Thursday, December 30, 2010

Ham Asparagus Strata and Lemon Blueberry Cupcakes!

I mentioned in my last post that I would post come pics of the Ham Asparagus Strata that I made yesterday and the Lemon Blueberry cupcakes that I was making for today.  So here they are...complete with recipes.

I was supposed to make the strata for Christmas Eve morning but that's when I was just getting over my sickness and did not feel like doing anything!  As it was I needed to make food for Christmas eve at the in-law's and then Christmas Day dinner so adding another thing to my list was not appealing to me.  So it's 4 days after Christmas and I finally get the umph to make it for lunch!  It turned out to be really simple and delicious.  It's also a very good base for adding whatever kind of alternatives you'd prefer like Sausage or bacon, potatoes or tomatoes!  I love the fact that it has eggs on top because it looks very cool and I really like the taste of the runny yolk with asparagus...reminds me of our New York trip when I ate Eggs Benedict every morning!  That brings up another recipe I need to try again!  I only did half of the recipe in an 8" square pan but I found I still needed to use about 8 eggs and almost all the milk I guess because the bread still absorbed a lot.

ham-asparagus and cheese strata

Prep: 30 minutesChill: overnightBake: 50 minutes


  • 8  oz.  asparagus spears, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 5  cups  French bread cubes
  • 2  cups  shredded Gruy√©re or white cheddar cheese, (8 oz.)
  • 1/2  cup  chopped onion
  • 1/4  cup  chopped chives or green onions
  • 8  oz.  cooked ham, diced
  • 10    eggs
  • 1-1/2  cups  milk


1. Bring a large pot of salted water to boiling. Add asparagus; cook 5 minutes or until bright green.
2. In a greased 3-quart baking dish spread half the bread cubes. Top with cheese, onion, chives and half the ham and asparagus. Top with remaining bread.
3. In a bowl whisk together four of the eggs and the milk. Evenly pour over layers in dish. Press down bread pieces into the egg milk mixture with the back of a spoon. Top with remaining ham and asparagus. Cover; refrigerate until ready to bake.
4. Bake, uncovered, in a 325 degrees F oven 30 minutes. With the back of a wooden spoon, press 6 indentations in top of strata. Pour a whole egg into each indentation. Bake 20 to 25 minutes more or until an instant-read thermometer inserted in center of strata registers 170 degrees F and eggs are set. Let stand 15 minutes.
5. Cut into squares to serve. If desired, drizzle lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and cracked black pepper. Makes 6 to 8 servings.
The Strata was very tasty!  I would definitely make this again but pair it with the citrus salad that it was pictured with in the magazine.
I love how colorful it is!  And the way the egg looks on top...isn't that just too cute!
Yum...want a bite?

Here are the Lemon Blueberry cupcakes that got picked up today.
Don't they look Deeelish!
I use fresh lemons and blueberries since you get the best flavor that way.

12 little cupcakes sitting in a row...
all packaged up and ready to go!

The recipe I use for these came out of the Oprah magazine the birthday issue

The recipe is rather extensive if your're making all the elements that go with it but I just used the lemon cream, cake and buttercream sections.

Servings: Serves 12–16
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1 piece vanilla bean , 1 1/2 inches long, split and seeds scraped
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. light corn syrup
  • 1/8 tsp. sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter , cool, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
Lemon cream:
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2/3 cup fresh lemon juice (from 4 lemons)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • 16 Tbsp. (2 sticks) unsalted butter , cool, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
Lemon curd:
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup and 1 Tbsp. sugar
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (from 1 to 2 lemons)
  • 1/4 cup fresh grapefruit juice (from 1 small grapefruit)
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • 10 Tbsp. (1 1/4 sticks) butter , cut up
  • 8 drops grapefruit essence (or 1/2 tsp. finely grated grapefruit zest)
  • 1 cup and 2 Tbsp. whole milk
  • 7 large egg yolks , at room temperature
  • 1 large egg white , at room temperature
  • 2 tsp. finely grated lemon zest
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract | Get the recipe!
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 3 cups cake flour (not self-rising), plus more for dusting
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 5 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 11 Tbsp. (1 stick plus 3 Tbsp.) unsalted butter , at room temperature
  • 8 ounces good-quality white chocolate , chopped, melted, and cooled
Lemon buttercream:
  • 1/2 cup and 2 Tbsp. sugar
  • 3 large egg whites , at room temperature
  • 1/4 tsp. cream of tartar
  • 19 Tbsp. (2 sticks plus 3 Tbsp.) unsalted butter , at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup lemon cream (see recipe, above)
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 12 drops grapefruit essence (or 3/4 tsp. finely grated grapefruit zest)
For assembly:
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice (from 2 to 3 lemons)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
Note: Find grapefruit essence at This recipe calls for 18 eggs and 9 lemons. The first 7 steps should be done the day before.

