Falling behind again!

Funny how work, kids and company does that. I'm getting the opportunities to cook and bake, but having no time to do more than take the pictures and eat the results!

So here is a "quick" round up of what I've been doing lately - a mix of desserts, decorating and dinner.

To start, I went "home." I don't mean I went to my mother's house. Or even my grandmother's. No, I went back to my favorite cookbook, Dorie's Baking From my Home to Yours. I hadn't visited it in a few recipes and still had lots I wanted to make from it.

In this case I had company coming, my mother-in-law and father-in-law, and had had a request on their last visit for a white cake from my mother-in-law. She hadn't been entirely serious about her request, but any excuse to bake is a good excuse, isn't it? And white is just a color, not a flavor, so Dorie's Perfect Party Cake, a white cake with hints of lemon and raspberry, was the perfect choice.

I admit I had a bit of doubt about this cake at one point. Not the cake itself, but the icing, which involves making a meringue on the stove, then whipping it in the mixer, then adding the butter. When I tasted it, it really didn't have any flavor. All that butter and no flavor!

I should never have doubted Dorie though - layered with the lemony cake and raspberry jam, the frosting was a light touch. On it's own it still had no flavor, but it worked well with the rest of the cake. The coconut on the outside was also a very nice touch and added an extra something special to the cake. We enjoyed it while watching the Sens win over New Jersey - Go Sens Go!

Next we have another cake decorating effort. Not a wonderful effort, though. I had thought I had sprained my wrist (and hence had to cancel going to my next set of cake classes - insert strong swearing here), but have seen my doctor since then and she thinks it might be tendonitis and is sending me for some physio. Despite this, I attempted to decorate a simple white cake for my babysitter, who was having her second cast removed from her foot after a surgery over 2 months ago. I knew both she and her mother (who happens to be a co-worker) were both emotional basketcases about what would happen that day (would she need a third cast? would she be allowed to walk on her foot?) and that this would break some tension for them. And it worked great!

I'm still mighty miffed about not being able to go to class but hopefully the physio will work and when soccer season ends for both my children (at the end of summer), I will be able to get back into classes with no problems. And learn a bit more how to decorate using my left hand!

(ranting off - back to pictures and food!)

I've talked alot about my grandparents in my blog. They have always been an important part of my life. Sadly, their own health has been declining more and more lately. And how far hit home with me on Monday, May 7th. It was my grandfather's 79th birthday that day. For as long as I can remember, my grandmother has made him a banana cream pie for his birthday. Before he retired, if he worked on his birthday, she would make him two: one for home and one to bring in to work and share with his co-workers on his shift. I remember being young and in her kitchen, watching her roll her dough out to make his two pies. And at Christmas I worked with her to make her recipe for those pies.

This year she did not make him his pies. While she was visiting me, she confessed she no longer had the will to do any of the baking she used to do. And with her memory loss, it was becoming too frustrating for her (that Christmas baking involved alot of work on my part, reminding her what she was doing, while she was doing it. She honestly would forget why she was rolling out dough, or when she would go to get her pie plate, what she had gone for and why.)

My grandfather, whose memory is not failing quite nearly as fast as his wife's, has been very understanding and supportive. He was equally good about not getting his pies, but I felt bad when he told me. Bad for him, and bad for my grandmother. And bad for myself. I needed to do something, and the only thing I could do was offer to make him his pie when I saw him next. I thought it might be awhile before that happened, but it turned out he was coming for a visit in the next few days and wanted to come for his pie right away!

Hooray that he was coming! Oh no, when will I have time to bake/cook for them!

So I cheated. I bought pie crust (which I'm still leary about making myself.) And to make things a bit different (and therefore not bring forefront to everyone that I had made my grandmother's pies again,) I decided to go back to Dorie and make her Banana Cream Pie instead of using the family recipe.

Dorie's recipe is similar to other banana cream recipes, but with a twist. Instead of white sugar mixed into the egg yolks, she uses brown sugar (and the only way I could push it through a strainer was to mix it with the corn starch first!) and adds cinnamon and nutmeg. Which makes the custard an odd shade of brown, looks-wise, but adds a wonderful flavor that matches well with bananas. Topped with whipped cream (instead of my grandmother's usual meringue), it was just different enough. And wonderfully good!

