Caprese Pasta Salad ~ ElephantEats.com

We’re down at my mother-in-law’s for the long holiday weekend, and her big, bright kitchen inspired me to finally do some cooking.

Making Caprese Pasta Salad ~ ElephantEats.com

I hope that I’m getting this to you with enough notice that you can make it for your big Memorial Day spread tomorrow!

Caprese Pasta Salad 2 ~ ElephantEats.com

Not sure if it’s pregnancy or the weather but I’ve been craving a tangy pasta salad, specifically one with all the flavors of summer. I combined my love of Caprese Salad with pasta into this tasty dish. It’s super easy and quick and can sit out for a decent amount of time, so it’s great for when you have a buffet at your bbq.

Caprese Pasta Salad 3 ~ ElephantEats.com

Also, figured I’d throw in my 23 week pic, although I’m at 25 weeks now ;) Getting bigger every day…

23 weeks ~ ElephantEats.com

23 wks front ~ ElephantEats.com

Happy Memorial Day everyone!

Caprese Pasta Salad
Serves 6
A quick and easy pasta salad, full of the flavors of summer!
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Ingredients
  1. 1 lb farfalle pasta, dried (or any shape you prefer)
  2. 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  3. 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
  4. 3-4 cloves garlic, minced plus 1-2 Tbsp olive oil
  5. 5-6 medium tomatoes (this really depends how much tomato you like), diced with half of the juives removed
  6. 2 handfuls fresh basil, chopped
  7. 16 oz. fresh mozzarella, diced
  8. 1 tsp salt (plus more to taste) and pepper
Instructions
  1. Cook pasta according to directions until al dente. Drain and rinse with cold water, then put in large bowl. Put empty pot back on stove top.
  2. In a small bowl, mix vinegar and oil plus salt and pepper.
  3. In the empty pot, add a couple Tablespoons of olive oil and add garlic. Saute a min until fragrant and lightly brown. Remove immediately and add to olive oil mixture.
  4. Add chopped tomatoes, basil and mozzarella to bowl of pasta.
  5. Add in oil/vinegar mixture and toss well.
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Gingerbread Layer Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting ~ ElephantEats.com

I mentioned that amongst our changes from our usual Christmas feast, this year I made dessert. I had seen a recipe for a gingerbread layer cake with cream cheese frosting online some weeks before Christmas. 

Of course when I went to actually find said recipe, I hadn’t marked it down anywhere. Does that ever happen to you? So frustrating!

Gingerbread Layer Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting ~ ElephantEats.com

Well, I commenced a new search and was pleased to find this recipe from Good Housekeeping that seemed to be exactly like the original. The result was the most delicious, moist gingerbread cake, with a lemony cream cheese frosting that was a perfect complement. I had to even out the tops of the cake layers so they would lay flat and I couldn’t stop myself from eating the pieces I cut off- they were so good I made myself sick. 

Gingerbread Layer Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting ~ ElephantEats.com

I wanted a wintry garnish, but wasn’t sure if a holly branch was toxic or something, so I put a sprig of rosemary and some dried cranberries :)

Gingerbread Layer Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting ~ ElephantEats.com

I just realized that this picture kind of looks like a Christmas Pac-Man.

My mom made this a couple days ago and she said she used orange instead of lemon zest and she said that it was yummy as well!

Gingerbread Layer Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
Serves 10
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Gingerbread Cake
  1. 3 cup(s) all-purpose flour
  2. 1 tablespoon(s) ground ginger
  3. 1 1/2 teaspoon(s) ground cinnamon
  4. 3/4 teaspoon(s) baking soda
  5. 3/4 teaspoon(s) salt
  6. 1 jar(s) (12 ounces) light (mild) molasses, 1 1/2 cups
  7. 3/4 cup(s) (1 1/2 sticks) margarine, softened, substitute butter
  8. 3/4 cup(s) granulated sugar
  9. 2 large eggs
Cream Cheese Frosting
  1. 1 package(s) (16 ounces) confectioners' sugar
  2. 1 package(s) (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
  3. 4 tablespoon(s) margarine, softened, substitute butter
  4. 2 teaspoon(s) freshly grated lemon peel
Gingerbread Cake
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease three 8-inch round cake pans. Line bottoms with waxed paper; grease paper. Dust pans with flour.
  2. In medium bowl, mix flour, ginger, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt. In 4-cup glass measuring cup, whisk molasses with 1 cup water.
  3. In large bowl, with mixer at low speed, beat margarine with granulated sugar until blended. Increase speed to high; beat until creamy, about 2 minutes, scraping bowl often with rubber spatula.
  4. Reduce speed to medium-low; add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. At low speed, alternately add flour mixture and molasses mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture; beat until blended.
  5. Pour batter into pans and spread evenly. Stagger pans on 2 oven racks, so layers are not directly above one another. Bake 25 to 30 minutes, until toothpick inserted in center of each layer comes out clean.
  6. Cool layers in pans on wire racks 10 minutes. Run small knife around sides of pans to loosen layers. Invert layers onto wire racks to cool completely; discard waxed paper.
Cream-Cheese Frosting
  1. In large bowl, with mixer at low speed, beat frosting ingredients just until blended. Increase speed to medium; beat until frosting is smooth and fluffy, about 2 minutes, constantly scraping bowl with rubber spatula. Makes about 2 1/2 cups frosting.
To assemble cake
  1. Place 1 cake layer, rounded side down, on cake plate; spread with 1/3 cup frosting. Top with second layer; spread with another 1/3 cup frosting, then top with remaining layer. Frost top and side of cake with remaining frosting. Refrigerate if not serving right away.
Notes
  1. -I find that it's best to shave off the top of the cake layers to make them flatter on top if they're too domed.
  2. -It's easiest to frost the cake layers if they've been chilled in the fridge or freezer.
http://elephanteats.com/

