Friday, September 27, 2013

Ice Cream Cake

This ice cream cake is so easy to make and tastes great.

My daughter Eleanor requested it for her 14th birthday party and I was happy to oblige because it's my go to cake when I want something that will please a crowd with minimal work.

The cake takes just 15 minutes to put together and then it needs to freeze for a minimum of four hours before serving.

All you need to make it is one angel food cake and two quarts of ice cream in your choice of flavors. To make things even easier, you can buy the angel food cake at the grocery store.

Also, have fun choosing complimentary ice cream flavors. Eleanor chose strawberry and dark chocolate.

Here's how to make it:

Ice Cream Cake

1 angel food cake
2 quarts ice cream, left at room temperature for 15 to 20 minutes so that the ice cream is easy to scoop and spread

Line a springform pan with plastic wrap.

Place 1/4 inch thick slices of the cake in the bottom of the pan.

Scoop and spread 1 quart of the ice cream on top.

Add another layer of cake slices.

Scoop and spread the second quart of ice cream.

Add a final layer of cake slices and cover with plastic wrap.

Place the cake on foil to catch drips and set a plate on top and press. Put everything in the freezer for at least four hours to firm up.

Remove the plastic wrap and flip the cake onto a platter. Slice and serve immediately.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Food With A Side Of Hospitality

The long line to get into the meal today.

The Wednesday Community Meal got off to a great start today with a sweet compliment from a guest who told volunteer Cheryl, "I just needed this love today. Thank you, thank you so much for being here."

Being the end of the month, we were very busy, serving 430 meals in two hours. But not so busy to forget that the hospitality is just as important as the food.

Later during the meal, another guest told a volunteer,  "I'm so glad you use real dishes. It makes us feel like human beings."

Why wouldn't we treat our guests the way we would like to be treated? We are all on this earth together and life is not fair and sometimes out of our control. It's important to help one another.

"This is the best place to come and sit down and have food and coffee -- we're treated like kings," said another guest.

Kind words like these make the hard work of organizing, cooking, serving and cleaning so worth it. I am so blessed to be a part of The Wednesday Community Meal - real dishes and all.

The first 150 guests got hamburgers.

Josh and Jan assembling burgers.

Making biscuits with my brother Josh who is visiting me for a week and pitched in to help. It was so nice of him to spend the day volunteering with me.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Eleanor Roosevelt's Honey Drops

Eleanor Roosevelt's Honey Drops

When my friend Anne suggested that we make cookies for an upcoming performance of our friend Sharon Whitney's acclaimed play, "Eleanor Roosevelt-Across a Barrier of Fear," I loved the idea.

So with Sharon's blessing, we have been having fun deciding what to bake. Anne did some research and learned that Eleanor's favorite color was blue, so we'll make some pretty blue-iced sugar cookies.

We also learned that one of Eleanor's favorite foods was pie, so we'll bake some dainty hand pies

And, we found a recipe for Honey Drops, Eleanor's cookie of choice for afternoon teas at the White House.

I tested the recipe recently and it's a winner in my book. A full cup of honey in the dough makes a soft and tender cookie and a full cup of chopped orange peel adds zip and helps balance the sweetness. There's also almond extract, cinnamon and walnuts in them.

I think it will be fun to serve an authentic Eleanor Roosevelt cookie at the event.

Following is the recipe if you'd like to try making them. Or, if you have the chance, please attend the play.  It will be presented at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, in Kempton Hall with an evening performance on Friday, October 25 and an afternoon performance on Saturday, October 26. Cookies will be available at the evening performance.

Here are the details:

Trinitarian Sharon Whitney's acclaimed play, "Eleanor Roosevelt-Across a Barrier of Fear," starring Jane Van Boskirk, is scheduled for two performances, Friday, October 25 at 7:00 p.m. and Saturday, October 26 at 1:00 p.m. in Kempton Hall. To reserve a seat, visit Seating is limited. A $10 donation at the door is suggested. This is an offering from the Cathedral Arts Committee.   

Eleanor Roosevelt's Honey Drops
(Makes 6 dozen)

1 cup sugar
1 cup honey
1 cup butter, softened
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup chopped orange peel
about 3 cups flour

Preheat oven to 320 degrees and line baking sheets with parchment.

Mix together all the ingredients, except flour. Add the flour about 1/2 cup at a time until a soft dough is formed and it can be rolled into balls.

Place the balls on the cookie sheets, spacing them about 1-inch apart and bake for 12 to 14 minutes.
The cookies before baking.

