Citrus Olive Oil Cake with Strawberry Rose Compote

Feelin' fancy?

Feelin’ fancy?

To say that I’ve taken a bit of a break would be a fair statement. The month of September FLEW past. It’s not that I haven’t been working on any new recipes; in fact, I have three posts just begging waiting to be worked on and posted. Birdcage Bakeshop has been keeping me on my toes; lots of fun, yet utterly exhausting weekends filled with baking, selling, and making new friends at the Four Seasons Market in Richardson.

I’m sure by now, you all know that I work extensively with Texas Olive Ranch Olive Oil Products. BIG, BIG FAN here. I’ve recently branched out and have teamed up with James of Spaulding’s Specialty Spices to use his wonderful, organic, home-grown spice blends in my recipes. It’s very rewarding to be working with a local artisan. It’s even more rewarding that I get to play around with seasonings that have already been matched for flavor pairing compatibility!

IMG_4759

Don’t balk at frozen fruit! It’s always in season, never bruises in your fridge, and is prepped for use!

In this recipe, I used Rio Orange Olive Oil to make a delicate, floral Citrus Olive Oil Cake; I added some sliced almonds to the top for some smoky crunch and texture. To pair, I threw some strawberries into a small saucepan with a 1/3 cup of Spaulding’s Lovely Rose Sugar and a tablespoon of cornstarch.  Depending on the sweetness of your berries, you may need to add additional sugar, 1 T. at a time. This compote is nearly impossible to mess up, but the key is to add additional sugar and/or cornstarch a little at a time.

Using a 9″ springform pan makes baking the cake so simple. You’ll need to put it on a piece of foil or on a baking sheet to catch any leakage. If you do not own one, no big deal! Just use one 9″ round cake pan instead. This cake is so good, very delicate in flavor, and is the perfect canvas to show off your Strawberry Rose Compote. It’s texture reminded me of a chiffon cake with its lightly sponge-like crumb. It’s best served warm from the oven. If you have leftovers, I suggest tightly wrapping the cake in plastic wrap.

Let’s enjoy some pictures of this cake:

Sprinkle the sliced almonds on top of the unbaked cake.

Sprinkle the sliced almonds on top of the unbaked cake.

Let the baked cake cool in the pan for 10 minutes.

Let the baked cake cool in the pan for 10 minutes.

Release the springform, and stare in wonder at your gorgeous cake!

Release the springform, and stare in wonder at your gorgeous cake!

The cake recipe was adapted from Giada de Laurentiis’ recipe: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/giada-de-laurentiis/almond-citrus-olive-oil-cake-recipe.html

For more information on Texas Olive Ranch, go to http://texasoliveranch.com/ or follow them on Facebook here.

Spaulding’s Specialty Spices can be found on Facebook here.

If you are in the Dallas, Texas, area, please stop by and see me and my bakery, Birdcage Bakeshop, as well as Texas Olive Ranch and Spaulding’s Specialty Spices at the Four Seasons Market in Richardson! Find them on Facebook here.

Let's get cooking!

Let’s get cooking! Let’s also ignore the knife mark in the cake. It smelled so good, I almost cut a slice before I took a picture. D’oh.

Almond Citrus Olive Oil Cake

  • Servings: 8-10
  • Time: 1hr 30mins
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

ALMOND CITRUS OLIVE OIL CAKE

adapted from Giada De Laurentiis with gratitude and appreciation

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (I use King Arthur or Gold Medal)

2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

1 cup sugar

3 large eggs

1 T. grated orange zest

1/4 cup whole milk

3/4 cup olive oil (I used Texas Olive Ranch Rio Orange Oil)

1/3 cup sliced almonds

Powdered sugar, for dusting

Directions:

1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Lightly brush the inside of a 9″ springform pan with olive oil. Set aside.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt.

3. In a large bowl or bowl of a stand mixer, beat the sugar, eggs, and orange zest until pale and fluffy. Mine took about 1 1/2 minutes in the stand mixer. Take care not to beat the eggs into stiff peak stage.

4. Slowly beat in the milk.

5. Slowly beat in the olive oil.

6. Slowly add flour mixture until just combined. Scrape batter into prepared pan.

7. Sprinkle sliced almonds on top; place pan onto foil lined baking sheet to catch drips.

8. Bake for approximately 35 minutes, but test for doneness at 30. Cake is finished with a cake tester comes out with a few moist crumbs attached.

9. Remove cake from oven and allow to cool for ten minutes. Carefully remove sides of springform pan and allow to cool an additional 15 minutes. Sift powdered sugar over top of cake, slice, and serve with Strawberry Rose Compote.

 

IMG_4761

Strawberry Rose Compote

  • Servings: 1 pint
  • Time: 30mins
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

STRAWBERRY ROSE COMPOTE

*This recipe makes enough to serve alongside the cake. If you’d like to make more, the recipe works well when doubled or tripled.

Ingredients:

1/3 cup of Lovely Rose Sugar, from Spaulding’s Specialty Spices (OR 1/3 cup sugar plus 2 T. culinary rose petals)

2 cups strawberries, frozen (hey! They’re already prepped for ya and always in season!)

