“Happiness is knowing there’s cake in the oven.”
The amazing world of cakes is filled with wonderful creations. Some of them plain but delicious, others gorgeous looking and completely luscious. Birthday cakes, Angel Food, Red Velvet, Cheesecake, Strawberry Shortcake, Pound cakes, Foam cakes…no matter which of these varieties you choose to make, this food is sure to make you happy.
In this fun and exciting world, Kentucky butter cake stands as an example of simplicity and deliciousness, united in a perfect timeless recipe. Perfect for first-time cake bakers, and piece-of-cake for experienced cooks, this cake is almost impossible to mess up. However, there are always some tips and tricks you can learn to make it perfect!
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So, before you get baking, let’s educate. Let’s dive in this fantastic cake world and explore. It’s a journey that is sure to end in sprinkles and glazes!
Butter Cakes Make Your Life Smell Better
As we move towards the Kentucky butter cake recipe, we begin by narrowing down the broad cake category and focus more on butter cakes. This type of cakes originated from the English pound cake and has butter as the main ingredient, with a participation of 6% to 12%, hence the name. However, some butter cake recipes make use of shortening or other types of fat, including vegetable or animal- derived shortening, or margarine, combined with sugar (30%-40% participation in a recipes), flour (about 30%), eggs (5% to 10%), and leavening agents (baking powder and baking soda).
American Butter Cake refers to the style of butter cake popular in the US. It rose in popularity with the invention of chemical leavening agents in the 1800s. This was an important milestone in the baking world because it allowed butter cakes lighter and fluffier. Nowadays, butter cakes are found in various flavors, most commonly vanilla and chocolate, but also fruity ones like lemon, lime orange, and strawberry, or even coffee. Butter cakes come with various toppings and fillings, as well as in different shapes, from cupcakes to celebration cakes, eaten on special occasions or as an after-dinner snack/dessert served with coffee or tea.
The Basics of Butter Cake
Butter cakes are well flavored but not too sweet in taste. When it comes to texture, they are dense, delicate and very moist. Most of them are flat and rectangular (with the exception of Kentucky butter cake, which is round). These velvety desserts come with a soft crumb and a voluminous texture. However, one of the biggest advantages of butter cakes is their convenience and cheapness.
The beauty in these delicate cakes is that they can be kept for several days at room temperature without losing their tenderness and richness. On the contrary, many pro cooks claim that this butter cakes are even better the next day! However, keeping them in the fridge is not recommended because they become dry and alter the flavor. In addition, refrigerating makes them unsuitable for frosting and filling. Butter cakes are good to keep in the freezer too – wrap them well and keep them there for up to two months!
Most butter cakes are baked into a cake tin lined with parchment paper, in an oven heated to 320 degrees F. This, however, doesn’t count for Kentucky butter cakes since they are baked in a Bundt pan.
Note: Shortened cakes are sometimes considered a part of the butter cake category. Cakes like banana cake, carrot cake, and red velvet cake, are ‘shortened’ with oil, which means they also contain a high ratio of fat. They often call for leavening agents and eggs as well. The main difference is the usage of the ‘one bowl method’ in the preparation of these recipes. Shortened cakes are not creamed, but mixed. In terms of cooking, they are similar to butter cakes.
Ingredients for a Perfect Kentucky Butter Cake
Rich, melt-in-the-mouth butter cakes are a combination of high-quality ingredients and baking skills.
The first commandment of baking is – your wet ingredients (fat, liquid, eggs) should be at a room temperature. When these ingredients are cold, the batter may separate, resulting in a denser and flatter cake. If they are too warm, the fat will melt and the mixture will not contain enough air bubbles.
As Julia Child said: “With enough butter, anything is good.” And in Kentucky butter cake, you can bet that there is enough butter to make it amazing!
For best results, you should always use the best butter you can find. The best type of butter to use for baked goods is unsalted butter, also known as sweet cream butter. This variety is made from milk or cream (or a combination of both) and contains 80% milk fat.
If your butter had been in the fridge, the butter must be melted. Otherwise, it will be impossible to cream and there will be butter chunks all over your cake. To speed up the process of melting, cut the butter into cubes and place it in the microwave at low heat for half a minute. Alternatively, place the butter on a dish in a pre-heated oven. Leave it there for about two minutes with the door open, until soft.
It should be noted, though, that if the butter is hot, you will probably end up with a flat instead of a fluffy butter cake. To obtain perfect temperature and consistency, it is best to let the butter stand on the counter at a room temperature (68-70 degrees F) for about an hour. If you had heated the butter, leave it on the counter to cool off a bit before creaming.
Eggs and dry ingredients
Always use fresh eggs for your butter cake recipes.
Sift the flour to obtain an airier mixture, prevent the formation of lumps, and obtain a fine crumb.
