Orange Bundt Cake (aka taking the training wheels off for a bit…)

This semester’s schedule has been considerably more demanding on my time than I had expected.  As a result, the allotment of time that I set aside for cooking experiments has been drastically reduced.  Can you tell?  Yes… I’m sure you can.

I’ve fallen into a rut with regards to my sense of culinary adventure and my methodology for generating a menu has been based solely on the simplicity of the dish.  As a result, the dishes have been modest (not in a good way) and unappetizing.  My taste buds are bored and I feel like I’ve plateaued at this stage in the game.  I really need to shake myself out of this!

Over the weekend, I took a step towards trying to climb out of this rut.  I decided to crack open Lewis & Poliafito’s Baked Explorations.  Now let me start out by saying that most of the desserts in this cookbook scare the shit out of me.  Almost every single recipe seemed so far beyond my level of experience that it is downright daunting.  Between the perceived level of difficulty, the lack of the necessary tools to compose the recipe, and the shortage of many of the ingredients, I was able to flip past 98% of the recipes.  I ultimately decided upon the olive oil orange bundt cake.

This recipe is one of the first on this site to get a medium level designation (as opposed to my many, many, many easy ones).  What about this recipe earned its pump in the rankings?  Funny you should ask!  Let me explain ;)

Throughout several points in the making of this cake, I had to scream urgently for the pelirojo.  I needed an extra pair of hands, and luckily he was around to oblige.  The other thing that bumps this up to a medium level is the (and please, I beg you, don’t laugh!) beating of the egg whites.  This was my first time beating egg whites to a peak and I wasn’t sure how long this usually takes.   The longer I let the mixer run, the more it felt like too long.  I finally gave up and decided it was close enough.

Thankfully, the fact that I didn’t know what I was doing did not ruin the cake!  It turned out light and delightfully flavored.  The recipe suggests dusting the cake with powdered sugar, but I wanted to taste the cake before I added more sugar.  In my opinion, the cake was sweet enough without it.

This olive oil orange cake is perfect as a breakfast treat or as an accompaniment to your afternoon tea.  Without a doubt, it’s a keeper kind of recipe despite its medium status.  Or maybe I just need to get over it and upgrade from T-ball to coach pitch.  What do you think? ;)

Pleasing Pasta Puttanesca

I hide it well on this site.  I aim for variety, so I avoid posting too many of these.  But you should know, my friends, that I am a short skip away from being addicted to pasta.  It’s just SO easy to make!  *Lowers head in shame*  I’m even considering giving it up for Lent again this year.  I did this 2 years ago and it sucked.  At least I have one more day to make up my mind!  (Oh, by the way, Happy Fat Tuesday!)

I rock at making a killer pesto pasta.  I consider it one of my safety dishes (dishes I never screw up and are tried-and-true crowd pleasers).  After trying this recipe, I think I have a new dish to add to that very short list!  This pasta puttanesca was picked out of Spitler & Yoakam’s 1,001 Best Low-Fat Recipes.

It has all of the makings of a great keeper recipe: it’s easy, colorful, flavorful, and the ingredients are readily available and reasonably cheap!  The sauce consists of onions, garlic, Canadian bacon, a couple of cans of diced tomatoes, green olives, basil and crushed red pepper.  I really didn’t think it would come together quite as nicely as it did.  Don’t get me wrong, the combination sounded good, but both Ian and I were surprised by how delicious this sauce proved to be.

Great for a weeknight supper or for a group a friends, this pasta puttanesca pleased this hungry apprentice :)

Oh how I have missed you…

My dearest food lovers,

I have missed you more than I can express.

The last few weeks have been demanding and I have had to focus all of my attention on school.  I kept thinking: “if I have time to be doing [insert fun thing], I have time to be studying.”  It was ridiculous and I may or may not have taken it to an extreme.

The light at the end of the tunnel was the midterm and our professor had dangled an impossible carrot in front of our faces (the carrot was irresistible).  He told us that if we managed to score a 90% or above on the exam, we would be able to skip the final.  I took the bait.

The midterm was on Monday and this morning, we had our exams returned to us.  In the 12 years he has been teaching this course, there have only been 3 students who scored above a 90%.  My friends, I am lucky number four!  I received a 94% on the midterm.  It is a huge load off of my shoulders and now, I can return to being normal (i.e. not being a shut-in and only cooking soups so that it lasts for days).  Most importantly, I can return to my hobby!  Cooking and blogging!  Can you tell I am excited??

I wanted to celebrate by making a real meal.  Not that my soups and stews over the last three weeks weren’t real meals, because they were, but I haven’t had time or the will to make something nice.  I decided on a chicken recipe from one of my newer cookbooks, The Newlywed Kitchen.  I served the chicken piccata with a zucchini barley recipe and the combination was flavorful yet light.

Without a doubt, the chicken was the star of the meal.  I have never made chicken this way, so I was surprised (and delighted) to find that cooking it this way produced savory results.  You start out by butterflying a chicken breast and then pounding it down to about ¼ of an inch.  Next, you dredge the chicken in flour, Parmesan cheese, and a pinch of paprika.  Cook the chicken breasts in a skillet with a bit of olive oil for 3 minutes on each side, and then remove and keep warm.  Add just a little bit more of olive oil, and then toss in the rest of the ingredients: mushrooms, a leek (white part only), garlic, lemon juice, chicken stock, 1/3 c. of dry white wine, some capers, and about 3 tablespoons of fresh parsley.  It was incredibly simple and perfect.

This chicken piccata wowed both the pelirojo and me, so it is undoubtedly a keeper.  It turned out to be a scrumptious way to celebrate and a heartening way to start the month of March!  I hope you are all well, and I look forward to catching up on everybody’s culinary adventures!

All my love,

Apicius’ Apprentice

Guest Post over at Foodies are Fun!

Dearest readers:  I was asked to do my very first guest post!  Heidi, over are Foodies Are Fun, is putting together a series she is going to call “Foodie Follies.”  This series is going to feature the hilarious stories we all encounter in the kitchen and that only a few of us share with the world (despite the embarrassment).  Please head over to her place to read about my disastrous attempt at mama’s tortilla Española!

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Hello Foodies Are Fun readers!  My name is Rocío and I blog over at Apicius’ Apprentice  about learning my way around the kitchen.  I am no stranger to cooking catastrophes, so when Heidi asked me if I had a story I could share, I immediately thought: “hmmmm… which one?”

To give you a sense of my cooking abilities, my first attempt in the kitchen involved a packet of Pillsbury Chocolate Chip Muffins.  It was one of those just-add-an-egg and milk kinds of packets.  I set out to make an afternoon treat for the family but when I pulled the muffin pan out of the oven, I could tell something went terribly wrong.  The muffins had not risen, they were very dark (close to burnt), and were like little rocks.  It turned out I had forgotten to add the milk… yeah… one of only two ingredients I had to remember… genius, no?  I was in eighth grade at the time, but it pretty much set the tone for this culinary adventure I have been on ever since.

Before I get to this week’s incident, allow me to set the scene for you.  Read more…

 

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