Thursday, May 6, 2010

Pear Salad

This is a popular salad that's popping up on menus at just about every restaurant I go to. I add grilled chicken to this pear salad for some protein and to make it a more filling meal but most any meat will work with this salad. It's also tasty without meat. The combination of the pear, nuts, dried cranberries, and blue cheese makes this salad so deliciously perfect!

Mixed greens
Dried cranberries
Pecans (walnuts work well too)
Red grapes, halved
1 pear, thinly sliced
Grilled Chicken
Dressing of your choice (I recommend this one)

Use the amount of each ingredient depending on your liking. Toss all ingredients together and enjoy!

It's a Bark Mitzvah!

(This picture was taken right after the bones were applied. Sorry for the wet look at this moment)

Melissa, one of my craziest friends, decided to have a birthday party for her Cockapoo, Zeus, who celebrated his 3rd birthday on April 25th! To celebrate his birthday Melissa hosted a "Bark Mitzvah" (even though his birthday had nothing to do with the age 13th). I was super excited because this was Rudy's first dog birthday party to attend and because I was in charge of making the cake! I've been dying to work with fondant for a while now but never really had the right occasion until the Bark Mitzvah!

I did a lot of research on fondant and a lot of brainstorming on the design of the cake. I seriously thought about this cake day in and day out! Do I want to do cupcakes? Do I want to do a round cake? Chocolate or vanilla? The thoughts kept following. Then I decided to reach out to the one person who knows cake very well! Yep, that's right, BECKY! After all, she has a degree in pastry arts. After asking Becky a million questions on fondant I finally decided what I was going to do. Just because I knew what I was doing didn't mean it was downhill from here! I was on the search for bone shape cookie cutters! I looked everywhere and had very little luck until I went to the Reading Terminal on my lunch break one day! I'm so lucky to have the Reading Terminal so close to my office because seriously you can find anything you're looking for there. I was able to get a bone cookie cutter in 2 sizes!

After doing some research online and talking to Becky, I decided that buying the fondant would be a lot easier than making it for my first time working with it. So I made a trip out to Michael's Arts & Crafts (Yes, another store that sells everything except a bone shape cookie cutter that is). I bought 4 lbs of fondant and brown fondant dye for the bones. I used the Magnolia Bakery recipe for the vanilla cake and their awesome butter cream recipe for the fondant 'glue'. After I made the cake and applied the butter cream icing it was time for the fondant fun to begin! It might sound silly to make a cake and use 2 icings but as I briefly mentioned the butter cream icing is the glue for the fondant.

Now it's time to roll the 2lb brick of fondant out to a nice round shape to cover the round cake. That's a lot of work! First you have to knead the fondant using cornstarch or confectioner's sugar, then it's time to roll it out. After placing the rolled out fondant on the cake it was time to die the remaining fondant brown and cut out the bone shapes. Dying the fondant was tricky and messy process. I needed to use a lot of the gel dye to get to this shade of brown. Once I was happy with the shade of brown it was time to roll it out and use the cookie cutters to make the bone shapes. To get the bones to stick to the white fondant you have to slightly wet the shape and stick it on.  Overall, this was a fun process and a lot of work! I'm happy I experimented with fondant. I think the next time I'm using fondant, I'll make cupcakes and a small amount of fondant on each cupcake (stayed tune), since I'm not a huge fan of the fondant flavor.

Philadelphia Cupcake is right down the street from my office. They make 'pupcakes' for dogs. I had to make sure I picked some of them up for the party! Rudy was lucky enough to have one at home before the party! You can tell he enjoyed it! He's too cute!

I must thank Nadya for her help with this long process! Thank you, Nadya!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Balsamic Vinaigrette

Making your own salad dressing is really easy and saves a lot of money too. I very rarely buy salad dressing unless I'm in a pinch. Balsamic vinaigrette is one of my favorite dressings. It works well on mostly all salads and works as a great marinade too. This is a really simple recipe especially since you probably have all the ingredients in your pantry.  This recipe makes 1 cup. If you're making a big salad or marinading meat or vegetables you might want to double the recipe. You can store the vinaigrette in the refrigerator in an airtight container for 1 week.

This recipe below comes from Sara Foster's Fresh Every Day Cookbook

4 garlic cloves
Sea salt
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper

1.Using a mortar and pestle or the flat side of a chef's knife on a cutting board, mash together garlic and 1/2 teaspoon salt to form a paste.

2.In a medium bowl, stir together garlic paste, mustard, balsamic and red wine vinegars. Add oil in a slow, steady stream, whisking until incorporated. Season with salt and pepper.