To make caramel: Combine cream and vanilla bean seeds in small saucepan. Cook over medium heat until hot but not boiling, about 2 minutes. Cover and set aside.

Combine sugar, 2 tablespoons water, corn syrup, and salt in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Boil, without stirring, until syrup is amber. Remove pan from heat and immediately add warm cream; mixture will bubble vigorously. Add lemon juice and whisk until blended. Let cool 5 minutes. Add butter and whisk until melted. Let caramel cool, whisking occasionally. Pour caramel into a small glass bowl; cover and refrigerate overnight.

To make lemon cream: In a glass or stainless steel bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water, whisk first 5 ingredients. Cook, whisking, until mixture thickens and reaches 180° on a digital thermometer, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove bowl and let cool to 140°, about 10 minutes, whisking occasionally. Whisk in butter, about 4 tablespoons at a time, until melted. Pour lemon cream through a strainer into a container and let cool. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

To make lemon curd: In a medium-heavy nonreactive saucepan, combine first 5 ingredients and grapefruit zest (if using instead of essence); whisk to combine. Add butter and cook over medium-low heat, stirring sides and bottom of pan constantly with a heatproof rubber spatula, until mixture thickens, coats back of spoon, and reaches 180° on a digital thermometer, about 15 minutes. Do not let mixture boil. Pour through a strainer set over a bowl. Stir in grapefruit essence, if using. Let cool; cover and refrigerate overnight.

To make cake: Preheat oven to 350°. Grease two 9" x 2" round cake pans. Line bottoms with parchment paper. Grease paper; dust pans with flour; tap out excess.

In a small bowl, mix 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons milk with egg yolks, egg white, zest, juice, vanilla, and salt with a fork.

In a stand mixer with paddle attachment, combine flour, sugar, and baking powder; mix on low speed until blended. Add butter and remaining 1/2 cup milk. Beat until smooth, scraping bowl. Increase speed to medium-high and beat 1 minute. Add egg yolk mixture, in thirds, beating on low speed after each addition until blended. Mix on medium until smooth, about 30 seconds. Add white chocolate and beat until well blended, about 1 minute, scraping bowl. Divide batter between pans and spread evenly. Bake 35 to 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean. Let cool 10 minutes in pans on wire racks. Run a knife around sides and invert cakes onto racks. Remove parchment; cool completely. Layers can be wrapped in plastic and refrigerated.

To make lemon buttercream: In a small saucepan, combine 1/2 cup sugar and 3 tablespoons water; bring to boil over medium-high heat. Boil until syrup is 250° on a digital thermometer, about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a stand mixer with whisk attachment, beat egg whites and cream of tartar on medium-high speed until soft peaks form. Add 2 tablespoons sugar and beat until stiff peaks form. With mixer on medium-high speed, pour hot syrup in thin stream into whites, making sure syrup does not hit whisk. Scrape bowl and beat 1 minute. At medium speed, add butter 1 tablespoon at a time, beating until blended. If buttercream doesn't look well blended, beat on high speed until smooth, about 1 minute, scraping bowl. Add lemon cream, lemon juice, and grapefruit essence or zest and beat until smooth.

To assemble cake: In a small bowl, combine lemon juice and sugar; let stand 5 minutes and then stir until sugar dissolves. With a serrated knife, split cake layers in half horizontally, making 4 layers; turn cut sides up. Brush with lemon syrup. Microwave caramel on high 30 seconds; stir until spreadable; divide; spread on 2 layers. Place 1 layer caramel side up on a serving plate. Spread with half the lemon cream. Top with a plain cake layer, brushed side up. Spread with lemon curd. Add remaining caramel-topped layer; spread with remaining lemon cream. Top with last layer, brushed side down. Gently press down on layers. With an offset icing spatula or butter knife, smooth excess filling on sides. Refrigerate for 1 hour.

Spread about 1 1/4 cups buttercream over whole cake to crumb-coat. Refrigerate 20 minutes. Frost with remaining buttercream. Refrigerate; take out 30 minutes before serving.
If you decide to make either one of these recipes please leave a comment and let me know how it turned out!  Happy baking and Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Months Past

I trust everyone had a Merry Christmas!  We did although we had a wave of sickness move through.

