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Crab Cakes with Garlic Aioli

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The people of Texas have this weird tendency to not believe signs. It’s almost as if they think the people who set up the signs put it there as a joke. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve seen signs reading “Left lane ends” or “Lane ends: Merge right”, and the person driving doesn’t merge over until the very last second. I don’t know if they’re all blind or think maybe the giant orange cones are going to leap out of the way, but if I get cut off one more time because some fool thinks that maybe the construction workers put them there as a joke, I may go insane.

Tailgating here is also unbelievably bad. If you’re tailgating me while I’m already going over the speed limit, I will slow down. And laugh as I watch you freak out in my rear view mirror. And then when you finally decide to try and pass me, I’ll speed back up and go on my merry way.

I think the driving here in Texas is going to make me a very aggressive person.

Anyways.

For two days I was trapped in my kitchen (oh, the horror…) while we got new floors put into our house. I decided that during those two days I wanted to make crab cakes. And I did just that.

During all the commotion of our new floors being put in, I mixed, molded, refrigerated, got frustrated over and devoured these little cakes. Little did I realize how hard it is to make crab cakes! My first test subject fell apart and burned before my very eyes. So I decided to refrigerate them. The second one fell apart, but this time didn’t become a black blob in 30 seconds. So I mixed in panko into my crab mixture. Each small batch of crab cakes came out better than the previous, which had me in a much better mood than when I burned the first one. I shared them with my Aunt for lunch and saved some for my father, who later ended up eating two of my leftover raw ones… but that’s a different story.

Despite their difficultness to make, they’re actually quite tasty! Paired with this garlic aioli, the pair make a great weekday lunch.

The floors in my house look amazing, such a huge change from the off-white carpet that covered the majority of the house. It makes it look so much bigger and cleaner, I can’t tell you how annoying it is to pick off black dog hair from a white carpet. Most importantly though, my Mom loves it. And that’s all that really matters!

New Floors!

New Floors!

Crab Cakes with Garlic Aioli

Crab Cakes
Adapted from Bon Appetit
(warning: if you follow the recipe completely, they turn out rather soupy and hard to work with. I’ve adapted the recipe to what I did to make it not so soupy)

Ingredients
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
3/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese, divided
1 large egg
2 tablespoons sour cream
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon peel
4 teaspoons plus 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives, divided
1/4 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
Large pinch of cayenne pepper
6-8 ounces fresh lump crabmeat, picked over, patted dry, coarsely shredded
1 1/2 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted, plus more for pans

Using electric mixer, beat cream cheese in medium bowl until smooth. Add 1/4 cup Parmesan and egg; beat to blend. Beat in sour cream, lemon peels, 4 teaspoons chopped chives, coarse salt, and cayenne pepper. Fold in crabmeat and 1/2 cup of panko. This can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.

Toss remaining panko, 1/2 cup Parmesan, and 2 tablespoons chopped chives in small bowl. Drizzle 1/4 cup melted butter over, tossing with fork until evenly moistened. Roll 1 rounded tablespoon portions of of the chilled crab mixture in the panko-Parmesan mixture, and pan-fry the crab cakes in a skillet of melted butter set over medium-high heat.

Garlic Aioli
Adapted from Food Network’s Tyler Florence
This aioli is amazing. I can only imagine the endless possibilities of what you can spread this on. It makes quite a bit, so feel free to half accordingly.

Ingredients
2 cloves garlic
1/2 cup sour cream
1 cup mayonnaise
1 lemon, juiced
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons freshly chopped chives (optional)

Mince garlic and make into paste using the side of your knife. Hint: to make this go faster add a bit of salt to the garlic and continue mashing with the side of your knife.

Place the paste a large bowl and add: the sour cream, mayonnaise, lemon juice, and oil. Season well with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Fold in the chives. Give it a final taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary.

Shrimp Scampi

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My Aunt taught me how to tie my shoes at my Grandmother’s house- in the middle bedroom of her ranch home to be exact. The house was always packed with pizzelle cookies and chocolate covered marshmallows, and often smelled like horseradish, due to the absurd amounts of horseradish growing behind the swimming pool fence. You learned to stay out of the kitchen on the days horseradish sauce was being made, unless you enjoyed crying. My brother and I would help pick tomatoes off of my grandparent’s tomato plants, but we’d always scrunch up our faces if asked to eat one. I remember the horrible squeamish feeling I’d get if I picked an overly ripe tomato and it squished in my fingers.

