book could not be more timely"
---Barbara Kingsolver

"A stunning debut"
--- George Hutchinson

"A post-modern novel with heart"
--- Ms. Magazine

"Artfully constructed and beautifully written"
--- Hettie Jones

--- Whitney Otto

Here is what might be written on the jacket of the brunch we had for Heidi yesterday:

"These eggs are so good!*"
    --- The author's mother-in-law

"What is the salad dressing on the arugula?  It is to die for!**"
   --- Friend who brought tray of delicious homemade zucchini bread

"Pass the mimosas!***"

"Those cheese pastries?  Sick! Sick, I tell you!****"
   --- Gourmet chef in attendance because he is related to the author

"Was there basil in the pineapple salad?*****"
   --- Person I should have recognized because I've had dinner with her about five times, but didn't so was embarrassed by introducing myself to her as she walked in.

"Now, if you don't mind, I must have the recipe for those sinfully delicious lemon bars.******"
  --- Longtime soccer mom

"There's nothing here that I like."
   --- My son, who managed to make a meal out of grapes and brownie bites because he doesn't eat eggs or salad

"Man, that lady selling books was slow.********"

"Spoiler alert: The brunch has a happy ending."
   --- Me

*Night Before The Brunch Strata
 The beauty of this recipe is that you assemble it completely the night before.  About an hour ahead of when your guests arrive, take it out of the fridge, pop it into the oven, and that's it.  It is also incredibly versatile.  I made four different kinds by putting out all kinds of yummy ingredients and tossing different mixes into each casserole. All of them turned out great.

Butter a 13x9 baking dish, preferably an oven-proof glass or ceramic one that will look nice for serving.  

For the custard:
8 large eggs
3 cups whole milk
1 cup whipping cream
1/2 cup finely grated Romano or Parmesan cheese
2 tsp. dry mustard
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. freshly ground pepper
generous grating of nutmeg

Whisk all ingredients together in a large bowl.  Set aside. 

Cut a 1-pound loaf of rustic French bread into 1/2-inch-cubes.  Should make enough cubes to completely cover the bottom of your pan, and then some.  Prepare a few assorted fillings of your choice (mix and match to your heart's content):

1 lb. hot Italian sausages, casings removed, crumbled and browned
12 slices bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled
1 1/2 c. of diced ham
1 cup of sliced green onions
1 bunch of spinach, washed, roughly chopped and cooked in a little butter, garlic and salt
1 small onion, chopped, sauteed in either the bacon fat, the sausage fat, or a little olive oil and salt
Sliced Crimini mushrooms, ditto
All of the veggies above, sauteed together
3-4 fingerling potatoes, thinly sliced and sauteed for 5 minutes
2 leeks, thinly sliced and sauteed for 5 minutes
1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into strips

No matter what, you will need:
2-3 cups of grated cheese of your choice (or try a combo!):
  • Cheddar
  • Fontina
  • Gruyere
  • Asiago
  • Jack
Cover the bottom of your prepared baking dish completely with bread cubes.   Layer on your filling ingredients, and top with enough cheese to cover generously.   Pour in the custard mixture until you see it just reaching the level of the cheese.    Cover with plastic wrap, with enough slack in the wrap so that if you push down, it will touch the top of the casserole, and put into the fridge.  Set a heavy plate on top, if you have one.  This will prevent the ingredients from floating, and help the custard soak into the bread.

In the morning:

Preheat oven to 375.  Remove the strata from the fridge.   When oven is ready, bake for 40-50 minutes, or until puffed and light golden brown.   Casserole should move slightly (like Jello) but not look liquid-y in the middle (like molten lava) when you jiggle it.  Allow to cool for 10 minutes, then serve!

**It's the yummy one from the latke lesson with my crack dealer.

 ***Citrus Cooler for a Crowd
Adapted from Brunch at Five Points Restaurant, by Marc Meyer.  Depending on the size of your crowd, decide how much is one "part".

4 parts orange juice
2 parts orange-tangerine juice (or other variety of orange juice)
2 parts grapefruit juice
1 part combination fresh squeezed lemon and fresh squeezed lime juice
1 part pomegranate juice or cranberry juice

Combine all ingredients in large pitcher.  Serve on its own, or with Champagne as a citrus mimosa.