1 – 2 T. cornstarch

Directions:

1. In a small pan, combine all ingredients over medium-low heat.

2. Once berries have released juices, bring to a simmer.

3. Stir often, until juices have reduced and mixture is thickened. This takes about 20 minutes or so.

4. Remove from heat, spoon onto a cake plate. Place slice of Citrus Olive Oil Cake on top. Serve immediately.

IMG_4775

Pretzel Pecan Chicken with Olive Oil Mash and Herbed Peas

Pretzels, Panko, and Texas Pecans add crunch and interest to a traditional dinner item.

Pretzels, Panko, and Texas Pecans add crunch and interest to a traditional dinner item.

I’m generally not a huge fan of chicken fingers, nuggets, etc. I blame childhood consumption of a certain restaurant’s nuggets – spongy, salty, and soggy are not adjectives one would like associated with dinnertime. I guess this is why I was really, really surprised that I liked these Pretzel Pecan Chicken Fingers so much.

I often marinade chicken in buttermilk. I find that the acids in the buttermilk help break down any toughness in the chicken and help to keep it very moist during the cooking process. I had picked up a bag of Providence Ranch Pecans during market day a few weeks back, and I tossed them into my favorite breading – panko breadcrumbs and crushed pretzels. Panko breadcrumbs are light and crisp, pretzels contribute a more substantial crunch, another layer of flavor, and an added punch of salt. This is why the recipe for the chicken does not call for additional salt; however, feel free to add it if you feel so inclined.

Mashed potatoes and peas are obvious choices for side dishes with chicken fingers. The key to having simple sides is to make them really, really well. The peas were fresh, shelled peas that I gussied up with a bit of butter and a pinch of minced parsley. If you have access to fresh, shelled peas from the farmer’s market by all means use those. If you don’t, use a steamer bag of frozen peas. My family probably couldn’t tell the difference, actually. And since I DESPISE peeling potatoes,  I usually keep varieties in the pantry that I can mash with the skins on; Yukon gold potatoes are my favorite.

Come to mama.

Come to mama.

And, lucky me, I had a bottle of Texas Olive Ranch’s Boom Blend Olive Oil. Boom blend is a specialty blend offered by the company which grows, processes, and bottles all their oils here in Texas. Rich, buttery, and decadent, this particular olive oil is one that you want front and center in any recipe. Use it as a dressing, toss it with some pasta, or mix it into some buttery Yukon Gold potatoes and you’re in heaven. Quality olive oil can take a boring side dish (like mashed potatoes) to somewhere outrageously glorious.

Admittedly, there are a lot of steps in this meal but none of them are difficult. Serve it with a nice, cold beer and you’re in comfort food heaven. Totally. Worth. It.

Planning your cooking order helps ease mealtime prep. I’m going to list each menu item separately, but here’s a general timeline to ensure everything is hot and ready all at once:

1. Fill a large pot with water and set heat to high; we need to bring the water to a boil.

2. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

3. Proceed with breading the chicken. (I recommend setting the chicken in the marinade at least 30 minutes but not longer than 12 hours in advance)

3. Pop chicken into the oven. Drop potatoes into boiling water.

4. Once chicken is taken out of the oven, test potatoes for tenderness. They should be done.

5. Set chicken aside to rest, mash taters, doll up your steamed peas.

6. Crack open a beer (may I recommend a TEXAN beer, such as Franconia or Deep Ellum Brewing Company?)

7. Enjoy your fancy chicken and pity the folk eating their soggy, spongy nuggets.

Hand me a spoon. I'm gonna dig right in.

Hand me a spoon. I’m gonna dig right in.

IMG_4709

Pretzel Pecan Chicken with Olive Oil Mash and Herbed Peas

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Time: 1hr 30mins
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Pretzel Pecan Chicken Ingredients

2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts , cubed OR chicken tenderloins

2 cups buttermilk

2 tsp. Dijon mustard

4 eggs

1 cup panko breadcrumbs

1/2 cup ground pretzel pieces

1/2 cup finely chopped pecans

1 tsp. paprika

1/2 tsp. ground pepper

olive oil, for brushing the baking sheet

Directions:

1. Combine buttermilk and Dijon mustard in a baking dish. Add chicken cubes. Cover and set in fridge to marinade for at least 30 minutes.

2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Brush a foil lined baking sheet with a small amount of oil.

3 In a large bowl, whisk eggs. Set aside.

4 In a ziptop plastic bag, combine panko, pretzels, pecans, paprika, and pepper.

5. On your countertop, arrange from left to right: marinated chicken pieces, whisked egg, Ziptop plastic bag, and oiled baking sheet.

6. Working left to right, remove half the chicken and dip into egg wash. Place pieces into plastic bag and shake to coat. Arrange on baking sheet. Repeat with remaining chicken.

7. Bake in preheated oven for 20 – 25 minutes or until juices run clear. Let set for 10 minutes before serving.

Olive Oil Mash Ingredients:

1 – 1 1/2 lbs. of Yukon Gold Potatoes, scrubbed and diced. Peeling is entirely optional.

