LaCroix Cake

A few weeks ago, we were out floating on the Columbia river, drinking my famous wine spritzers - half a can of LaCroix with some rosé or sauvignon blanc poured in.

Genius struck as we discussed our favorite flavors of LaCroix... what if I made a cake with LaCroix?! My dear friend and future contributor, Emily Kolberg's, birthday dinner had been rescheduled a few times because she was sick on her birthday :( So, I decided to come up with a recipe for LaCroix cake for her birthday cake!

I oftentimes just buy desserts or put one of the guests in charge of dessert, especially birthday cakes, because they require so much time and patience. Ask me to throw together a dinner for 20 on a moment's notice and I won't even flinch. But ask me to bake a cake or another dessert, and you can usually count on it being delicious but ugly. I just don't usually have the patience!

Alas, this cake is one of the easiest things I've ever baked and looks gorgeous. It also was incredibly moist, which is awesome considering I didn't use any eggs or oil!

Ingredients:

3 boxes of cake mix (I used Trader Joe's Vanilla Bean Cake & Baking Mix)

3 cans of LaCroix (these can each be different flavors of the same)

food coloring

For the frosting:

2 (8-oz) packages of cream cheese

4 cups of heavy cream

1 cup of sugar

4 tablespoons of rosé champs

sprinkles!

In separate bowls, mix up each box of cake mix with a different can of LaCroix. I used Mango LaCroix, Coconut LaCroix and Tangerine LaCroix. I then put a bit of yellow food coloring in the mango cake and a bit of yellow and red food coloring in the tangerine cake. Pour each cake batter into a separate cake pan - don't forget to spray with cooking spray.

The instructions on the cake box called for 350 degrees for 40 minutes, but because my cakes did not have any oil or eggs, I ended up pulling them out at 30 minutes.

Pro-tip

Push a toothpick down the center of the cake, and if it comes out clean, the cake is finished baking! Your cake edges will be a bit golden brown too.

I then used a knife to separate the cakes from the edges of the pans and flipped them over onto a cooling rack. This way the cake stops baking immediately.

 

For the frosting:

Using a stand mixer or a hand mixer, mix the cream cheese and sugar. Once combined, slowly pour in the heavy whipping cream while the mixture is still whipping. Then add your rosé champs and a bit of red food coloring if you want your frosting to be more pink.

 

Assembly:

Gently lay one cake layer onto your cake plate (or whatever final dish you're going to use) and pour about a cup of frosting onto the cake and smooth out with a spatula. Let the frosting just drip down the sides. Repeat each layer.

 

Now at this point, I had these gorgeous drips of frosting down the sides. I was thinking I'd maybe put some edible flowers on top. But then our Studio Manager, Ashley, came up with an ingenious idea! SPRINKLES!

Put a kitchen towel underneath the cake plate to catch the errant sprinkles. Pour sprinkles on top and pat them in so they stick. Then pour small amounts into your hand and pat them down the sides.

VOILA! The prettiest homemade cake you ever did see. Also, sprinkles help cover up imperfections, like broken cake or poorly frosted cake.

Photos via Jenna Sheingold Studio

A Case for Beets

Beets aren't really one of my go-to vegetables when I'm grocery shopping. But, here in Oregon, we have some of the best produce I've ever seen. So, we've been buying tons of new and different vegetables each week. Nick and I love to experiment with food too, so we try to buy random things or find recipes from other cultures, so that we have to buy things we haven't worked with before. It has helped us to learn how food can be substituted and your own recipes or experiments can be created.

Tonight, we were both exhausted from work, but I had defrosted some chicken drumsticks yesterday, so we had to cook them. But, we didn't have a veg in the fridge. It's been a crazy week, so I haven't really had time to get to the grocery store. Instead of popping downstairs to Green Zebra, our local market, I thought, let's grab something from the freezer.

Just so happens, one of those items I bought because I wasn't sure of how to cook it, was frozen sliced beets. I've bought fresh beets before, but I usually just put them on salads. And, I have to say, the pre-peeled ones from Costco are fantastic. I also have to say, I just bought Trader Joe's pickled beets for salads this week too. So easy, so awesome. (Also, the jar of Artichoke Hearts from Trader Joe's is awesome for easy salads too).

Here's the thing, beets are such a mess. When you peel them, their juice gets everywhere and can stain things if you're not careful. (Unless you use Oxyclean spray, which basically get every single stain out ever, even after accidentally washing in hot water or drying). So, I'm telling you, you don't have to bother buying fresh beets, unless you're in the mood for the prep.

