Thursday, August 30, 2012

Baked Potato Cake

It's potluck time again at work!  The theme for this potluck is a baked potato bar so as soon as I found that out I immediately knew that I had to make a giant baked potato cake.  There are actually a few examples of baked potato cakes on the internet so between those and pictures of actual baked potatoes, I was able to come up with a pretty good idea of how I'd pull this cake off.  

I started by baking and stacking three 9" x 13" cakes.  I didn't worry about getting the filling icing all the way to the edge since they would be trimmed off anyway.  

After stacking and refrigerating the cakes I cut it into a potato shape.  Starting by just making the vertical cuts, then going back and rounding the edges.

I chilled the cake again then put a nice layer of vanilla buttercream over the entire thing.  While it was chilling again, I rolled out the fondant and prepared to cover the cake.

I used the marshmallow fondant recipe that I show here to make both the chocolate fondant for the potato and the colored fondant for the toppings.  I made a full batch for the brown, and only a quarter batch for the toppings.  To cover the potato I rolled the fondant out into a pretty even layer then wound it back around the rolling pin to unwind it over the cake.  Then I just smoothed it down and trimmed the excess.

Then it was time to make it look like the potato skin was peeled back.  I cut out an oval of fondant then split the edges and pulled them back.  A little more icing in the middle made the potato filling and I kinda swirled it around to make it fluffy.  To really try and make it look like a baked potato, I dabbed some cocoa powder to the fondant to give it that kind of dry/dirty look.

Then I made made the bacon bits, green onions, cheese and butter.  A little foil around the base and a dollop of cool whip for sour cream finished it off.  The cheese is a little more orange than I'd like, but I think you get the idea :)


I had a lot of fun making this cake and am very happy with the result.  That's it for tonight, I hope you all have a great 3 day weekend!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Campaign Dresser Fix-up

Do you all make crazy long to-do lists and then never look at them again once you're done making the list?  Not that I know what that would be like, I always check off my to-do lists... 

I hope you don't believe that for one moment.  I am ALWAYS making lists of things I want to do at home after work, but usually they have way too many items and I forget to even look at it once I get home.  This week I decided to do something different.  This is a very busy week, and there is a lot that I'd like to get done before my college housemates come in town and attempt to relive our Rolla shenanigans :)  So what I did was make a very short list for each night this week and I'm proud to say that so far I've stuck to it.  The point of this spiel is that "write a blog post" was on my list tonight.  So here I am.  

My obsession with finding a dresser like this began when I saw several of them in the blogging world and I thought they were so classic, pretty and versatile.  The simple style and the brass hardware is what makes it a "Campaign" dresser.  I believe that the style is based of the portable furniture that politicians would bring with them when on the campaign trail.  The individual boxes could be stacked and held together with the brass brackets and then taken apart for transportation.  When I started searching Craigslist for a campaign dresser, I wasn't getting any results so instead I started searching for "solid wood dresser".  One lucky day when searching for dressers, this one popped up for $70 and I immediately emailed the seller to see if it was still available.  After a long 2 days of waiting for a reply I finally heard that it was available and I could have it!  We picked up the dresser on a Friday night and by Saturday morning I'd removed all of the hardware and started wiping down the wood. 

The dresser right after we brought it in from the car. 

The hardware needed some pretty serious polishing and I thought it would be very simple to do since I'd had luck polishing brass before with Bar Keeper's Friend.  However when I tried polishing the dresser hardware, the tarnish was not coming off at all.  I did a little research and found out that some brass is lacquered and the tarnish is most likely under the lacquer.  Ugh.  So off to Home Depot I went for some lacquer thinner.  I got home and started soaking the hardware in the thinner.  I could see that it was making the lacquer bubble up, so I was able to scrape it off and then finally polish it.  What I thought would be a 1 hour task turned into pretty much an entire day.  Oh well, it was worth it in the end for me. 

Hardware before

Hardware after

All cleaned up!