1/4 cup fine olive oil, such as Texas Olive Ranch

2 T. butter

1/2 – 3/4 cup broth (I used vegetable) or milk

2 tsp. sea salt

sea salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste

extra olive oil, for drizzling

Directions:

1. In a large pot, bring 2 tsp. of sea salt and about 6 – 8 cups of water to a boil. (Enough water come about 2 inches over potatoes)

2. Add diced potatoes and boil until very tender, about 20 minutes.

3. Drain potatoes, but do not rinse.

4. Add 1/4 cup olive oil, 2 T. butter, and broth or milk. With the broth or milk, start with 1/2 cup and add additional liquid by Tablespoon measures until desired consistency is reached.

5. Taste and adjust salt and pepper according to preference.

Herbed Peas Ingredients:

16 ounces of peas, fresh shelled or frozen

1 – 2 T. butter

2 T. finely minced, fresh parsley

salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

1. If using frozen peas, prepare according to package. If using fresh, shelled peas, simmer in hot water for 5 – 8 minutes until tender.

2. Toss cooked peas with butter (I start with one T. and add more, if needed) and season to taste.

French Mediterranean Inspired Saute

Twenty Minutes and a healthy dinner on the table!

Twenty Minutes and a healthy dinner on the table!

 

I’m a procrastinator and I’m sorry/not sorry about that.

I had teased this recipe about two weeks back on Instagram along with a proclamation that I was working on a series of healthy, quick, weeknight meals to be posted *soon*. Technically, I am still working on those posts. I just have a very loose interpretation of what *soon* really means.

And the irony that I am late and have taken for-ever to get this quick recipe posted is not lost on me.

I don’t like being late, but I also have the attention span of a toddler hopped up on twenty Pixie Stix.

Perhaps I should rephrase “I don’t like being late” to “I often enjoy the idea of being on time”.

Let’s get down to it, shall we? It’s really simple, really forgiving, and I make a version of this dish at least once a week when I feel like throwing random things in the pan in hopes something edible comes out.

It’s a one-dish dinner, but feel free to bulk it up with a simple green salad, dressed with olive oil and vinegar. (Psssst –  If you order three or more items from Texas Olive Ranch and have them shipped to the same address, you get free shipping.)

I’d made this dish with chicken, but please note that I have included vegetarian swaps for this recipe.

The vinegar in this recipe is a fig-infused balsamic from Texas Olive Ranch. The fig adds to the Mediterranean flavor profile of this dish, but feel free to use plain balsamic.

If at any time your food starts to stick to the pan, simply add 1 – 2 T. water to eliminate sticking and avoid using more oil. I do this to save on calories as well as to stretch my olive oil supply. 😉

Simple ingredients make weeknight meal prep easier.

Simple ingredients make weeknight meal prep easier.

 

French Mediterranean Inspired Saute

Serves four

Ingredients:

2 large chicken breasts, cubed (mine were about 3/4 lb total) OR one block tofu, drained and cut into large cubes

8 oz. package of sliced baby Portobello mushrooms. (I used Kitchen Pride, which is local to Texas. I bought them at a big retailer, but they sell at Farmer’s Markets all over the state)

1 red bell pepper, cut into large dice

1/2 yellow or red onion, cut into large dice

2 tsp. minced garlic

2 T. olive oil , separated

1/4 cup quality balsamic vinegar, such as Texas Olive Ranch Figalicious

2 large handfuls of baby spinach, about 2 cups

1 tsp. dried thyme

1 tsp. dried oregano

12 ounce package of pasta, gluten free or “regular”

1 lb. fresh green beans, washed and cut into large pieces

sea salt

fresh ground pepper

1/3 cup feta cheese

 

Directions:

1. In a large pot, cook pasta according to package directions. About 3 minutes before pasta is done cooking, add green beans. Once pasta is al dente, drain and toss pasta and green beans with 1 T. olive oil. Set aside.

2. In a large sauté pan, heat remaining 1 T. olive oil over medium – high heat. Season cubed chicken breasts with sea salt and pepper; add to hot pan and cook for about five minutes, stirring every minute to ensure browning on all sides of chicken.

3. Lower heat to medium. Add vinegar and stir chicken around, scraping up any browned bits.

4. Add mushrooms, red bell pepper, onion, and garlic to chicken. Cook over medium heat for about 4 more minutes, until chicken is cooked through and veggies are crisp tender. Add spinach, thyme, and oregano and cook about 1 minute further.

5. Once spinach is wilted, chicken is cooked, and balsamic vinegar has reduced slightly, add mixture to pasta and green beans. Toss gently. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper. Serve in large bowls and sprinkle each serving with feta cheese.

 

My homegirls.

My homegirls.

 

Chocolate Olive Oil Zucchini Muffins

Naked Muffin

 

What a mighty fine Sunday this is turning out to be. A far cry from how my Friday was.

Yesterday was my first market day at Dallas Farmer’s Market and aside from my granola jars and baby cobblers, I had planned on selling muffins.

Emphasis on planned.

Now, I am no mathemagician, but I’d reckon I’ve baked a gazillion muffins in my lifetime, give or take a million.

I have not the faintest idea what went down in the commercial kitchen on Friday evening, but my muffins got burnt to hell. (I suspect it was the sixteen hour workday, actually) I was so sad, because, of course they were the most gorgeously crowned, perfectly domed muffins ever. *sigh*

Muffins: 1. Birdcage Bakeshop: 0.