Preparing the Perfect Kentucky Butter Cake
There are so many reasons to love Kentucky butter cake. It is so easy and simple and yet so buttery and flavorful. Unlike other butter cakes, this one is baked in a Bundt pan and soaked in an amazing vanilla sauce. Soft on the inside and crispy on the outside, Kentucky butter cake is a unique delight indeed.
Once you have equipped yourself with the best ingredients, it is time to make the best Kentucky butter cake.
First, you need an amazing recipe.
1 cup butter
2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
Vanilla butter sauce
⅓ cup butter
¾ cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 tablespoons water
Then, you need to arrange all the necessary kitchenware on the counter:
Scales for weighing ingredients
The creaming method includes beating the fat and sugar together in order to incorporate air bubbles. Leavening agents are added instead of beaten eggs to obtain velvety texture.
Beat the butter with sugar until fluffy and light. Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each one. Any flavorings and add-ins should be added at this point.
Once the dry ingredients are added, take care not to over-beat the mixture. Mix well after each addition of ingredients, scraping down the sides of the bowl with the rubber spatula, until well incorporated.
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Grease a Bundt pan with a larger amount of butter, then dust it with flour. Pour the batter and bake for about an hour. Insert a toothpick into the center. If it comes out clean with no batter sticking to it, the cake is done. If not, bake for 15 minutes more.
Prepare the sauce by combining all the ingredients into a saucepan. Heat over medium heat until the butter is melted, but don’t boil. Make holes all over the butter cake with a knife and pour the glaze.
Allow the cake to cool completely in the pan, then turn it around onto a serving plate.
Other Types of Frostings for Your Kentucky Butter Cake
Kentucky butter cake is amazing as it is, but there’s no harm in wanting to break the routine from time to time. The easiest way to do it is by experimenting with sauces. Here are our suggestions:
– Brown butter sauce is a variation of the standard vanilla buttermilk sauce, nuttier and richer. Simply melt the butter stirring constantly until bubbly and golden, for about 5 minutes, then mix it with the rest of the ingredients.
– To make a chocolate-based sauce, melt some chocolate mixed malted milk powder, but reduce the amount of vanilla so that you balance the taste.
– Booze makes every dessert better, so why not make a rum sauce? Combine 1/3 cup butter, 3/4 cup sugar, 3 tablespoons water, and 2 teaspoons rum. Note: most of the alcohol will evaporate in the process of heating the sauce, so don’t worry about serving the cake to your kids. If you are still not at ease about this, substitute with rum extract.
- If you find it difficult to remove the cake from the Bundt pan, insert a knife and run it around the pan’s edges to loosen the cake before turning the pan.
- In case the cake develops splits or cracks, just cover it with a thick icing or sift a thick layer of powdered sugar to hide the imperfections.
- If your cake is burned, take it out from the oven, let it cool completely and then remove the burned parts with a knife. Cover these areas with frosting or whipped cream. Oh, and don’t forget the sprinkles on top!
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Light and simple, but chocolatey and absolutely delicious, chocolate mousse is the perfect representative of the French cuisine. This easy-to-make dessert has become iconic precisely because of its simplicity. Unlike complicated delights that come and go, this elegant dessert withstands the test of time, offering the best, airy texture and unmatched, rich taste.
Mousse is a dessert that incorporates air bubbles. Depending on the ingredients and method of preparation, it can be light and fluffy, or dense and creamy. Basic chocolate mousse recipes consist of chocolate, sugar, and egg whites, usually in combination with other flavorings and add-ins.
The Invention of Chocolate Mousse
Mousse first appeared in 1894 as a savory dish that was made with pureed meat or fish and vegetables. Savory mousses are still cooked today, either in a mold similar to terrine or as a semi-liquid dish, often served as a dip.
Mousse au chocolat, which translates as ‘foamy chocolate’, owes its existence partly to French chefs and partly to an internationally recognized painter.
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Chocolate became a part of French cuisine soon after it was brought to Europe by Spanish conquistadors from the new continent. French chefs immediately started creating wonders with this new ingredient. Formerly known as ‘mayonnaise de chocolat’, this divine dessert obtained its final form at the beginning of the 18th century, when the famous artist Henry Toulouse-Lautrec decided to mix chocolate into an airy, creamy base.
At first, this delight was only found in French restaurants and it took quite a long time until it entered people’s homes. The first written record of chocolate mousse in the US dates from the late 1800s, from a Food exposition in New York City. A few years later, the Boston Daily Globe published one a chocolate mousse in their housekeeping column, but it became widely popular in the 1960s.
Chocolate mousse as we know it nowadays came to be with the introduction of the method of separating egg whites from the egg yolks. Its signature feature, airiness, was easier to achieve after the invention of electric mixers.