**** These were the to-die-for cheese rolls from Porto's Bakery.

*****Fruit Salad with Orange Basil Balsamic Vinaigrette

1/3 c. water
1/3 c. sugar
zest of 1 orange
1/3 c. of orange juice
2 Tbs. of finely chopped basil
2 Tbs. balsamic vinegar
1 Tbs. olive oil
Sliced pineapple and blueberries, or other fruit combination of your choice (this is great with watermelon, for example)
About 1 Tbs. finely chopped mint

In a small saucepan, combine sugar, water and zest. Bring to a boil and cook for 2-3 minutes.  Remove from heat and stir in juice.  Allow to cool slightly, stir in basil.   Let sit for several hours.  Strain the mixture.  Add vinegar and olive oil and whisk to blend.  Chill.   Just before serving, drizzle enough dressing over your fruit to add flavor, but don't douse it.  Sprinkle with chopped mint, stir and serve.

******Sinfully Delicious Lemon Icebox Squares
One of my fellow mommy caterers made these for our recent event, and I had not been able to get them out of my head.  Thank goodness Heidi wrote a book so I could make them again.  The recipe originally was for a pie, and is from the Dam Good Sweet cookbook by David Guas.   This is also a great one to make ahead and freeze until needed.

For the crust:
18 whole graham crackers, plus about 20 gingersnaps (can use all graham if you like) -- enough to make about 2 1/2 cups of crumbs
1/3 c. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
9 Tbs. butter, melted

Using food processor, grind cookies until they are coarse crumbs.   Stir in sugar and salt.   Slowly drizzle in the butter and stir until mixture holds together when you press it with your fingers.   Press into the bottom of a buttered 9x13 baking dish and set aside.   Preheat the oven to 350.

For the filling:
2 14 oz. cans of sweetened condensed milk
1 1/4 c. fresh lemon juice, strained
zest of 2 lemons
8 large egg yolks

Whisk the milk and the lemon juice together in a bowl.  Whisk the lemon zest with the egg yolks until the mixture looks pale, 30-60 seconds.  Then add the milk mixture and whisk one more time to blend.  Pour the filling over the prepared crust.   Bake for 25 minutes, or until custard is just set.

Cool for at least 1 hour.  Loosely cover with plastic wrap and freeze for at least six hours or overnight.  About 10 minutes before serving, remove from the freezer so the bars are a little easier to cut.    Dust with powdered sugar, or top each piece with a spoonful of fresh whipped cream.

******* As molasses.   Good thing I have pushy persevering friends.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

We both love bacon, for example

Fourteen years ago this morning, I met my son for the first time.    We liked each other right off*.   Turns out, we had a lot in common:

He was late.  I haven't been on time for anything in years.**
He loved his dad. I loved his dad.
He slept like a rock.   I adore kids who sleep like rocks.
He thought we (his parents) were hilarious. We were, in fact, highly entertaining, at least when we had a captive audience unable to escape from the receiving blanket burrito we put him in***.

Other things were completely alien:

The little boy parts.
The fascination with construction equipment, garbage trucks, and trains.
The charm he exerted on perfect strangers****.
The bizarre affinity for balls, baskets, and ESPN.

Years later, the alien stuff has either faded away (construction equipment, trains) or become old hat (ESPN, charm).  And the list of things we share and delight in (Jon Stewart, sleeping in) has grown almost as large as that little boy's feet (Size 10 1/2.  My god).

Happy Birthday, kiddo.

Homemade Fettuccine Alfredo
Made by special request for JP on his 14th birthday.  Pasta recipe from my cooking class, sauce modified from The Splendid Table's How to Eat Supper.  If you don't have a pasta machine or the time, you can make this with dried fettuccine pasta instead of fresh.  Use 1 lb of good quality dried pasta.  But I say you have to try making your own at least once if you can.  