After exchanging texts with a baker friend of mine, who assured me that stuff like this happens all the time, I decided to call it a night and plan on the muffins for next week’s market.

My new mantra: No crying over muffins.

After a long market day at the Dallas Farmer’s Market yesterday, I came home, took a nap, and then got to work on this week’s recipe: Chocolate Olive Oil Zucchini Muffins.

Yep.

Chocolate Olive Oil.

My friends over at Texas Olive Ranch sell “specialty” flavors at the farmer’s markets here in Texas, chocolate being one of them. We’ve seen recipes for Chocolate Zucchini muffins before, but the addition of a fine quality olive oil takes them to the next level.

I baked them last night and let them rest until this morning. I took one bite, and nearly cried. Tears of joy.

These muffins are oh-so-perfectly tender, with a nice cocoa taste and a hint of fruitiness from the olive oil. You can certainly add in walnuts or chocolate chips to the batter, but I like my morning muffins to be cloud-soft and tender.

If you don’t have chocolate olive oil, don’t cry. Use a high quality, light tasting olive oil in it’s place.

Remember: No crying over muffins.

Take advantage of summertime zucchini for this muffin recipe.

Take advantage of summertime zucchini for this muffin recipe.

 

Use a whisk to incorporate your dry ingredients.

Use a whisk to incorporate your dry ingredients.

In a separate bowl, whisk together your wet ingredients.

In a separate bowl, whisk together your wet ingredients.

Use a spatula to combine the wet and dry ingredients.

Use a spatula to combine the wet and dry ingredients.

IMG_4600

Muffin batter is thicker than cupcake batter, so don’t be afraid to fill these babies to the top for domed muffins.

I like my muffins with domes. This recipe makes 10 larger muffins, but can easily be accommodated to make a full 12.

I like my muffins with domes. This recipe makes 10 larger muffins, but can easily be accommodated to make a full 12.

 

CHOCOLATE OLIVE OIL ZUCCHINI MUFFINS

 Makes 10 large muffins or 12 standard muffins

Ingredients:

1 1/3 unbleached cake flour, such as King Arthur brand

1/4 cup unsweetened baking cocoa powder

3/4 cup sugar, granulated

2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

1/3 cup Chocolate Olive Oil (or light flavored regular oil)

1 egg

1/3 cup water

1 cup zucchini, finely shredded and organic if possible

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a standard muffin tin with 10 paper liners or grease well.

2. Finely grate one medium to large zucchini until you have 1 cup of zucchini shreds. Set aside.

3. In a large bowl, combine dry ingredients (cake flour, cocoa, sugar, baking powder, and salt).

4. In a medium bowl, whisk together wet ingredients (chocolate olive oil, egg, water).

5. Make a well in dry ingredients and pour combined wet ingredients into it. Using a spatula or wooden spoon, stir until just combined.

6. Gently fold in shredded zucchini, taking care that no large clumps of zucchini are present.

7. Fill muffin tins with batter, about 1/4″ shy from the top of tin.

8. Bake at 400 degrees for 19-23 minutes; mine are perfect at 21 minutes, but ovens do vary greatly. Muffins should spring back slightly when done cooking.

9. Cool muffins on a wire baking rack, then store in an airtight container or plastic storage bag for several hours. (Overnight is preferable)

*Note: as with most quickbreads/muffins, I find that an overnight “rest” allows the flavors to meld and the moisture to regulate itself. Perfect if you want to just roll out of bed, pour a cup of coffee, and have your muffin waiting for you.

 

Is it breakfast? Or dessert?

Is it breakfast? Or dessert?

 

 

Quick Roasted Corn with Jalapeno and Sweet Pepper

Finished Corn

A Corn Haiku:

This is a picture of corn.

Corn on a blue plate.

Corn waiting to get eaten.

There really isn’t any super cute or fancy story about the origins of this side dish. I didn’t know what else to write, so like a boss I went with a Haiku. I’m not even sure if this qualifies as a Haiku, does it?

And as far as a recipe, this one is SO, SO easy I wasn’t sure if I was going to post it or not.

But it is really tasty, so I would be a selfish blogger if I didn’t share, wouldn’t I?

Boiled corn is fine….I guess. But broiled corn? Tossed with jalapeno, sweet bell pepper, Texas Olive Ranch Olive Oil, and butter?

Freaking fabulous.

I freaking love sweet peppers.

I freaking love sweet peppers.

It takes longer to chop than it does to cook. You slice and dice the veg, toss it into a bowl, drizzle it with olive oil, butter, sea salt, and pepper before broiling for about 6 minutes or so.

This picture is corny.

Insert corn related comment here.

Done.

Plenty of extra time left to write corny Haikus. (Ha! A pun!)

Or not.

Texan Corn - Rattlesnake Bottle Picture

Quick Roasted Corn with Jalapeno and Sweet Pepper

Serves 4

 Ingredients:

4 ears of fresh corn, shucked

1 jalapeno pepper, seeded if desired, and minced

½ red bell pepper, small dice

2 T. Texas Olive Ranch Rattlesnake Olive Oil

2 tsp. butter, unsalted (optional) To make this vegan, omit butter entirely or replace with plant based spread, such as Earth Balance

Sea salt and coarse ground black pepper, to taste

Optional additions:

Sliced green onion, Lime wedges, chili powder, queso fresco, parmesan cheese.

