Saturday, April 13, 2013
So after a much longer hiatus than anticipated I am finally ready to settle back in and share some of the yummy goodness that has been meandering through my kitchen these past few months. I can think of no better way to celebrate the blog's return than with a decadent celebration cake I made for my husband's birthday. He loves peanut butter and if it's combined with chocolate all the better. So this year I decided to make a chocolate peanut butter cake. This is not just any chocolate peanut butter cake though. It's a three layer chocolate fudge cake dotted with peanut butter chips, sandwiched with fluffy peanut butter icing, then smothered with chocolate icing and topped with crushed Butterfingers candy.
Now we were out of town until right before his birthday so I had to cheat a little since I didn't have all the ingredients to make this from scratch. However there are numerous recipes available online both for the cake and the chocolate frosting. The chocolate frosting is actually one thing I definitely intend to change next time I make this sinful sweet. This time I used a prepared icing but next time I intend to top this cake with the thick fudge like icing my grandmother used to make for her icebox cake.
So understanding that these substitutions were for the sake of time, here's my version of a chocolate peanut butter cake.
1 recipe of your favorite chocolate cake (or 1 box mix)
1/2 package reeses peanut butter chips
1/2 cup chocolate syrup (optional to use as a substitute for some of the required liquid in the recipe)
Peanut Butter Icing:
1 cup peanut butter
5 tbsp real unsalted butter
1 cup powdered sugar
3 tbsp milk or cream
3/4 tsp vanilla
pinch of salt
1 recipe of your favorite rich chocolate icing (or 1 can prepared chocolate icing)
1/2 bag of butterfingers fun size candy bars crushed
Start with your favorite chocolate cake recipe (or in a pinch box mix). Since the peanut butter is such a strong flavor you will want to have a good balance so I find that a dark chocolate cake or a fudge chocolate cake is best to make sure the chocolate flavor is intense enough. I have listed chocolate syrup as an optional ingredient. I substituted chocolate syrup for part of the water called for by my box mix to add more chocolate flavor. It worked well but is not necessary. Prepare the cake to specifications, add in the peanut butter chips, and separate evenly into three oiled and floured 9 inch cake pans (9 inch pans are ok too). Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow cakes to cool for at least ten minutes then remove from the pan and move to a rack to cool completely before icing.
Now for the peanut butter icing. This seemed easy enough and everything I read said it should be simple. All the same my first batch curdled on me and was a complete disaster. So I started over and was more careful. Start by creaming together the peanut butter and butter in a stand mixer. Add the powdered sugar a little at a time. Next a pinch of salt and the vanilla, then add milk a tablespoon at a time until icing reaches the desired consistency. The icing should be fluffy and smooth and about the same, only slightly thicker, consistency as regular buttercream. Don't try using margarine for this you need real butter and if you use natural peanut butter you may have some separation issues so be aware. If your icing is too thin add more powdered sugar, if it is too thick add a smidge more milk.
Now you are ready to assemble. Place your first cake layer down on your platter and top with half the peanut butter icing. Sprinkle a generous layer of crushed Butterfingers over the icing. Top with the next layer of cake, the second half of the peanut butter icing and another sprinkle of Butterfingers. Top this with the final layer of cake and ice the whole thing with chocolate icing. Decorate the top of the cake with more crushed Butterfingers mounding them up slightly in the middle.
If you can hold off digging in long enough to serve this to people it will be a hit. (If you can't, blame it on the kids or the dog! They'll love it anyway!) Oh and don't expect any leftovers.
Sunday, October 28, 2012
Sometimes a special occasion calls for something fancy and complicated. Other times it calls for something simple and delicious that just looks complicated. If the later is your kind of dish then Trifle is the dessert for you. There are so many versions of Trifle but the basics are the same. you need some sort of cake, some sort of liquid and something squishy. Now typically you'll see recipes call for pound cake or lady fingers but I've made trifle with gingersnaps too.
This particular concoction was for a Scentsy party where we all brought food inspired by the different wax scents. I'm a sucker for coconut and citrus so when that combo came my way I knew I had the perfect dessert. So here you have it, Lemon Coconut Trifle.
Lemon Coconut Trifle
1 c sugar
12 oz whipped cream
5-8 oz lemon curd
1 cup of toasted coconut
1 recipe of Simple Sugar cake http://bolognatobolognese.blogspot.com/2012/09/simple-sugar-cake.html made without the fruit but with the inclusion of 1 1/4 tsp coconut extract and 1/2 cup shredded coconut.
