Monday, May 24, 2010

Celebrate with Cake...Lavender Amaretto Pound Cake, that is.

Since I have been away from home for almost a year now, there are lots of things that happen in the lives of my friends and family which I have inevitably missed.  I have known about the baby born or the announced engagement, but it is difficult to celebrate over the phone or e-mail.  So this week I have spent some time celebrating.  Not only am I celebrating the end of exams and my first year of seminary, but I am celebrating being with family!  I have missed them so much and am especially happy to be able to spend some good time with my grandparents.  I am also celebrating with my friends; the addition of babies to families, the changes in vocations, or even a good hug after a long absence. 

I have made this cake four times in the past month.  The first time I made it was a trial run; the successful cake was shared with several different friends from school.  I then made it at an engagement celebration for two of our friends who are getting married this summer.  I made it again almost as soon as I arrived home, and I made another today for some friends who recently had a baby. 

Lavender Amaretto Pound Cake

1/4 cup sliced almonds
3/4 pound (3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
3 cups sugar
2 teaspoons lavender flowers
6 large eggs, room temperature
3 cups all purpose flour, sifted
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon amaretto liqueur

1/3 cup water, boiling
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon amaretto liqueur

Preheat the oven to 325.  Butter and flour a 14 cup bundt pan.  Sprinkle the 1/4 cup of almonds in the bottom of the pan.  In a mini food processor or a blender, blend the lavender flowers with 1/2 cup of the sugar, until the lavender flowers are finely chopped.  In a large bowl, cream together the butter and cream cheese.  Add the lavender sugar and remaining 2 1/2 cups of sugar, and beat on medium-high speed for seven minutes.  Add the eggs, one at the time, beating until well combined.  Add the flour and salt and beat on low speed until just combined.  Add the almond extract and 1 teaspoon amaretto and mix until combined.  Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan. 

Bake for 1 hour, 20 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean.  Meanwhile, combine the boiling water, sugar, and 1 tablespoon amaretto liqueur in a small bowl.  Stir until the sugar is dissolved. 

When the cake is done, let it cool in the pan for 20 minutes.  Turn it out onto a wire rack with a plate or parchment paper below.  Baste the top and sides of the cake with the amaretto syrup, leaving the crusty bottom of the cake dry. 

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Friday, May 7, 2010

It's 5 o'clock somewhere...have some Grilled Island Shrimp Kebabs

Well, it has been quite a week!  Not only did we have the final week of classes and papers galore due (papers which always take a good twelve hours more than I expect), plus "good byes" for the summer to classmates, but also the honor of being the featured blogger on Tasty Kitchen, as well as my first blog award!  Unfortunately, I haven't really been able to spend much time thinking about these last two, nor my poor neglected kitchen, nor you, my friends, because of the tyranny of those papers and last classes.  And I'll be honest, I haven't spent enough time in my bed this week, either. 

But I am delighted to say that the papers are in, and all I have before me now is exam week!  So, in celebration of a Friday night, the end of the semester, an upcoming trip home, and my recent cooking accolades, and at least a little time to be back in my kitchen, I present to you Grilled Island Shrimp Kebabs, which are perfect for both a celebratory meal as well as one that whisks you away to the beach, if only for a little while, in a momentary denial of impending exams (or whatever you have coming up)!

Grilled Island Shrimp Kebabs
Adapted from Spicy Recipes

3/4 cup rum
1/2 cup pina colada mix
1/4 cup honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
3 tablespoons fresh grated ginger
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely diced
2 dashes Liquid Smoke
zest of 1 lime
Two pounds peeled medium shrimp

In a small bowl, mix the first twelve ingredients. 

Thread the shrimp onto double skewers (to make flipping easier).  Place the kebabs in a 9 x 13 baking dish, and pour the marinade over the shrimp.  Marinate for about 20 minutes (no more than 30).  Grill over medium heat for about 8 minutes, flipping half-way through. 

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