Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Pioneer Woman Cooks Sparkle Cake in Raspberry and Peach

Hello, everybody! The Fresh Pioneer is back and I know you're thinking, "wait, weren't you just here??"
  I was! Thanks for noticing! Now, my last post I mentioned Pioneer Woman Cooks had put up some recipes for Easter/ after Easter and I was determined to make her Sparkle Cake even thought it might end up a "fail". I won't post this picture again because I don't want any comparisons (haha!) but here's the Sparkle Cake Recipe.
(This is her ham. My didn't look like this but it was still soooooo gooooood.) 

 In her recipe she actually makes the angel food cake and although it did look VERY EASY, I was really pressed for time. not that I have such a busy life, but as usual, I'd left my YBC post until the very last day! (WHY DO I DO THAT?) So, Tuesday afternoon at 4PM, I realize that I should take some shortcuts. So, I bought my angel food cake and the rest is just as the recipe reads, except I also decided to change the flavor.
 In the original, she uses strawberry, but I LOVE raspberry and my husband loves mango. Since we were having guests, I thought, "Let's make two!"
(What's better than one Sparkle Cake? Duh, TWO Sparkle Cakes!)
You're going to need an angel food cake, a packet of jello, and some frozen fruit. Also, heavy cream for the topping.
 So, let's start with our angel food cake. *MMMMMMMM*
 Flip it upside down (fat side down) and gently saw off the top about three inches from the bottom.
Yes, I KNOW it's crooked. So sue me.
Now, gently insert the knife about a half inch from the outer edge and cut all the way around, not reaching the bottom. A few pokes won't hurt, but try not to saw all the way through to the foil or you won't have anything for the filling to rest on when you spoon it inside.
Again, gently saw through the cake about a 1/2 inch from the inside edge. Now you have to concentric circles. Start to peel out the inner cake. I was afraid it would all come out in a big blob, leaving me with chunks of cake, but it wasn't too hard. I pulled at it from the bottom, near the lower layer so I could control how much came out.
OK, so our cakes have a neat little trench to be filled!
 Take the fruit from the freezer, so they're at the ready.
 But one cup of boiling water into a bowl.
 This is a fascinating picture, no? I could stare at it all day.)

 Add the package of raspberry (or whatever flavor you desire) jello and stir until dissolved. (In my picture, I have a larger package, so I just used half. If you buy a small package, use the entire thing.)
 And the mango is started...
 As soon as the raspberry Jello is dissolved, stir in the raspberries. This is like adding the cold water. Instantly, the Jello should start to set.
 Same thing with the peaches. Oh, you're wondering why it's not frozen mango? Well, apparently there was a run on frozen mangoes in our grocery store today. It's a conspiracy, I'm sure of it! They must have known I was going to try something with frozen mangoes!
 (Uhhhhh, I swear that is spelled MANGOS but it keeps blinking at me... so I'll put in the 'e'. But I'm fairly certain that's not right. )
  Anyway, I grabbed some frozen peaches. Everybody loves peaches... right?
 Just in case you think I forgot, here's the other angel food cake.
 In about five minutes, the Jello is set!
 Here's the raspberry.
 Spoon the mixture into the middle of the angel food cake.
 Replace the top.

Same with the peach-mango. 
 Now, whipping cream! Whip into stiff peeks.
 I had this idea of tinting it blue and making it sort of Fourth of July-looking, but my kids said it was too early. (But take note, this would be a great cake for the 4th!) Anyway, I tinted it pink.
 Whipped topping covers a multitude of sins, as the picture shows. It was soooo pretty! (The afternoon sun was coming in and making it hard to take the picture, but maybe you can still see...)
 The pink was light and delicate. This is probably the prettiest cake I've ever made.
                                                                     NOM NOM NOM.
 I was fully prepared for the cake to fall apart as it was cut, but it arrived on the plate basically in one piece.
 The inside was very flavorful, since it really only had half the water it needed for the Jello recipe.
 And I was also prepared for the entire cake to collapse after I cut the first slice. Not too bad...
 And here's the peach-mango cake. We tinted it a very light yellow but you probably can't tell.
 I thought of filling the hole with foil and making the center a place to set a fancy fruit design, but our guests were almost here so, I just plopped on the peaches.
Close up! This was definitely my favorite of the two. Really fun flavor and different from chocolate/vanilla/strawberry...
I also wanted to share our first try at Jan's smoothie recipe. It was SO DELICIOUS! And yes, I had to make this much just so everyone could have a small glass. But it was so healthy and good for the family, I'm more than willing to put in the quality time with my old blender.
I had to get a picture of this fine smoothie 'stache. He had no idea what we were laughing at, but he very sweetly waited until I could snap a photo!