To this very day I hate touching squishy tomatoes.

We’d spend our summers swimming in the pool, pretending there were sharks in the depths of the 8 foot deep, play ring around the rosie on the awning poles, then just act like crazy monkeys when we got older. I’d eat ants on a log and learned to put salt on cucumbers (because I didn’t like eating salt and radishes like everyone else in my family). My brother and I would catch fireflies at night and dance with sparklers on the fourth of July.

I don’t really know where I’m going with this. I just started to think of my Grandmother’s old house (my Uncle bought it from her and now lives there) and all these memories came flooding in of summers at my grandparents. I’m finding it so strange how much I can remember being 8 years old just by thinking of my grandparents, or their house, or even just the neighborhood (Handel’s ice cream, oh how I miss it!). I remember going out for Italian food with my Grandmother, because if there’s one thing her and I have in common, it’s our love for all things pasta.

And it’s true, we both love pasta. I think a bowl of spaghetti could easily put a smile on either of our faces.

And then add some garlic?
Bring it on.
Shrimp?
Now we’re talking.

This Shrimp Scampi dish is so easy to make, it’s basically fool proof! Just don’t let the noodles sit and clump together like I did though before you put them in the pan, oops… almost fool proof. But get this- the leftovers may be even better than eating it the first day! So if you’re like me and cooked wayyy too much for only two people, don’t fret- it will still taste great tomorrow for lunch.

The original recipe called for white wine, but since no one drinks it in my family, I omitted it and instead just added more butter. I also added a ton of garlic, because I’m a garlic fanatic, in fact next time I may even add more… but then I’m pretty sure my tastebuds will officially die.

And because I posted on my last entry that I was in consideration for an internship at a veterinary hospital, I just wanted to update and say that I ended up getting it, and I start Monday morning! I’m so incredibly excited! But I do have a confession, I’ve never picked up a cat before… and for some reason the fact that I have never done such is kind of making me nervous. I mean, what kind of person wants to go into veterinary medicine and has never picked up a cat?! I guess my excuse could be that when I volunteer all I ever do is work with the dogs… but at the moment it’s sounding like a pretty poor excuse. But that’s the point of an internship… right? To learn? Crossing my fingers I don’t get scratched to death…

Adapted from The Food Addicts

Succulent Shrimp Scampi
Serves 4

Ingredients

3/4 lb. angel hair pasta
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 lb. peeled and deveined large shrimp
4-6 large garlic cloves, minced, or forced through the garlic press
1/2 tsp dried hot red-pepper flakes
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
7 tbsp unsalted butter
1 cup diced tomatoes
1 tsp lemon zest
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 cup chopped fresh basil
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

1. Cook angel hair pasta just until al dente.
2. Heat olive oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet and sauté shrimp, about 2 minutes on each side. Then transfer with a slotted spoon to a large bowl and set aside.
3. In the same skillet, add garlic, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper and cook over high heat, about 1 minute.
4. Add butter to the pan and stir until melted.
5. Add in diced tomatoes, lemon zest, and lemon juice.
6. Toss in angel hair pasta and shrimp and evenly coat with the butter sauce.
7. Turn off the heat and add chopped basil and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
8. Serve immediately.
Tip: Reserve about 1 cup of cooked pasta water and add it to the sauce to keep the pasta moist, if necessary.

Red Velvet Cupcakes

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I’ve lived in the same house for 19 years. I can close my eyes and picture every exact detail of my house, from the pale red brick and maroon shutters, to the giant rock surrounded by several tall trees, the tiny rosebush against our garage, the exact spot on the hardwood floor in the family room where if you step on it just right, it will creak. My house is so much more than a home to me, it’s the place I yearn for when I’ve had a bad day or I’m on vacation for too long, the comforting feeling I get when I’m laying on the couch with my dog in the basement, or sitting on the deck in the summer, as the house shades us from the sun and the cool breeze rustles the leaves softly above us. The house I’ve spent my entire life in is such a huge part of me.

So it’s been really killing me lately that at the end of the month, I will no longer be able to use the word “home” and my house in Michigan, in the same sentence.