Start by making your cake. While it is baking spread your shredded coconut on a baking tray and just before the cake is done put the coconut in the oven to toast. Watch that it doesn't burn.
Juice the three lemons until you have 1 cup of lemon juice. Pour the lemon juice and zest of two lemons in a small pot on medium heat with one cup of sugar. stir until sugar dissolves. allow mixture to come to a boil and reduce the heat allowing it to simmer until thickened to the desired consistency. Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly. Make your whipped cream and lemon curd ahead of time or purchase your preferred store bought variety. Before assembling the trifle gently fold the lemon curd into the whipped cream being careful not to over mix.
Now for the assembly. Tear the cake into slightly larger than bite sized pieces. In a trifle dish or glass bowl of your choice begin with a layer of cake. Pour some of the lemon syrup over top (about a tablespoon or two) sprinkle some toasted coconut next and then top with a layer of the whipped cream lemon curd mixture. Continue to layer until your Trifle dish is full ending with a layer of the whipped cream and curd mixture. Garnish with toasted coconut and lemon zest. This desert is best served after being allowed to sit but the last whipped cream layer should not be added until just before serving.
Once assembled it will hold for about a week in the fridge, but that's only if it lasts that long! Of course don't forget that this is just one of many versions. If lemon and coconut don't appeal to you change it up and try a chocolate orange trifle or make up your own combination of your favorite flavors. Whatever you do have fun and make it your own!
Sunday, October 21, 2012
While casseroles are a wonderful go to vessel for an easy evening meal, sometimes you just want a quick bite. Instead of choosing store bought microwavable pastries consider making your own easy tasty Hand Pies. Hand pies, pasties, samosas, pocket pies, whatever you call them these lovelies have been providing a quick, easy hearty lunch for ages. They are so simple to make once you've made a few you may find the more processed ones aren't so appealing anymore.
This recipe is ground beef and vegetables, very similar to what you would put in a cottage pie. In fact the main difference is that with the cottage pie you want a nice gravy where here you just want well spiced meat without the added moisture.
Handy Beef Hand Pies
1 lb ground beef
1 14 oz bag of frozen vegetables
3 medium potatoes boiled and diced
1 tsp crushed bay leaves
1 tsp ground sage
1 tsp thyme
1 tbsp minced garlic
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
salt and pepper to taste
Pie dough for a two crust pie (you can make your own or buy pre made crust)
In a pan brown the ground beef draining off any excess fat. Add in diced onion and seasoning and saute gently until the onion is translucent. Remove from the heat, mix in the diced potatoes and mixed vegetables. Allow the mixture to cool.
Roll out your pie crust and cut into 8 equal portions. Fill each of the 8 pastry sections with a couple of tablespoons of the filling and seal each crimping the edges with a fork. Place the pies on a foil lined sheet and bake for 230 minutes in a 350 degree oven or until crust is flaky and golden brown. Remove the pies from the oven and allow to cool completely. Seal in freezer bags separated by a piece of wax paper to avoid sticking. When you are ready to reheat you can always pop them in the oven for a flakier crust or just pop them in the microwave for about 2 minutes or until heated through.
These little darlings could easily be made with whatever filling you prefer and are a great way to use up leftovers. How about that Thanksgiving turkey, dice up your leftovers and voila turkey stuffing pockets, turkey cranberry and brie pockets or get some ham and make turkey ham and cheese pockets. The options are limitless so experiment and enjoy!
Sunday, October 14, 2012
There is something about fall that makes me long for comfort foods. As the chill begins to set in anything warm and familiar holds a particular charm for me. So as I began to plan some freezer meals for after our little one arrives one of my first thoughts was Chicken Pot Pie. What could be more comforting than tender chicken and vegetables in gravy tucked away in a lovely flaky crust. What's more it only takes minutes to throw together and it is so much healthier than the store bought variety.
Chicken Pot Pie
2-3 chicken breasts
1 bag of frozen mixed vegetables or 1lb of your favorite veggies diced small
1 onion diced
1/4 c flour
8 oz chicken stock
2 tbsp garlic minced
1 tsp sage
1 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp rosemary
Salt and Pepper to taste
Crust for 2 crust pie
Cook the chicken breasts as desired. I poach mine but you could also roast them or dice and saute them in a pan. If you poach them place them in pan and just cover them with water then bring to a boil. Boil for 3 minutes then remove from the heat and cover. Allow chicken to rest for 15-20 minutes or until completely cooked through. Drain the chicken, allow it too cool and dice into bite sized pieces.
