Monthly Archives: July 2013

Inside-Out German Chocolate Cake

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Happy birthday to me. Kinda. My birthday isn’t until July 30th but I’ll be away then so we usually celebrate it beforehand with our greatest family friends. We went to an Italian restaurant in town where I had mozzarella on mozzarella on mozzarella. Do you know how long it’s been since I’ve had cheese? It’s been a very, very long time. It’s also been a very, very long time since I’ve made and/or had cake. Like, a good cake. We have cake sometimes at rowing for various peoples’ birthdays and they’re awesome (there was this one ice cream cake recently aghh omnomnom) buuuut they aren’t exactly homemade in MY kitchen. So. I made my own birthday cake. Yes. I make my own birthday cake. Yes. I realize it’s weird. No, I don’t care. Because baking is therapeutic and lovely and when you’re making a cake with chocolate, coconut, and pecans, the opportunity to snack is constant. Which is always awesome. This Inside-Out German Chocolate Cake from Gourmet Magazine’s (yes, Gourmet!) March 2000 issue takes a long time, but each bite you get three textures: 1. the moist chocolate cake 2. the crunchy praline-like filling and 3. the smooth, frosting-like glaze. I literally could not stop eating it. It’s addictive.

Makes: 12 servings ish, 1 3-layer cake

active time: 1.5 hrs

total time (if you do it all in one day): 4.25 hrs

Ingredients!

For the cake-

  • 1 1/2 cups white sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 plus 1 tbs unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder (I used half Dutch and half Hershey’s unsweetened and it worked fine)
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 6 tbs unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 3/4 cup boiling-hot water

For Filling-

  • 7 oz sweetened flaked coconut
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped pecans
  • 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 tbs vanilla

For Glaze-

  • 2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
  • 10 oz semisweet chocolate (I used nestle chocolate chips)
  • 3 tbs light corn syrup

Gettin’ it goin’

The Cake:

Preheat oven to 350 F and oil cake pans. Line bottoms of pans with rounds of parchment or wax paper. Sift together sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl. Whisk together whole milk, butter, whole egg, egg yolk, and vanilla in another large bowl until just combined. This part of my mixture kind of got lumpy because the cold milk clumped up the melted butter, but it still turned out great so don’t worry if that happens to you too. Beat egg mixture into the flour mixture until combined. Add water and beat again until combined. The batter will be thin, don’t worry. Divide the batter among the cake pans (the layers will also be thin, so each cake pan doesn’t get too much batter) and bake in upper and lower thirds of the oven, rotating them 180 degrees and switching positions half-way through. The cakes are done when a toothpick/knife/whatever comes out clean, about 20-25 minutes. Cool layers in pans on racks for 15 minutes, run a thin knife around the edges if needed, and flip ’em onto racks. Carefully remove parchment paper and cool completely.

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The Filling:

Reduce the oven temp to 325 F. Spread the c0c0nut on a baking sheet and the pecans on another. Bake pecans in upper third of the oven. and the coconut in the lower third. Stir occasionally, until all nice and toasted (pecans will be golden brown ish and will release a nutty odor, coconut will be golden brown.) ***THIS IS SUPER IMPORTANT AND I MAKE IT CLEAR IN ALL OF MY POSTS. Toasting coconut is awesome but when you go to stir it, BE CAUTIOUS. Coconut oil is released from the shredded coconut and the vapor is in the oven. When you open the oven, guess where the vapor goes? Your eyes. It hurts a lot. So when you go to stir the coconut, open the oven, wait like 10-15 seconds, then stir. Anyways, it should take about 12-18 minutes in total. Remove the pans from the oven.

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Increase the oven temp to 425  F. Pour condensed milk until at least a 9 inch deep-dish pie plate (I used an 8x11ish rectangular pan and that worked) and cover tightly with foil. Bake the milk in a water bath in the middle of the oven for 45 minutes. Refill baking pan with water (just pour more in) to reach halfway up the plate/pan and bake milk until thick and golden brown, about 45 minutes more. Remove pie plate from water bath. Stir in coconut, pecans, and vanilla and keep the mixture warm, covered with foil.

Make the Glaze while the milk is baking if you choose:

Melt butter in a 3-quart saucepan. Remove pan from heat and add chocolate and corn syrup, whisking until chocolate is melted. Transfer 1 cup of glaze to a bowl, reserving remaining glaze at room temp in pan. Chill the glaze in a bowl, stirring occasionally, until thickened and spreadable, about 1 hour.