The Perfect Ingredients for a Perfect Chocolate Mousse
As mentioned before, there are three ingredients in the base of every chocolate mousse recipe – chocolate, eggs/cream, and sugar.
Let’s take a look at them one by one.
Your chocolate mousse is as good as the chocolate you are using. That is why you need to pay special attention to this ingredient.
Baking chocolate or milk chocolate? Dark or white? Bittersweet or semisweet? Bars or blocks? Chips or nibs? How about cocoa powder? So many choices to make!
With chocolate mousse, it’s not so much about the shape and size in which your chocolate comes. Even the largest block of chocolate can be broken into chunks or shaved off with a serrated knife. These chunks and savings can be further decreased with the use of a food processor, then melted in the microwave.
Still, chocolate wafers have proven to be most convenient for recipes that call for melted chocolate. By using chocolate in smaller sizes, you can skip the chopping, shaving, and pulsing, and proceed directly to melting. These small chocolate discs have one more upside – unlike chocolate chips, they don’t contain stabilizers which compromise the chocolatey flavor and alter the texture.
The taste of your chocolate mousse largely depends on the percentage of cocoa the chocolate contains.
Chocolate for cooking should have a big percentage of cocoa because the cooking process will dilute the flavor. That is why the best choice for chocolate mousse recipes is dark chocolate with 75% or more cocoa. Its bitter taste will be perfectly balanced by the whipped egg whites or cream, but the complex cocoa flavors will be the real star of the dish.
Now, should your dark chocolate be sweetened or unsweetened?
Unsweetened chocolate has a crumblier texture and because of that, it should always be combined with cream or butter that contribute richness and smoothness. In addition, the use of sweetener is recommended in order to avoid a bitter final product.
Bittersweet (with about 70% cocoa) or semisweet chocolate (with about 60% cocoa) are probably better than unsweetened chocolate because the amount of sweetener (read: sugar) in the recipe will not be as high. Chances are you won’t be able to tell the difference between these two types of chocolate when used in a dessert, so feel free to choose any of them for your mousse.
What about white chocolate? Well, white chocolate is not actually chocolate at all. It contains no cocoa, only cocoa butter and sugar. It is also quite sweet in taste, so you will often see it used along with a pinch of salt to ‘tame’ this sweetness a bit. It also pairs well with nuts, so consider them as a garnish for your chocolate mousse.
Cocoa powder is an excellent choice because it produces the quickest chocolate mousses. All you need to do is combine cream, cocoa powder, and powdered sugar in a jar and shake for two minutes!
Here are the exact ingredients’ measures:
½ cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
3 teaspoons powdered sugar
The powder you use should be unsweetened. Whenever possible opt for ‘natural’ cocoa powder instead of ‘Dutch process.’ The latter is treated with alkaline to reduce the acidity, which makes it react with the other ingredients in the recipe differently than the natural alternative.
The bottom line is: dark chocolate and unsweetened cocoa powder are your best choices for chocolate mousse recipes, not only because of the abovementioned reasons, but also because of their nutritive value. They are high in soluble dietary fiber, essential minerals, ‘good’ fats, as well as antioxidants. This nutritional profile makes dark chocolate and unsweetened cocoa very efficient in protecting you against various diseases like cancer and heart disease, but they also play an important role in improving brain functions and boosting energy levels.
Egg Whites or Heavy Cream
While chocolate is responsible for the incredible taste, egg whites and heavy cream are the ingredients that take credit for the fluffy texture.
In terms of healthiness, eggs are a better option than whipped cream because they are a natural, protein-packed alternative. Especially if they are organic, obtained from a local farm.
When whipping egg whites or heavy cream, tiny air bubbles are created. With egg whites, these bubbles are made of protein, whereas with heavy cream, they are composed of fat.
In both cases, you can whip them by hand using a big balloon whisk or an electric mixer.
For best results, choose eggs that are not too fresh. Let them reach room temperature before you start whipping. This will allow the proteins to stretch but not break.
As opposed to eggs, heavy cream gives the best results when it is fresh and as cold as possible. If the cream warms up, the bubbles will melt, producing a deflated mass.
In both cases, adding a dash of cream of tartar will help stabilize the mixture and form perfect firm peaks. Firm peaks remain stiff when turning a scoop filled with cream upside down. When stiff peaks are achieved, beating should stop immediately; otherwise, the mousse will become grainy! As for the bowl used for whisking, opt for stainless steel.
So, to sum up, egg whites yield an airier mousse, whereas heavy cream gives a smoother and richer dessert.
The last basic ingredient in a chocolate mousse is sugar. However, you might want to substitute white refined sugar in order to get a healthier dessert. In that case, bear in mind that the final product may differ in both taste and texture from the original. Still, these differences are not too big, as opposed to the health benefits, which are significant. Opt for natural instead if artificial sweeteners; raw honey, pure maple syrup, and stevia are the best sugar substitutes.
