Friday, August 16, 2013

Fruit Cake/Tart

 by Ann

I was in a quandary as to the title of this recipe.  When I first learned how to prepare it many, many years ago in a cooking class at our local community college the instructor called it a fruit tart.  I have since grown to love tarts because of their rich, dense, almost cookie-like crust, which this recipe does not have.  Yet I hate to call it a fruit cake, lest you have visions of a nearly inedible holiday loaf with dried fruit.  Instead the base is a basic jelly roll cake prepared in a Mary Ann cake pan (one with fluted edges and an indentation for filling).  Regardless of what to call it, the dessert is fabulous!  

It had been years since I'd prepared it, and when reflecting upon why I hadn't made it for so long, it comes down to the fact that it's a lot of work and really needs to be eaten up the day it is prepared, so it is something that is reserved for special occasions.  My turn to host book club gave me an excuse to bust out the Mary Ann pan!

After preparing it, another reason that I don't get in gear to make this recipe often came to mind -- Lots of dishes to wash.  The cake needs to be prepared with two different mixing bowls, as does the pudding.  (That's four bowls, multiple beaters, and everything else involved to wash!) Whine... whine.... whine... Back to the good stuff...
Here's the prepared pan that has been very generously greased and floured -- If you don't have one, Google Mary Ann cake pan and you'll have lots of options.
The first of the two-mixers at once adventure... Egg whites in the Kitchen Aide and yolks, sugar, oil, water, and vanilla in with the portable.
The yolk mixture (with flour and oil) must be carefully folded into the yolks.  
When the baked cake comes out of the oven it's a bit puffy.  Because the pan is so shallow the cake only cooks for 12-15 minutes.
Whew!! It released from the pan.  Not sure if the variation in color is due to parts sticking on the pan, or not folding well enough.  Regardless, it was delicious.
The second round of the two-mixer requirement. Whipping cream in the Kitchen Aide, instant vanilla pudding and half of the called for on the package milk using the portable mixer.

Ok -- Let's make that pudding worth eating!  Add 3 tablespoons of Grand Mariner.  Simply amazing...

Now the fun begins.  Pile the whipped topping in the center of the cake and lightly place a decorative arrangement of colorful fruit.

Be sure the fruit is as dry as possible.  After rinsing the berries I dried them on paper towel, and if you look close you can see that the sections of Mandarin orange are also having extra moisture absorbed.

Once all of the arranging is done, it's time to glaze for a beautiful golden finish.  I have never seen apricot jelly, but can easily find the jam.  If that's all you can find just strain it through a fine mesh sieve.  Keep the bits for toast later!

With a silicone brush carefully dab and brush the glaze over the fruit, being careful not to pull the pudding up with the brush.  Mmmmm.....

(I have heard back from some people that my links don't work on their machines.  Sorry!  I'm doing the best I know how!!  You can always copy/paste the below recipe into a document if it won't work for you.)
Fruit Cake/Tart
Cake ingredients:

3 large eggs
1 c flour
1 c sugar
1 t baking powder
¼ t salt
1/3 c water
1 T oil
1 t vanilla

Grease and flour a 10” MaryAnn pan (fluted with a depression for filling).
Separate the eggs and allow to temper to room temperature.  
Beat 1/3 c sugar into the yolks until they are thick and lemon colored.
Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl.  Add to the egg yolk mixture along with the water, oil, and vanilla, beat well.
In a separate bowl, beat egg whites until stiff peaks form.  Very slowly add the remaining 2/3 c sugar until a thick meringue is formed.
Gently fold egg white and egg yolk mixtures together until well blended.
Spread evenly into prepared pan and bake at 375° for about 12-15 minutes.  Cool for five minutes and then invert onto serving plate.

Pudding and finishing ingredients:

½ pint whipping cream
1 large box instant vanilla pudding
1 ½ c milk (½ of milk called for on package)
3 T Grand Mariner

Variety of small colorful fruits (berries, kiwi, grapes, mandarin oranges)
apricot jelly (if available, if not, use jam pressed through a strainer)


To make the pudding, chill bowl and beaters.  Whip ½ pint of whipped cream until stiff.  In separate chilled bowl mix a large package of instant vanilla pudding with ½ of the milk that the instructions call for.  Mix on high speed for only one minute.  Combine the two bowls of ingredients and Grand Mariner slowly running the beaters through just enough to gently combine.

Mound the pudding in the center of the cake.  Decoratively arrange a colorful combination of fresh and well drained canned fruits on top of the pudding.  Lightly brush a layer of apricot glaze over the fruit, pudding mixture being sure to avoid getting pudding on top of the fruit.

Note:  This cake is best eaten the day it is put together.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Five Steps to Choosing Paint Colors

by Sheila

Paint is one of the easiest and most affordable ways to transform a space.  As some of you know, I am in the process of updating a new investment property to turn it into a Vacation Rental.  One of the biggest changes I will make (in terms of overall visual impact) is painting every square inch of the interior, and some of the exterior.  The tricky part is selecting the right color(s).  Here are some of my suggestions to consider when selecting paint.