 

Directions:

1. Preheat broiler to 500 degrees.

2. Line a broiler safe baking sheet with aluminum foil.

3. Holding shucked corn cob vertically (with a firm grip and a sharp knife), slice off corn kernels.

5. In a large bowl, combine corn kernels with minced jalapeno, diced red bell pepper, Texas Olive Ranch Rattlesnake Olive Oil, butter (if using), and salt and pepper. Stir to combine.

4. Line corn mixture evenly onto prepared baking sheet. Place under broiler.

5. Cook for 6-9 minutes, until corn and bell pepper have softened and the edges have begun to brown.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Baked Stonefruit with Granola

Roasted Peaches - Final Pic

Granola and balsamic vinegar make for an easy breakfast or light dessert option. Ready in under a half hour!

Yesterday my baking company, Birdcage Bakeshop, participated in the Artisan’s Market held monthly at Williams Sonoma.

I know. (Squeeeeee!)

Navigating the world as a new business owner is exciting.

And terrifying.

Luckily, the sampling went well and I fielded lots of questions on what to do with the granola I was selling.

“Funny you should ask. I am posting a recipe on my recipe blog tomorrow and I’m using my granola!”

Believe me or not, this was not a pre-planned marketing tactic. That’s just way too clever for a simple gal like myself.

The true reason why I happened to be posting a granola-usage recipe?

I enjoy my own product. (and for those of you local to DFW, I will be down at the Dallas Farmer’s Market later this month!)

And I had this one queued for being posted this weekend. Pure coincidence.

I love, love, love summer stone fruits. Peaches, nectarines, even plums (as long as they don’t have too bitter of a skin. Bleck!)

This recipe is uber-versatile: serve it with crème fraiche or yogurt for an easy breakfast or top it straight out of the oven with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream for an easy dessert.

Your friends will be amazed.

If you are baking more peaches than will be immediately consumed, I recommend storing them in the fridge without any granola. Reheat the fruit and top with the granola right before serving to avoid a soggy topping.

 

High Def Ingredient Pic Peaches

Simple ingredients!

Even Simpler Preparation. Make friends and amaze people with your mad skills.

Even Simpler Preparation. Make friends and amaze people with your mad skills.

Notice how the peach halves are filled with their yummy juiciness?

BAKED STONEFRUIT WITH GRANOLA

written for two servings, but easily doubled, tripled, etc. to accommodate number of guests/appetites

Ingredients:

1 peach (or nectarine) freestone peaches are easiest to halve

1 tsp. unsalted butter

1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon

1 T. balsamic vinegar, such as Texas Olive Ranch Peach Balsamic Vinegar

1/2 cup granola

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line baking sheet with parchment paper or lightly butter the bottom of a small baking dish.

2. Wash peach and, using a sharp knife, insert tip of knife into crease of fruit; cut all the way around the fruit. Twist peach halves to separate fruit from pit. Note: freestone peach varieties are easiest for halving. If you happen to find yourself fighting a losing battle with the pit, you can also cut your fruit into wedges and stuff them into a small baking dish following the rest of the recipe directions.

3. Place peach halves onto baking sheet or prepared baking dish, cut side up.

4. Sprinkle each peach half with half measure of cinnamon and balsamic vinegar. Pinch off tiny pieces of butter and dot top of fruit.

5. Bake peaches at 375 degrees for about 25 minutes, or until top of fruit begins to caramelize and the flesh has softened.

6. Remove from oven and top each half with 1/4 cup granola. Serve with yogurt or ice cream for an easy summer breakfast or dessert.

Granola topped Roasted Peaches

What will you top your baked stonefruit with?

 

Thyme Roasted Tomatoes over Grilled Polenta

Sweet, tangy cherry tomatoes are roasted and served over grilled polenta.

Sweet, tangy cherry tomatoes are roasted and served over grilled polenta.

It’s been a whirlwind week ’round these parts.

Aside from a M-F desk job, I’ve recently opened up a baking business. This means I spend my time covered in flour, smelling like buttercream, and harassing my family to try anything and everything that has been coming out of the test kitchen.

I usually try to post a new recipe once a week, usually on Sundays, but admittedly I’ve been slipping on that. Oh well….in other news, I am happy to report that I have an herb garden. By herb garden, I mean that two out of twelve plants I put into the container garden are not dead.

 

Doesn't everyone water their garden with a shotglass?

Doesn’t everyone water their garden with a shotglass?

If you look real closely, you can see that I’ve managed to keep alive both parsley and thyme. I have NO idea what the green tuft is by the shot glass, so if anyone knows feel free to leave a comment.

Today marked my first day at the Little Elm Farmer’s Market. I might have spent more money on buying stuff there than I did making money from sales, but oh well. A gal’s gotta eat, right?

My baker’s assistants daughters bought a bag of lovely cherry tomatoes for me. Isn’t that sweet? I put them to good use, roasting them with some Texas Olive Ranch Olive Oil, fresh thyme and parsley from my garden (squeeee!), and sea salt and pepper.

Gorgeous 'maters getting ready for a roast in the oven.