To be honest, I’m terrified of forgetting all the memories that have been built around this home. It’s almost as if with the house leaving, my past is disappearing, too. I don’t want to forget the first day we brought home my dog and she jumped over the pen we had her in so she could join us for dinner, or how my parents would carry me up the stairs because my casts were too heavy for a young child to lug up 12 sets of stairs. Summers running through the sprinklers and playing spud with my neighbors- my amazing neighbors. Actually, my entire neighborhood is brilliant, it’s like we’re one big family. When the power and water went out for several days, instead of hiding in the basement or hoarding their generator’s power, we all got together and cooked the food in our refrigerators, having a mini neighborhood party and hanging out. It was great… minus the heat.

I may be trading my large, open backyard for a small fenced in one, green grass and canopies of trees for droughts and palms, but I’m happy. Even though it’s weird not being able to drive down the road and see my friends anytime I want or eat Buddy’s pizza, my summer in Texas has been amazing. My aunt and uncle live down the road and always welcome me over to swim or play with their adorable dogs, my Dad let’s me cook whatever my heart desires and often takes me out to lunch to little hole-in-the-wall restaurants we find, much to my Mother’s scolding. I was just interviewed today for an internship at a magnificent veterinary office, that works with small, large, and exotic animals. Knock on wood and crossing my fingers, but I really hope I get it.

Even though it will strange to not be able to take my dog on long walks through the neighborhood, then lay on the soft green grass in my front yard with her afterwards, and I may forever continue to open the wrong drawers to finally find my offset spatula, I think I’ll survive. Sure I’ll miss that house with all my heart, but I just have to remind myself- a home isn’t really where you reside and live and mow the lawn, it’s with the people (and furry family members) you love and care about, no matter where that is.

I knew that I wanted to make one last thing in my kitchen before I left for Texas permanently. My entire family was visiting for my brother’s graduation party, and I flew up to Michigan to see them all one last time, at least for a while. My brother’s school colors were red and white, so naturally red velvet cupcakes came straight to mind.

I’ll be honest, the cake is nothing special. They’re good, don’t get me wrong, but there’s nothing super memorable about them. The frosting however is amazing. It’s all I’ve been thinking about for a while. Not too sugary, not too sweet, extremely smooth and creamy. It’s perfect for cupcakes, cakes, even eating it straight out of the bowl!

Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

Adapted from Gimme Some Oven

Ingredients:

Cupcake Ingredients:

2 1/2 cups sifted cake flour (not all-purpose flour)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
2 oz. gel food coloring (I used the whole tube)
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon baking soda

Cream Cheese Frosting Ingredients:

1 lb (2 blocks) cream cheese (not softened)
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, at room temperature
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
Method:

To Make Cupcakes:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 24 muffin tins with cupcake papers.

Sift together the cake flour, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl; set aside.

In a large bowl, using a hand mixer or stand mixer, beat butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, about three minutes. Beat in eggs, one at a time, then beat in vanilla, scraping down the bowl with a spatula as you go. Add cocoa powder, then beat in the red food coloring gel, allow to mix well. Add one third of the flour mixture to the butter mixture, beat well, then beat in half of the buttermilk. Beat in another third of flour mixture, then second half of buttermilk. End with the last third of the flour mixture, beat until well combined, making sure to scrape down the bowl with a spatula.

In a small bowl, mix vinegar and baking soda. (Yes, it will fizz!) Add vinegar mixture to the cake batter and stir well to combine. Fill cupcake cups with cake batter until they are about 3/4 full. Bake for approximately 20-22 minutes, rotating pans halfway through. Cupcakes are done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Check early and don’t overbake!

Cool the cupcakes in their tins on a wire rack for 10 minutes then remove and allow to cool completely before frosting.

To Make Frosting:

To make the frosting, in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or any standard beaters if you’re like me and have an older mixer) beat the cream cheese and butter on medium-high speed until well combined and smooth, about 2-3 minutes. Mix in the vanilla extract. Gradually beat in the powdered sugar until totally incorporated, increase the speed and then beat until smooth. Frost cooled cupcakes as desired.

Strawberries and Cream Butter Cake

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There is no wrong time for cake. It can be 3pm on a Thursday in June, and it’s still the right time for cake. It’s too bad that we always associate eating cake with birthdays, Easter, or other holidays, because I am convinced that we all need more cake in our diets. What’s that you say, that’s a calorie bomb? Nonsense.