1.  Look for inspiration.  This might be a fabric that combines colors you love, art that is hanging on your walls, or a photograph that speaks to you.  Take this with you to the paint store to help you begin your color selection.
This pillow is my inspiration for the downstairs bedroom.  Paint color is Sea Salt by Sherwin Williams (sometimes looks blue, sometimes green).
2.  Start a board on Pinterest. I started one specifically for design ideas for my investment property (called Cairo Design Ideas)  and I put my color and other design ideas all together here.  I can add to this and browse for inspiration whenever I need it, and it is all at my fingertips.
My Pinterest Board for this house project.  I have become a Pinterest junkie.  We learned at Blog World Expo that the average person spends one hour and seventeen minutes on this site at a time.  Wow!
3.  Bring paint swatches home and tape them up in the actual room you are painting.  You will often see differences in paint that you didn't see in the store.  Does that beige color look too pink or too green in this room?  Eliminate it.  Too light or dark?  Keep in mind that color intensifies when you paint an entire wall or room, so when in doubt, go lighter.  Also, you can have the paint store mix a color you like with 25% or 50% less intensity, making it a lighter shade.  I sometimes do this with my samples (see #4), custom mixing a color I really like, and then have the paint store color match it. We recently visited my son and daughter-in-law in the house they have just moved into in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  She has mixed her own paint color and has the formula saved with Sherwin Williams under her name "Margo".  This is a great idea!  Lowe's will save your paint formulas also with their "My Lowe's card".  They need to scan the paint bar code and the color mix bar code in order to for this to work, so keep an eye on this when you are checking out.  
Yes, I really did go through all of this to pick a very neutral color; Benjamin Moore's Muslin.

4.  Once you have narrowed down your choices, get samples made of the possibilities you are considering.  Don't skip this step.  They only cost around $3 and it will save you time and money in the long run, by helping you select a color you really like.  Paint these samples either on a large poster board that you can move around to look at on different walls, or use my method and just paint a large swatch right on the wall.  Hey, this means I better get the job done, so I don't have to look at splotches on my walls!  The color will look completely different depending on the light and the other colors in the room, so this will help you decide. 

Can you tell this room needed paint?  What a yucky orange-brown!

5.  Buy quality paint.  I like Valspar (Lowes) paint & primer in one, Behr paint & primer (Home Depot) for wall paint and Benjamin Moore Advance for trim.  My daughter, Elizabeth is a serial painter (like me) and she recommended this Benjamin Moore paint which I really like.  I recommend you select one paint color for trim throughout your house and stick with it.  It unifies the space and makes touch-ups easier.  There are other good options as well, but these tend to be my go to selections for paint.
This paint dries very hard and goes on smooth.  My only complaint is that with the dark colors in this house, it is taking two coats.  Way more time and money!

On our recent visit to see my son and daughter-in-law, we painted the living room in their new home. We changed it from a dark red to her very own color mixed "Margo" paint.  It transformed the space from a dark, bold room to a light, open, welcoming space that works much better with their furniture and style.   

Margo's formula for the color named after her!

The supplies...

Margo & Ty's dark red living room "before"

Margo at work.  We used Lowe's Valspar paint & primer (yes, they color matched from the formula we gave them)  and it covered beautifully in one coat! 

The rest of the crew at work.  Tyler and David are the roller operators.  I think Charlotte is attempting to paint Papa's leg.

The youngest painter in the crowd - my granddaughter Charlotte.  How could we have managed without her?

Color selection made - it's time to get to work.  See my blog posts I Love Paint I and I Love Paint Part II for more info on painting and let your transformation begin!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Summer Tea Time

by Heather
Home Goods plates; vintage teacups from another china set; Home Goods place mats; tea towels (which I use as napkins) from a little shop in Minneapolis 
I like tea parties. Give me any excuse to have one and I will. This time the tea started out to be for one party but segued into another instead. Oh well...any excuse will do. I always have loose tea leaves on hand -- I start each day with a pot of tea -- and I usually have scone mix in the cupboard. I know how to make scones from scratch but why would anyone bother to do so when, with this mix, all you do is add water and they're great every time. 
With the scones, I like to serve several types of jams -- usually strawberry and lemon curd -- and clotted cream (aka Devonshire cream).
Lemon curd and strawberry with champagne jam are held in glass bowls with glass serving spoons from local shop, Bungalow; clotted cream is in vintage Waterford; butter dish from Home Goods
Cost Plus is the place where I can find all of these items at good prices. I'll also pick up Cadbury milk chocolate fingers and Walkers shortbread if I know that I'm doing a tea in the near future.  Can you tell that I'm not the baker in our blogging trio?
Scones, shortbread and chocolate fingers are placed on Home Goods two-tiered plate stand.
For this tea, I made two types of tea sandwiches: egg salad on wheat and chive butter/cucumber on white. I used a mandolin slicer for the first time to get the cucumber slices thin enough -- why haven't I used this before?? It's been sitting in the cupboard for years!
Sandwiches are placed on a tiered glass stand from Home Decor. Note the sweet birds perched at the top; they fit right in with the bird motif on the plates.
 If I'm going all out, I will generally add at least one more type of sandwich as well as cheese straws and sausage rolls and if I'm really on a roll, jam tarts and sandwich cake.

One of the best parts of having a tea is setting the table. I love the green bird and flower patterned china that I picked up at Home Goods this spring so I started with those plates.
I wanted to offer both de-caf and regular tea so I needed two teapots. Home Goods again to the rescue with two pots I had picked up this spring -- one to match the green plates; one in cream with a bird motif.
The only new items on the table: two candelabras from Home Goods (where else?)
I couldn't resist these candelabras. I'll probably put them into storage after the tea and bring them out again at Christmas. I can picture them during that season surrounded by silver and sparkle.
A green linen runner down the middle of the table and two preserved boxwoods in their own wire basket, both from Home Goods, added to the off-center centerpiece.
Butter knives and additional tea spoons are corralled in silver cups
Maybe for my next tea, I'll do a coastal theme. The tea pot below with a matching sugar and creamer is needing some action.
Home Goods tea pot, sugar, creamer, and tray
Home Goods jar; Nordstrom's candleholders

Come on over for a cuppa, okay?