Gorgeous ‘maters getting ready for a roast in the oven.

And, in true family tradition, I served the roasted tomatoes over something nobody in my family will eat: polenta. That doesn’t stop me from cooking it. I love, love, love it. And since I’m the boss, they get polenta. Done deal.

I like my polenta firm; that is, from the shelf-stable tubes you can purchase at the grocery store. It’s, quick, simple, and mighty tasty when lightly pan fried in some olive oil.

Not much to look at, but tasty none the less.

Not much to look at, but tasty none the less.

This could be served with any number of main dishes: a firm, mild white fish, grilled chicken breast, or with a side salad for an easy lunch.


Texas Olive Ranch. Love of my life.

Texas Olive Ranch. Love of my life.

Thyme Roasted Tomatoes with Grilled Polenta

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Time: 30 minutes
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients:
2 lbs. cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered if large
2 T. fresh thyme leaves
1 T. fresh Italian parsley
1 tsp. sea salt
½ tsp. ground black pepper
3 T. Texas Olive Ranch Olive Oil
1 lb. tube of prepared Polenta (look in the Italian foods section)
2 tsp. Texas Olive Ranch Olive Oil
Sea salt and pepper, to taste
½ cup Parmesan cheese, grated or shaved

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside.
3. In a medium mixing bowl, combine halved cherry tomatoes with thyme, parsley, 1 tsp. sea salt, ½ tsp. ground black pepper, and 3 T. Texas Olive Ranch Olive Oil.
4. Spread tomato mixture onto prepared baking sheet and roast for 30 minutes.
5. Meanwhile, slice polenta into 12 even “rounds” and sprinkle each side with salt and pepper.
6. In a large, non-stick skillet heat 1 tsp. Texas Olive Ranch Olive Oil over medium heat. Grill polenta six slices at a time, taking care not to overcrowd the pan, for about 3 minutes on each side. Repeat with remaining polenta slices and remaining 1 tsp. Texas Olive Ranch Olive Oil.
7. Line polenta slices on a serving platter (rectangular works best). Spoon roasted tomatoes over top of slices; garnish with grated or shaved Parmesan.

Pass the wine.

Pass the wine.

Texan Cheesesteak Stir Fry

IMG_4426

Well, hello again.

It has been awhile since I’ve put a blog post up, and this is actually my very first post under the new website name.

For those new friends out there, my name is JC and just recently I opened up a baking business. I decided that I wanted to name the business Birdcage Bakeshop; this happened to be my blog name. I did NOT want to give up blogging, so I moved all my content from my business website over to this here blog. Lots of work. It still isn’t done, but I’ll be making the changes slowly over the course of the next few weeks.

These days, I am so tired that dinner is usually some kind of *gasp* bagged salad mix and a quick protein. And by “quick protein”, I actually mean that I’m usually just opening up a can of black beans and throwing them on my iceberg.

Well. We can’t be fancy nancy everyday now, can we?

Speaking of fancy….

I have the privilege of living near both downtown McKinney, Texas, and Chestnut Square. Chestnut square is just off our cute little downtown; it is a collection of old homes from way back in the day. Every Saturday, they host a farmer’s market.

Last weekend, I stopped by the farmer’s market and picked up some GORGEOUS baby bella mushrooms from Kitchen Pride Mushrooms.  I’d been following Kitchen Pride on Instagram and after seeing their posts, had been nursing a craving for some ‘shrooms.

IMG_4407

See what I mean?

Since “patio weather” is quickly coming to an end here in the Dallas area, my family and I have been taking every opportunity to grill and eat outdoors before the 110 degree weather unleashes itself. There is no better place to get meats than Local Yocal and that is just where I headed. What makes Local Yocal so great is that all their meats “are sustainably and humanely raised, and free of hormones, antibiotics and steroids“. You can read more about their meats here.

IMG_4411

Wagyu. Even the name sounds magical. This steak was tender as can be!

The owner, Matt, recommended a Wagyu Chip Steak for a stir fry. Hmmm. This sounded good. I’m a huge fan of stir-fries and their simplicity, so I took some home.

After fumbling through my pantry, I decided to make a Texan spin on a stir fry. It’s kind of like a Cheese Steak with these flavors: sliced Wagyu steak, onions, peppers, sliced Kitchen Pride baby bellas, and a marinade I whipped up with my Texas Olive Ranch products. I topped it all off with some raw milk cheddar. I ate it in a bowl, hubby stuffed it into a crusty French roll. Both ways, it was delicious!

Don’t let the steps throw you off. From beginning to end, this whole recipe took me about 40 minutes and most of that time was hands off when the steak was taking a quick marinade bath. Plus, it was waaaay better than the iceberg and canned bean salads I’ve been eating!

IMG_4417

Pssst! You can buy Texas Olive Ranch products at both the Chestnut Square Farmers Market OR Local Yocal!