Prepare your pie crust. You can buy a crust ready made, use a box mix, or make your own. I will not lie I buy a ready made crust. In a bowl, combine your chicken and vegetables. (If you decide to use fresh vegetables hold off on this step.) Pour this mixture into your pie crust.
In a deep skillet saute your onion in a bit of butter. Just before the onion is translucent add the flour a bit at a time until you have enough to make a good rue. Add the chicken broth whisking constantly to avoid clumping. Once you have a consistently smooth gravy going add your seasonings and bring to a boil then reduce the heat and simmer until it reaches the desired consistency. Remove from the heat and pour over the chicken and vegetables. Top with your second pie crust and crimp edges. Allow to cool completely before freezing.
To prepare your pot pie from the freezer, shield pie crust edges with foil then place on a baking sheet. Bake at 425° for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until crust is golden brown. Remember every oven is different so check your pie often after the first 45 minutes (through the window, don't open that door!) and don't forget to take the foil off the edges in the last 15 minutes. It could take a bit longer or be spot on. Either way allow the pie to rest for 15 minutes before cutting and serving. Then just sit back and enjoy!
Thursday, October 11, 2012
The next few weeks you will see a number of easy to prepare and freeze foods on the blog because my husband and I are expecting a very special delivery. Our first child is due this month so as the date gets closer I have been preparing some freezer meals to make dinner time easy once baby arrives. These meals aren't just great for soon to be parents though. These time savers can make sure your family, regardless it's size, has great homemade food any night of the week no matter how busy your schedules may get. So roll up those sleeves and get ready to cook. One day in the kitchen can mean a freezer full of easy to prepare treats!
My first freezer meal is an exotic twist on an old favorite. Look in any casserole book and you will find a chicken and rice bake. These are great and always good but I didn't want a freezer full of foods that all taste the same (think chicken pot pie, roast chicken, chicken noodle soup...). So when I got to this I decided some Asian flair was just the thing. So here is my recipe for a chicken and rice casserole Thai style.
Terrific Thai Chicken and Rice Casserole
2-3 boneless skinless chicken breasts poached and diced
1 large onion diced
1 red bell pepper
2 tbsp garlic minced
3 cups cooked rice
1 package of frozen vegetables (stir fry style)
1 can coconut milk
1 tsp lemongrass powder
1 tsp ginger
1 tbsp parsley
1-2 tsp corriander
1 tsp garam massala
1/4 - 1/2 tsp cayenne
8-24 oz chicken broth
Salt and pepper to taste
Poach the chicken breasts by placing them in pan and just covering them with water then bring to a boil. Boil for 3 minutes then remove from the heat and cover. Allow chicken to rest for 15-20 minutes or until completely cooked through. Drain the chicken, allow it too cool and dice into bite sized pieces. Set aside.
Prepare your rice according to package directions removing it from the heat just a few minutes before it is completely done.
Dice your onion and add it to a pan with some butter. Saute over medium low heat until softened, add the red pepper, continue to saute until onions are clear and pepper is tender but not mushy. Add your spices and minced garlic. Next add in your coconut milk and chicken stock. I used a coconut paste when making this dish so you may need less stock to get a good gravy. Taste as you go and adjust as necessary. You will want the sauce to be creamy and fragrant but not too thick and remember that the rice will soak it up so don't skimp on the liquid unless it affects the taste too much. Bring the mixture to a boil and, stirring regularly, allow to reduce until it reaches your desired consistency (about 3-5 minutes).
In the pan you will be freezing this dish in combine the rice and frozen mixed vegetables, mix well. When sauce is complete remove from the heat and pour over rice and vegetable mixture. Mix thoroughly and smooth out in pan. Now you are ready to freeze or bake as you choose.If you are preparing this from frozen place, covered, in a 400 degree oven for 45-60 minutes or until heated through. If baking it fresh you should be able to cut the temperature to 350 for 30-45 minutes but keep a cover on it or your rice will get crunchy. Enjoy!