Here is how to substitute sugar.
– Honey and maple syrup are sweeter than sugar, so use a smaller amount, i.e. 1/2 – 3/4 cup honey/maple syrup for each cup of sugar, depending on how sweet you want your mousse to be.
– Stevia comes in powdered and liquid form. One teaspoon of stevia replaces a whole cup of sugar.
Strategies for a Perfect Chocolate Mousse
Once you have selected the best ingredients for your easy chocolate mousse recipe, all you need are a few tips and tricks to perfect it.
Melting the chocolate
There are a few different methods to melt chocolate.
– Bring part of the heavy cream to a boil, then pour it over the chocolate. For this method, your chocolate must be chopped into very small chunks. Let the chocolate sit for a minute or so before whisking to avoid the formation of lumps. In case lumps do form, place the bowl over a pot of simmering water and stir until the mixture is smooth.
– Break the chocolate into chunks and melt over a pan of simmering water. Alternatively, you can melt the chocolate in the microwave oven. Set the microwave to 30 seconds and stir. If the chocolate is not fully melted, set the microwave to additional 15 seconds. Repeat, as many times as necessary, until melted.
Add Egg Yolk
Once the chocolate is melted, it is a good time to whisk in an egg yolk for extra richness. Be thorough when whisking.
Whisking the Cream
Whisk the egg whites or heavy cream with a pinch of cream of tartar. This magical ingredient acts as a stabilizer, boosts the volume, and helps the mixture form perfect peaks. In addition, it prevents the formation of lumps and sugar crystals. Use an electric mixer on high speed for about half a minute, or until foamy and voluminous. Add the sugar (or another sweetener of choice) at this point, without stopping the mixer, just reduce the speed. Once you’ve added the whole sweetener, whisk on high speed for about 45 seconds, until you obtain firm peaks.
Folding the Chocolate into the Creamy Base
The melted chocolate should be allowed to cool a bit before folding it in the egg whites or cream. It should be warm, not hot, nor cold. If it is hot, the melted chocolate will ‘cook’ the creamy base and deflate it. If it is cold, the chocolate will form chunks.
Don’t stir. The word to use here is ‘fold’. Stirring is usually done with a spoon and is more vigorous so, it can cause the mixture to deflate. Mousse is very delicate, so it is best to use a whisk or a flexible rubber spatula to perform the folding.
Start by adding about 1/3 of the cream to the chocolate mixture and begin to fold. You don’t need to be too gentle at this stage since all the chocolate has to be mixed with the cream. Once the first batch of cream has been combined with the chocolate, add the rest of the cream and gently fold them together. Bear in mind that the longer you mix, the more your mousse will deflate, so be fast and as gentle as possible. Be careful not to overmix, stop then the mixtures are evenly combined. Leaving streaks of both cream and chocolate is ok.
Serving and Storage
Use a spoon to fill glasses or ramekins, then, for better presentation, smooth the top with a knife. Place the mousse in the fridge to set for 45 minutes to an hour.
It can be stored for up to two days in the fridge, but it will become denser and lose some of the volume.
Chocolate Mousse Flavorings and Garnishes.
Chocolate mousse recipes can be taken to an even higher level with the introduction of numerous flavorings such as vanilla, caramel, coffee, orange, booze like bourbon, rum, brandy, liqueur, or spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, or clove.
Even though this chocolatey dessert is utterly delicious even in its most basic form, there is no harm in using simple garnishes to make it even better! Chocolate in the form of flakes, chips, sticks, or cocoa powder, whipped cream, strawberries, raspberries, nuts, and sometimes mint leaves are most commonly used chocolate mousse toppings.
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Obesity is often a result of a complicated set of physical and mental issues so attempting to deal with it by simply reducing the amount of food intake will most likely be in vain. Studies show that more than half of the people who lose weight following a strict diet plan, do not only get it back but also gain a few extra pounds in the process.
Unlike most weight loss programs, the holistic approach sees a person as a whole being and, instead of simply treating the symptoms, it attempts to get to the root of the problem.
Holistic Weight Loss Methods
A holistic weight loss program addresses two aspects of the weight problem. First, it will get to the very core of the problem, identifying the reasons that make people eat more or exercise less than they should. By discovering the factors that lead to being overweight, this approach will help one reconsider the decisions they make. The final goal is to make long-term changes necessary to achieve and maintain optimal weight.
The second aspect is the quality of life as a whole. Being overweight can lead to various health issues, including serious diseases such as type II diabetes, various kinds of cancer and cardiovascular problems. Solving the weight problem means better overall health and higher quality of life.
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Basic weight loss plans are based mainly on nutrition and physical activity, but holistic programs further develop these plans, taking into consideration factors such as lifestyle, environment, spirituality, etc.
