Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Flourless Chocolate Cake

This year, we spent our Christmas Eve at home instead of traveling and had so much fun.  We went shopping (wasn't as crazy as I thought it might be!), decorated cookies for Santa, and made this birthday cake for Jesus. Christmas in the Manger  has been one of Caitlin's favorite bedtime stories since last Christmas, so she can recite the story herself now, and we have been talking about Christmas being Jesus' birthday.  I think it's a fun tradition and good reminder of the true meaning of Christmas.  I hope everyone had a Merry Christmas!

The cake turned out great. It is dense, rich and almost brownie-like.  It has a slightly hard outer crust, but is soft and chewy inside.  I topped the cake with chocolate ganache (heat 1/2 c. heavy cream in a small saucepan with 8 oz. semisweet chocolate chips and stir until melted and smooth) and sprinkled with powdered sugar. I cut out a star shape to use as a stencil to go along with the first page in her book "I am the Star that shines in the East. I light the stable for man and beast." 

Source: Gourmet

  • 4 ounces fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened)
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder plus additional for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 375°F and butter an 8-inch round baking pan. Line bottom with a round of wax paper and butter paper.

Chop chocolate into small pieces. In a double boiler or metal bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water melt chocolate with butter, stirring, until smooth. Remove top of double boiler or bowl from heat and whisk sugar into chocolate mixture. Add eggs and whisk well. Sift 1/2 cup cocoa powder over chocolate mixture and whisk until just combined. Pour batter into pan and bake in middle of oven 25 minutes, or until top has formed a thin crust. Cool cake in pan on a rack 5 minutes and invert onto a serving plate.

Dust cake with additional cocoa powder and serve with sorbet if desired. (Cake keeps, after being cooled completely, in an airtight container, 1 week.)

Friday, December 23, 2011

Homemade Peppermint Marshmallows

Sometime this winter, you need to make these sweet, pillowy marshmallows to go along with your cup of hot chocolate.  They are easier than you might think - they just need a few hours to set up. I meant to make the peppermint flavored, but in the end decided against it because I was giving them out as gifts and wasn't sure everyone would be a fan. I guess there are people who don't like mint? Aren't they cute?!

Source: Confections of a Foodie Bride

  • 3 packages unflavored gelatin
  • 1 cup cold water, divided
  • 1 cup light Karo syrup
  • 1 1/2 cup grandulated sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp peppermint extract
  • Gel food coloring (optional)
  • Baking or cooking spray
  • Powdered sugar for dusting/stick-proofing

Place 1/2 cup cold water in the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Sprinkle the gelatin over top and set aside.

Clip a candy thermometer to a small sauce pan. Heat corn syrup, sugar, salt, and the other 1/2 cup cold water over medium heat, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Turn to high and cook to 240 F (use a candy thermometer), 6-8 minutes longer.

Turn mixer to low and slowly pour the hot syrup over the gelatin. Increase the mixer speed to high (do this gradually to prevent the hot mixture from splattering everywhere) and let run for ~10 minutes. Add the peppermint extract and whisk for another 5 minutes until you have a glossy, smooth, and thick marshmallow mixture.

While the marshmallow is whisking, heavily coat the inside of an 8x8 pan with baking spray (there's no such thing as over-greasing! I doubled the recipe, and this mixture made enough to spread into 2 9x13 pans and then marshmallows were about an inch tall). Coat with powdered sugar and tap out the excess. Pour in the marshmallow mixture. Drop 6-8 drops of red food coloring over the top and swirl with a knife held vertically. (Alternately, you could add this to the stand mixer and let the whisk go around the bowl 2 or 3 times.) Let sit for at least 4 hours (or overnight) until solidified and cooled.

Turn the marshmallow squares out onto a heavily powder-sugared surface. Using a long greased knife, (or a pizza cutter!) cut the marshmallows into 1-inch pieces. As you're cutting the marshmallows, keep all sides of the marshmallows dusted with powdered sugar and store in an airtight container for ~2 weeks.

