Sunday, July 10, 2011

fireworks, mrs waite's orzo salad and whoopie pies

Here are a few pictures from our 4th of July holiday weekend...just in case you wanted to live vicariously through us...

A sunset over the lake.  I might have to do a series of lake sunsets, because they are so beautiful! We have been up to the lake 3 times and I already have so many awesome sunset pictures - mostly thanks to Dan, who is a great photog.

The crew taking the boat out to watch the lake's fireworks show.

I like the reflections of the other boats' lights in this picture.  

For the 4th itself, we came back to Kansas City and went to Dan's cousin Amy's house in Kansas City, Kansas.  I made Mrs. Waite's Orzo salad (recipe below), which was delicious as always, and a failed attempt at red, white and blue whoopie pies.

Double vanilla whoopie pie cakes.  The recipe called for a vanilla bean, which cost us a whopping $7.95 for one, saying it made a huge difference in the vanilla flavor of the cake.  We ended up having to double the recipe, but only bought one vanilla bean.   I couldn't taste any difference between the batch with the bean and the one without, so I don't think I would bother splurging on a vanilla bean again...maybe it was a faulty bean though?

The plan was to make strawberry and blueberry cream cheese fillings (complete with pieces of real fruit) in keeping with the red, white and blue theme.  However, the colors ended up being so light, that I decided the whoopie pies would have been more appropriate for a baby shower.  Sigh.

The whoopie pies that we brought to the party each only had one of the fillings.  Dan and I made this one just to show you what the two colors looked like.  Am I right about the baby shower thing, or what?

This is Amy and Glenn's house.  I am obsessed with it.  Obsessed. It was built in the 1890s, which is quite old for Kansas City.  And it is SO adorable inside.  Granted, it needed/still needs a lot of work, but so far they have been doing a great job fixing it up.  Perhaps while suffering from a bout of renovation amnesia, I vehemently offered to come sand moldings anytime they want!  I wish I had pictures of the inside of the house to show to you.  I'll have to go back over there someday and take some.  The layout reminds me so much of my dad's parents' house.  Also, Amy and Glenn had a little baby girl, Beatrice, this past spring.  I love the name Beatrice.  Ironically enough, my dad's mom's name was Beatrice too - the grandmother who lived in a house very similar to this one.  

Kansas City skyline as seen from Amy and Glenn's front yard.  A pretty amazing view, no?  Later, when it got dark, we had a 180 degree view of fireworks being set off all over the city.  

Now for the recipes:

Mrs. Waite's Orzo Salad

1 lb box of orozo

1/2 cup pine nuts
1/2 cup olive oil
3 tbs lemon juice (I just used the juice from one lemon)
1 cup scallions, sliced
1 cup feta cheese, crumbled
1 pint cherry tomatoes
salt and pepper to taste

Cook the orzo according to package directions.  Allow it to cool completely.

Toast the pine nuts in a 250 degree oven for 4 or 5 minutes.  Be careful that they don't burn!

Combine with rest of the ingredients.

Double Vanilla Whoopie Pies from Let's Make Whoopie...Pies 

Note: As I said before, I didn't think that the addition of a vanilla bean made much of a difference in the flavor of the cake.  However, feel free to include it if you're feeling extravagant!  Also, with or without the bean, this is a great recipe for vanilla whoopie pies - the consistency is perfect!  Finally, I found the whoopie pies to be a bit too sweet with the filling we included.  At the link above, they recommend combining these cakes with a chai filling, which I think would be amazing and plan to try this fall!

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 tbs whole milk
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 vanilla bean (optional)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl.

In a stand mixer, beat the butter for a minute or so (I found the butter does NOT have to be at room temperature to do this). 

Add the white and brown sugars and beat until you reach a light and creamy consistency.

Add the eggs one at a time.  

Slowly add the buttermilk with the mixer on low. **At this point it is going to look like your batter has curdled - don't be fooled! Dan and I started over, but this is in fact how it will look until you add the dry ingredients.**

In a small bowl add the baking soda to the milk.  Then add the vinegar to this mixture.

Add about half of the dry ingredients to the "curdled" mixture in the stand.  Then add the milk/vinegar mixture.  Then add the rest of the dry ingredients.

Finally, mix in the vanilla extract and vanilla bean scrapings (if you splurged on the vanilla bean).

Scoop mixture onto parchment paper.  Leave a couple of inches between each scoop. Depending on the size desired, or how many whoopie pies you need, you could do anywhere from 1 tbs to about 1/4 cup.  This batter spreads/grows quite a bit in the oven, so 1/4 cup ended up being a pretty big size, while the 1 tbs sized ones were more like two bites each once fully assembled.

Make for 8-10 minutes.  Allow them to cool completely before adding frosting/filling.

Strawberry/Blueberry Cream Cheese Filling adapted from The Tasty Kitchen recipe by Cake Dutchess

Note: Next time I think I would skip the food coloring and just add pieces of each fruit to a white cream cheese filling.  Also, if you're making these in hot temperatures (like we were, even though it's air conditioned in the house), I would highly recommend making the filling first and putting it in the fridge to cool/harden while you make the cakes.  This will make for a much less messy (aka stressful) whoopie pie filling experience.

1 stick butter, softened
8 oz cream cheese, softened
2 cups confectioner's sugar
3/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1-2 tsp strawberry or blueberry flavoring
red and blue food coloring until you reach desired color (if that ever even happens)
1/2 cup each of strawberries (diced) and blueberries (whole)...I think I would add even more next time as the fruit        
pieces were my favorite part

Beat the butter and cream cheese.  

Add the confectioner's sugar and salt and mix until combined.  

Add the food coloring and flavoring and mix.

Stir in the fruit pieces.