Whole Foods sells bags of frozen sliced beets. Now, they are expensive for what they are, so I generally wait to see these on sale. And, there was a recent study that found that beets may help lower blood pressure. I better share this recipe with my Mom - Dad needs some help with his blood pressure.

Simply Perfect Roasted Beets

Spray a metal roasting pan with Trader Joe's Coconut Oil Spray (or whatever cooking spray you use).

Spread out the thinly sliced beets in a single layer across the pan and layer on your usual salt, pepper and olive oil.

The magic touch though - and I have to give credit to Nick for this - is some Parmigiano flakes (from Trader Joe's, where else?!). You could use Parmesan cheese of any sort, as long as it's real cheese (and not that disgusting cardboard stuff), but the flakes lay perfectly on the beet slices, so try to use those :)

We normally just follow the time and temp instructions on the package (25 minutes at 350 degrees), but we already had our chicken drumsticks in at 425, so Nick cooked the beets at 415 for 15 minutes. They were definitely crispier on the higher heat - I totally recommend it. Obviously these were frozen, so if you're using fresh beets, google roasted beets to find a suggestion. I'll update when we try making these fresh.

Photo via @pilatesismylifestyle on Instagram

Empanadas

Ashley, our studio assistant, LOVES empanadas. And by loves, I mean she would eat them almost every day. So, when it came time to figure out the food for her surprise birthday dinner, this recipe came to the top of the list!

I went to 3 grocery stores trying to find empanada wrappers from Goya, but to no avail. So, I ended up using regular ole pie dough. They actually were quite flaky and lovely, but it was a lot more work to prep the dough than I had planned.

Ingredients

2 packages of pie dough (4 rolls total)

2 pounds of ground beef

2 medium onions, diced

2 jalopenos, minced

1/2 tsp chilli powder

2 cans diced tomatoes

1 cup of fresh cilantro

salt & peppa

1 egg

1 tbsp water

For the aioli:

1 cup of mayonnaise

hot sauce to taste

Cook your filling

Get the dough out of the fridge and let is sit at room temperature for about 10 minutes so that it doesn't stick together too much.

Break up the meat into pieces in a medium skillet. Over medium-high, cook the beef until all the pink is gone, about 5 minutes.

Add in the onions and jalopenos and cook until soft, about 5 minutes.

Add the chili powder and tomatoes and cook over medium until the filling thickens, about 12 minutes. Take off heat and season with salt and pepper.

Roll out your dough

Roll out the dough and cut into circles using a cookie cutter or a cereal bowl. Fold the cilantro into the filling. Then, scoop filling into the middle of the dough circles and fold the circles in half. Close the edges with your fingers.

Lay the empanadas out on parchment paper on a metal baking sheet. Whisk up your egg wash with 1 egg and a tablespoon of water. Either brush or use your fingers to drop egg wash on each empanada - this creates a pretty brown crust.

Bake at 400 degrees for about 30.

If you want to pre-make these, you can freeze them in tightly wrapped plastic or ziploc baggies pre-egg wash. Bake them for an extra 10 minutes (total of 40) at 400 degrees.

Mix up your mayonnaise with hot sauce to taste for a creamy aioli to complement!

Voila! Yummy, homemade South American goodness!

Sweet as Pie

Written by Ashley Woody, studio assistant at JSS. On a cloudy, somewhat dreary Monday, I headed to the office to prep for a chaotic work week. A couple of hours into my day, I received a text from my mother that said something along the lines of “Call me now!” accompanied by a sad face. I stepped outside on our studio's balcony overlooking beautiful, gloomy Portland, only to be informed that my 94-year-old grandmother had passed away. I was taken aback at first, because of course, no one wants to hear of any family member dying (okay, maybe my mother-in-law… JK, JK) but then found a sense of relief, as she has been on hospice for a few months.

She died in the early afternoon of old age, in her own bed, surrounded by family. She has been battling Parkinson’s Disease and dementia for years. Knowing she has moved on to the next life, whatever that may be, I take comfort in her being free from any more pain.

I’ve had a chance to reflect on the type of woman she was. My grandmother is a first generation American; her parents were immigrants from Lebanon.  The family settled into the heart of Hollywood, behind the Chinese theater. As a little girl, she would spend most nights in her back yard listening to the premieres separated only by a wooden fence. Even the gold confetti would fall down from the sky into her little French Lebanese face. Some Hollywood sparkle must have caught my grandmother’s eye because when she became a young woman, she dove head first into the glamorous (or seemingly) movie industry. She started as an executive assistant for Cecil B. DeMille at MGM. She was even offered a part in Cleopatra, but turned it down because she enjoyed being a bossy woman in a male driven industry. Talk about breaking the glass ceiling!

