Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Chocolate Almond Cake with Pecans

I was excited to see this cake on Annie's blog. I've never made a bundt cake of any kind and they always come out looking so nice. I've used my bundt pan many times before when making monkey bread, but never any cake.

It was fairly simple to make, and I had most all of the ingredients at home. The almond extract really adds a nice flavor to the cake. It's the cake's secret ingredient!

Chocolate Almond Cake
Recipe: Annie's Eats

For the cake:
2¼ cups flour
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tsp. baking powder
¾ tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1½ cups sugar
4 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. almond extract
1½ cups sour cream
6 oz. bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled slightly

For the ganache:
6 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
¾ cup heavy cream
1 tbsp. light corn syrup

To make the cake, preheat the oven to 325˚ F. Grease and flour a 10-cup Bundt pan. I had a 9.75 cup pan so that's what I used and it worked just fine.
In a medium bowl, combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; whisk to blend. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the butter and sugar. Beat together on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 4-5 minutes, scraping down the bowl as needed. Mix in the eggs one at a time, blending well after each addition. Blend in the vanilla and almond extracts.
With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients in three additions alternating with the sour cream, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients and beating each addition just until incorporated. Mix in the melted chocolate just until combined.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan, spreading the batter evenly. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean, about 50-60 minutes. Let cool in the pan 10 minutes. Invert onto a cooling rack and gently remove the cake from the pan.
Like I said before, I've never made a bundt cake so I'm not sure this is supposed to happen. When I inverted my cake onto the cooling rack, I noticed that it had a lot of, what seemed to be, extra at the bottom. "Feet" as you will. I've never known bundt cakes to be raised up that high. I've always thought they should be more flat at the bottom. Do you think I did something wrong?

To remedy this problem, I simply just cut off the excess.

To make the ganache, place the chocolate in a small heatproof bowl. Bring the cream to a boil in a small saucepan. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate let stand 1-2 minutes. Whisk in small circular motions until the mixture is well blended and the ganache is smooth. Stir in the corn syrup. Drizzle the ganache over the cooled cake and garnish with sliced almonds before the glaze sets.

Don't forget to add your corn syrup or you'll wonder why the ganache is more like a frosting and not very drizzle-y. Not that I'd know from experience or anything...

Because of my error, I decided I'd just spread the ganache around, like a frosting and add the pecans all around. I loved the idea in my head, but I'm not sure how I feel about it once it was said and done. I just hope it tastes ok. We tasted the cut off part and that seemed dry. However, that was after it was sitting out while I made breakfast and such, so that could largely be the problem.

I took this cake to my Grandparent-in-Laws house for dinner. I also brought some vanilla ice cream to go with it.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Saturday Breakfast: Eggs Benedict

I've never had Eggs Benedict before so you can probably understand why I've never made it either. I saw this post on Joelen's blog and thought it would be perfect for our Saturday Morning Breakfast.

I figured it should be easy but yet something 'special' that we wouldn't have time for each weekday morning.

I struggled with this recipe. I don't know if it was too much to focus on in the morning or what. Maybe it's because I've never poached an egg so I didn't really have any clue what a poached egg looked like? I was really bummed and was starting to get very cranky in the kitchen.

First of all, I over poached my eggs. I ended up with hard boiled yolks but poached egg whites. Ugh.

So, I decided to fry up a couple eggs for our eggs benedict. It worked well enough. Although, on one of my fried eggs, I overcooked it and it was cooked through. Dangit. I'm sure one of the best parts of Eggs Benedict are the creamy yolks.

Secondly, the hollandaise sauce calls for vinegar and you could definitely taste the vinegar. The hollaindaise wasn't very creamy either.

I was so bummed that this breakfast wasn't all that it was cracked up to be. (Get it? Egg humor!) I'll definitely try again. I may try this recipe for Eggs Benedict. It's more simple for me, the beginner poacher.

Here is the recipe that I followed from Joelen's blog. 

Eggs Benedict
Recipe: What's Cookin, Chicago?
2 tablespoons white vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
12 large eggs
6 english muffins, split & toasted
12 slices Canadian bacon
1 recipe for Foolproof Hollandaise

Fill a large 12 inch skillet nearly to the rim with water. Add the vinegar and salt and bring to a boil over high heat. Once it comes to a boil, remove off heat.

Crack an egg into a small bowl and one at a time, carefully pour the egg into the skillet. Repeat with the remaining eggs,being careful not to crowd the pan. (You may want to only poach 6 eggs at a time to avoid crowding.)

Once your eggs are in the skillet, cover the pan and poach the eggs until whites are set but yolks are slightly runny, about 5-7 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer eggs to a paper towel-lined plate.