TEXAN STYLE CHEESESTEAK STIRFRY

Serves 4 – 5, as a sandwich filling

Ingredients:

1/4 cup Dijon mustard

1 tsp. minced garlic

1/4 cup olive oil, such as Texas Olive Ranch Mesquite Olive Oil

1/2 cup balsamic vinegar, such as Texas Olive Ranch Pecan Vinegar

* If not using the Mesquite Olive Oil, add 1/4 tsp. liquid smoke to your marinade

1/4 tsp. pepper

1/2 tsp. sea salt

1 lb. thin cut beef, sliced into 1/2″ ribbons

1/2 lb. baby bella mushrooms, stems removed and caps sliced

1 small onion, sliced into 1/4 inch slices

1 sweet bell pepper, sliced into 1/4 inch slices

2 tsp. cornstarch

Salt and pepper, to taste

1/3 lb. mild cheddar, or Monterey jack cheese, grated

4 crusty rolls, if serving as sandwiches

Directions:

1. In a medium bowl, whisk to combine: mustard, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper.

2. Place sliced steak into a large Ziploc baggie and pour half of the marinade over. Gently massage package. Place package into refrigerator. Marinade for 20 minutes, flipping halfway through. Keep in mind that if you get a top-notch quality cut of beef, such as Wagyu, from a local source, you will find an excessive amount of marinating is not necessary. Set aside remaining marinade.

3. Heat large skillet over medium high heat. Drizzle pan with additional olive oil. Drain the marinade from the Ziploc bag and discard. Add steak strips to pan and cook, stirring constantly, for about 5-7 minutes or until cooked through. Remove from pan, place onto plate and tent loosely with foil.

4. Add a tad more oil (or even a Tablespoon or two of water) and cook your onions, peppers, and mushrooms until crisp-tender; about 2 minutes on medium.

5. Add back to pan your cooked steak strips and any juices that have collected on the plate. Get your reserved marinade out from the fridge and whisk in 2 tsp. of cornstarch. Add to pan, bring to boil and simmer about 1 minute.

5. Serve as desired. Whether in a bowl or in a roll, smother this stir fry with some mild cheddar or jack cheese and enjoy.

Stovetop Barbeque Bacon Beans

IMG_4319

 

I am welcoming BBQ season with open arms.

I am welcoming the time of simple meals, cooked on the grill, and served with side dishes like roasted corn, potato salad, watermelon, and baked beans.

I am not looking forward to the stifling hot Texas heat or the mosquito bites and West Nile warnings that come with, but oh well.

The taste of homemade baked beans cannot be beat. Especially when there is a hefty amount of bacon involved. No fake bacon here, I use big chunks and -gasp!- bacon grease in this recipe.

I have never, ever had enough time to cook dried beans, make the sauce base, simmer the cooked beans in sauce, and finish in the oven. I came up with this recipe because I love scratch-made items (duh) and I don’t have time to spend 12 hours getting a freakin’ SIDE DISH ready. Hence, I use canned beans and came up with a way to cook the baked beans on the stovetop.

You.Don’t.Really.Have.To.Bake.The.Beans.

Sure, baking them really helps the sugars caramelize and get gooey. But, I have found that a long, slow simmer does the trick.

A slow simmer on the stovetop also means that my oven is free to finish off baby back ribs or bake a cobbler. Oh, to have a double oven…

These beans are KILLER the next day. I mean, outrageously good. Another option is to cook your beans the day before you plan to grill or as a make-ahead option for a potluck. Then all you have to do is gently reheat the beans on the stove, pack it up, and go.

Leftovers are also really good over white rice. Kind of a random combo, but I found it was really good.

Let’s get to Barbeque Bacon Bean Makin’!

IMG_4324

STOVETOP BARBEQUE BACON BEANS

Serves 4 as a side dish (Don’t be afraid to double or triple)

Ingredients:

1/2 cup water

1/3 cup ketchup

3/4 cup brown sugar

1 tsp. molasses

1 T. apple cider vinegar

3/4 tsp. Worcestershire sauce

1 T. Dijon mustard

1/2 tsp. smoked paprika

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. black pepper

1 tsp. hot sauce, such as Sriracha

6 strips of bacon, or about 1/2 a package of bacon, cut into one inch chunks (Reserve 1 T. spoon of drippings)

2 T. olive oil (I used Texas Olive Ranch’s Mesquite Olive Oil)

1 small onion, small dice

1/2 green bell pepper, small dice

1 clove garlic, minced

15 oz. can pinto beans, drained and rinsed

15 oz. can light red kidney beans, drained and rinsed

Directions:

1. In a medium bowl, whisk together all ingredients from water through Sriracha. Set aside.

2.  In a medium saucepan, cook bacon pieces over medium heat until cooked through. Remove from pan and set on paper lined plate. Discard all but 1 – 2 T. bacon fat drippings.

3. Add 2 T. olive oil to pan, stirring with wooden spoon to loosen and browned bacon bits.

4. Add in diced onions and peppers and cook, stirring frequently, over medium heat until very, very soft and browned.

5. Add in minced garlic and cook, stirring constantly, for 30 seconds.

6. Pour in the sauce mixture that you had set aside previously.

7. Add cans of rinsed beans and cooked bacon pieces. (Save a small handful of cooked bacon pieces for garnish)

8. Bring to a high simmer and cook, stirring frequently, for about 2 minutes. Lower heat to low and cook, simmering, for at least 30 minutes but ideally one hour.