The next step was to decorate the top of the dresser so it could liven up our entry way a little.  I found a lamp at a local thrift store and bought a new shade for it.  Then I decided to fancy up the shade a little with some silver leaf, but I'll save that project for another post.  Under the lamps are a couple of books and magazines, then I stacked a couple of hat boxes from my collection and added a painting and a few other little pretties.  It's not quite finished yet, and I need to try again to fix the painting. Then maybe I'll actually hang it on the wall.  For now I'm just happy to have a more welcoming entry way.  In the future, the dresser might find a new home or possibly a fun paint color, but it will stay au natural for the time being. 


Well, that's the new dresser that I keep talking about.  I hope you're not all hugely disappointed that it's not cooler :)  I will have a pretty cool cake to show you at the end of this week so be on the look out for that!  Now I have to get back to my Tuesday night to-do list and finish baking the cakes.  Have a great week!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Spinach and Walnut Pesto

When I posted the recipe for the braided bread, I promised to tell ya'll the recipe for the pesto.  So I'm here to tell you now :)  I pulled this recipe from a cook book that Joe's Grandma gave me called Lidia's Italy in America.  It is a companion cookbook to a show featuring Lidia Bastianich that Joe and I watch all the time on PBS.  She travels all over America visiting Italian communities and seeing how they've adapted authentic Italian cooking to fit what was available in the states.  In the cook book she not only has recipes but also stories about her travels in the US and in Italy.  One of my favorite things I've read in there is an Italian saying that I'm trying to memorize so I can say it to Joe.  It goes, "Sei come il prezzemolo, da per tutto", You are like chopped parsley, all over the place!.  Feel free to use it whenever you see fit :)

Back to the pesto recipe.  I only make a 1/2 recipe because it requires A LOT of basil and it ends up making a lot of pesto.  So the amounts I'll list below are for the 1/2 batch.  We've used this in the bread, a pasta dish, on sandwiches, and sometimes I just eat it on pretzels.  Any extras that you don't plan on using right away can be frozen after pouring a thin layer of olive oil on top.  Here's the handy recipe!

Spinach Walnut Pesto 
From: Lidia's Italy in America

1/2 t. salt
4.5 ounces fresh spinach, stems trimmed
1 packed cup basil leaves
1 cup walnut halves, toasted
2 cloves garlic, peeled
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Place the spinach, basil, walnuts, garlic and salt in the bowl of a food processor, and pulse a few times.  While the processor is running, slowly pour in the olive oil in a steady stream.  Process to make a smooth paste, stopping a few times to scrape down the sides.  

It really is that simple!  You could do a lot with this, or keep it simple and eat it with some pita chips.  Here are a couple quick pictures just for your reference.  

Wash the spinach and basil!

A little blurry, but its all in there.

Slowly pour in the EVOO.

All done!
That's all for tonight!  Have a happy Wednesday!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Braided Pesto Bread

Stumbling across the recipe for this bread was a happy coincidence.  Last week, our basil plant was getting a little out of control so I was planning on making some pesto so the basil didn't go to waste.  I didn't really have a plan for what I was going to do with all the pesto until this recipe popped up in a blog and I knew it was meant to be.  I did make my own pesto for the bread, but you could definitely use store bough pesto if you don't have a crazy basil plant that needs to be "harvested".  I will try and post the recipe for the actual pesto sometime soon.  The bread recipe came from a blog called Confections of a Foodie Bride and on her post she gives the links to the original tutorial for rolling, cutting and braiding the dough.  I tried to take some good pictures of it for your reference though.  This was extremely quick and easy to make, especially if you don't have to make the pesto first although that is very easy to make as well.  The only change I made was not sprinkling the top with grated parmesan... because I didn't have any. It turned out great and was gobbled up pretty quick.  Here's the recipe:

Braided Pesto Bread

1 c. warm water
2 t. active dry yeast
2 1/2 c. flour; plus more for dusting your work surface
1 T. olive oil
1 t. salt
1/2 c. pesto
2 T. grated parmesan

*It is very helpful to have a stand mixer with a dough hook for this, but I'm sure you could knead it by hand just fine as well.

1. Pour the water into the bowl of your stand mixer and sprinkle the yeast over the water.  Let sit for about 10 minutes until the yeast has swelled and become kind of frothy.  If that doesn't happen, you need to start over with new yeast.  Sorry.

