Let Them Eat Cake

If I could eat cake everyday I totally would, that is if I could find a cake that had zero fat, zero calories and all the delicious flavor intact…not likely, so I guess I’ll have to settle for cake every once in awhile.  This is why whenever I’m invited over to someone’s house or have people over I always make cupcakes or brownies.  It is only recently I’ve been into cakes. Years ago I tried to make cake for a party and it was so dry and gross, I was so embarrassed that I haven’t made a cake since. Well, until this past weekend.  Last week I found a recipe for a chocolate peanut butter layer cake that look so delicious I was obsessing over it for days.  Thank goodness we were invited over to a friend’s house for a dinner party this weekend because I was going to make this cake either way, I’m just glad I didn’t have to eat the whole thing myself (which would not have been hard to do) and was able to share it with others.

I’ve only made a layer cake twice before, one was a disaster, the other looked like the Leaning Tower of Pisa, but at least it was tasty.   I think the key to having a layer cake stay put is by not over filling the layers, which is hard especially if you don’t want the leftover filling to go to waste, I say it’s just more for you to snack on.  I probably could have filled this cake more, but I didn’t want to take the chance of any layers sliding off or oozing out, both of which are not pretty.

So here’s the recipe for the cake I made this last weekend.  If you like peanut butter and chocolate you’ll like this cake.  Be sure you have a big glass of milk to go with it, it’s pretty rich.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Cake (from Serious Eats )

Ingredients

 For the Cake:

2 oz bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

3/4 cup hot coffee

1 1/2 cups  granulated sugar

3/4 cup buttermilk

1 large egg

1 egg yolk

7 Tbsp vegetable oil

1/2 tsp salt

1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1 1/4 cups  all-purpose flour

3/4 cup cocoa

3/4 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp baking powder

For the Peanut Butter Mousse:

8 oz cream cheese

3/4 cup  confectioners’ sugar

1 cup cream peanut butter

2 tsp vanilla extract

Pinch salt

1 cup heavy cream

For the Peanut Butter Ganache:

12 oz bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped (I used semi-sweet)

1 cup plus 2 Tbsp heavy cream

2 Tbsp creamy peanut butter

Directions

 For the Cake: Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. Grease two 9-inch round cake pans and line bottoms with parchment paper.

In medium bowl, stir chocolate into coffee and set aside. In large bowl, whisk sugar, buttermilk, egg, yolk, oil, salt, and vanilla until combined. In small bowl, whisk flour, cocoa, baking soda, and baking powder until combined. Whisk the dry ingredients into the wet until combined. Whisk in the coffee mixture until smooth.

Pour 1/3 batter in one pan and the remaining 2/3 in the other pan. Bake until just firm, about 20 to 25 minutes, respectively. Let cake cool in pans for 15 minutes, then invert cakes onto wire rack to cool completely before assembling cake.

For the Peanut Butter Mousse: In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat cream cheese with sugar, peanut butter, vanilla, and salt on medium speed until creamy and light, about 5 minutes. Transfer to large bowl. Switch to whip attachment and beat cream on high-speed to stiff but not dry peaks. Fold cream into peanut butter mixture. Keep chilled until ready to use.

Slice the larger of the two cakes into two layers. Place on serving plate and stack cake layers with peanut butter mousse. Keep chilled until ganache is ready to use.

For the Peanut Butter Ganache: Using the microwave or in a bowl set over a pan of simmering water, heat the chocolate and cream until melted and smooth. Gently whisk in peanut butter. Chill until just firm enough to frost, about 30 minutes. Frost cake and serve.

cake1cake2

Verdict: Definitely have a glass of milk handy.  I’d make this again for sure.  Everyone loved it, I probably could have eaten two slices if I wasn’t full from our delicious dinner.  I should have kept the leftovers instead of bringing them to work, I was jonesing for some last night.  I settled on a handful of chocolate chips…just not the same.

So next time you need to bring a dessert to a dinner party or just want to make a cake, I suggest this one (pending you’re not serving this to people with peanut allergies).  If three layers seems a bit too much to handle, you can always do two layers not a problem, you’ll just have more mousse to eat later….oh darn.

 

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The Tale of Two Raviolis

I’m a huge fan of easy and fast dinners during the week, however on the weekends, all bets are off. If a complex recipe sounds good I’ll attempt to make it no matter how time-consuming, praying in the process that all my work pays off and it comes out as good as I hoped it would, if not, pizza delivery is only a phone call away.