9. Garnish servings of beans with reserved bacon pieces and serve.

Grilled Chops with Garlic Scape Pesto and Savory Pancetta Farina

IMG_4068

So, this recipe has a crazy long name. I don’t really know what to do about that – all the words are pretty necessary.

This is a showstopper of a dinner – perfect for warm Texas weekend afternoons and a nice party entrée.

The side dish was really special: farina cooked with chicken stock, olive oil, pancetta, cream, parmesan, and salt and pepper. It was creamy, cheesy, and comforting – definitely naughty.

Farina is essentially cream of wheat and a cousin of grits, in case you were wondering.

Combining meat and pesto is a little old hat, but by using garlic scapes and parsley it created an interesting departure from trusty ol’ basil. Kind of chimichurri-ish minus the red wine vinegar.

Don’t have garlic scapes? Use the green part of a scallion.

Truth be told, I actually feel a little silly to be writing a grilling recipe.

For starters, I’d previously mentioned that I have a fear of the grill. I don’t know why. It’s hot and sometimes flames shoot out of it…maybe that’s why?

Secondly, it is RAINING outside, dude.

Anyway, this was what I made for my Mother’s Day dinner. I really prefer to stay away from large crowds, so the hermit in me says to just cook at home. Plus, I see this as a guilt-free excuse to use copious amounts of olive oil (specifically, Texas Olive Ranch), butter, carbs, and pancetta.

And then wash it all down with two margaritas that I forced my hubby to make for me.

Tequila, olive oil, and Mother’s Day? Sounds like a fun time to me.

IMG_4030

When making pesto, or any type of fresh herb sauce, using the highest quality items you can will yield the best results.

All my produce was organic and I was lucky to score garlic scapes in my co-op share from Urban Acres.

IMG_4046

 GARLIC SCAPE PESTO

(Pesto recipe makes enough to marinade four chops, plus enough for condiment)

Garlic Scape Pesto Ingredients:

4 large garlic scapes (or about 1/2 lb.)

1/2 lb. good quality Parmesan Cheese, chopped

zest of one lemon

juice from half a lemon

1 small bunch of parsley

3 T. pine nuts

1 cup of high quality olive oil (I used Herb Garden from Texas Olive Ranch)

1/2 tsp. fresh ground pepper

1 tsp. coarse sea salt

Directions:

1. Roughly chop garlic scapes.

2. Place all ingredients (except for olive oil, salt, and pepper) into the work bowl of a food processor. Pulse a few times until ingredients are roughly blended.

3. With motor running, pour olive oil through work chute of food processor and continue to run until all ingredients are combined and finely mince.

4. Add in ground pepper and sea salt and pulse to combine.

5. Pesto will keep tightly sealed an in refrigerator for about one week. I take half of my pesto and freeze it for later use.

IMG_4058

Grilled Chops with Garlic Scape Pesto and Balsamic Reduction

Ingredients:

2 x 1/4 pound pork sirloin chops OR

4 center cut pork chops

1/4 recipe Garlic Scape Pesto, plus 1 T. per serving (reserved)

2/3 cup balsamic vinegar, divided

salt and pepper, to taste

2 tsp. sugar

Directions:

1. Into a large zip-top plastic food storage bag, place your pork chops, pesto, and 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar.

2. Seal bag and “mush” all ingredients until chops are thoroughly coated. Let marinate in fridge for at least one hour, but no longer than 8.

3. Following the directions of your barbeque, over medium heat, grill chops until cooked through and a meat thermometer reads 145 degrees, per food safety standards.

4. Remove from grill and loosely tent pork chops, allowing to rest at least 10 minutes before slicing and serving.

5. Meanwhile, in a sauce pan, bring reserved 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar and 2 tsp. sugar to rapid bowl. Pour into this mixture any loose cooking juices that have accumulated on the resting pork plate.

6. Allow balsamic vinegar to boil over medium heat until reduced by half and syrupy, about ten to 15 minutes.

7. Slice grilled pork chops and drizzle with balsamic reduction. Serve each portion with about 1 T. Garlic Scape Pesto for dipping.

IMG_4053

SAVORY PANCETTA FARINA

(Serves 6)

***This cooks so quickly, you MUST have all your ingredients measured and handy before beginning the recipe***

Ingredients:

4 oz. chopped pancetta

1 tsp. olive oil

1 cup instant farina (I found this in the bulk section of my market)

4 cups chicken stock

3/4 cup grated Parmesan Cheese

2 tsp. grated lemon zest

1/3 cup heavy cream

1 T. olive oil

salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

1. Over medium heat, in a large saucepan, fry pancetta in 1 tsp. olive oil until cooked through and crispy. Remove from pan, including any rendered fat, and set aside. You must set aside the fat since we are adding a water-based liquid to the pan next. (Water plus hot oil = danger!)

2. To hot pan, bring chicken stock to simmer. Add in farina, and using a whisk, stir constantly to remove any lumps. The farina should cook in 1 – 2 minutes, tops.

3. Quickly add in all remaining ingredients, including rendered pancetta drippings. You may choose to add in a splash more stock or cream, to your liking. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Serve this dish with a nice glass of wine if your feeling classy.

If not, feel free to force your husband, wife, partner, friend, kids, to make you a margarita.

Enjoy!

IMG_4066