Thursday, October 4, 2012
This summer I had my first truly successful garden and surprisingly, since we recently moved to the Pacific northwest, my tomatoes were my best crop. So as the summer came to an end I found myself with a large crop of ripe tomatoes. Large enough that I couldn't quite eat all of them by myself. Luckily I was pointed to this recipe for Tomato Jam by a group page I follow on Facebook called "Canning Granny". The initial recipe came from the blog "Food in Jars" and you can find it here: http://www.foodinjars.com/2010/09/tomato-jam/
As I have said many times I rarely follow a recipe exactly. So I did make a few adjustments though mostly only to accommodate what supplies I had on hand. I will say at first I was a bit skeptical of this jam and couldn't imagine what it might taste like but the end result is delightful and I keep thinking of new ways I would like to try it. Give it a shot and see for yourself what delicious concoctions might be in store!
2 1/2 pounds tomatoes, finely chopped (skins and seeds included)
1 3/4 cups sugar
4 tablespoons lime juice
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 tablespoon salt
1/2 tablespoon red chili flakes
Combine all ingredients in a large, non-reactive pot and bring to a boil over medium heat. Boil for ten minutes before reducing the heat to a simmer. Simmer for an additional 45 minutes to an hour stirring regularly. The mixture will reduce and begin to thicken. Remove from the heat when jam reaches desired consistency. (It should "sheet" off the spoon in one big drop instead of many little ones)
While your jam is cooking you should have the jars sterilizing in your processing pot. After removing the jam from the heat fill jars to within 1/4 inch of the top and seal with lids. Process in boiling for 20 minutes.
After 20 minutes remove the jars from the water bath and allow to cool. Label and store in a cool dark place.
There are a couple things I will likely change next time. I would like to have gotten more of the spices particularly the red pepper flakes so I think I will double that (I like some bite!) or maybe add some cayenne. Additionally I think using fresh ginger, as recommended in the initial recipe, would have made a world of difference so I intend to make sure I have that on hand next time.
This jam is unusual but fantastic. Just think a little outside the box and you will find all sorts of places to use it. I like it with some sharp cheddar cheese, on a BLT or a turkey and bacon sandwich. The only limit is your imagination so cook it up and have fun with it!
Friday, September 21, 2012
As the leaves change and autumn approaches I find myself craving warm hearty comfort foods. Nothing fits the bill better than a hearty stew full of delicious root vegetables and tender meat. So when I recently hosted a dinner night for friends my choice for the main dish was this gratifying Guinness Stew.
Guinness stout forms the base for your flavor pallet in this stew and it's rich deep roasted barley flavor is perfect for a comfort food dish. Add to that a rich beef broth and sweet carrots and parsnips and you are well on your way. You do need to be careful though because Guinness has a touch of bitterness that balances it's hearty richness and with cooking this can dominate so a touch of extra sweetness is necessary. You can adjust the spices to your taste but I have found the recipe below, my own compilation, to produce consistently delicious results!
Gratifying Guinness Stew
1 bottle of Guinness stout (1pint 6 oz)
3 lbs beef cubed (chuck roast or similar cut appropriate for stewing)
3 parsnips (about 2 lbs) chopped
4 medium carrots chopped
2 large yellow onions diced
4 ribs celery diced
2 cans of beef broth (14.5oz ea)
1 can diced tomato (14.5oz)
4 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp garlic powder
1 tbsp onion powder
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp rosemary
1 tsp bay leaf crushed
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/4-1/3 cup flour (for thickening)
Heat a tablespoon of oil in a large skillet on medium heat. Toss the cubed beef with some flour and add to the pan browning slightly on all sides. Remove meat from heat and deg-laze the pan with some of the beef broth or a small amount of the beer. Prepare all the vegetables and add to your slow cooker. Add the meat, seasonings and liquid but not the flour. Cook on low for 8-10 hours. In the last hour taste for seasoning and adjust as needed also add the flour slowly by sifting small amounts into the pot and stirring until you reach the desired consistency. ( I found just under a 1/4 cup of flour was enough and you do have to let it cook a bit before you can tell if it needs more so add with a light touch and be careful not to over do it.)
This dish is fantastic served with mashed potatoes, col cannon, yorkshire pudding soda bread or any other delightful starchy goodness you have on hand. Sometimes I put potatoes in it but I like having them mashed on the side a bit better because then you still have the chunky root veg in the stew but you can pour it over a nice bowl of buttery mashed potatoes for extra richness.