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Assemble the Cake:

Put 1 cake layer on a rack set over a baking pan, to catch the excess glaze. Drop half of coconut filling by spoonfuls evenly over layer and gently spread with wet spatula/back of spoon. What I found was that the filling was actually workable so I spooned it onto the cake but I was able to flatten it out with my fingers. Top with another cake layer and spread with remaining filling in the same manner. Top with remaining cake layer and spread chilled glaze evenly over top and side of cake. I realized that the chilled glaze doesn’t cover the cake completely, so just try to get a very thin layer over all of it. But don’t worry if there are some small patches without the chilled glaze. BECAUSE. You now spread the reserved glaze over the top and sides of the cake. This is where you make sure the whole cake is covered. Chill the cake until firm, about 1 hour. Transfer cake to a plate. Make sure to bring to room temp before serving.

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The order of which I did thing: I made the cake Tuesday night and froze them until Friday. I made the filling Thursday night and warmed it up Friday when I needed it. I made the glaze Friday and put it all together.

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The Candy Cookie

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Last night, I was in a mood. You know those moods? Like, irritable beyond a ridiculous point where you’re just like insane and no one can speak to you. Luckily, I do indeed know how to get out of these moods when I’m in them. The answer: baking. I hadn’t actually baked anything  delectably sweet for a while. I mean, yeah dinner foods rock, but I needed to go back to my unhealthy, blood clogging roots of chocolate, chocolate, and more chocolate. Good thing I had an excuse to make food; my rowing team is getting back from two back-to-back races so they’ve all been gone for more than a week. I unfortunately could not go because a summer school program pinned me down at home. It’s been awfully lonely and quiet at the club, so I figured I’d do a little welcome-home baking by making something sweet. Last time I checked my Bingefest Brownies were a favourite. So I had every intention of making them. But I had  dilemma. Those brownies require like, 4 cups of crushed graham crackers for less than 20 brownies. And All I had were 6 graham crackers. That is not sufficient for more than 4 cups. So. I had this idea. I have graham crackers I need to use. I have m&ms I need to use. Thus, the candy cookie was born, as a play off of my brownies! There are three parts to this cookie: the chocolate slice cookie, the caramel, and the candy topping. The recipe itself is as easy as pie (although, truth be told, making pie is very difficult. It’s as easy as pie in the expression sense that everyone uses it in. It’s a dumb expression though because making pie is really hard. Okay okay point is, the actual baking of the cookie and caramel is indeed easy.), however, the assembly can be a bit of a hassle. But let me tell you: I took one bite into these cookies, and it was all. worth. it. It’s like the love child of a s’more and a caramel candy. It is. lovely.

Ingredients:

For the cookie:

  • 1 1/2 cups flour (whole wheat or all purpose)
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 8 oz (2 sticks) butter
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • toppings: 1 cup chopped m&ms, 6 crushed graham crackers, coconut, whatever you like really

For Caramel:

  • 6 oz butter, diced
  • 1 14 oz can of condensed milk
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 tbs light corn syrup

Procedure

Cookie:

Combine the flour, salt, baking powder, and cocoa in a small bowl. Set aside.

Mix the butter and sugar in a separate large bowl until creamy. Add the egg and the vanilla. Beat to make sure the batter is consistent with the new addition. Add the flour mixture. Beat on low speed until the the dry is mixed in evenly with the wet ingredients. The batter should go from being a light cream color to a very dark chocolate color. It should also be pretty doughy- hard to mix. Once you reach that consistency, add the chocolate chips to mix in.

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Now what you’re going to do is  take saran wrap and lay it out, about 9×15 inches. Scoop up half of the batter. If you made the batter correctly, it should be “workable”. You should be able to rolled the batter out into the log. What I do is I don’t roll it out ON the saran wrap. Instead, I roll it out with both of my hands and as it takes that log shape, I lay it down on the saran wrap. It should come out to be about…16-18 inches long, and 1-1.5 inches in diameter. You do two of these logs. Put them in the fridge for 2 hours or to speed up the process, the freezer for a half hour (that’s what I did). To make them fit in the freezer I just criss crossed them over each other like a x. At this point, the logs can be stored in the freezer for up to a month before baking! One of the many beauties of homemade slice-n-bake cookies. While waiting, get started on cleaning your kitchen. Trust me.

