Thursday, May 25, 2023

Classic Strawberry Shortcake

We are finally getting local strawberries and they are just the best...sweet and juicy, so fragrant and fat. A family tradition is to have strawberry shortcake for the May birthdays. Two sisters down just had her birthday, so this is for her.

Although I enjoy a strawberry shortcake made with sweetened biscuit dough, the classic cake for the family was a plain yellow cake (often made from a mix in a box) with strawberries sandwiched in the middle and whipped cream over the top.

I found a great plain yellow cake in a book called The Wooden Spoon Dessert Book by Marilyn Moore. Since I only wanted one layer, I baked half the recipe, but I'm giving you the full recipe so you have enough cake to serve it if you are gathering for Memorial Day.

Because there was only Sweetie and myself enjoying this decadent dessert, I just cut wedges from the single layer and then topped them with the sliced berries and topped them with whipped cream. 

If you make the full two layer cake, I would recommend at least three pints of strawberries be used. Slice two pints and take the third one and slice, put into a bowl and then mash the berries. Use this pint of mashed berries to fill the middle between the two layers of cake, then top that with another pint's worth of sliced berries. Top with the second layer, adorn with whipped cream, and then serve the third pint at the table to be added for those who need more berries. You can save a few perfect berries to use for decoration on top after applying the whipped cream, if desired. 

Rotation Cake
by Marilyn Moore in The Wooden Spoon Dessert Book

Grease and lightly flour two 9 x 2-inch layer cake pans. If desired, add a round of parchment to each pan, then grease that. Remember to remove the parchment when you removed the cakes from their pans after cooling.

1 cup cake flour, sifted before measuring
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) soft unsalted butter
2 cups granulated sugar
4 large eggs at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup half and half

To make Strawberry Shortcake add:
3 pints strawberries
1-2 pints heavy whipping cream
1 tablespoons sugar

In a mixing bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, cream together until light and fluffy the butter and sugar, adding the sugar gradually.

Add, one at a time, the eggs, beating well after each and scraping the bowl with a flexible spatula as needed.

Blend in the vanilla and beat briefly to combine.

Use the mixed dry ingredients and the half and half to finish the batter, adding alternately (three parts dry, two parts half and half), blending after each addition and scraping the bowl and beaters with a flexible spatula as needed.

Spoon and scrape the batter into the prepared pans. Spread evenly with an offset spatula. 

Bake in a preheated 350 degree F oven for 30 - 35 minutes, turning the pans a quarter turn half way through. The cake is baked when the cake springs back when lightly touched in the center. Cool on wire racks for 5 minutes, carefully turn out to cook completely, right side up, after removing the parchment paper on the bottom, if necessary. Fill and frost as desired.

If Strawberry Shortcake is desired:

Prepare the berries as described in the headnote.
Chill the bowl and beaters of an electric mixer for at least half an hour...can be chilled in the fridge or the freezer.

When chilled, remove from the fridge/freezer and add the whipping cream. Attach the beaters to the mixer (if available use the whisk attachment) and begin beating on medium speed. After a few seconds, begin adding the sugar gradually. Increase the mixer speed to high and continue to beat until the whipped cream holds soft peaks.

Immediately place one cake layer, top side down, on a serving plate. Top with the mashed berried, then the sliced berries. Top with the second layer, top side up. Mound the whipped cream over the top, swirling with the back of a spoon, or put the whipped cream in a pastry bag with a large star tip and pipe stars all over the top. Decorate with reserved berries, if desired. Serve slices and pass the extra sliced strawberries and any extra whipped cream to put on the side.

Note: If a smaller amount is desired, bake half the recipe in one 9 x 2-inch pan and use half the berries and a pint of whipping cream. You can cut wedges and add the berries and cream as I did, or slice the layer in half and put berries in the middle and cream on top as described above.

Friday, May 19, 2023

A Delicious Way To Get Your Veggies

Sweetie really liked this dish and said if we had this all the time that he would eat more vegetables...that sounds like a vote for this veggie pasta dish that is roughly a pasta primavera. The primavera part is Italian (I think) for Spring. The zucchini is certainly not a spring vegetable, but most of the rest are.

This is sort of a three-ring circus pasta. You are boiling pasta water, and then pasta, prepping and steaming or boiling some veggies and also sautéing others. Then you are also making a cheese sauce!

It takes a bit of time to prep the veggies but it can be done while the pasta water comes to a boil. I used the microwave to steam the broccoli, zucchini and snap peas, but you could also use the pasta water to blanch each in turn. Once blanched immediately submerge the veggie in an ice water bath to stop the cooking and to keep the bright colors. I would blanch them long enough that they are tender but still have some bite to them. In the microwave the broccoli (being in small florets) took about 45 seconds and the other two took a minute. I used a steamer pot with perforated lid and a tiny amount of water.

The second thing to do while the pasta cooks is to make the cheese sauce. This is a white cheese sauce and you can either use all ricotta, or part ricotta and part fresh farmer's cheese as I did. I've done it with all ricotta and that is lovely, too. Boiling water, added in small amounts followed by stirring with a mini-whisk, turns the cheeses into a silky sauce and a bit of grated Parmesan, salt and pepper, plus some nutmeg, gives it flavor. You can use the pasta water as the pasta is boiling and heat the sauce over very low heat until all the other elements are done.

Before I started the pasta water I prepared the truly savory part of this dish. I sautéed chopped onion, minced garlic, chopped carrot and chopped red pepper. Once the onion started to brown at the edges in the mixture of olive oil and melted butter, I turned the heat down and kept it at low heat, stirring once in a while, so that the carrots had a chance to soften and the onions to brown a bit more without burning the garlic.

A large, wide bowl is the best for mixing the elements of this dish together and for serving. Once the pasta is cooked, the steamed veggies, sautéed veggies and the cheese sauce all get tossed together. The final touch is a sprinkle of grated Parmesan. Enjoy!

Sort of Pasta Primavera
Serves 3-4

1/2 onion, peeled and chopped
1/2 red pepper, chopped, no seeds or stem
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 medium carrot, peeled and chopped into small dice
1/2 cup sliced mushrooms (I like cremini mushrooms)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter or non-dairy 'butter'

1/2 pound rotini pasta
1 medium zucchini, quartered lengthwise and sliced
1 1/2 cups sugar snap peas that have been cut diagonally into thirds
1/2 - 1 cup broccoli, cut into small florets

1/4 cup ricotta cheese
1/4 cup fresh farmers cheese (or 1/2 cup ricotta and no farmer's cheese)
1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
dash salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

In a large skillet put the olive oil and the butter and set over medium heat until the butter melts. Stir.
Add the onions, increase the heat to medium-high and sauté for about 5 minutes, stirring often, until the onion is translucent. Add the red pepper, garlic, carrots and mushrooms, and stir. Continue cooking and stirring every minute or so until edges begin to brown on the onions. Cover and reduce heat to very low. Continue cooking, stirring frequently to prevent burning.

While sautéed veggies continue to cook, put a very large pot of water on to boil. While it is coming to a boil, prepare the zucchini, snap peas and broccoli.

Once the water comes to a boil, add the amount of salt you like in your pasta water (I use 1/4 teaspoon...some people like more!) Add the pasta, stir, and return to a boil.

While the pasta cooks, prepare the cheese sauce. In a small pot combine the  two cheeses and 1 tablespoon of the boiling pasta water (but no pasta). Stir to combine. I use a mini-whisk but have done it with a small flexible silicon spatula or a teaspoon. Once combined, add another tablespoon of pasta water and stir again until smooth.  Add the seasoning and stir. If the sauce looks too thick, continue to add water, a tablespoon at a time until desired thickness. Sauce should coat the pasta in the finished dish. Keep warm over a very low heat. Stir every minute or so.

Prepare the broccoli, zucchini and snap peas: steam in the microwave or cook is a separate pot of boiling water.  If boiling, remove and put into an ice bath, then remove from ice bath and drain, then add to sautéed veggies. Do this one ingredient at a time. Length of time should be to just barely make them tender. When you are done, all three will be on top of the sautéed veggies, with the lid on to keep hot.

When pasta is cooked to your desired doneness, drain and put into a large, wide bowl. Top with the veggies and then with the sauce. Toss to combine. Sprinkle combined pasta & veggies with the Parmesan cheese and serve at once.

Wednesday, May 17, 2023

Mother's Day Breakfast Super Pancake

Being away from my kitchen on Mother's Day seemed strange, but fortunately my daughter's family was fine with me making a super sized Dutch Baby with berries for breakfast, so I still got to bake. BTG-guy made bacon and Raine manned the powder sugar sieve. It was delicious and easy. If you just do it with blueberries, it's even easier...we used blueberries and cubed strawberries.

I've now made this dish using four different ovens and I have to say that knowing your oven makes it easier to bake this. You want to know how quickly your oven gets to the heat needed for the recipe. If it takes a long time, don't put the pan with butter into the oven at the start. Wait until the oven is at least half way heated. If it heats up quickly, put the pan in at the beginning. Keep an eye on the butter. It's OK (delicious even) if the butter browns a bit, but you don't want to burn the milk solids...yet you still want the baking pan sizzling hot.

I had to remove the pan because the oven heated slowly and the butter browned before the oven was hot enough. As a result, the pan cooled a bit, so the pancake was a bit less puffy, although still delicious.

For toppings, more berries are great. Maple syrup is good. Traditional takes on this include just powdered sugar sifted on top and both sifted powdered sugar and lemon juice on top. Could be great with whipped cream, too. For dessert, a scoop of vanilla ice cream would be divine.

Dutch Baby with Strawberries and Blueberries

Serves 5-6

5 tablespoons butter (or non-dairy margarine or 'butter')
6 large eggs
1 cup milk (or nut milk)
1 cup all-purpose flour
dash salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
a few drops lemon oil (optional)

1/2 cup fresh strawberries, washed and drained and cubed to about the size of the blueberries
1/2 cup fresh blueberries, washed and drained and picked over for stems or over-ripe berries
1 tablespoon granulated sugar (optional)

More berries for on top (optional)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

As oven preheats, put the butter in an ungreased 9x13-inch baking pan and place in the oven, just until the butter is melted. (Mine started to brown slightly at the edges)

Place the eggs, milk, flour, salt and vanilla, (and lemon oil, if using) in a blender and process until smooth. Scrape down the sides, if needed, and process again for a few seconds.

Pour the batter into the hot baking pan, over the melted butter. Sprinkle with the strawberries, blueberries and with the sugar (if using).

Bake, for 20-27 minutes or until edges are golden brown. Pancake will puff up, but will sink down again as it cools once removed from the oven.

Serve at once. Can sprinkle with powdered sugar, with lemon juice, or serve with maple syrup and/or more berries.

Note: you can make this without berries, too, and it will still puff up gloriously and taste wonderful.

Thursday, May 04, 2023

A Great Minestrone Soup

I suspect that every Italian cook has their own version of this soup. I read the recipe recently on the Washington Post newsletter Voraciously for this version, but, of course, made a few changes myself.  Below the recipe in the newsletter there are variation, too.

To start with, I didn't have celery or carrots but I had the rest, so forged ahead. I used the chicken broth for the liquid and used gemelli pasta since that's what I had (I was making this at night once I saw the recipe...because I had the time and was inspired by the full flavors and the description). Instead of red beans, I used cannellini beans, because I like their velvety texture in a soup. I put the finished soup in the fridge to mellow overnight because my experience is that anything with onion is better the next day. It's a delicious version of this classic soup.

I'm giving you the recipe as it was in the Washington Post Newsletter. You get to make your own changes!!

Family Favorite Minestrone

Storage: Refrigerate for up to 4 days or freeze for up to 3 months.

Servings: 6
Total time: 45 mins


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 ribs celery, diced (1/2 cup)
  • 1 large yellow onion (10 ounces), diced
  • 1 large carrot (4.5 ounces), scrubbed well, then diced
  • 1 medium red bell pepper (5 ounces), seeded and diced
  • 1 medium zucchini (8 ounces), diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced or finely grated
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 (28-ounce) can no-salt-added crushed tomatoes
  • 6 cups no-salt-added vegetable broth or chicken broth
  • 1 (15-ounce) can no-salt-added small red beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 cup dried, whole-grain or regular elbow pasta
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese, for garnish


1. In a large pot over medium heat, heat the oil until shimmering. Add the celery, onion, carrot and bell pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until they begin to soften, about 6 minutes.

2. Add the zucchini, garlic, oregano, basil, salt and pepper and cook, stirring, for another 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and broth and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low, partially cover and cook, stirring once or twice, until the flavors meld a bit, about 10 minutes.

3. Increase the heat to medium-high, add the beans and pasta and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, uncovered, until the pasta and vegetables are tender, 10 to 15 minutes.

4. Divide among individual bowls, garnish each portion with the cheese and serve.