Yields:1 batch  ~128 marshmallows

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Homemade Hot Cocoa Mix

One of my favorite things about Christmas and the entire holiday season is baking all of the goodies. This year, I went with something a little different to put together as small gifts for friends and neighbors - hot chocolate mix and homemade marshmallows.  Who doesn't like hot cocoa? I tried giving Caitlin some for the first time this year (the swiss miss packets), thinking she would be hooked and ask for more everyday.  Actually, her reaction was just the opposite of what I expected...she took a big drink and spit it out all over her clothes. She reminds me often she does NOT like hot chocolate! I've even tried cold chocolate milk and she won't drink that either. She likes chocolate. She likes milk. She does not like chocolate milk.  Strange. But, other than my picky child, I am sure everyone would love this rich, chocolately drink on a cold winter night.

Source: Confections of a Foodie Bride

  • 2 vanilla beans
  • 4 cups granulated sugar
  • 24 oz high-quality semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 9 oz dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 2 cups Dutch process cocoa
Split and scrape vanilla beans and place in a large bowl or jar with the sugar.

Work seeds into the sugar with your fingers. Bury the pods under the sugar.

Cover tightly and let stand overnight (or up to months--vanilla sugar keeps forever) at room temperature.

In a food processor fitted with metal blade, process semisweet chocolate and dark chocolate until finely ground, using 4-second pulses. Process in batches, if necessary (I broke the bars into chunks to process, not exactly a good thing to do during nap time. It sounds like you're processing rocks for the first several seconds!)
Remove pod from sugar. Add ground chocolate and cocoa powder to sugar and whisk to blend, making sure to combine well.

Store mix airtight at room temperature for up to 6 months.

To serve, heat 2 Tbsp of mix with 8 oz of milk over medium heat.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Adobo-Seasoned Chicken and Rice

I've had some rice in the pantry that I've been wanting to use, so I went browsing for recipes and stopped at this chicken and rice dish from an old episode of Bobby Flay's Throwdown. We loved everything about this recipe. The seasoning on the chicken was near perfect (just a little too salty for my taste).  The fresh lime and olives are what push this dish over-the-top. I tasted it before the last step and it was ok, but after adding the last 2 ingredients, it was beyond delicious.

Some notes to consider -

-The amount of salt listed in the recipe is more than double than what it needs in my opinion. 

-Save yourself some trouble and read the jar of olives before you buy and make sure it says pitted.

-Tumeric stains skin and clothing yellow.

-I only used half the amount of rice (and stock) listed and it was still enough to feed a small army.

-I subbed canned, diced tomatoes for the plum tomatoes.

Source: Bobby Flay

  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons granulated garlic
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons granulated onion
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons ground turmeric
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh oregano leaves

  • 4 chicken thighs, with skin, cut in 1/2 (I used 6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs)
  • 4 chicken breasts, with skin, cut in 1/2 lengthwise
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large Spanish onion, finely diced
  • 1 medium green bell pepper, finely diced
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, finely diced
  • About 1/3 cup tomato powder or 1 to 2 plum tomatoes, seeded and finely diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 3 cups long-grain rice
  • 4 3/4 cups homemade chicken stock
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup frozen peas (not thawed)
  • 3/4 cup pimento stuffed green olives
  • 3/4 cup pitted picholine olives
  • Freshly chopped cilantro leaves
  • Freshly chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • Finely chopped fresh oregano leaves
  • Squeeze lime juice

Mix together the salt, granulated garlic, cumin, granulated onion, paprika, black pepper, turmeric and oregano in a small bowl. Season both sides of the chicken pieces with salt and pepper and then season with the adobo seasoning mixture.

Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a large Dutch oven over high heat. Place the chicken in the oil skin side down, in batches, if necessary, and saute until golden brown. Turn the chicken over and cook until the second side is golden brown. Transfer the chicken to into a separate pot with all cooking juices, cover and allow to cook through over medium heat. Keep warm.
Place the browning pan with the remaining 2 tablespoons oil back over high heat. Add the onions, green and red peppers and cook until soft. Add the tomato powder, garlic and cook for 1 minute.
Add the rice to the pan, stir to coat the rice in the mixture and cook for 1 minute. Add the chicken stock, bay leaf, salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Stir well, cover, reduce the heat to medium and cook for 10 minutes.
After 10 minutes add the peas to the pot, cover and continue cooking until the rice is tender and the chicken is cooked through, about 8 minutes.