2. Add the flour, olive oil and salt and turn the mixer on low.  Knead the dough for 5 minutes until smooth and elastic.  After about 2 minutes the dough should be pulling off the sides of the bowl.  If it does not, add extra flour one tablespoon at a time.

3. Transfer the dough to a lightly greased bowl, and let rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

The dough after doubling in size.

4. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees and flour your work surface.  I used parchment paper so I could just slide the paper onto my baking sheet.  I still floured the parchment paper though.

5. Gently stretch and elongate the dough into kind of a long oval.  Then begin rolling into a rectangle that should be about 12" x 18".  Mine was a little smaller and I should have rolled more.

6. Spread the pesto onto the dough and leave about an inch border.

7.  Tightly roll the long side of the dough toward you and pinch the seam closed.  If you're not using parchment paper, transfer the roll of dough to the baking sheet now.  First dust the baking sheet with cornmeal so the dough won't stick.

8.  Using a sharp knife, cut the roll of dough lengthwise and pinch the ends tight.

9. Quickly twist the 2 pieces together, keeping the cut edges on top so they'll fan out when baked.  Then form into a ring and  pinch the ends together.  Transfer the parchment paper to the baking sheet.

10.  Allow the ring to rise for another 15 minutes then top with shredded parmesan and bake for 25 minutes until golden brown.

Remove from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes before eating.  Enjoy!

This would be great with a cinnamon sugar filling or pretty much anything else you might want to spread in there before rolling up.  You could even do pizza ingredients I bet.  I might have to try that soon...

Have a great weekend!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Sand Volleyball Cake

It's been another busy week/weekend at the Lombardo house.  We spent a good part of last week just trying to get back into our routine after being in Colorado.  Then on Thursday and Friday, Mom, Dad and Grace were in town on there way back to Ohio.  Joe got to go to a Kansas City Chiefs game on Friday night, then I spent most of Saturday working on this cake while Joe worked on the outside of our house.  I made this sand volleyball cake to celebrate my sand volleyball team's win of our most recent season.  We play multiple seasons throughout the summer and this Sunday was an off-week between seasons so we hosted a game night at our house to celebrate our recent championship.  I promised the team a volleyball cake so I had to deliver :)

Start to finish, this cake probably took 5 hours.  I had a little bit of a hard time covering the ball with fondant and making the volleyball pattern, but in the end I was happy with the result.  Of course, after the cake was complete I remembered that there was a volleyball template that came with my ball cake pan.  I was really kicking myself for that one.  When I cut out some of the white fondant to place the yellow panels on the ball, I was left with lots of cracks that were not so nice looking.  So I took a cue from what Joe was doing on the outside of our house and I "caulked" the fondant seams with icing then smoothed them out.  It made a huge difference and I was MUCH happier with the final look.  The "sand" was crushed cinnamon graham crackers and the cake was chocolate with vanilla icing, so I was hoping it would taste kind of like a s'more :)  I'm not sure it tasted like that in the end, but it was good.  I brought the leftovers to work and they were gone in no time.  Here are a couple more pictures of the finished product!

I drew a circle in the "sand" because we always draw one in the middle of the court when we're practicing.  You're not supposed to let the ball land in the circle.  Oops :) 

I have a few blog posts on backlog that I'm waiting to share with y'all, but I just need to sit down and write them!  Be on the lookout for some tasty braided pesto bread and to finally see that silly dresser that I've mentioned a few times.  For now Joe and I are trying to enjoy the awesome temperatures that we've finally gotten here.  We're not the only ones enjoying it though... We opened a few windows and we can here the neighborhood kids screaming, hitting things, blowing horns and just generally being obnoxious.  Oh well, it's just nice to not have 100+ degree weather.  I hope you all have a great week and enjoy the last bit of summer!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Trowbridge Family Reunion

Sorry for the radio silence over the last several days, but Joe and I have been on a whirlwind vacation to Montrose, Colorado for a family reunion with my Mom's side of the family.  For the last 20 years or so, the Trowbridge family has gotten together every other summer to visit, catch up and have fun with everyone since we always seem to be spread across the entire country.  Each reunion is planned by one of the 6 Trowbridge siblings, and the locations they pick are always beautiful and memorable.  Over the years our group grew to include Mimi and Papa, 12 aunts and uncles, and 20 grand kids (ranging in age from 28 to 5!)  Papa hasn't been with us since 2008, but his love of the mountains, nature and visiting new places that he instilled in his children has been passed down to all the grand kids and is still very evident every time we all get together.  We all miss Papa, and I know he'd be happy to see the tradition continue.