Rainbow Cookies ~ ElephantEats.com

I don’t know if you guys remember, but about a year ago, Nate’s family friend Henny passed away unexpectedly. It’s been weird trying to come to terms with the fact that we won’t ever see him again. We didn’t see him on a regular basis, so it didn’t sink in right away. He used to invite us to his Brooklyn apartment for delicious home-cooked meals every few months so when we hadn’t been there in a while, it hit us that we’d never go there again.

Aside from Henny’s dinner parties, the one tradition we shared was including him in Nate’s mom’s Christmas dinner. I’m not sure when this started as it was before I entered the picture, but he always played a part at Christmas. Henny was Jewish so he didn’t have his own Christmas to celebrate and since Nate’s Christmas is just his immediate family, another guest was always welcome. 

Rainbow Cookies ~ ElephantEats.com

Henny was in charge of cooking the main course, beef and he also brought dessert. This usually consisted of some sort of chocolate cake and his famous rainbow cookies! He used to only make these rainbow cookies at Christmas and we always looked forward to them. He always made enough for us to take leftovers home with us since Nate loves them, and they’re one of my favorites too.

Rainbow Cookies ~ ElephantEats.com

When Christmas was approaching this past year we already knew it was going to be different since Henny wouldn’t be there. Rather than trying to recreate the past and have a crucial part absent, we decided to revamp it. Since none of us actually liked eating beef (we never told Henny this), we decided to go with a vegetarian menu with plenty of sides. Dessert was a Gingerbread Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting (recipe coming soon). But the one tradition we couldn’t omit was Henny’s Rainbow Cookies- it just wouldn’t be Christmas without them.

We emailed Henny’s girlfriend and after some searching through his old recipe collection, she sent us the recipe she thought was the one he used. It was a recipe from a 1999 edition of Gourmet magazine and I followed it to a T. The cookies came out exactly like Henny’s and I know he would be proud. I guess he really was there with us this year in spirit :)

Rainbow Cookies ~ ElephantEats.com

 Since I didn’t change a thing, you can find the recipe online here. I just have a few helpful notes:

  1. Don’t worry about having the right size pans. These cookies don’t spread at all so you can just line with parchment and draw on the parchment so you know where to spread the batter to.
  2. Use a small offset spatula to spread. It will be really hard to spread it since it’s so thin but just do the best you can. 
  3. Wait to trim the cookies until after you’ve assembled the layers with the jam and they’ve set in the refrigerator. I didn’t do this and the layers shifted so I ended up having to trim then twice. Not a big deal but just figured I’d mention it.

Sorry I’ve been on an extended blogging break. We went down to my mother-in-law’s for Christmas and since I had leftover vacation days, I decided to take off the whole week of Christmas through New Years so I could just relax and enjoy my time there. This also meant that I barely picked up a computer.

I’m so behind on reading and commenting on other blogs, so if I haven’t been to your blog in a while, that’s why. I will catch up soon hopefully!

I’ll be back with a new recipe in the new year but for now I’ll leave you with a countdown of my top 10 recipes of 2013, based on how often they’ve been viewed. Enjoy and have a safe and happy holiday!

 

10) Goat Cheese, Chard and Herb Pie in a Phyllo Crust- I can’t take credit for creating this pie, but it’s a good one!

Goat Cheese, Chard and Herb Pie ~ ElephantEats.com

 

9) Brothy Black Bean Soup- I guess I’m not the only one that prefers brothy soups to thick ones! It’s the garnishes that make this soup.

Black Bean Soup ~ ElephantEats.com

 

8) Chicken and Chorizo “Paella” with Mushrooms- a quick version of paella that’s made in one pot! A perfect weeknight meal.