We usually wouldn’t have ravioli twice in one week, unless it was leftovers, which as you know we hardly ever have.  This past week I made a super fast and easy skillet ravioli dish that was pretty awesome.  I found the recipe in this months Food Network, along with a million other recipes I can’t wait to try.

Skillet Chicken and Ravioli (Food Network Magazine)

Ingredients

Kosher salt
1 9-ounce package small cheese ravioli
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 1/4 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into chunks
Freshly ground pepper
1 cup halved cherry tomatoes ( I used grape tomatoes)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/3 cup low-sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil

Directions

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add the ravioli and cook as the label directs; drain, then drizzle with olive oil and toss.

Meanwhile, season the chicken with salt and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken; cook, until beginning to brown, about 2 minutes. Continue to cook, stirring, 1 more minute. Transfer to a plate.

Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil in the skillet. Season with salt and continue to cook, stirring, until softened, about 3 more minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, garlic and vinegar and cook until the tomatoes begin to soften, about 2 minutes. Return the chicken to the skillet, then add the ravioli, broth and parmesan; bring to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until the chicken is cooked through, about 4 minutes. Top with the basil.

skilletravioli

Verdict:  So good.  Again, the best part is its super fast and great for a week night meal.  I only added one chicken breast since I’m still not able to chew too well since my crown.  Even though Eric ate two pieces of leftover pizza as an appetizer (he told me this after dinner)  he did end of eating most of it himself.   I’d say a pretty successful meal.

So that was the fast recipe, now for the more time-consuming project.  This weekend we actually made our own ravioli, from scratch.   A few months ago we took a ravioli making class, which was fueled by receiving a KitchenAid pasta attachment for Christmas.   In all actuality making  ravioli doesn’t take all that long, it’s not quick, I’d say it took maybe an hour and half, maybe two, definitely less than 5, but totally worth the end result.

Here is the dough recipe I used.  You can use this dough for any kind of pasta you’d like.  The key is to find “00” flour.  We found some at a local specialty cooking shop, but you can buy it online or use regular all-purpose flour.   I found that my dough was a little bit on the dry side, so I just added another egg.  Not sure if that is what you’re supposed to do, but it worked great.  I’ll probably half the recipe next time, unless we’re having a dinner guests.   Also, be sure to keep the dough you’re not using covered, it will dry out.

Basic Pasta Dough

Ingredients

2-1/2 cups (12 oz.) all-purpose or “00” flour, plus more for dusting

1 Tbsp. kosher salt

4 large eggs

1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

Directions

Place four and salt in a large mixing bowl and whisk to combine.  Make a “well” in the center of the flour mixture and add eggs and oil.  Using your fingers, blend the eggs into the flour mixture, stirring the flour in from the sides of the well and working outward.  When the pasta dough is thoroughly mixed, turn it out on a lightly floured work surface.  Knead dough until it is smooth and flexible but not sticky, adding small amounts of flour as needed, about 5 to 10 minutes.  Gather the dough into a ball and flatten into a disk.  Cover in plastic wrap and allow dough to rest for at least 10 minutes and up to 1 hour at room temp.   You can keep dough for 24 hours in the fridge or freeze up to 1 month in an airtight container.

The process is pretty tedious to write out, but I found that the directions that come with your pasta machine (either the hand crank or KitchenAid) are the same, so just follow those.

I made a sausage and spinach filling.  I had a lot left over so I’m keeping that for this week’s round two recipe, sausage and spinach stuffed shells.

Sausage and Spinach Ravioli Filling

Ingredients

4 ounces bulk Italian sausage
3/4 cup packed fresh spinach leaves
1 egg yolk, lightly beaten
1/3 cup ricotta cheese
1 teaspoon snipped fresh sage or 1/4 teaspoon dried sage, crushed
1/8 teaspoon grated whole nutmeg

Directions

In a large skillet, cook sausage over medium-high heat until brown, using a wooden spoon to break up sausage as it cooks. Stir in spinach; cook and stir until wilted. Drain off fat. If mixture is too coarse to stuff ravioli, transfer to a food processor or blender; cover and process or blend with several on/off pulses until chopped.

In a medium bowl, combine egg yolk, ricotta cheese, sage, and nutmeg. Stir in sausage mixture.  Fill the ravioli, I used a ravioli mold but feel free to freestyle it.