For the pasta

1 c. unbleached all purpose flour
1 c. semolina flour
1 tsp. kosher salt
3 eggs
1 Tbs. olive oil

For the Alfredo sauce

6 Tbs. butter
1 c. heavy whipping cream
1 1/2 - 2 c. freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Generous grating of fresh nutmeg
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

To make the pasta, mix the flours and the salt in the bowl of an electric mixer until blended.  Add the eggs and the olive oil, and mix until a stiff dough forms.  Turn out onto lightly floured surface and knead until it feels like very stiff play dough, about 5 minutes.   Allow to rest, covered, for at least 30 minutes.  You can throw dough into a plastic bag in the fridge for a few hours if you like.  Bring to room temperature before rolling and cutting.   Using your pasta machine, roll and cut into shapes.

Toss with flour to prevent sticking. Set aside.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.   While that's going, melt the butter in a large skillet.   When the butter has melted, set aside and cook the pasta.  If it's fresh, this will take less than 2 minutes.  For dried, follow directions on the box, but stop about a minute before the directions call for.   Pasta should still be quite firm to the bite.   Immediately drain in a colander.   Place the skillet with the butter back on the stove over medium high heat.  Add the drained pasta and the cream.  Toss to thoroughly coat the noodles.  Continue to toss for 2-3 minutes, so the cream can permeate the pasta.  There should be very little cream in the bottom of the pan.   Finally, toss in the cheese.  Start with 1 1/2 cups and add more to taste.   Toss for 20 seconds.  Season with nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste.  Garnish with additional grated cheese and serve immediately.

* More like mad crazy awestruck love on my part.  I can't speak for him, but I'm pretty sure the books say he didn't even know he wasn't me until months later, so of course he was emotionally attached.  Plus, I had the milk.
** Except most of my air travel, and my days driving carpool.  I don't want to get kicked out of my carpool.
*** This is still highly effective today.  Wrap that kid in a Slanket(TM), and he's immobilized for hours.
**** The entire crew at our local Jamba Juice knew him by name because he went wild with excitement over the blenders.  We swapped holiday cards with the store manager at the supermarket because he spent hours outside clapping every time the doors opened and closed by themselves.   He prostrated himself with grief and channeled Stanley Kowalski, wailing"I-KEY-AH!!!" as we left the big blue building, only to be comforted by random shoppers loading up their SUVs.   Don't get me started on the girl in the bakery who handed me a cookie with sprinkles for him and said, "He's gonna be a hottie when he grows up!"   I nearly reported her.
***** He learned to count by 2s because of basketball, and preferred SportCenter to Sesame Street by the age of three.

Friday, May 14, 2010

This little piggie had babies

Our little Jazzy became a mom on Saturday*.

Motherhood.  It's part sheer terror...
but mostly bliss.  

Happy Mother's Day, Jazzy!

* There was a flurry of hope for babies back in July, but she was just overdoing it on the strawberries.
These photos were taken when the babies were about six hours old.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

This caterer's secret weapon a $3 bag of chips*.

Ginger and Jalapeno Tartare on Tortilla Chips

The tuna part is cribbed from the marvelous Boulevard Cookbook, by Nancy Oakes and Pamela Mazzola. The tortilla chip part is my invention.  Serves 10-12 as a passed appetizer. 

4 jalapeno peppers, seeded, deribbed, and finely minced
3 Tbs. finely diced ginger
3 Tbs. finely diced chives
½ c plus 1 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
3 Tbs. Thai sweet chili sauce
3 Tbs. soy sauce
3 Tbs. rice wine vinegar
1 lb. of sushi quality ahi, cut into ¼ inch dice
about 30-40 wide tortilla chips

You can prep the peppers, ginger and chives ahead of time, and store separately.  Combine olive oil, chili sauce, soy sauce and vinegar.   Just before serving, dice the tuna, then stir in the diced spices and the dressing.  Taste for seasoning.  Serve a small portion atop the tortilla chips.

Smoked Trout with Chives on Potato Chips
Credit to Bon Appetit for the general idea.  I swapped in trout for smoked salmon, but either would work beautifully.