Remove the pot from the heat and let sit 5 minutes covered. Remove the lid, fluff the rice and gently fold in the olives, cilantro, parsley, oregano and squeeze of lime juice. Add the chicken and stir to combine.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Skillet Lasagna

The next time you're in the mood for lasagna, but don't have the time or energy to do all of the layering and baking, make this skillet lasagna.  It tastes just as good! I thought about adding more seasoning during the cooking, but decided against it. Don't be tempted - it doesn't need anything. I did leave out the red pepper flakes because I wanted my daughter to eat it. The fresh basil makes all the difference - don't skip it!  Make this when you're short on time or don't want to heat up your oven during the warmer months.  This may be your next favorite one-pot dish.

Source: The America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook

  • 1 (28 ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion , minced
  • salt
  • 3 garlic cloves , minced
  • 1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 lb meatloaf mix (ground beef, and 8 ounces ground pork. for spicier flavour increase the amount of red pepper flakes)
  • 8 ounces curly-edged lasagna noodles , broken into 2-inch lengths (10)
  • 1 (8 ounce) can tomato sauce 
  • 1 ounce parmesan cheese , grated (1/2 cup)
  • pepper
  • 8 ounces whole milk ricotta cheese (about 1 cup)
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh basil
Pour the tomatoes with their juice into a quart measuring cup. Add enough water to the tomatoes to measure 4 cups.

Heat the oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onion and 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.

Stir in the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook until fragrant, about 15 seconds. Add the meatloaf mix and cook, breaking up the meat into small pieces with a wooden spoon, until no longer pink, about 5 minutes.

Sprinkle the noodle pieces evenly over the meat. Pour the diced tomatoes and tomato sauce over the pasta. Cover and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium-low and continue to simmer, stirring occasionally, until the pasta is tender, about 20 minutes. (The sauce should look watery after 15 minutes of cooking. If dry, add up to 1/4 cup additional water to loosen the sauce.).

Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in 1/2 cup Parmesan. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Dot heaping tablespoons of the ricotta over the noodles. Cover the skillet and let stand off the heat for 5 minutes.

Sprinkle with the basil and serve, passing the extra Parmesan separately.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Pretzel M&M Oatmeal Cookies

Surely everyone has had Pretzel M&M's before, right?  Have you ever tried baking with them?  I found this recipe for oatmeal cookies that are loaded with crushed Pretzel M&M's. Sweet, salty, crunchy, chewy oatmeal cookie goodness. Go make them now to show to your invisible internet friends.

Source: Bakers Royale

  • ¾ cup unsalted butter
  • ¼ cup cream cheese, softened
  • 1 egg
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 ¼ cup flour
  • 1 ½ cup oats, quick cooking
  • 1 9.90oz Bag of M&M Pretzel (I used a meat tenderizer to crush them in the bag.)
Makes 31/2 dozen cookies

Preparation: Line bake sheet with parchment. Heat oven to 350 degrees F.

1. Melt and heat butter until it is brown and nutty. Set aside to cool slightly.

2. Place softened cream cheese, egg, sugar, dark brown sugar, baking soda and salt in a mixing bowl fitted with a paddle attachment and mix on medium until mixture is fully combined and shiny, about 1-2 minutes. Add browned butter and mix to combine. Turn off mixer.

3. Place flour and quick cooking oats in a bowl and whisk to combine. Use a sturdy spatula or wooden spoon to fold flour mixture into wet mixture and mix to combine.

4. Using a meat tenderizer crush M&M Pretzel in a plastic bag and add to cookie dough and fold to combine.

5. Scoop one heaping tablespoon of cookie dough onto parchment lined baked sheet. Bake at 350 degrees F for 10-12 minutes or until bottoms of cookies are golden brown.