Information is essential. Starving yourself will probably lead to weight loss eventually, but with many unwanted side effects that range from fatigue to serious inflammations. Healthy nutrition consists of high-quality ingredients that boost your mood and energy, increase the feeling of satiety and reduce cravings. Here are the basics of healthy nutrition, followed by recipes to get you started.
Focus on variety. Fruits, vegetables, and herbs are allowed in large amounts. When you put together your meal plan, go by this rule: ‘the more colorful, the better’. A plate filled with these ingredients is sure to provide a wide range of nutrients, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Whenever possible, opt for fresh, organic ingredients.
Recipe idea: Fresh Fruit Salad
Eliminate refined foods. Start by eliminating refined sugar, flour and processed foods that contain these harmful ingredients. For example, many processed foods contain sugar hidden behind great-sounding labels like cereals or granola bars. Avoid anything that contains maltodextrin, dextrin, corn syrup, sucralose, or maltitol on the list of ingredients. Replace white refined sugar with raw honey (honey that has not been heated or filtered) or pure maple syrup and use whole grain flour instead of the bleached, all-purpose one.
Recipe idea: Roasted Butternut Squash, Kale and Cranberry Couscous
Know your carbohydrates. Basically, carbs can be simple and complex. The former ones are considered the main culprits for weight gain since they digest more slowly, causing sharp surges in blood sugar levels that lead to cravings. The latter consist of whole grains, vegetables, seeds, and legumes and are great to include in your diet plan.
Recipe idea: Chicken with Snow Peas
Combine healthy fats and proteins. Besides complex carbs, your diet should also include high-protein foods like meat, dairy, and eggs, as well as good polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, found in fish, flaxseed, nuts, and seeds. This combination of carbs, fats, and proteins, consumed in moderate portions several times during the day, will reduce your appetite, causing you to eat less in general.
Recipe idea: Shrimp in Lemon Sauce
Hydrate. Most people are chronically dehydrated without being aware of it. Hydration is very important for proper digestion, as well as for toxin and waste elimination. Water is the best and most convenient choice, provided it is purified, not chlorinated tap water. Herbal teas and sparkling water are also acceptable alternatives.
#2 Physical Activity
As mentioned before, exercise, together with good nutrition, is a major component of all holistic weight loss programs. Any endeavor to lose weight without combining it with any form of activity will be incomplete and less successful. Physical activity not only enhances metabolic functions and burns calories, but it also increases endurance and stamina, strengthens the muscles, boosts energy levels, improves blood circulation, and affects the production of ‘good mood’ hormones.
The holistic approach is a proponent of finding a workout regimen fit to your needs, one that you truly enjoy and that you’ll be happy to do on the long run.
Alternatively, intense workout regimens can be replaced with constant movements throughout the day. Walking to work or taking the stairs instead of the elevator will be a great change of a sedentary routine.
#3 Lifestyle and Environment
Many lifestyle choices can be a cause of weight gain.
Smoking and alcohol consumption are two examples, with major negative effects on health. These harmful habits cause accumulation of toxins that inhibit the immune system and, eventually, influence vitality. Alcohol is high in calories and known for causing sugar cravings.
Changing your eating habits also causes changes in your hormones and enzymes. This can result in tiredness and chronic fatigue. Balance can be restored with a good night sleep and proper rest.
Environmental factors like pollution and crowded places, in combination with everyday stress and constant rush, can cause weight gain as well. Negative effects of modern lifestyle can be neutralized by spending more time outdoors and doing things you really like, with the people you love.
Emotions are a very important obesity factor. Mental problems like anxiety and depression can cause hormonal imbalance and trigger binge eating. Support from family and friends is crucial in the attempt to change the relationship to food.
Other holistic techniques include keeping track of the progress in a journal, positive thinking, meditation, psychotherapy, and visualization of the final goal.
To sum up, the holistic approach combines nutrition, physical activity, lifestyle changes, and spiritual attunement, to ensure that weight loss is healthy and viable.
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As sure as the tunes of ‘Hot Cross Buns’ and ‘Peter Cottontail’ will rage in your head for days in a row, colored eggs, chocolate rabbits, hot cross buns, baked ham, and roasted lamb will be an inevitable part of your Easter menu. Easter feasts are colorful, delicious, and full of symbolism. Have you ever wondered how these traditions came to be and why we eat certain foods at Easter?
Let’s make Easter cooking fun, not just by learning a few fun facts, but also by focusing on recipes that will reduce the time you spend in the kitchen, allowing you to spend more time with your loved ones. Because, after all, Easter is a family celebration!
Easter Breakfast and Brunch
Go out there and hunt for eggs instead of cooking in the kitchen! Choose one of these easy Easter breakfast and brunch ideas that can be made in advance.