In a large pot of boiling water, cook ravioli in batches for about 3-4 minutes until al dente.  Serve with your favorite sauce.

rollingpasta

fillingraviolis

rollingraviolis

poppinRavioli

raviolidinner

I think it took so long to make this dinner because I also made the sauce.  If you’re going to go to all the effort of making homemade pasta, might as well make the sauce yourself.  Though if you don’t make your own sauce and use a jar, I won’t judge you…maybe a little…

This would be a fun meal to make with kids, dough is just like Play-Doh, except tastes better (so I hear).

The only real problem with making your own pasta is when it’s all done you’ll never want to buy pasta again, guess what? You don’t have to!  I have a feeling that once I get more experience with the dough and machine I’ll be busting out different pastas left and right.   We take reservations, just give us 24 hour notice 🙂

Food Memories

Is there a certain food or meal that reminds you of someone?  I’m pretty sure it’s because all our family gatherings involve massive amounts of food (I’m not even talking parties, we have crazy amounts of food even if one person is visiting) that I tend to associate certain foods with the people I love.  For example, whenever McDonald’s brings back the McRib (I know, it’s gross, the smell alone makes me gag) I think of my Nanny.  I remember when she was in the hospital after her heart attack (go figure) that she begged us to bring her a McRib because she wanted to try it. Kraft macaroni and cheese  reminds me of my brother Jeff who refused to eat my mom’s homemade version (which is amazing) and insisted on smothering his noodles with ketchup (grosses me out to this day).  Cup o’Noodles takes me back to my college days when I would visit my Aunt Theresa and she would not only guilt me into eating the biggest Cup o’Noodle she could find but also included a sandwich followed by a waffle sundae and capped off with a pizza, can we say Freshman 40? (I’m actually glad she fed me so much, it was way better than anything in the dining hall).

There are many more food memories I could list, but I’ll end with the most recent one, Creamy Orecchiette with Spinach and Prosciutto,  reminds me of my dad.  I think this food memory makes me smile the most because it’s not a meal that I would have ever thought my dad would like, but really it became one of his most favorites.  The day before he went into the hospital I called the house, as per usual, and Dad answered, as per not so usual, the first thing I asked (as it was Valentine’s Day) was what he had for dinner.  His response was “We had the best dinner”  which was the orecchiette.  Not to get all sentimental or anything, but I’m glad that the last real meal he ate was something that not only made with love but something that he truly enjoyed.

My mom found the pasta recipe in the newspaper months ago  and I remember the first time she told me she had made it that Dad loved it.  I tried for months to persuade Eric into trying it, but he just didn’t think it sounded good, I even had my Dad try to talk him into it, no luck there either.  While we were in NY last month, my mom made it for dinner.  Let me tell you, I’m not sure what happened but Eric must have eaten 1/2 of what she made (she even doubled the recipe), he is now hooked on the deliciousness that is Creamy Orecchiette with Spinach and Prosciutto.

Creamy Orecchiette with Spinach and Prosciutto

Ingredients

Kosher salt
3/4 pound dried orecchiette
6 ounces baby spinach leaves (1 bag)
1/2 cup mascarpone cheese (I’m not sure if it’s 1 container, but that’s what I used)
2 ounces freshly grated Parmesan cheese (about 1 cup)
Zest of 1/4 of a lemon
1 garlic clove, minced
4 ounces prosciutto (about 3 or 4 slices), coarsely chopped
Freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Bring a pot of well-salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook according to package directions until al dente. Two minutes before the pasta is done gently stir the spinach into the pasta and cook a few seconds until wilted. Reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking water. Now drain the water from the pasta and spinach. While the pasta is cooking, chop the prosciutto and garlic.

While the pasta is draining in a colander, return the empty pot  to the stove over low heat.  Add a little olive oil, when the oil is hot add the garlic and prosciutto.  Cook for a few minutes, be sure to not burn the garlic. Add the mascarpone and Parmesan; zest the lemon right into the mixture. Cook until the mascarpone has melted, about 1 minute. Add  1/4 cup of reserved pasta water and stir, its the mixture is too thick still add a bit of water, be careful to not add too much. Return pasta and spinach to the pot, toss to coat. Taste; add freshly ground pepper to your liking. Serve immediately.

Pastawithspinach

Verdict:  We both loved it! My only disappointment was that my pasta was all broken when I opened the bag…next time I’ll get Wegmans brand, they don’t sell broken pasta 😉 Other than that it was soooo good. The best is that it’s basically a one pot meal, plus super easy and fast for a weeknight.  Next time I’m going to add sausage.  You can add all kinds of different ingredients, it’s really a blank recipe canvas with endless possibilities.  Truly one of the best dinners I’ve ever made.