Ever since I started working at a restaurant in Galveston, I’ve come to the conclusion that eating a piece of cake only on holidays is a sin. Once a week I get a piece of cake from our bakery case, perhaps a slightly ugly one that the frosting has melted off, or the layers have broken. I dwell in its deliciousness and wonder, why don’t I eat cake more often? What on earth has had me eating cake only on my birthday for nineteen years?!

I have vowed to now eat cake more often. Even if this means I have to run a few more miles than I’d prefer. Because after running in the scorching 104 degree Texas heat, crawling to my front door gasping for water, I’ll reach the fridge and jerk it open only to find a beautiful strawberry and cream cake. I’ll hear the singing of angels and no longer will it matter that yet another pickup truck nearly ran me over today. Three in the afternoon on a Thursday I’ll cut myself a slice, but first I’ll probably take a nap on my laminate floor.

I love strawberries- in fact, for a long time it was the only fruit I would eat. So when I went to the grocery store and found two pounds of beautiful, red strawberries, I couldn’t help but imagine putting them into a cake. Even better, a cake covered in cool, homemade whipped cream for the hot summer month.

The problem? I was having a hard time making time between my work schedule to bake, so my strawberries sat in the fridge for a few days. Freaking out was a bit of an understatement. I’ve had horrible experience with strawberries going bad several days after purchasing them, so if I wasn’t checking the fridge every two hours, I was either calling my mother, asking a friend, or googling the life expectancy of strawberries or how to make them last just a few days more. Thankfully, every single berry was just fine.

This cake is delicious, perfect after spending an afternoon in the sun. Not super dense, but springy and moist, covered in pillows of whipped cream and sweet strawberries. The gelatin keeps the cream from separating, which keeps your cake beautiful for several days. Not that there’s anything wrong with ugly cakes, because in the end, they always taste great. (And healthy for you, I mean, it has strawberries! And strawberries = fruit! And fruit = healthy!) So Happy Thursday, and go on and grab another slice.

Adapted from The Sweet Life

For the Cake

Unsalted butter, for greasing
All-purpose flour, for dusting
1½ cups all-purpose flour
1½ teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup + 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, room temperature
½ cup sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs plus 2 large egg yolks
½ cup whole milk

Preheat oven to 350° F. Using a small pastry brush, butter bottom and sides of a 8-inch round cake tin. Line bottom of tin with non-stick baking paper; butter paper and then flour bottom and sides of tin.
Using a fine mesh sieve, sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a medium-sized bowl. Whisk to well combine, set aside.
In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, sugar and vanilla on high speed until light and fluffy.
Add the eggs and yolks, one-at-a-time, beating well after each addition.
Reduce the stand mixer speed to low, add the flour mixture in thirds, alternating with the milk in 2 additions, beginning with the flour and ending with the flour; beat until just combined (do not over-mix).
Pour batter into prepared cake tin. Using a small offset spatula spread the batter evenly.
Bake, rotating tin halfway through baking, until a cake tester inserted in the centre of the cake comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes.
Transfer to a wire rack; let cool in tin for 10 minutes. Remove cake from tin and return to wire rack to cool completely.

Strawberry Cream Topping

1¼ pounds or 20 ounces fresh strawberries, hulled and thinly sliced
½ cup sugar, divided
1½ cups heavy cream, 35%, cold
1 teaspoon unflavoured gelatin

In a medium-sized bowl, stir together the strawberries and ¼-cup sugar; set aside.
Place two tablespoons cold water into a small-sized saucepan and sprinkle with gelatin; let soften 5 minutes. Place saucepan over low heat, and stir until the gelatin is dissolved. Remove from heat and let cool.
In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the whip attachment, whisk the heavy cream and the remaining ¼-cup sugar until very soft peaks form.
Continue to whisk, and gradually add the gelatin mixture; beat until soft peaks form.

Assembling the Cake

Using a serrated knife, cut cake in half horizontally.
Place bottom half, cut side up, on a cake stand or plate.
Drizzle the juice from the berries onto the cake.
Evenly arrange half of the strawberries over the bottom cake layer. Refrigerate the remaining berries.
Top the strawberry layer with half of the whipped cream, leaving a 1-inch border.
Place the top half of the cake, cut side down, onto the layer of strawberries and cream.
Top the cake with the remaining whipped cream, leaving a 1-inch border.
Refrigerate the cake, at least 1 hour (preferably up to 1 day).
Just before serving top the cake with the remaining chilled strawberries.
Enjoy!

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