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There will be lots of eggs on Easter, so you’d better be prepared to put them to good use!
Eggs are a symbol of rebirth and immortality, but there is also a practical explanation of why they are so widely used on Easter. Christian tradition forbids eggs and all other animal-derived foods during the Lent so, in the past, people would end up with a bunch of unused eggs from their hens, very eager to re-include them in their everyday diet after 40 days of restraint!
Today, Easter eggs are decorated with bright colors to symbolize joy, but also to honor spring. They are hunted for, exchanged among friends and family, taken to church to be blessed, and offered on the festive table!
Easy Egg and Asparagus
This creamy and dreamy brunch recipe is made super-healthy with the use of asparagus and extra fulfilling from the eggs and cheese. Let’s not forget the ham!
Blue Cheese Stuffed Eggs
There is nothing easier to make than stuffed (deviled) eggs and the possibilities for varying the filling are endless! Blue cheese is just one of them.
Bread has always been part of religious rites and ceremonies. It symbolizes renewal and because of that it is associated with Christ’s resurrection. It is also prepared in commemoration of the Last Supper, when Christ shared bread with the disciples.
Easter breads are often made in symbolic shapes or with special ingredients. For instance, they often call for raisins or include decorated eggs on top.
Hot Cross Buns
Hot Cross Buns are rich, spiced tea cakes usually served on Good Friday. In the past, they were made without dairy products and consumed throughout the whole period of Lent. They were even believed to have medicinal purposes! Hot cross buns are made with raisins or currants, with a cross on the top to represent the crucifixion of Christ. The spices used in the buns represent the spices used to embalm Christ’s body before the burial.
Grandma Marian’s Placek
Alternatively, you can make Placek, a sweet yeast bread with golden raisins and topped with sugar crumble, traditionally served on Easter.
Easter Main Courses
Ham and lamb are the traditional choices, so the following meal ideas are sure to bring back lots of memories. Spring provides fresh seasonal ingredients to combine them with, but also gives you an opportunity to get playful and informal if you wish. So, instead of setting up a formal dinner table decorated with your best China and crystal glasses, why not arrange a buffet-style table in the backyard and make it cheerful with simple Easter decorations?
Whatever you decide to do, remember to keep things simple and prepare everything you can the day before.
While the rest of the world enjoys lamb and chicken, people in the States opt for pink, salty, cured ham, smothered in a glaze. The tradition to eat ham is explained by the fact that the meat from pigs slaughtered during the winter (cured in salt and smoked) was ready to be consumed in spring, i.e. immediately after the Lent. Being salted and smoked, the ham is already completely cooked and only need so be reheated, which gives us another reason to love it!
Sweet Glazed Ham
Give this traditional dish a modern twist by preparing a glaze with a fizzy cola, sugar, and onion. Make it stand out by decorating with pineapple slices and cherries on top!
Country Roast Ham
Or keep the dish old-fashioned by preparing it with a gold mustard crust!
A large portion of the Christian world prepares lamb on Easter or substitutes this meat with edible lamb figures made of buttery pastry. Lamb is a symbol of purity and innocence and has always been associated with Christianity. Even the pope has adopted it as a part of his Easter Dinner, so it is only logical that it appears as a centerpiece of Easter festive tables.
Marinated Lamb Chops
Enhance the delicate flavor of lamb with a marinade made with lemon juice and herbs, complemented with a simple mint sauce on top!
Crusted Rack of Lamb
Elegant, but easy-to-prepare dish, perfect for special occasions. The bread crumb contributes subtle crunchiness and captivates the juices!
If you prefer lighter and whiter meat variations, you will probably choose to prepare chicken.
Sunshine Chicken Roast
A perfect mix of colorful veggies and crisp chicken, perfect for outdoor feasting during warm days!
Rosemary Roasted Chicken
Juiciness from the lemon, freshness from the rosemary and beautiful aroma from the onion, blend in this moist and tender roast.
Here comes the part that kids love. Chocolate rabbits, chicks, and eggs became popular in the 19th century and remain so today, but instead going for candies from the Easter basket, treat your kids with amazing holiday desserts – cakes, pies, tarts, cookies and more! Any kind of dessert you decide to make can be easily turned into a festive delight with a few simple Easter-appropriate decorations. Here is a quick suggestion:
Make a frosting by microwaving 3oz. of broken milk chocolate for about a minute or so. In a bowl, beat together 5oz. of butter and 5oz. of powdered sugar, then add the melted chocolate. Spread on your dessert and decorate with chocolate eggs or Maltesers, chocolate bunnies, or colorful M&M’s. Arrange in small baskets for presentation.
When it comes to cakes, Simnel cake is THE cake to make for Easter. It is a light fruit cake, made with layers of marzipan and almond paste at the top and in the middle, and eaten toasted during the Easter period in England and Ireland. The cake is usually decorated with 12 marzipan balls to symbolize the twelve apostles.