  I'll leave you with one more fun picture....

It's my third Austen Takes the South book, already up on Amazon for pre-order! I was checking something else and the title popped up... I thought, "What? I just turned that girl in!" But there she was, sweet and sassy. It's sort of a bare bones place-holder, but it does have the blurb in case anyone wants to take a peek.

 All right, my friends! Have a wonderful week and I wish you the very best Spring weather!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Meaty Baked Rontini

One thing I really like about the Trim Healthy Mama approach to eating, is that I don't have to deprive myself of some of my favorite things.

Like the other night when I was craving something Italian. I wanted meaty. I wanted cheesy. And I wanted pasta.

Oh, I just love it when I can have my cake and eat it to.

Try this on for size.

Okay, now that I've tempted you, let's go back to the beginning.

Let's start with:

  • One package sweet Italian turkey sausage
  • One package lean ground turkey
  • 1 - 24 oz. jar no sugar added pasta/spaghetti sauce
  • (optional) 1 can diced tomatoes (I ended up not using them)
  • Mozzarella cheese
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Half an onion, diced
  • half a bell pepper, chopped
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 10 oz. (or more) Dreamfields rotini
  • red pepper flakes (optional)
  • basil
  • oregano
  • salt
  • pepper

While our pasta is cooking to al dente, we're going to cook our meat until browned, along with the onion, bell pepper and garlic.

Yep, that looks good.
Drain, if necessary.

Now stir in half of the pasta sauce, some basil, oregano, salt and pepper to taste, red pepper flakes and approximately half a cup of the Parmesan cheese.
I love Parmesan and it adds a great flavor.

Your pasta should be done about now. Drain it and put it into a large bowl.

Now why did I use Dreamfields? Not only because it tastes great, has protein and fiber, but it's made with a patented process that actually makes the carbs look like protein under a microscope. No spikes in our glycemic level. And our bodies are never the wiser. :) The cool thing about Dreamfields is that it's available at Walmart AND it's not expensive. It actually costs less than the Barilla Plus I've been buying for years. 

That said, my meat to pasta ratio was significantly higher in meat. I used about ten ounces of pasta, but I could have used the whole 13 point something ounce box and been just fine.

You, my friend, are allowed to use whatever pasta you like and as much as you like. 
But you are now informed. :)

I added the rest of the sauce to the pasta, along with some more Parmesan.

Stir that together.
Then add half of the meat mixture...

Before pouring into an oblong baking dish.

Top that with some grated mozzarella and Parmesan.

Then the rest of the meat.

And a final sprinkling of mozzarella and Parmesan.

Bake in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes.

While that's cooking, make your salad.
G'head. However you like it.
It's a virtual salad bar here at the cafe, so you can pile on whatever you please.

And, if you're in a hurry like we were, you go ahead and eat the salad.

But the wait is worth it.
Boy, did this hit the spot. I loved it, hubby loved it, the kids loved it, the dogs...

Well, they didn't get any. But they loved the smell of it. :)

And speaking of dogs, Maddie is getting bigger and she's been learning some new tricks. 


Monday, April 21, 2014

Dinner Rolls for Holidays...or any time!

I know this post is too late for Easter, but this recipe is so delicious that you'll want to try it this week.

Yes, yes, I know this is homemade bread - but really. Can it be that hard? After all, our grandmothers for generations back made bread every week, or maybe even every day if their family was large enough.

This is the recipe I cut my bread-making teeth on.

It started like this: Once upon a time (okay, it was the mid-70's) our family was visiting some friends, and our hostess served homemade dinner rolls. My dad took one bite, looked at me and said, "If you learn to make rolls like these, I'll double your allowance."