Chicken and Chorizo "Paella" ~ www.ElephantEats.com

 

7) Turkey, Pumpkin and Veggie Chili- this recipe got quite a few views during the colder months. There are so many good chili recipes out there, but I hope you’ll give this one a try :)

Turkey, Pumpkin and Veggie Chili ~ ElephantEats.com

 

6) Red Wine Chocolate Cake- when you combine red wine and chocolate, you know it’s going to be something good. This is super easy to make and definitely tastes like wine!

Red Wine Chocolate Cake ~ ElephantEats.com

 

5) Peppermint White Chocolate Swirl Cheesecake Bars- I posted these in December and they were my 5th most viewed page before the end of the month!

Peppermint White Chocolate Swirl Cheesecake Bars ~ ElephantEats.com

 

4) “Buffalo” Chicken Salad Sandwiches- I came up with these after going through one of my many put-buffalo-sauce-on-everything phases.

"Buffalo" Chicken Salad Sandwiches ~ ElephantEats.com

 

3) Stir-Fried Spicy Rice Cakes with Pork and Mushrooms- If you’ve never tried rice cakes like these, you need to get to your nearest Asian market and get some. So chewy and delicious!

Stir Fried Rice Cakes ~ ElephantEats.com

 

2) Light Carrot Dill Cream Sauce- I came up with this recipe when I was trying to use up the dill in my fridge and somehow it made it onto the Recipe.com site!

Light Carrot Dill Cream Sauce for Pasta ~ ElephantEats.com

 

1) Zesty Roasted  Pumpkin Seeds- not sure if this was popular because of my pumpkin carving or the seeds, but it went crazy on Pinterest.

Zesty Roasted Pumpkin Seeds ~ ElephantEats.com

Orange Iced Gingerbread Bars ~ ElephantEats.com

This past weekend I had my annual gingerbread house decorating brunch with my friend, Erica. We do it every year, but it has gradually been changing for the better, I think.

The first year we did it we used graham crackers and tried to attach the structure together with icing. Anyone who has attempted a gingerbread house knows that this method works, but only if the structure has a day to dry before decorating it. Since we only had an afternoon, we found out the hard way that royal icing takes a while to set.

Orange Iced Gingerbread Bars ~ ElephantEats.com

The next year I had read online that you could use melted sugar to instantly bind the crackers together. This works awesomely, as long as you’re SUPER careful not to burn yourself on molten sugar. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. We did this for a couple years, but you still have to set aside time to assemble it. 

But this year I decided to just buy a couple of those gingerbread house kits.

gingerbread house kit ~ ElephantEats.com

The kits come with pre-assembled houses, saving us hours of aggravation, and they also come with candy included and an idea for how to decorate. I knew the kit was great because I decorate a house from a kit every year when I go down to my mother-in-law’s for Christmas. 

photo 2

Anyway, it ended up being perfect. We had a tasty brunch that Erica prepared and then got to spend a couple hours decorating our houses. I think Erica did a much neater job with the icing, but it was fun nonetheless.

Gingerbread Houses 2013

Today’s recipe is related because it’s for gingerbread bars! Not only that, but I literally think they’re the best thing to come out of my kitchen this year…and that’s saying a lot since it’s now December.

Orange Iced Gingerbread Bars ~ ElephantEats.com

These bars are spicy from the molasses, have tons of flavors from all the spices and have the ooey gooey texture of the perfect brownie. I chose to add some orange juice and zest too, because for some reason i feel like gingerbread goes really well with that citrus flavor.

Basically, you NEED to make these. They taste like the holiday season :)

Orange Iced Gingerbread Bars ~ ElephantEats.com

 

 

Orange Iced Gingerbread Bars
Yields 9
A spicy, citrusy, dense and chewy gingerbread bar!
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Ingredients
  1. 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
  2. 1 large egg
  3. 1 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
  4. 1/2 cup unsulphered light or medium molasses
  5. zest of 1 orange, divided in 2 (will be about 1 Tbsp total)
  6. juice of 1 orange (will be used in both bars and icing)
  7. 3 teaspoons ground ginger
  8. 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  9. 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  10. 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  11. 1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  12. 1 teaspoon unsalted butter, melted
  13. 1 cup powdered sugar
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Coat an 8x8 baking dish with cooking spray and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together butter, egg, brown sugar, molasses, half of orange zest (about 1.5 tsp), 1 Tbsp of the fresh orange juice, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg until smooth.
  3. Add the flour and stir until just combined, don't over mix.
  4. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake 32-34 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean or with moist crumbs clinging. Allow the bars to cool while you prepare the icing.
  5. In a small bowl, combine melted butter, powdered sugar and rest of orange zest. Add orange juice (you will only need about 1 Tbsp plus 1 tsp) a little at a time until it reaches a smooth, pourable consistency. Pour evenly over cooled bars. Cut and serve.
Notes
  1. Best served at room temperature.
Adapted from The Live in Kitchen
http://elephanteats.com/