At some point in her career, my grandma became a personal assistant to Lucille Ball and Desi Lu. She used to tell me stories of how Lucy would send limos to pick her up so they could work on I Love Lucy scripts together. She described Lucy as a tough but fair business woman and modeled her work ethic after her.

Grandma Jeanne was a single mom to two children. She did everything she could to provide for them.  She spent her later years of her career at Universal, befriending tons of people from Fabio to Barbara Eden (who later married our cousin.)  She loved to travel. She made us grape leaves and kibbe and the best homemade macaroni in all the land. She gave me my first car, a ’99 T-Bird and expected nothing in return. She loved to gamble. Vegas was her home away from home. Once, she made me and my brother, probably 6 and 8, sit in the hallway of the MGM while she played slots. It must’ve been at least 20 minutes of just sitting there until the hotel security asked her to take us out of the casino area. She truly was the best grandma I could have asked for. No back scratch will ever match Grandma Jeanne’s gentle touch and the subtle lull of her singing a sweet lullaby, the comfort only a grandmother provides.

Jenna embraced me when I walked in tearful from the balcony with a warm hug. She immediately blasted Fleetwood Mac and offered to bake. My grandma was as sweet as pie, so today, we celebrate her life with these delicious mini peach pies.

Mini Peach Pies

Yields 12 servings

Ingredients:

Refrigerated (or frozen and defrosted) pie dough - 2 rolls (usually sold as 2 rolls in a box)

4 ripe peaches, chopped

1 tbsp flour

1/4 cup sugar

1/8 tsp cinnamon

pinch of nutmeg

pinch of salt

1 tbsp bourbon (or whiskey)

6 tsp butter

1 egg

1 tsp water

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Spray a muffin tin with Coconut Oil Spray or whatever cooking oil spray you prefer. Line the muffin tin with liners - I use the silicone ones from Ikea. Paper are fine too.

In a bowl, combine the flour, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and bourbon. Then, add the peaches. I used my Kitchen Aid stand mixer because I wanted the peaches to get a bit macerated. You can use a spoon or a hand mixer too.

Let the pastry dough warm up out of the fridge for just a few short minutes. The cold keeps the dough from completely falling apart, but if it's too cold, it just sticks together. Unroll the dough gently onto a wood cutting board. If you do rip holes into it, dab your fingers into a bit of water and mold the holes back together. Just a touch of water helps the dough stick together. Too much water and the dough becomes a sticky mess.

Use a circle cookie cutter or a cup to cut pie into circles that are just bigger than the base of your muffin liner. Place the pie circles into the bottom of each muffin liner.

Scoop the peach filling into each muffin liner, filling to near the top, but not overflowing. Place a 1/2 tsp of butter on top of each pie.

Use any leftover pie dough to cut out fun shapes for the tops of your mini pies. Place your various shapes on top.

Whisk up the egg and 1 tsp of water to make an egg wash. Brush the tops of your pies with the egg wash.

Bake for 10 minutes at 450 degrees.

Reduce the heat to 350 degrees for another 10 minutes.

Cool for about 10 minutes before using a knife to scoop them out of the tin.

 

Photo via Ashley Woody

Homemade Whipped Cream

Stop wasting your calorie intake with that processed crap they call whipped cream from the store. Make your own!

Ingredients:

1 cup heavy whipping cream

2 tbsp sugar

splash of champs

The splash of champs is optional, if you don’t want to open a bottle, but seriously, who doesn’t want to have a reason to open a bottle of champs at any given time??

There are lots of contraptions to make whipped cream at home with. Some are more work than others.

 

Mason Jar Method (easy):

put a mason jar & lid in the freezer for about 15 minutes

take the mason jar & lid out of the freezer and add the heavy whipping cream and sugar to the mason jar and close

shake vigorously, until the liquid thickens, about 5 minutes

fold in the champs afterwards, since the bubbles and pressure of the mason jar won’t do so well together

 

Traditional Method (annoying):

put a metal bowl and a metal whisk in the freezer for about 15 minutes

vigorously mix the heavy whipping cream and sugar until it stiff peaks form - which basically means that it looks like a mountain peak on the end of your whisk when you pull it out

this takes a lot of arm strength, so we usually have 2 people do the whipping in my house.