If you don’t feel like preparing a Simnel cake, here are two more easy suggestions:
Chocolate Marble Cake
Easy ring cake which combines two batters – chocolate and almond for an amazing marbled effect!
Classic Carrot Cake
Tender and moist cake filled with raisins and walnuts, and topped with cream cheese frosting.
Easter biscuits are a traditional Easter food gift in the UK, where it is given to guests on Easter Sunday. They are very simple to make from flour, baking powder, sugar, egg yolk, and butter. Use cookie molds to shape them into bunnies, chicks, eggs, or butterflies and decorate with a simple frosting divided into several batches and made colorful with the use of different food colorings.
Bonus: Chocolate Nest Cookies
Make a chocolate cookie dough, shape it into little nests and fill it with miniature colorful eggs.
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Get ready for light cooking!
Spring has just arrived and the weather is warming up, which means it’s high time we stopped focusing on heavy, wintery comfort food and start getting some summer inspiration. Soups seem like a perfect solution for this period. Halfway between warm and light, and ideal for saving any tired veggies unfit to be used in a salad.
Meet the Tomato Soup
Ready-made tomato soups are widely available in stores and supermarkets in various forms including canned, condensed, and powdery. However, here at MyGreatRecipes, we believe that fresh foods made from scratch are always the best solution. Especially when they are as easy to make as tomato soup and when they include nutritious ingredients like tomatoes.
The first recorded tomato soup is the one made by Maria Parloa in the 1870s. Today, even though it uses tomatoes as the main ingredient, the soup appears in many varieties – smooth (made with blanched, peeled, and pureed tomatoes) or made with tomato chunks; with cream or arrowroot as a thickener, with water or with broth. It can be served both cold and hot, usually topped with croutons or sour cream, or alongside a grilled cheese sandwich.
What Kind of Tomatoes to Use in Tomato Soup Recipes
Although the tomatoes available at the moment are coming from greenhouses and are far from the delicious peak-season, naturally-grown tomatoes, they will serve their purpose perfectly. As long as they are ripe.
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The best tomatoes for a soup are the ripest you can find. Some markets sell worn out tomatoes at very low prices, but if such tomatoes are not available, buy them a few days ahead and ripen them on the countertop, at a room temperature.
Left in a fruit bowl, tomatoes will release ethylene on their own and ripen slowly, but the process might last for a week or even longer. To speed things up, the tomatoes need to be stored together with other ethylene producing ingredients. Such ethylene sources are usually other fruits like apples or, even better, bananas. Use slightly greenish bananas because they are the ones that produce the highest amounts of ethylene.
Wash the tomatoes, allow them to dry and put them in a paper bag together with a banana. Make sure not to overcrowd the bag. If you have a larger number of tomatoes, divide them into several paper bags or store them in a closed cardboard box. Keep at a room temperature, away from sunlight and humidity. Check them from time to time to remove any mold.
How to Use Tomatoes in Soups
Health Benefits of Tomatoes
Fun fact about tomatoes – they are fruits, not vegetables. Botanically, they belong to the berry family but a law dating from the 1800s classifies them as veggies. There are more than 7.000 tomato species around the world (which allows you to eat a different kind of tomato every day in a period of twenty years!).
The use of these red fruits dates back to the period around 500 BC in Mexico, where they were a staple ingredient and were considered a blessed food. Their popularity in the States today is undeniable – according to statistics, they are the second most consumed and produced vegetable. This can be explained by the fact that besides being very tasty, tomatoes are also highly nutritious.
Tomatoes are a part of the very nutritive family of nightshade plants which includes potatoes, peppers, and eggplant. They are considered to be a powerful antioxidant and very rich in lycopene. This combination makes tomatoes very efficient in preventing numerous diseases, including cancer and cardiovascular issues. In addition, they are also packed with other nutrients such as folate, beta-carotene, potassium, flavonoids, vitamin C, and vitamin E.
Canned or Fresh Tomatoes?
You can choose between canned tomatoes and fresh ones. The general rule is to go with the canned version when out of season, i.e. when there are no quality ripe tomatoes available. Otherwise, opt for the fresh variety.
There are several ways to prepare the tomatoes (canned or fresh):
– Drain and roast them for about 30 minutes, until lightly brown. Place them, together with the reserved juice, in a blender and mix until thick.
– Simmer them in a vegetable or chicken stock for about 20-25 minutes.
– For roast tomato soup and a more intense tomato flavor, bake them in the oven.
– Combine fresh tomatoes, tomato purée, and tomato juice for a fresh and tangy summery soup.