My grandfather was happy, my grandmother was happy, and I was happy. Pretty good work for a pie, don't you think? (Oh and thanks Dorie, it was just what I needed then!)

(I served that pie outside, having bbq'd sausages and steamed green beans for the rest of dinner - nothing fancy, just good.)

I admit I didn't expect to see my grandparents again during their short visit. The were in town to see a show on Friday night and staying with my cousin. So I was happy to host them again for dinner last night, before they went to their show. It was last minute, so I did not have time to make them dessert (my grandfather believes every meal must end with one, so has actually gone out to buy some when something wasn't provided,) but went to a local bakery and bought one instead. (A blueberry mousse cake - it was okay but I think I could have made better. And expensive - I KNOW I could have made it for less.)

Dinner, however, gave me a chance to try a new recipe that I had read earlier in the week from a book I had taken from the library, Michael Smith's Chef at Home. I had planned to make it for my own family, so had all my ingredients ready to make Southwestern Popcorn Salad with Honey Lime dressing.

Odd as this sounds, it was very good. The popcorn, which takes the place of croutons, is lightly seasoned by being tossed with olive oil, salt, pepper and cumin. I love cumin! Good on it's own as a snack, but surprisingly good in a salad as well!

Of course I messed with things a tiny bit - instead of regular red pepper stripes, I charred mine a bit on the bbq, as well as grilling a red onion and adding it to the salad.

I served this fun salad with bbd'd chicken, which I had seasoned with salt, pepper, cumin and chili powder (and it was amazingly flavorful!), and sauted corn. The chicken married well with the salad and was equally good today wrapped up in a tortilla with left over salad and dressing.

Well that almost catches me up on recipes and food for now. More to come later!


Anonymous said...

Everything looks beautiful (and delicious)!

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

That is one amazing banana cream pie girl!
and your dinner is lovely. Not every meal should take three days.
You have so much energy.

Anuhea said...

I just posted a banana cream pie recipe myself! and I feel you about the being behind in posting. I'm still posting stuff from April!

Brilynn said...

Love the Dorie recipes! She's even better in person!

Peabody said...

Wonderful...though you should brave the world of pie crust...it's not that bad :)

Patricia Scarpin said...

I wish I had been invited, Quellia! :)

Everything looks so delicious! I'm an idiot for having bought this book and not having made anything from it yet!

Cheryl said...

Holy moly you were busy in the kitchen. Again your flowers on your decorated cake are fantastic. I only wish mine would come out that good.

Everything else looks amazing as well.

Lis said...

WOW! You've been busy!! Everything looks delish though - DELISH! I especially like the salad with the popcorn.. yum!

I'm glad your grandpa got banana cream pie for his birthday - and that your grandma enjoyed it just as much. =) Way to go, Jenny!


Sara said...

Wonderful looking banana pie! You are a good granddaughter!

Claudia said...

YUMMY! That pie is on my list - yours l;ooke fabulous. Glad all had a good time!

Freya said...

Everything looks so good! Your grandfather looks like he's going to enjoy his pie too! Lovely deep filling, you can rely on Dorie!

Anonymous said...

I've only had banana cream pie as sloppy brown goo with whipped cream---- but that pie looks amazing!

Anita said...

Isn't that cake wonderful? And wonderful job with the pie too - thanks for sharing such a sweet story!

Sarah Bell said...

The cake looks wonderful! I do a cake decorating course and the first cake I did was with royal icing, what a nightmare, my neck has been sore ever since and I learnt a whole load of new swear words doing it!!

Elle said...

That pie sounds like a winner and it was sweet of you to do it...happy all around. Dorie sure seems to have the best recipes for baking. The idea of popcorn instead of croutons for salad is fun, too.

Kelly-Jane said...

I am so making that cake for a birthday later in the year! It looks wonderful, as does your pie.

I made the pie for the cancer event, and we liked it too. :)

Veron said...

That looks wonderful Jenny! My visiting sister-in-law took my Dorie book so i'm getting ready to order another one. She (my SIL) has a thriving baking business so that tells you a lot about what she thinks of the book.