I know I’m not the only one there out that has food memories, especially if your family is as food oriented as mine.    If you’ve never thought about it, try it, you’ll be surprised what food memories will being a smile to your face.

You’re Such a Ham

Since Christmas my brother Mike has been raving about the ham loaf dinner his fiancée’s mother made.  I now know why, it’s pretty awesome.  I can’t believe in my 30 years of eating I’ve never experienced this dish.  Well, it’s not completely surprising since my mom had no idea what it was either.  It was so delicious I ended up buying 4lbs of ham loaf mix (which is basically ground pork and ground ham)  to bring back to Virginia.  I’m still not sure if people down here know what it is, so I figured I’d stock up just in case.  Last night was the first time I’d made it, just as awesome as the first time I’d eaten it.

Now in case you still aren’t sure where to get ham loaf mix you have two options, 1. ask your butcher or meat department to mix ground pork and ground ham for you or 2. grind your own.  I’ve done some research on meat ratio and have found that it’s usually 1 1/2 lbs. of ground ham and 1 lb. of ground pork.  We have a meat grinder attachment for our KitchenAid Mixer, so grinding our own might be kind of fun, you know, after we eat the 3 lbs. that are in the freezer.  Just a reminder, because I was tempted at first thinking that ham loaf was just cooked ground ham, DON’T eat it before you cook it, there is ground pork in it that is raw.  I’m probably the only person who would have thought to eat it but just in case I thought I’d say something.

Ham Loaf 

Ingredients

1 lb. ham loaf
1 egg
1/2 to 1 cup of crushed cracker crumbs (I used 18 Ritz)
1/2 cup of milk
pepper to taste (the ham is a bit salty anyway so I didn’t add any but if you love salt, add it, more power to ya)
*if you’re feeding a crowd you may want to adjust the amounts a bit.

Glaze

1/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar (or regular vinegar, whatever you have)
1/2 tsp. ground mustard powder
2 Tbsp. water

Directions

In a large bowl, combine the egg; add milk, bread crumbs and pepper. Add ham loaf mix; mix well. In a shallow baking pan, shape meat mixture into a loaf. Insert a meat thermometer. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine glaze ingredients in a small sauce pan.  Bring to a boil (be sure not to let it boil over). Pour half over loaf. Bake 15 minutes longer or until the thermometer reads 170°, basting occasionally with glaze.  If you want to brown up the glaze, which I did, turn on your broiler and let it broil for 5 minutes (you may need to adjust the oven rack), be sure to keep an eye on it, you don’t’ want it to burn.  I also reserved some glaze and poured it over after serving it…yum!

HamLoaf

Verdict:  We served the ham with wild rice and asparagus.  Eric pretty much ate most of it, not surprising.  I’m glad we have 3 more pounds of this.  It’s really a fast, easy and tasty week night meal.   I’m also thinking that ham balls with the glaze might be a great party finger food.

Eric suggested last night that I post a meal that came out gross, just because he feels that people won’t believe that everything I cook is delicious.  Sorry, I’m just that awesome I guess.  But seriously, I had to remind him that I only blog about the good recipes, the one or two recipe fails I’ve had just don’t go on the blog…duh.

Happy Eating!

Wait, You’re Telling Me You Can Cook??

In March spent two weeks in NY with my family.  Let me tell you, it’s amazing what you find out when you’re around the same people basically 24 hours a day.  The most interesting piece of information I learned that was my brother Mike does the majority of the cooking in his house.  Shocking because I didn’t even know he knew how to do anything besides boil water or make a sandwich.  It seems he and his fiancée have a pretty good system worked out, he cooks, she cleans up (which is basically how it is in my house), and apparently he is a pretty good cook.

Now, I probably shouldn’t say this, but yesterday mom told me the both of them had a banana bread throw down, Bobby Flay style.  My mom makes a pretty good banana bread, especially when she adds in fresh blueberries…so good, which she didn’t include in her throw down bread.  I’m pretty sure if she did, she would have won, however, my brother won.  I have a feeling that everyone who visits in the next few days will be subjected to a taste test, this may become a best out 5 throw down…you’ve been warned.  Next time we get together, I’m going to add my banana bread to the roster…I’m pretty sure I’ll win, it’s pretty awesome 🙂

Last night I tried Mike’s recipe for pork chops.  He claimed this was the best recipe for chops so I had to find out for myself.  I’ve made a few changes to his recipe but essentially it’s the same (I cut up a pork tenderloin instead of using chops).