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Preheat the oven to 350 F. After a half hour in the freezer or two hours in the fridge, get ONE of the logs out. Slice it into cookies that are about 1/3 of an inch thick and lay them on an ungreased cookie sheet. I was able to lay 20 on a 12×18, and got 35 I think out of one log. It may be a little hard to cut through the log at some points because of the chocolate chips but just force the nice through and if they fall apart you can smush it back together with your fingers. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until the top is soft to the touch but the edges pull away from the bottom juuuust a tad. Don’t bake until hard, otherwise they. Will. Burn. I did them for 11:30 and they were perfect. Let cool on sheets for 5 minutes, the transfer to wire rack for cooling. Repeat the process with the other log.

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Get started on the caramel. All you have to do for this is throw the sugar, butter, syrup, and condensed milk in a small-medium saucepan. Heat gently until the butter melts and the sugar dissolves. Bring to a boil. Then, reduce the heat so that the mixture is simmer. Let it simmer for 6-8 minutes, or until darker in color and thicker. Stir occasionally.

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Once your have all the cookies racked and the caramel’s all done, time to chop up the m&ms and crush the graham crackers! Once they’re nice and crumbly, spoon about a teaspoon of caramel onto a cookie. Then, turn the cookie caramel-side-down into the desired topping. Making sure it doesn’t get crazy-candy-y on the sides, otherwise you’ll end up creating more work for yourself in the clean up process.

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Take a bite. Fudge. Sweet caramel. Then crunch. Entirely worth every bit of effort. And take a gazillion pictures.

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I mayyyy or may not have combined the extra caramel, crushed graham crackers, and some coconut to make little cluster candies…stick em in the freezer. Mmm. Home-made caramel candies.

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Sweet tooth to the max.

Credit for cookies: Cookie Swap Cookbook

Caramel: Best Ever Chocolate Cookbook

How to: Poach Chicken

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Poached chicken is a wonderful alternative to baking it in a load of butter or olive oil. All it requires is chicken breasts, water, and some spices.

Ingredients:

  • 3 boneless 4 oz chicken breasts
  • spices you want! (I use a sprinkle of each: cumin, ground red pepper, chipotle, salt, onion powder, and pepper)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3-4 cups of water or chicken broth  (depends on your pan)

How to:

Get out a heavy bottom metal pan. It needs to be big enough to fit three chicken breasts snugly onto the bottom. Fill the pan with water so that the tops of the chicken are covered by about an inch. Add the spices. Heat, bringing to a boil, then reduce the heat until barely simmering. Partially cover and leave barely simmering for 10 minutes. Remove from heat completely and let the chicken remain in the water for 10-15 minutes, or until you can cut a chicken breast and it is completely white in the middle. Shred, chop, or serve as is! Calories for one breast: I’d say 130/140ish based off of various sources. If you use broth it’ll be a bit more but not too much.

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Mexican-inspired Chicken Casserole

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Let me tell you a story about this dinner…

It was a Thursday night. And I wanted Mexican food. Also note that I use the term Mexican food very loosely; this is by no means the awesomeness of true Mexican food, but it’s the best I can do. But back to the point. I wanted something I could douse in salsa and jalapeños and sour cream. But it wasn’t a Friday night. So I could not make nachos. That would be against the rules of the household; no binging on unhealthy foods until Friday night! How would I ever get passed this dilemma?! Answer: a casserole! A casserole packed with yes, a couple of tortilla layers, more so with veggies and chicken and yummy sauces! So I did it. And it was fabulous. So I will share it.

Note that you can really make this recipe as healthy or as unhealthy as you like. Tonight for example, I made it a tad on the unhealthy side because I was having a cheese craving. But honestly, it doesn’t require a very many tortillas, and it only requires as much cheese as you want. So without further ado:

Makes 6 servings

Ingredients:

  • 3 shredded poached chicken breasts (if you don’t know how to poach chicken, see my how-to on poaching chicken! Link is at the bottom)
  • 6 whole wheat tortillas, 5 to 6 inches in diameter
  • 1 cup of your favorite salsa
  • 1-2 cups of your favorite cheese (if you want a healthier meal, I’d say use a cup of reduced fat cheddar. If not, a cup of jalapeño jack and a cup of cheddar works well)
  • 2 diced bell peppers
  • 1 cup chopped white mushrooms
  • 2 cups fresh baby spinach
  •  pinch of salt
  • olive oil for sautéing
  • toppings like jalapeños, sour cream, more salsa…

Assembly:

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Sauté mushrooms and bell peppers in olive oil with a pinch of salt in a sauce pan over medium heat. It makes it a lot easier and quicker if you cover the pan, just make sure to mix up the veggies every once in a while so that all veggies remain equally sautéd! They’re done when the peppers are softer and the mushrooms are brown.

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before and after

Get a glass baking pan (2x9x13) . Spread 1/3-1/2 of salsa on the bottom (depends on the thickness of your salsa). And how salsa-y you want it. Layer 2.5 tortillas on the bottom. Spread half of the poached chicken over the tortillas. Spread half of the veggie mixture on top of the chicken. Spread a cup of baby spinach on top of the veggie mix. Spread half of cheese on top of spinach. Layer rest of tortillas on top of cheese. Spread 1/3-1/2 of salsa on the tortillas. Spread the rest of the chicken on top. Spread the rest of the veggies on top of the chicken. Spread 1 cup of the spinach on top of the veggies. Spread the rest of the cheese on top. Stick in the oven for 8 minutes, cut, and enjoy! I can’t really do a calorie count on this one because it really depends on the size of the chicken breasts, the types of cheese, how much of it you use, and the types of tortillas. But if you use 3 medium sized chicken breasts, only 1 cup of reduced fat cheese, and whole wheat tortillas, it’s can’t be that bad for you.

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How-to: poach chicken

https://neeksnotes.wordpress.com/2013/07/14/how-to-poach-chicken/

 

Bell Peppers stuffed with Ground Turkey

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I love bell peppers. They. are. the. best. Because you can cut them up as a snack and totally layer them with hummus or sauté them or use them as a very good bowl-like mechanism, which is what I did here. So quick back story- when I was little, I used to eat so much. I mean not that it’s a bad thing at all food is great I love food but I mean, my family used to have red meat 4 or 5 times a week at least. Not too healthy. I mean I like magnesium as much as the next person but thats a bit of overkill. So, then as many young gals do, I grew taller and I also went on to eat healthier. Not as much red meat, more things like chicken and turkey and salad (however, friday nights are mandatory binge-fests my household and it’s not like I don’t eat junk food. I just don’t eat as much) Now, as a rower, I must eat healthily. This also makes my family eat healthier. With my newfound love of peppers and my VERY newfound love of ground turkey, what could be better than stuffed bell peppers with ground turkey? Answer: Not much! This recipe is awesome because 1. it’s very healthy (around 180 calories for a half pepper, but it’s pretty stuffed so it’s actually very filling.) 2. It’s fun to make and 3. it’s delicious.

This recipe was inspired by Skinnytaste, but I changed a lot of it when it comes to the spices and just some additives 🙂

Ingredients:

  • about 1 lb of lean ground turkey
  • about 1 tbs chopped parsley
  • about 1 tbs chopped scallions
  • about 1 tbs chopped chives
  • 1/2 tsp cumin powder
  • salt, to taste
  • 1/2 tsp garlic salt
  • 3 washed large bell peppers
  • 1/2 cup uncooked white rice
  • 1 cup water
  • 4.5 oz canned green chili peppers
  • olive oil
  • about 1/4 cup shredded reduced fat cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup diced cherry tomatos

Assembly:

Preheat oven to 400 F. Get a baking pan out and spray it with Pam cooking spray or olive oil.

Start off with the rice. Put the rice and the water over medium-low heat and cover until cooked. That is literally all you have to do to make rice. Just make sure that when you cover it, you keep an eye on it so it doesn’t boil over. If you see water coming out the sides, turn the heat down!

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Sauté the chopped chives, scallions, and parsley in olive oil in a large sauce pan. Add the ground turkey (make sure there are no big clumps!), and season with cumin, salt, garlic salt, and cook. All you really have to do to cook a ground meat is to mix it around every once and a while, make sure there are no big chunks of meat. Once the turkey is cooked, add the green chili peppers and cherry tomatoes and mix. Add the cooked rice and mix together.

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Remove the stems of the peppers and slice in half, removing the seeds. Stuff the peppers with turkey mixture. Top each pepper with about 1.5-2 tbs of shredded cheese. Stick in the oven for about 20 minutes, or until the edges of the peppers are slightly brown. A good indicator is when the cheese is melted and lightly browned on the top.

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Enjoy!

 

Classic Pancakes

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So. I almost never make pancakes. However, with two friends over for the night, why not cook up a quick, easy, special treat? Pancakes are the best because 1. they are yummy and 2. they are extremely easy to make! Those pancake mixes? Don’t bother! Making pancakes takes me….tops, seven minutes. There is NO NEED to get a pancake mix when you can make the real-deal at home in barely no time, while also achieving that satisfying home-made taste.  I happen to love this recipe because of it’s simplicity but ability to be soooo good.  So. Let’s get to it:

This recipe is from Better Homes and Gardens-New Cook Book. Copyright 1996.

Makes: about 8 pancakes that are 4 inch in diameter. I always do a double recipe.  But here is the single recipe. Also note that it supposedly makes 36 dollar sized pancakes (which are 2 inch in diameter), but I’ve never tried them that way so I can’t vouch for it.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour (or whole wheat. Doesn’t really matter).
  • 1 tbs white sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 beaten egg
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 tbs cooking oil (veggie/canola oil)
  • Chocolate chips, blueberries, whatever you want in your pancake!

Procedure:

If you have a pancake skillet, this is where you get it out and assemble it and set it to 350 F and grease it.  If not, don’t worry about it. Just get a large pan out and butter it when you’re all ready to get those panned cakes cookin’.

In a medium sized bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Make a small well in the middle of the dry mixture and set aside. A well is basically just punching a hole in the middle of it.

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In another medium mixing bowl combine the egg, milk, and cooking oil.

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Add the egg mixture all at once to the dry mixture and stir together. Stir until moistened, the batter should be lumpy.

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For standard sized pancakes, pour about 1/4 cup of the batter onto a hot, lightly greased griddle or heavy skillet (the pan). For dollar-sized pancakes, pour 1 tbs onto the cooking mechanism 😀 If you want toppings, add a small handful of them onto the individual pancakes immediately after you put them on the skillet.

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Cook over medium heat (keeping a close eye on them) until little bubbles are forming on the top. Then, flip them, and cook until they are easily removable and golden-brown on the bottom.

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Serve warm and enjoy!

If you reeeaaaally want the calorie count on this, it’s 114 calories for one 4-inch pancake. So not that bad at all! Pancakes are really just so simple that yes, while there is some sugar, it’s not a substantial amount. It has 5g of total fat (1 g saturated) from the cooking oil, 14g carbs from the flour, and then 3g protein from the egg I think 🙂

Coconut Brownies

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So if you don’t know already I’m in love with chocolate and toasted coconut. So. What better way to incorporate both of those lovely foods than coconut brownies? I thought of this for Independence Day because my friend told me to make brownies and I was like “I can’t make just plain brownies!” SO I immediately flipped through my Hershey’s Chocolate Cookbook for some brownie recipe. So I found a brownie recipe, modified it, and added coconut. And success. So. I must share this recipe. Make it. Now.

Ingredients:

  • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened Cocoa
  • 1/3 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1.5  oz unsweetened chocolate
  • 1 tbs whole milk
  • 1/2 tbs heavy cream
  • 1 cup toasted coconut, plus extra for sprinkling

Procedure:

Preheat oven to 350 F. Lightly grease 8-9 inch square baking pan. Stir flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. Beat butter, sugar, and vanilla in large bowl. Add eggs.

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Beat well. Melt 1.5 oz of unsweetened chocolate, whole milk, and heavy cream in the microwave until smooth when mixed with a spoon. Make sure it doesn’t burn, so I’d say microwave it for 30 seconds. Then maybe at 15 second intervals if it’s still not mixed together. It doesn’t make a lot of melted-chocolate mixture, but it makes just enough to make the brownies chewy but moist. Add the chocolate mixture to the butter mixture. Mix immediately with beater to make sure the hot chocolate mixture doesn’t curdle the eggs (aka, make them scrambled eggs).

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Add the flour mixture to to the butter mixture. Add the coconut and mix until well incorporated. Pour into baking pan and bake for about 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out with some moist crumbs attached. Note: A trick I do is that if it’s not baking/a crust forms on the top, score it. Ya know, punch little lines in the top. It’ll bake, and it’ll make the perfect fudgey brownies. Let sit for 15 minutes, flip, then cut into squares. Eat.

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