As I mentioned, this year's reunion was held in Montrose, Colorado which is west of Colorado Springs by about 4 hours.  Joe and I left home at 4:00 am last Wednesday morning and drove 13.5 hours to Montrose. We missed the first 2 days of the reunion, but still had a blast seeing everyone for the last couple days.  Each morning started off with a walk down to a little coffee shop for breakfast.  On Wednesday, a group of the guys went on a guided fly fishing trip, and from what I hear they were pretty successful!  But it was catch and release, so we didn't get to enjoy the fish they caught.  It was Joe's first time fly fishing and, he caught 7 that day.  While they were fishing, the rest of us explored downtown Montrose, then had lunch at the hotel before heading to a city park.  We played some frisbee and basketball, and Grace and I hiked to the top of the hill to get some great views of Montrose.  In the evenings we hung out by the hotel pool, played bocce ball, and ate some tasty food the parents prepared while letting us "kids" play.  Of course at those times, I am more than happy to still be considered part of the kids group :)

On Friday, several of the family members left for home and the group of us that remained made a trip to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.  It was a little bit of a scary drive to the bottom (16% grade!) but the canyon was absolutely beautiful!  We hiked around the river for a little bit, then drove back up to the canyon rim for some more scenic views.  Compared to the Grand Caynon, the Black Canyon is pretty small, but it was still stunning.  Friday night we went out to dinner in Montrose then played a couple board games before heading to bed.  Saturday morning we went to the coffee shop one more time before Joe and I hit the road for the long drive home.  We had such a great time seeing everyone and catching up on lost time.  We hadn't seen some our family since the last reunion in South Dakota two years ago!  We missed the aunts, uncles, and cousins who weren't able to make it this year, but look forward to seeing you sometime soon.

Now, I have to admit that I was TERRIBLE about taking pictures of the actual family at the family reunion.  I've got a few, but mostly there are pictures of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison.  I hope you enjoy the pictures I did get and I'll try and put a little caption about each one.

The littlest Trowbridge, Rebecca.  She was pretending to be a whale :)  

Adeline, Patrick, Joe and Grace playing bocce ball.

(Seated L-R) Patrick, Dad, Adeline, Kate, Lila, Grace, Thomas, Mimi, Charlie.  Good job to Mimi for being the only one smiling!

Grace at the top of the hill in the Montrose city park.  There was a frisbee golf course that went all the way too the top of the hill!

View from the top of the hill.
Can you find the prairie dog?  Grace spotted him on our hike down the hill.

The Gunnison River.  

Patrick.  Contemplating the great questions of life. :)

Mom.  Looking for some fish. :)

Hi, Gracie!  This makes up for the lack of pictures of you at the Robinson reunion.

The Black Canyon of the Gunnison, as seen from the bottom.  This was a relatively "shallow" portion of the canyon.

L-R: Andrew, Joe, Grace, Uncle Vaughn.

Can you spot Michael?  He was king of the rock.

View of the canyon from the top.

The river seen from the canyon rim.

I was a little nervous looking down into the canyon.
Joe and me, living on the edge.
Mary and Michael at the top.

This was a view from our car on the drive home.

A screen shot of our Garmin at the top of Monarch Pass.  It was a long climb to the top which is along the Continental Divide.  

View from near the top of Monarch Pass.
I guess that's it for tonight!  Again, we loved seeing everyone who was there and missed those who weren't.  In other news, I've got a fun cake planned for this weekend.  I hope it turns out as cool as it looks in my head :)  Either way, it will make an appearance on the blog.  Have a great week!