Cookies will keep 2-3 days in a tightly sealed container.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Asian Turkey Meatballs with Lime Dipping Sauce

Here's an easy weeknight meal you'll want to try soon. I've made turkey meatloaf and turkey meatballs several times, but never with an Asian twist. When I saw this recipe, I knew it was something we would love. Not only were the meatballs full of flavor, the lime dipping sauce was great, too. The soy sauce and lime make a perfect tangy combination. Another bonus with this recipe is that they are kid friendly (well, not to my kid yet, she is going through an incredbily picky stage. At least I hope it's a stage...a short one.), but I know they would be a hit with most kids. Make them bite-sized for the little ones and let them dip away. I served these with rice and asian roasted broccoli.

Source: Skinny Taste

Servings: 4 • Size: 3 meatballs • Calories: 229.1 • Fat: 11.1 g • Carbs: 8.5 g • Protein: 24.3 g
  • 1/4 cup panko crumbs
  • 1-1/4 lbs 93% lean ground turkey
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbsp ginger, minced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 3 scallions, chopped
  • 1 tbsp low sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tsp sesame oil
Dipping Sauce
  • 4 tbsp low sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tsp sesame oil
  • 2 tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 1 chopped fresh scallion
Preheat oven to 500°F.

Mix ground turkey, panko, egg, salt, scallions, ginger, cilantro, 1 tbsp soy sauce, and 2 tsp oil and mix with your hands until combined well. Shape 1/4 cup meat mixture into a ball and transfer to a baking dish that has been sprayed with cooking spray. Repeat with remaining mixture. Bake until cooked through, about 15 minutes.

For the dipping sauce mix together lime juice, water, soy sauce, and remaining 1 teaspoon of oil in a bowl. Add scallions.

Transfer meatballs to a serving dish. Stir sauce, then drizzle meatballs with 1 tablespoon sauce.

Serve meatballs with remaining sauce, about 1 tbsp per person. You probably won't use all the dipping sauce.

Makes 12 meatballs.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Bacon Sweet Potato Salad with Warm Bacon Dressing

Last weekend I made this wonderful, delectable salad. Full of sweet potatoes, crispy bacon, your favorite cheese, and tart, sweet pomegranate seeds on top of spinach or greens (I used mixed greens), it's filling enough to be main dish salad. If you're looking to take a salad to any Fall or holiday party, this one is it!

 I took Marla's recommendation and used regular pork bacon instead of usual turkey bacon so I could use a little bit of the grease to roast the potatoes. Instead of Gruyére, I shaved some cheddar cheese on top.Then, I poured a warm bacon dressing over the salad.  We both really enjoyed this meal. You must try this one!

Warm Bacon Dressing

Source: Paula Deen

  • about 2 tablespoons bacon fat
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped shallot
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons honey mustard, or more to taste
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Combine and whisk all ingredients together.


Source: Fresh Family Cooking

  • 2 pounds Sweet Potatoes, cleaned, skins left on, cut into 1 ” cubes
  • a pinch of Garlic Salt
  • a pinch of ground Cinnamon
  • a pinch of ground Ginger
  • a pinch of ground ground Black Pepper
  • a few tablespoons pure Maple Syrup
  • 18-24 ounces Baby Spinach Leaves
  • 12 ounces crumbled Bacon, set aside bacon grease
  • a few handfuls of Pomegranate Seeds (arils)
  • grated Gruyére or your favorite cheese (I used cheddar)

Preheat oven to 400˚F with rack in the center. Cook bacon until brown and crispy in a fry pan. Remove bacon from pan and drain on paper towels. Reserve bacon fat in a heat resistant container & set aside to cool a bit.

Toss sweet potato chunks with garlic salt, cinnamon, ginger, black pepper maple syrup and some bacon grease. (A little bacon grease goes a long way, so add a small amount first and you can always add more. I use just enough oil to grease them until slightly glistening.) Spread sweet potatoes on a sheet pan in a single layer. Roast for about 35 minutes until cooked through and golden brown. Toss once with tongs about halfway through cooking time for even browning. Remove sweet potatoes from oven and let cool.

Salad assembly: Put baby spinach in a large bowl. Top with roasted sweet potatoes, bacon crumbles, Gruyére and pomegranate seeds. You can season with some more garlic salt and black pepper if desired. When ready to serve, toss salad with your favorite vinaigrette dressing or olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
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