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Friday, July 25, 2014

Cooking Spree: Tuna Croquettes with Avocado-Lime Sauce

After I completed my strawberry sheet cake, I decided that I would make a healthy dinner.  This dinner was a two parter: Watermelon-Feta Orzo Salad, and Tuna Croquettes with Buttermilk Avocado-Lime sauce.  Let me first tell you about the Tuna Croquettes!

 (Fry them in real butter; it makes all the difference!)

These are quite a bit like crab or salmon cakes, but with tuna!  The recipe suggests them as a way to use up leftover canned tuna, and I think you could make it work with leftover tuna salad, too.  You know what I mean: you make the tuna salad, make one sandwich, then someone asks you out to lunch the next day, so you don't use the rest of the tuna?  Well, now you can make that tuna into a hot dinner meal! 

The recipe (from Southern Living, of course) can be found here, and it's really quite simple.  Just tuna, mayo (or, if you want a bit more of a flavor kick, a little Cheese Shop House Dressing), egg, green onion (or onion), and panko bread crumbs, basically.  Throw in whatever you'd put in a crab cake!  Make it your own!  I would also note, you could probably make these gluten free by substituting the panko bread crumbs for cooked quinoa.  If you do that, you will probably need to refrigerate either the mixture or the quinoa, so that you can shape it into croquettes.  Once you've mixed up whatever you want to use for your tuna croquettes, form them into little circle cakes, melt some butter in a fry pan, then fry for a few minutes on each side.  The recipe calls for them to finish in an oven, and let me tell you that was worth it!

But the real star of this show is the Buttermilk Avocado-Lime sauce.  Make according to the recipe and you will not go wrong.  I may have put in a bit too much lime, but the kick was nice.  Since I already had buttermilk from making the cake, it worked out perfectly!  If you don't have buttermilk, you can "make" buttermilk using milk and lemon, or maybe try using milk and yogurt.

I used one 12 oz can of tuna, and I made nine croquettes out of the recipe.  I had lots of leftover sauce, but it would go well with a variety of dishes, so I'm sure you can find a way to use it up.  I paired my croquettes with the above mentioned Watermelon-Feta Orzo salad, but it would go well with sweet potato fries or any kind of lettuce-y salad with a sweet vinaigrette and maybe dried cranberries.  And voila!  A healthy, easy dinner for you and your family to enjoy!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Cooking Spree: Strawberries-and-Cream Sheet Cake

Last week I went on a cooking spree.  Since receiving my April edition of Southern Living, I've wanted to try out the recipe for Strawberries-and-Cream Sheet Cake, I recently discovered a recipe for Tuna Croquettes with Avocado-Lime-Buttermilk dressing, and the July edition had a very tasty looking recipe for Watermelon-Feta Orzo Salad.  Since I turned in my paper and promised myself I'd relax a little before starting my thesis, I decided to take a few days to try to make these tasty treats.

(Looks a little like a cake from a MarioParty mini-game)

First up, I made the Strawberries-and-Cream Sheet Cake.  Making cakes from scratch takes lots of time and work.  I know I did it last year for my job a lot, but that felt different.  Time flows differently in the eighteenth-century kitchen, and I never really noticed how long I spent making a pound cake.  But this cake!  I started at 9:00 AM and finally put the finishing touches on around 1:00 PM.  Not that all of that time was hands-on, but still.

Speaking of hands-on: I really wish I'd just creamed my butter and sugar by hand (like I did for all my cakes last summer) and then started using the electric mixer once that step was complete.  Don't get me wrong, I loved using that electric mixer for the rest of the cake, but creaming butter and sugar by hand really is the best and fastest way.

I decided to do this cake right, so I specially bought cake flour and buttermilk.  I tried to do the whole "parchment paper" bit recommended, but it wasn't working quite right, and after spending nearly two hours preparing the cake batter I didn't want to ruin it during the baking process.  If you just grease and flour your pan you'll be fine-- although, I warn you, I tried to invert my 9x13 cake onto a wire rack and it broke in half.  "Oops," I thought, "Guess I'll just slip this half back into the pan and cover up the mess with icing."  I think you'll agree based on the picture, you can't tell anything went wrong!  Icing works wonders.  But, if you do want to take it out of the pan, you might go ahead and buy extra large parchment paper  and try that fancy step in the recipe.

One bright part of the cake breaking in half was that I got to eat some of the broken bits (necessary to clean up the look a little, that's how I justified it).  The cake was very moist and very sweet.  Very, very sweet.  Given this little taste of the cake itself, I decided to cut back on the sugar in the icing when I made it about an hour later-- I think I used probably 1/2 a cup, rather than the called for 2/3 cup.  The icing consists of whipped cream, cream cheese, and fresh strawberries.  This presents a bit of a conundrum.  How to store this cake?  The first day, I put it in the refrigerator.  When I served a couple of slices that night, the cake tasted dense and dry.  So, I put a couple slices of bread in with it, covered it in saran wrap, and left it out overnight.  The next day it tasted MUCH better.  But, after about two days out (and still only about 1/2 eaten), the strawberries in the icing started to mold.  So, my suggestion to you is, eat this cake fast!  Take it to functions, make it for your friends, put it in the break room at work.  Don't let it sit around for very long!

I highly recommend making this cake (especially if you like strawberries)!

The recipe can be found on the Southern Living website, here.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

A July Update

I know I haven't posted much this month.  I haven't felt like I have had much to say.  What should I write?  "Today I woke up, worked on my paper for a few hours, had lunch, worked on my paper again, had dinner, tried to relax, got worked up about my paper so decided to work on it.  Until after midnight.  Slept badly, then woke up and worked on my paper."  For most of July, until Sunday, that summed up the majority of my days.  I had a few different days-- I watched the final of Wimbledon with Mike and Kelsey; I drove to Charlottesville to spend the day with Kay.  I had a really great late lunch/early dinner with my dad at Fuego.  I packed up the cats for an extended visit to Williamsburg, which has involved many visits to the Shoe Attic, Paranormal Witness with Jessica, and a new favorite wrap at Aroma's (Thai veggie, who knew?).  I would say that since I've turned in my paper things will look up from here and I'll post more often... but I don't want to make any promises.  My days still look very alike, but they are very pleasant: I wake up, read, Rosetta Stone, work on research for my thesis.  Sometimes I go up to the Historic Area, or to trivia night, or to the Shoe Attic.  Last night, Jessica and I got my first Sno-to-Go of the summer, and it was glorious. 

I will say, this summer I'm finally getting to try some new (non-eighteenth-century) recipes... so expect at least one blog post about my adventures in the (twenty-first century) kitchen! 

Friday, July 11, 2014

On Coming Home

Tonight, I noticed the sunlight, all yellow and pink and gold, as I drove down a tiny back road to my favorite pizza place, and I wondered if the earliest settlers had also admired the colors of the sun, the ivy on the trees, the beauty of the humidity, the smell of Virginia in summer.  I still have my seminar paper to complete, but I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.  Despite the hours that I've spent writing alone in my room, and the morning I spent in Swem writing, it already feels more like summer here.  Tomorrow night, I hope to have finished the paper, to have breathed a sigh of relief, and to take a novel and glass of sweet tea out to the screened in porch.