Other Ingredients in Tomato Soup Recipes
The other main ingredient of tomato soups (and any other kind of soups for that matter) is – liquid. Even though these red veggies contain plenty of water, that is not enough for the soup.
One choice, the most neutral one, is water. The risk with water is that it might make your soup too thin.
The other, more popular choice, is stock. These are your options:
– Vegetable stocks contribute extra aroma and are the best choice for vegans.
– Light beef stock versions will bring a prominent meaty note.
– Chicken stock is probably the best choice. It balances the taste perfectly, making the soup rich and flavorful.
Tip: To avoid obtaining a watery soup, add half of the liquid required in the recipe first, then gradually add the rest of it, until you’ve reached the desired thickness.
Additions and Flavorings
Usual additions include onion, garlic, and celery. Carrots are often used to contribute a slightly sweet note. When it comes to herbs, fresh and dried basil seem to be a natural match for tomatoes. Alternatively, a bouquet of garni can be used, which usually includes thyme, sage, and bay leaves.
Some tomato soup recipes call for vinegar and sugar, always together because the vinegar emphasizes the natural acidity of tomatoes, so the sugar is needed to balance it back.
Creamy and Dreamy Tomato Soup
Tomatoes’ texture and high water content make them perfect for creamy soups. Creaminess is obtained by adding some kind of dairy, which will contribute the necessary consistency, followed by extra flavor. Here are the options:
– Double cream is better than regular cream. The regular version will only dilute the soup, unless you decide to use it in large amounts, risking to alter the flavor of the soup completely. The best alternative is to mix double cream with one egg yolk before adding it to the soup.
– Creamy soft cheese is also a good option. It adds creaminess without ‘burdening’ the soup. Alternatively, you can opt for crème fraîche (soured cream), which will add a tangy note.
Besides dairy, there are other thickening options to consider, especially when feeding vegans.
– Nutritional yeast whisked and heated in water, is especially popular in the vegan community. With its salty and cheesy taste, it works both as a creamer and as an additional seasoning.
– Arrowroot powder mixed into a cold liquid like water or non-dairy milk and whisked until smooth.
– Puréed potato gives thick and fluffy texture, but also makes the soup ‘heavier’, so it is better to save it for wintery tomato soup recipes.
The Best Techniques for a Perfect Tomato Soup
Bake the Tomatoes
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Cut the tomatoes in half horizontally and place in a baking dish with the cut side facing upwards. Drizzle with some olive oil, season with salt and pepper. Add just a pinch of sugar, then bake for about one hour, until soft and a bit scorched along the edges.
Sauté the Vegetables
Heat some olive oil in a heavy bottom pan over medium-high heat. Sauté one large chopped onion, grated carrot, and crushed garlic for about 5-7 minutes, until soft. Add some fresh chopped basil leaves and cook for a minute more.
Mixing Everything Together
Add the tomatoes, including the juices from the baking dish, to the pan. Add half of the chicken stock. Stir and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down, cover the pan and simmer for 20-25 minutes, until all the veggies are soft. Add more stock if necessary, to achieve the desired thickness.
When the mixture has cooled down, purée it with a blender. Add some vinegar (preferably balsamic) and a thickener of choice (creme fraiche). Season to taste.
Reheat the soup over low heat. Decorate with basil leaves and a bit of olive oil drizzled on top.
Gazpacho Tomato Soup
Gazpacho is a tomato soup of Spanish origin. Fun fact: this soup is classified as a salad in Spanish cookbooks, probably due to the fact that it is made with mostly chunky ingredients. In Spain and Portugal, it is often served as a cold, refreshing summery dish.
Here are the main differences between the classic tomato soup as we like it and gazpacho:
– The tomatoes, onions, and garlic, are peeled and then chopped. Part of the tomatoes and other vegetables can be pureed in a blender or using the traditional technique – pounded in a mortar with a pestle.
– Gazpacho is usually made with cold water, not stock, plus olive oil, vinegar, and salt. These are added to the abovementioned pureed ingredients, followed by the unblended ingredients.
– Common garnishes include diced tomatoes, bell pepper slices, and cucumber. Some garnishes may be served separately, like hard boiled eggs, ham, or chopped nuts (usually almonds or pistachios).
This ancient dish began as a soup made of bread, olive oil, water, salt, and garlic. It introduced tomatoes as late as the 19th century. Although the tomato version is the one that is famous worldwide, it is not the only gazpacho variety out there. Modern versions replace tomatoes with avocado, watermelon, cucumber, grapes, parsley, meat, seafood, etc.
Find your favorite tomato soup and gazpacho recipes to cook during the upcoming warm days.
Tomato Soup with Parmesan Croutons
Creamy Red Pepper and Tomato Soup
Super Quick Tomato Soup
Tomato Watermelon Gazpacho with Pistachios and Basil Oil
Cucumber Apple Green Gazpacho
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