Fold in the champs at the end

 

Mixer Method (easy, but tools required):

I’m sure any pastry chef would admonish my use of a mixer for whipped cream, but seriously, it’s really hard work and I can’t taste the difference! Sorry to break it to ya folks, but my kitchen is not a michelin starred restaurant, so I’m gonna break some rules. A stand mixer or hand mixer both work

Freeze the metal bowl and whisk head attachment from your stand mixer, or freeze any metal mixing bowl along with the heads to your hand mixer

Pour in the heavy whipping cream and sugar and mix it up

Fold in some champs at the end

 

If you need to, you can make whipped cream up to 10 hours before and store in an airtight container in the fridge, just re-whip it for about 15 seconds when you pull it out. But freshly whipped does taste better :) 

And, voila! You’ve got yourself a treat worth having!

Photo via Instagram

Red, White & Blueberry Pancakes

Perfect Pancakes

Ingredients:

Any kind of pancake mix (+ ingredients on the box)

strawberries, chopped

raspberries

blueberries

REAL maple syrup

1 cup heavy cream

2 tbsp sugar

some champs, if you’re drinking mimosas anyway, may as well add some champs to the whipped cream

Make the pancake batter as directed on the box.

Pancake Pro-tip:

Don’t over mix your batter or the pancakes will be chewy rather than fluffy. Mix until the wet and dry ingredients are combined - you’ll likely still have some lumps, but just make sure there aren’t any wisps of dry mix showing.

Let you pancake batter rest. Now’s the time to do a bit of kitchen clean-up and make your whipped cream. Here are all the ways in which you can make homemade whipped cream. Trust, this is wayyyyyy better than the store bought stuff.

Heat the stove-top to medium or the griddle to 375 and add some butter or spray coconut oil. Depends on how good or bad you feel like being with your pancakes. Wait until the pan is HOT, i.e. whatever fat you’ve chosen is fully melted, but not smoking.

Use a soup paddle or a pitcher with a spout to pour pancake batter into whatever size you like your pancakes. Personally, I make them a touch bigger than dollar sized, because they’re easiest to flip. Drop in a variety of berries.

Pancake Pro-tip:

Your pancakes are ready to flip when the bubbles start to burst.

Cook on the 2nd side for about 15-30 seconds - they're fast.

And voila, serve ‘em up hot to whoever’s ready to eat.

Photo via Jenna Sheingold

Fruit & Cheese Danishes

I made red, white & blueberry danishes (inspired by this Tasty recipe) for the 4th of July, but you can use whatever fruit is in season!

I couldn’t find puff pastry dough at Trader Joe’s or Safeway and didn’t feel like going to another grocery store (I know my local Whole Foods carries it), so I subbed in croissant dough. I’m sure puff pastry dough would have made the beautiful designs in Tasty’s recipe more possible, but whatever, they tasted good. I’m all about not stressing yourself out over things being perfect. You know #pinterestfail? That’s me EVERY TIME I try to do pretty baking. So who cares if they’re ugly, did they taste good? Great, I’m going to worry about other things in life than if my freaking pastries are pretty.

Also, I forgot to bring the vanilla extract that the Tasty recipe called for in the cream cheese recipe. What can I say, I was packing up half my kitchen for this trip all while trying to get a bunch of work done before heading out of town. So, I subbed in champs. And let me tell you, that was the best goddamn cream cheese frosting I’ve ever had. And I am a connoisseur of cream cheese frosting. Trust. So now, forever and ever, I’m gonna make it with champs instead. Who cares if I have to open an entire bottle of bubbly for a meagre 1/4 teaspoon. If you’re not drinking while you’re cooking, what’s the point??

Ingredients:

strawberries, chopped

raspberries

blueberries

2 packages Croissant Dough (or Puff Pastry Dough)

1 8-oz package of Cream Cheese (to make it easier on yourself, let it sit out for about an hour ahead, if you can)

1/4 cup of sugar

1/2 tsp of champs *aka champagne aka bubbly - place definition link here* (or vanilla extract)

Preheat the oven, following the cooking instructions on the dough package.

Chop up your strawberries.

Whip up the frosting - cream cheese, sugar & champs in a bowl.

Make some cool shapes with the dough. If you want to try and get fancy, follow Tasty’s recommendations.

Dollop some frosting in the center and put some berries on top.

Bake according to the cooking instructions on the dough packaging.

 

And voila!

Photo via Instagram