Birthday Desserts

I am all about birthdays—especially mine. I’ve long moved on from celebrating for a day, to a week, and now to a month. So it’s not a stretch to spend much of this month celebrating the first year of Twice as Tasty.

It’s not a birthday without dessert, but I’ve never been a huge fan of the traditional cake loaded with frosting. As a kid, I always wanted homemade angel food cake, buried in berries and carrying a dollop of home-whipped cream. Pies have also topped my list of celebratory sweets, particularly when you can load a table with a dozen varieties. But both of these choices can be labor intensive for a crowd. For today’s party, it was hard to resist easily created desserts that show off freshly harvested botanicals and fruits of summer.
Learn to make Strawberry Shortcake with Lilac Cream and Rhubarb Crisp

Herb Infusions

Salt and sugar get a bad rap for their effects on our bodies when consumed in large quantities, but their ability to act as a preservative is often underappreciated. Salt and sugar prevent spoilage and make it difficult or impossible for undesirable bacteria to grow. The rule of thumb for salt curing is that 20% salt keeps most undesirable bacteria at bay.

Although dehydrating and freezing are the most common ways to preserve herbs, the rising popularity of artesian salts and infusions has brought attention to herbs preserved in salt or sugar. The preservative pulls moisture from the herbs while keeping their flavor intact. Leaves plucked from the jar can be used as though they were fresh. The remaining herbed salt works best as the finishing touch, but infused sugar can also work within a recipe. A little of the flavored salt or sugar goes a long way, and the herbs keep a long time.
Learn to make Salt-Preserved Herbs and Herb-Infused Sugar

Quick Freezer Breads

When I was growing up, my mom was forever trying to find uses for my dad’s giant annual squash crop. My dad has a sweet tooth, so chocolate zucchini cake was a favorite way of putting more the zukes in our bellies. My dad is also a fan of butternut squash cooked in its skin, sliced in half, and deseeded so that its cavity could be filled with butter and brown sugar.

I didn’t inherit that sweet tooth. The cake was OK, but I detested the sugary squash and even pumpkin pie when I was growing up. It wasn’t until I left home and tried savory squash soups that I developed a taste for these vegetables. As you can see from my squash-based recipes, such as Zucchini Pancakes, these quick breads, and even Pumpkin–Chocolate Cookies, I still look for more flavor and less sugar when baking with summer or winter squash. Learn to make Zucchini Sesame Bread and Harvest Pumpkin Bread

Granola

Granola is a beast in the food world, racking up $2 billion in U.S. sales annually. But it can be easily made for a fraction of the cost of a 12-ounce package, and it’s endlessly adaptable to dietary needs or preferences or to what’s in the cupboard. It can be made in a low-temperature oven, which requires you to check and stir regularly to ensure even toasting. I prefer to dry it: Throw all the ingredients in a bowl, mix, spread on dehydrator sheets, and let it run overnight for a fresh morning batch.

Like salad dressings, all you need for granola is a basic recipe that gives ideal proportions. At last summer’s Montana Cup, Twice as Tasty recipes were featured in two batches of granola, one nut free and the other certified gluten free. Both showcased local and regional ingredients, and both versions were based on my basic granola recipe.
Learn to make Basic Granola and Nut-Free Gourmet Granola