1/2 lb. or so of good quality smoked trout
1 bag of kettle cooked potato chips, picked through to select the flattest ones
1/2 c. sour cream, mixed with a little lemon zest
2-3 Tbs. very finely minced chives

With a fork, carefully chunk up the trout into small, bite sized pieces.  Try not to handle too much.  Transfer the sour cream to a squeeze bottle, if you have one.   You can do this much ahead of time and refrigerate for later.  About 5 minutes before you are ready to serve, set out your potato chips onto a serving tray.  Place a portion of trout on each chip.  Squeeze a little sour cream on top of each piece of trout, then sprinkle generously with chives.  Serve immediately.

These appetizers were my contribution to a recent event we did as a school fundraiser.   By popular demand, I also brought back the showstopping Chocolate Mousse Shots with Salted Caramel and Whipped Creme Fraiche.  (follow link for recipe)

*Of course, you also need a sharp knife, a few hours, and about fifty bucks worth of prime sushi grade ahi to go with it.  But if you have a coupon for the chips, it's a great deal.

** The other secret weapon?  A cheese platter, of course!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Cinco de Bow Wow

The family schedule for Wednesday read something like this:

J - We drive, carpool picks up
R - Ride to school with Dad
R - Piano 4:30-5:15
All - Cinco de Mayo party at dog park 5:15-6
J+R - Basketball practice 6-8


Well folks, if you guessed "Cinco de Mayo party at dog park", you win!*

 The event was very well attended.

The guests were (in general) very well behaved.

Everyone was very well fed.  

Gotta love a party where a potluck celebration of Mexico's victory over the French militia includes margaritas, fresh strawberries, taquitos, carrot sticks, a "Happy Cinco De Mayo" cake decorated with a giant American flag, little bags of dog treats as party favors, and these delicious gooey butter bars.   Ole!

We were a little late for basketball.

Laurie's Homemade Gooey Butter Cakes

Laurie, mom of Teddy Bear**, baked not one but two types of butter cakes specially for the party.   After I got over feeling bad about my contribution of plastic cups and lemonade, I wolfed them down and begged for the recipe.  This decadent, melt-in-your mouth dessert is apparently a staple of St. Louis baking, but this version is credited to Paula Deen.***  Make them for your dog's next social event, or anytime you want to wow a crowd that is not counting calories.

1 18 1/4-ounce package yellow cake mix
1 egg
1/2 c. (1 stick) butter, melted

1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 c. (1 stick) butter, melted
1 16-ounce box powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Combine the cake mix, egg, and butter and mix well with an electric mixer. Pat the mixture into the bottom of a lightly greased 13 by 9-inch baking pan.

In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese until smooth. Add the eggs, vanilla, and butter and beat together. Next, add the powdered sugar and mix well. Spread over cake batter and bake for 40 to 50 minutes. Make sure not to over bake as the center should be a little gooey. Let cake partially cool on a wire rack before cutting into pieces. Dust with powdered sugar, if desired.

Click to Print this recipe!

Double Chocolate Gooey Butter Cakes

1/2 c. (1 stick) butter, melted
1 18 1/4 ounce package chocolate cake mix
1 egg

1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 c. (1 stick)butter, melted
3 to 4 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 16-ounce box powdered sugar
1 cup chopped nuts, optional

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a 13 by 9-inch baking pan.

In a large bowl, combine the cake mix, 1 egg, and 1 stick melted butter, and stir until well blended. Pat mixture into prepared pan and set aside.

In a stand mixer, or with a hand mixer, beat the cream cheese until smooth. Add the remaining 2 eggs, vanilla and melted butter. Lower the speed of the mixer, and add the powdered sugar and cocoa powder. Continue beating until ingredients are well mixed. Stir in nuts with a rubber spatula.

Spread filling over cake mixture in pan. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes. Be careful not to overcook the cake; the center should still be a little gooey when finished baking. Let cake partially cool on a wire rack before cutting into pieces. Dust with powdered sugar, if desired.

* If you guessed, "Piano", you get partial credit. Piano is usually on Thursdays.
** aka FG9
*** I know.  It's a shock to find the doyen of butter, cream and sugar associated with this little bite of heaven.