So after my hiatus of two months I, like most, am setting a New Year's resolution to...wait for it...wait for more!  Bet you weren't expecting that one.

"So, Natalia, what HAVE you been up to the past couple of months?" you ask.  Well, I'll tell you.  The end of October, as you may have heard, was Halloween and I decided to make my costume!
Yep!  I was a CupCake!

Sorry for the bad quality.  My laptop recently crashed and I've not retrieved my photos from it so I'm having to use my FaceBook photos for some of these.

Then in November, I had a birthday cake to do for a young girl, turning nine, who likes to ride horses.  Her mom gave me the color scheme and this is what I created especially for her!
Everything was handmade from gumpaste and fondant.  I was pretty proud of my first horse and learned a lot from it too!

Then a couple days later I had a birthday cake to make for a great guy, Jason Womack.  He and his lovely wife, Lindsay, have been our close friends for over 12 yrs but I've known them since middle and high school!  They have both been involved with music pretty much their entire lives and he plays guitar (mostly) so I made this for him.
I was privileged to be able to share this cake with them since most of the cakes I make are for others and I never get to eat them.  BUT, I have to be honest and say that it wasn't my best tasting cake.  It was more like pound cake than the light cake I was hoping for.  For this I apologize, my friend, and hope for another chance to prove my baking skills. :-)

Now we get to Thanksgiving and it's such a magical time because for me it means the start of the holiday season and that's my favorite time of year!  We had Thanksgiving dinner at my In-law's home and my mom and dad were able to join us.  We always have so much food and such a great time!  But before we were able to enjoy dinner, Rachel, my sis-in-law and I ran in the "Run Through the Woods" race that takes place every year Thanksgiving day!  It was my first 5 mi race and I LOVED it!
Us at the starting line.
                                               Raych finished at 55 min. and I finished at 57.5 min 
After the race.

 Striking a pose for the paparazzi.

So AFTER the race we got to enjoy dinner with all the family!
Which I am not able to obtain pictures of at the moment but you didn't miss much there so don't worry.

I absolutely love decorating for Christmas and usually I start before Thanksgiving or shortly after.  This year I started after because of the timing of everything.  But I got it done and I was pretty pleased!
The fireplace...
The tree.

The weekend before Christmas we had a big announcement event in Market Street here in our community and that announcement I am glad to say is the return of The Woodlands Marathon, set for March of 2012!  This is under the arrangement of my sweetheart's new business, Launch MuntiSport!  He has had the support and participation from an amazing team of 3 other guys who have as much of a passion to see this happen as Rick does.  This is going to be a huge event and it has been a year in the making although the actual chain of events that led to the announcement only started a couple months prior!  Things have happened very quickly and we've had to go with the flow and bend with responsibilities.  This is a very exciting time in the Frank household and for The Woodlands Community!  To give you a better scope of what has happened here are a few links with articles.

Now, we typically spend Christmas Eve at Papa and Nona's (in-laws) and let the boy's open one gift and then we have Christmas day at our house with all of my family, and this year, all of Rick's too!  So this year we had about 25 people in my home.  It was a bit crowded but still so much fun!  We took family pics and then I was only able to get pics of the aftermath.
 Christmas Eve at Nona and Papa's
 Casey and Corban
 The Three Stooges
Trying out their new chairs and checking out their stockings!

Christmas Morning!

There are a couple more videos but I can't get them to upload properly.  So I'll just provide more pics!

Corban got his "Bucket O Soldiers" from Toy Story 3 that he wanted!

Casey cleaned up with an Xbox 360 with 2 games and extra remote, Sonic Comics, a watch and a few other things!

Corban also got Woody!  Santa also brought him a rocket, Buzz costume and jet pack!

THIS is the Frank/Norrell Family
At the moment we have ALL boys BUT Rebecca, in the yellow sweater will be having the first girl in March! This is a very exciting time for all!  We are so thrilled to finally start evening up the odds.

This is The Resendez Family...

...and the Resendez/Frank Family...
Yes, there are a LOT of us!

Here's my little Buzz Lightyear
And when it's all over...

Even the dogs got to taste the delicious food that we had!  I actually cooked my first turkey this year with sides of dressing, mashed potatoes and green bean casserole!



The aftermath...

It took me 2 days to get everything cleaned because I was being so lazy!  The food was put away of course but the dishes lingered.

And that my friends brings me to today!  I made a Ham Asparagus Strata from a BHG mag recipe and some Lemon Creme for an order of Lemon Blueberry cupcakes (will post pics later).  Now, we are off to another friends bday party!  If I can just get Rick to put the xbox controller down!  Sorry Don!