Let the cookies set for a minute or so until transferring them to cooling rack.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

More From Wednesday

I have two more photos to share from yesterday's Wednesday Community Meal thanks to Cheryl who snapped these during our super busy service - we served 447 meals in two hours.

Sandy volunteers her time each week to play the piano during our lunch service. The music is a delightful addition to the meal and enjoyed by both the guests and the volunteers.

Homemade dessert bars ready to be served. Volunteer Cheryl is so organized and makes a sweet treat for our guests every week.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

A Lively Day

The first entree to be served was homemade meatloaf and mac and cheese with a side of sauteed greens. We served an unexpected 447 meals today.

I always try to get pictures of the food and activity during the service of Wednesday Community Meal but today was just too busy.

I snapped a few pictures before the doors opened but after that there was just no time because we served an unexpected 447 meals during our two hours of service and in the end had nothing left over.

All I can say is thank goodness we had an extra big bucket of pizza gleaned from Pizza Schmizza because it saved us and helped us feed everyone.

The meal started out with homemade meatloaf and mac and cheese. We put a crispy topping of bread crumbs on the latter and added a few bits of "yellow" cauliflower from Food Front Grocery Cooperative in Hillsdale. The pretty cauliflower combined perfectly with the cheesy pasta and was a great way to add nutrition to the dish.

Once the service started at 11 a.m, it took just twenty minutes for 14 large meatloafs to be sliced and gone. Then it was on to turkey, chicken, burritos, ribs, sweet and sour chicken and shrimp, a spicy vegetarian dish, chili, pizza and finally hot dogs.

We also offered guests soup, salad and dessert.
There was a lot of improvising and running around but in the end everything worked out and everyone who came for food was fed and we had positive comments from the guests. 

Longtime volunteer Cheryl, who oversees the dining room, has started putting paper on a clipboard in the kitchen for volunteers to record comments from the diners. It's a wonderful thing and helps us remember why we serve.

One especially nice comment today came from a man who was just released from jail for violating his probation. He said being in jail for 30 days was "my fault," and all he had been eating while there was "baloney sandwiches" - so "thank you" for "my first real meal in a very long time."

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Tart Packaging

I like to make individual-sized fruit tarts because they are easy to package and make great gifts for friends.

A full-sized tart is awkward and a slice is pretty impossible to package without using a hard container like Gladware which works but is expensive and not so cute.

All you need to wrap individual-sized tarts are cardboard, parchment paper and self-sealing cellophane bags. A homemade tag isn't necessary but a nice touch.  It truly is easy and will no doubt make your friends very happy.

This packaging is also great for bake sales and fundraisers. Your customers will be enticed by a well-wrapped treat that's simple to transport.

Here's how:
Cut a round of cardboard that is slightly larger than the tart and place it on a piece of parchment paper.

Fold the parchment over the edges of the round and hold it in place.

Set the tart on top.

A tag is optional but easy to make and a nice touch.  I make tags using a large paper punch and cardstock. Punch a hole on the side of the tag so you can thread twine or ribbon through it.

Slide the tart into a self-sealing cellophane bag. Seal the bag, wrap with twine and add the tag.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Thyme And Ginger Scented Nectarine Tarts

These Thyme and Ginger Scented Nectarine Tarts are an ode to the last days of Summer and sadly, the end of the nectarine season.

I used a combination of white and yellow nectarines to make them. I also added fresh thyme and ground ginger to enhance the flavor of the nectarines. This might seem unexpected but the herb and spice combination does a brilliant job of elevating these pretty tarts to a whole new level.

No special tart pans are needed to make these and baking them on parchment-lined pans makes cleanup a breeze.

Please give these a try. These are so delicious and would be especially good served with a dollop of softly whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Thyme And Ginger Scented Nectarine Tarts
(makes 8 to 10 tarts)

2 cups flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2/3 cup shortening
1/4 to 1/3 cup cold water

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees and line two sheetpans with parchment paper.

In a large bowl combine the flour, sugar and salt. Add the shortening and using your fingertips, break it apart into the flour mixture until it resembles coarse meal.

Add the cold water a bit at a time until a soft dough forms. Round the dough into a ball and transfer it to a floured board.
Pat the dough into a round on a floured board and roll it out to 1/4 -inch thick.

Roll the dough until it is 1/4-inch thick. Use a cutter or round 4 1/2 to 5-inches in diameter to cut circles and place them on a parchment lined sheet pans. Keep re-rolling the dough until you have used it all.
Use a round that is 4 1/2 to 5-inches in diameter to cut circles. I used a mini cake pan.

Cut as many circles as you can then round up the dough, roll and repeat.

Crimp the edges of the rounds to form a boarder and set aside.
Crimped and ready to be filled.