Mike’s San Francisco Pork

Ingredients

1 Tbsp. olive oil
4 boneless pork chops (or one pork tenderloin cut into pieces)
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup beef broth
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 Tbsp. brown sugar
2 tsp. olive oil
1/4 tsp. red pepper flake
2 tsp. cornstarch
2 Tbsp. water

Directions

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Brown chops (or tenderloin pieces) in hot oil, about 5 minutes per side; remove pork to a plate, reserving oil in skillet.

Cook and stir garlic in reserved drippings until fragrant, about 1 minute. Whisk beef broth, soy sauce, brown sugar, 2 teaspoons olive oil, and red pepper flakes in a bowl, dissolving brown sugar. Return pork chops to skillet and pour soy sauce mixture over the chops. Bring sauce to a boil, cover skillet, and reduce heat to low. Simmer chops until tender, 30 to 35 minutes, turning once halfway through cooking.

Transfer pork to a serving platter. Whisk cornstarch and water in a small bowl until smooth; stir into pan juices and simmer until thickened, about 5 minutes. Pour sauce over chops to serve.  I suggest if using the tenderloin pieces, coat the pieces before serving.

SanFranPorkVerdict:  This was so simple and easy, definitely going to add this to the rotation.  Eric loved it, not surprising.  We served this over egg noodles, but with rice it would be good too.   I think the next time I make this I’ll double the sauce, maybe add  more broth and reduce the soy sauce (it was a little on the salty side and I use low sodium soy).

Mike came through on this recipe, this is probably one of the top 5 best pork recipes I’ve made.  Just goes to show you never know where the next best recipe you make will come from.

 

Hello Spring!

This weekend was absolutely gorgeous!   I’ve been in western NY for two weeks where it basically snowed everyday and even when the sun was out it was still cold.  Since the weather was so nice, I had a laundry list of “spring cleaning” things I wanted to do, but like I said, the weather was nice so let’s just say nothing on the list got done.  There is always next weekend…

During the week I usually grab a bagel or granola bar for breakfast, not exciting, but fast and convenient for work days.  I love the weekends because even if I get up late,  I can still make a delicious breakfast to start off the day.  This weekend I felt like making a Quiche.  I’m not a huge egg fan, in fact, I hate scrambled eggs or anything really eggy, the texture just grosses me out, however, I love Quiche.  I think it’s because Quiche is basically a savory pie, and who doesn’t love pie?   My Quiche came out amazing, even Eric loved it (he ate half of it himself).

There are so many different Quiche recipes out there and all are different.  I looked at about 5 different ones and came up with my own.  Next time you have people over for brunch, be sure to make this, I promise everyone will love it.

Quiche Lorraine

Ingredients

1 prepared pie crust (or make your own)
6 slices of bacon, cut in pieces
2 leeks, sliced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 cup egg substitute (I use Egg Beaters, this equals out to 4 eggs)
1 cup half and half
1 cup milk (I used Lactaid)
a dash of nutmeg
1 cup Gruyère cheese, grated
salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Preheat oven to 375.  Roll out dough and press into a 10 in. tart pan.  Be sure to press the dough into the corners of the pan and cut off the excess dough.   Poke holes in the bottom of the crust and bake for 15 mins.

While the crust bakes, sauté the bacon until crisp.  Remove bacon from the pan and set aside.  Add leeks to the pan and cook until tender, about 2-3 minutes.  Add garlic, cook for 1 minute.  Remove leek and garlic mixture, set aside with bacon.

In a medium bowl whisk together eggs, half and half, milk, nutmeg, cheese, salt and pepper.  Set aside.

Arrange the bacon-leek mixture in the bottom of the pie crust and pour the egg mixture on top.

Bake for 30-40 minutes.   I prefer a golden top, so I let it cook for about an hour.   Cool on a wire rack, serve warm or room temp.  This goes perfect with a mixed green salad (which I didn’t make, but wished I did)

QuicheVerdict: Eric couldn’t get enough of this and he doesn’t really like Quiche.  I loved it, I wish I had a salad with it, but even alone it was the perfect start to the day.

This week we have a full menu planned with lots of new recipes so I’ll try to post them.  I’m hoping next weekend we’ll be able to get our balcony set up for the nice weather.  We’re planning to expand our herb garden and add some fun plants.  Here’s to hoping I’ve inherited my dad’s green thumb…so far it’s hit or miss.