This is the mid-70's me. Yes, Gunne Sax dress and all :)

(By the way, I'm the only one who remembers him saying that...but I'm sure he did!)

I took him up on the challenge. I got the recipe from our hostess, followed the directions in Mom's old Betty Crocker Picture Cookbook, and made rolls. Batch after batch. They turned out tasty and delicious. From there I branched out to using different flours, different methods, different recipes...but this one is still my favorite. :)

Jan's Dinner Rolls


2 packages instant dry yeast (or 2 Tablespoons)
2 cups milk
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup butter
2 eggs
2 cups whole wheat flour
4-6 cups all-purpose or bread flour

You can make this recipe completely by hand (like I did for years), or use a large capacity mixer (like I do now.)

First, heat the milk, sugar, butter and salt together. You can cheat and use the microwave, but I like to heat it up in a pan on the stove. But you don't want it to get too hot! Just warm enough to soften the butter.

Now, this is important! Before you do anything else, make sure your milk mixture isn't too hot. You want it to be lukewarm. You can stick a (clean!!!) pinky finger in to test it, or you can use a thermometer. If you do the finger test, it should feel slightly warm. If you use a thermometer, it should be between 110° and 115°.

(Does anyone know what happens if your liquid is too hot? It will kill the yeast. We don't like dead yeast. It makes hard, flat bread :(  )

Pour this into a large bowl (or your mixer).

Freshly ground wheat flour! Mmm-mm!

Add the two cups whole wheat flour, two eggs and 2 packages yeast. Wisk these ingredients together until it's smooth.

Let the batter rest for about twenty minutes.

Yes, I said rest. You want to wake up the yeast and let some of those flavors mingle.

After twenty minutes or so, add the rest of the flour a cup at a time, mixing each cup in completely before adding the next. If you're doing this by hand, use a large spoon, and stir it in until you can't stir the dough anymore. If you're using a mixer, use your kneading hook and add flour just until sides of your bowl no longer have dough sticking to them and the dough forms a ball.

This dough is just right - the sides of the bowl are coming clean,
and the dough is elastic.

BUT - be careful not to add too much flour. Too much will make your bread heavy and stiff. Too little will make it hard to handle. This is where practice comes in....

Now it's time to knead the dough.

If you have a mixer, set your timer for seven minutes, and let the mixer work.

If you're kneading the dough by hand, sprinkle your clean counter or bread board with about a cup of flour, and then knead. Fold one side of the lump of dough over onto the other, and push down. Turn the lump a quarter turn and repeat. Do this until the dough is smooth and elastic - about five minutes or so.

After kneading, you need to let the dough rise. In a mixer, just cover the bowl and let it sit. If you're making it by hand, put the dough into a greased bowl and cover with a damp towel.

Wait for about forty-five minutes, or until the dough is doubled.

Now comes the fun part! Divide the dough into forty-eight balls - they'll each be about 1 1/2 inches in diameter - and put two balls in each part of a muffin tin. Be sure to grease your tins!

If you don't have two muffin tins, you can make thirty-six balls and space them out on a greased cookie sheet (with sides).

Cover the rolls, and let the dough rise another forty-five minutes or so.

Bake in a 350° oven for 18-20 minutes, or until lightly browned. As soon as you remove them from the oven, brush melted butter onto the top of each roll (optional, but makes the crust softer).


It takes about three hours for me to make these rolls, so if I make them in the morning, I have the afternoon to play!

On Saturday we took our first trip of the year to Mt. Rushmore.

Even this early in the year, there were quite a few tourists there.

Cute story - on one of our visits last year, on the very spot where I took this picture, we witnessed a young man proposing to his girlfriend! He must have been pretty confident, because the whole family was there - parents, grandma, brothers and sisters. What a memorable place for a proposal!

On this visit I saw something I had never noticed before. The faces of the presidents are carved so carefully, but the hair? Look at Lincoln's hair. It's natural stone. Lincoln's face just peers out from under the top of the mountain.

We also saw another mountain goat! This one was much smaller than last week's big guy licking salt off the road. This one was munching grass along the shoulder of the highway.

And what color is that grass? Green!!!

Spring has finally arrived!