2 teaspoons fresh thyme, finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 cup sugar
3 medium-sized nectarines, diced
2 teaspoons cornstarch

In a small bowl combine the thyme, ginger and sugar and set aside.
Add the fresh thyme and ginger to the sugar.

Mix well and set the sugar aside.

In a large bowl combine the nectarines and the cornstarch.

To Assemble:
Spread a teaspoon of the sugar mixture on the bottom of each of the tart crusts.
Spread a teaspoon of the sugar on the bottom of each of the tart shells.

Divide the remaining sugar mixture in half. Toss one half with the nectarine cornstarch mixture and reserve the remaining half for the top of the tarts.
Nectarines tossed with the cornstarch and sugar. I used a combination of white and yellow nectarines.

Divide the nectarine mixture amongst the tart shells. I find this easiest to do with my hands.
Evenly fill the tart shells with the nectarine mixture.

Sprinkle the remaining sugar on top of the tarts.
Sprinkle the tarts with more sugar and they are ready to bake.

Bake for 25 minutes or until the crust is golden brown and the sugar on top of the tarts has carmelized.

Immediately transfer the tarts to a cooling rack. If you wait, the caramelized sugar on the tarts will harden and make the tarts difficult to release from the parchment.
Transfer the tarts immediately to a cooling rack. I got nine tarts from the recipe.
I'm so glad I lined the sheetpan with parchment paper.


Saturday, September 14, 2013

Just For Fun Cookies

My good friends Shinobu and Rieko came over yesterday to see my new kitchen and decorate cookies with me just for fun.

The day before, I baked up a batch of sugar cookies that I cut in different shapes. Then my friends and I made royal icing together and tinted it in a variety of colors.

It was "relaxed decorating" because we enjoyed experimenting with different icing techniques and not feeling any pressure because the cookies were just for us.

Having the correct consistency of royal icing when you are decorating cookies makes all the difference and the only way to figure this out is by practice. I also hinted to my friends that I'm hoping to recruit them when it's time to decorate snowflake cookies for the annual Christmas cookie sale to benefit the Wednesday Community Meal.

Cookie decorating is always more fun when you are with friends.

A heart decorated using the simple "wet on wet" icing technique. Fill and flood a cookie with white icing using a #2 tip and quickly drop colored dots of icing using a #1 tip.

A scalloped chevron heart made by piping a white border and then filling and flooding the cookie with pink icing. While the icing is wet, draw lines of white icing across the heart and quickly use a skewer to draw through the icing lines to create a chevron effect.

A simple scalloped heart made by outlining a border with piping consistency icing using a #1 tip. Piping consistency icing is the texture of toothpaste. Let the border dry and then flood the cookie with another color of icing. Use a skewer to ease the icing to the edges of the border.

A pretty cupcake cookie made by flooding  the cookie with white icing for the paper and pink for the cake. Add some cute sprinkles to the pink cake part. Let the icing dry for about 15 minutes before piping lines for texture on the paper and swirls for texture on the cupcake. Because the flood icing wasn't completely dry, the details melted a bit into it for a soft textured look. If you want your details to look sharper, add them after the flood icings are completely dry.

A simple chevron pattern that is striking yet so easy to make. Food the cookie with white icing and immediately pipe lines in alternating colors across the cookie. Use a skewer to drag down, up and down through the lines, wiping it clean after each swipe.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Accepting Change

Today was one of those days at the Wednesday Community Meal when we had to change our menu multiple times to utilize the food we had.

Meal services when we can offer everyone the same thing are the easiest but sometimes we get a little of this and a little of that and need to just make it work the best we can.

Menu changes also make it a bit harder on our dining room volunteers who sometimes have to explain to a guest why the person sitting next to them has been given something different. For the most part, the guests are good-natured about this and understanding that we are trying to please everyone.

Here are some of our super volunteers who helped us serve 303 meals today:
Working nonstop for hours serving food is hard work but Lesley, Mary and Thomas make it look easy.

Mary Ann and Steve are so nice and willing to work wherever needed.

With record high temperatures today in Portland, the steamy dish washing room definitely wasn't the most pleasant place to be. Thank you Steve, Bill, Jay and Dave for "sticking" it out, no pun intended.

And here are some of the meals we served:
Oven baked chicken, roasted red potatoes and zucchini.

Green Curry with chicken over rice with sauteed corn and cucumbers.

Beef and peppers over rice with sauteed corn, cucumbers and just picked tomatoes thanks to volunteer Kate who has an amazing garden and is so generous.

Sausage from Phil's Uptown Meat Market, rice pilaf, sauteed corn, and tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers.