Easter or Anytime

I have to say that Easter was pretty tasty. What I like about the menu was that it was simple yet versatile enough to prepare anytime, not just Easter. I participate in recipe-testing with Cooks Illustrated and they just happen to send a recipe for Cherry-Port Glaze for ham, although it would pair nicely with pork, chicken, lamb, or duck. Three ingredients can't be beat for simplicity and ease of preparation for that glaze. It was sweet, a tad tart, and had the color of crimson stained glass...gorgeous.

As you might have learned from my previous post, the buttermilk mashed potatoes went sailing down the drain, for the most part. I completely forgot about them and they overcooked. However, I have happy news that they were salvageable. I just let them sit there with their buttermilk and butter friends until the mixture became happy again. Even though I enjoyed the redeemed potatoes, I would have preferred some heavy cream to cut the sharpness of the buttermilk. The next day I threw in some green onions and cheddar cheese, promptly renaming them "loaded mashed potatoes" so that the kids would eat them...again. The sweet-sauteed carrots were the saving-grace veggie at the table. They were tender and sweetened with a kiss of honey.

Now for that broccoli-cheese cornbread. The picture sure does make it look good. It was gross, really gross. I realized my mistake as soon as I mixed it together. Starting with a traditional Southern cornbread recipe is fine. It's adding frozen chopped broccoli that hasn't been seasoned that led to it's demise. I will definitely saute the broccoli with some onion, salt, and garlic next time (I adjusted the recipe to reflect this).

But I think what everyone is probably wanting is news about the Strawberry Cream Cake. While I was whipping the cream cheese and sugar, then drizzling in the heavy cream, I was saying to myself, "this seems like a good idea, but I'm just not sure how it will taste." I can admit when I'm wrong. Wow! This Cooks Illustrated frosting has a texture like no other and is less sweet than a typical butter cream (no fat grams saved, thanks to the heavy cream). This might be my new favorite frosting, icing, pudding, dip, or whatever this is. My co-workers were eating the leftovers with a spoon (you know who you are).

Outside of great food, minus the cornbread, our church blessed us with a very uplifting and touching service. I've linked a video of the service just so everyone could see the finale and feel the hope that everyone surely left with, especially in these economic times. Hope's pastors, staff, volunteers, and congregation are like no other. What a blessing to have a church whose namesake speaks volumes.

Cherry-Port Glaze:
Yield: 1/2 cup (adapted from Cooks Illustrated)

1/2 cup cherry preserves
1/2 cup port
Pinch salt

Simmer all the ingredients together until reduced by 1/2. Spread on ham at the end of cooking.

Broccoli-Cheddar Cornbread:
Yield: 9-inch skillet or 12 muffins or 8x8 pan

4 Tbsp. oil
1 cup self-rising flour
1 cup corn meal
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
2 cups buttermilk
2 eggs
1/4 cup melted butter or oil
1 cup frozen chopped broccoli, thawed
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/4 cup minced onion
1 garlic clove minced
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
4 Tbsp. oil (for sauteing broccoli)

Preheat the oven and cast iron skillet to 450. Meanwhile, saute the broccoli, onion, and garlic in 4 Tbsp. of oil with the 1/2 tsp. of salt and pepper. Cook until the onion is golden. Cool slightly. After the cast iron skillet in the oven has been heating for 10 minutes, pour 4 Tbsp. of oil in the pan and swirl around the bottom. In a bowl mix together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, eggs, buttermilk, salt, melted butter, and cheese. Add the broccoli mixture and stir to combine. Pour into the skillet in the oven and bake for 20 minutes or until cooked through.

Honey Carrots:
Serves: 6

8 carrots
4 Tbsp. butter
4 Tbsp. honey
1 tsp. salt
1/2 cup water

Saute the carrots in the butter and salt. Add the water and honey. Cover and cook until tender.

Strawberry Cream Cake:
Yield: 9-inch 2-layer cake (frosting adapted from Cooks Illustrated)

1 box white cake mix
1 cup sour cream
1 cup warm water
2 eggs
1/4 cup oil or melted butter
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup sliced strawberries
1/4 cup sugar
8 ounce cream cheese
2/3 cup sugar
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup shredded sweetened coconut

Preheat the oven to 350. Spray two 8 or 9-inch cake pans with nonstick spray then line the bottom with parchment; then spray the parchment. In a bowl, mix together the cake mix, sour cream, water, eggs, oil/butter, and vanilla. Pour equal amounts of the batter into each cake pan and bake for 20 minutes or until cooked through. Cool the cakes completely (I put them in the freezer to speed this up). Meanwhile, puree the strawberries with the sugar and set aside. In a standing mixer, whip the cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Slowly add the heavy cream and then turn the mixer up to medium-high to whip it like you would whipped cream. Once it forms stiff peaks it's ready to use. When the cakes are cool, slice the rounded tops off the make for an even surface (now you have a snack). On the bottom layer, spread the strawberry mixture on and then top with some of the whipped cream frosting. Add your second layer and frost the entire cake. Sprinkle the top with coconut. It's best to make this 1-2 days in advance so that the cake can continue to moisten.

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