Meanwhile, preheat your broiler. Arrange your toasted English muffins, split side up, on a baking sheet and place a slice of bacon on each. Broil until they begin to brown, about 1 minute.

Arrange 1 poached egg on top of each English muffin. Spoon 1-2 tablespoons of hollandaise sauce over each egg. Garnish with minced fresh parsley and serve.

Foolproof Hollandaise
makes 2 cups
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
6 large egg yolks
1/2 cup boiling water
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
salt to taste

Whisk butter and egg yolks in a large heat resistant bowl set over a medium saucepan filled with 1/2 inch of barely simmering water. Be careful not to let the bottom of the bowl touch the water. Slowly add the 1/2 cup of boiling water into the bowl and cook, whisking constantly. It will eventually thicken when the sauce registers 160 degrees, in about 7-10 minutes.

Remove from heat and stir the lemon juice and cayenne if using. Season with salt to taste and serve over eggs benedict above.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Mom's Banana Bread

My Husband's coworker brought him some bananas that were ready for baking. I know, I know, your first thought is... what? This guy is single and doesn't do any baking for himself. But, he knew the bananas could be used by someone and he knew that I liked to bake so he brought them to work for my Husband to give to me. I thought it was a very nice gesture.
As I was looking through my recipe books, my recipe box & my blog, I realized that I did not have a recipe for banana bread. Growing up, my Mom often made banana bread and it was so good. Moist, flavorful and delicious. I couldn't believe that I didn't have it written down somewhere!

Luckily, when I text her "SOS -- I need your banana bread recipe!" she was happy to oblige and called me with her recipe. Although we don't know the origination of this recipe, we assume that it came from my Grandma, her Mom. My Mom has been using this banana bread recipe for many years. It's the banana bread I've grown up with. As soon as I tried some of my fresh banana bread, I was happy that it tasted just like Mom used to make.

Mom's Banana Bread
Recipe: Amy's Kitchen Creations Family Recipe

3 1/2 cups of Flour
4 teaspoons Baking Powder
1 tsp Baking soda
3/4 cup Butter
1 1/4 cup Sugar*
4 Eggs
2 cups Banana

Mix all ingredients into a bowl until well combined. You can add raisins or nuts if you'd like. When adding them, put a tablespoon or two of flour in a separate bowl, add the raisins/nuts and mix them up with the flour a little. They'll be coated with the flour. This will keep them from falling to the bottom of the bread when baking. This recipe makes two loaves of bread. If you're like me and only have one loaf pan, you'll be baking bread for a couple hours. It's worth it though!

Bake at 350 for 60 minutes.

Enjoy your slice with a little bit of butter or plain, whichever you prefer!

*My Mom said that she does half Brown Sugar and half White Sugar in her recipe. I did 1 cup White sugar, 1/4 cup Brown sugar.

PS- I now have the recipe securely in my recipe box! I will definitely be making this more often now that I have the recipe stored.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Pork Chop & Hashbrown Bake

This recipe is definitely comfort food. Carrie received it from Madelyn and I've seen it on a few blogs since then. It's so easy, so delicious and ultimately comforting. I'm not sure if it's a family recipe from Madelyn but it really doesn't matter. You should definitely make this!

Pork Chop & Hashbrown Bake


5 pork chops
1 can Cream of Mushroom soup
1/2 cup Milk
1/2 cup Sour Cream
24oz package of frozen hashbrowns, thawed
1 cup shredded Cheddar Cheese
1 large can french fried onions (French's onions)

I made the mistake of not reading my recipe before I got started so I used frozen hashbrowns and it worked just fine. Also, the original recipe calls for 6 slices of pork tenderloin, but all I had available was 5 pork chops so I just used what I had and again, it was just fine.

I baked our pork chops in the oven at 400* with a few seasonings on them. I cooked them about 30-40 minutes I think, until they were done.

While the pork chops are baking, combine the soup, sour cream & milk. Add the hashbrowns, half the cheese and half of the fried onions. Spoon that mixture into a lightly greased 9x13 pan.

When the pork chops are done, layer the pork chops on top of the hashbrown mixture. Bake at 350* for about 40 minutes. Add the rest of the cheese and onion pieces on top and bake for an additional 5 minutes.

This recipe was so good. It was so simple to prepare, the leftovers were great & it was the perfect meal for a Sunday night. Comfort food at its finest!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Tortellini Soup & Southwest Turkey Panini Sandwiches

While I love soup, I've only ever made homemade chicken nooodle. This soup was so easy to whip together. I was actually shocked at how easy it was. It seems like it should have an excessive ingredient list and take a lot of time. It couldn't be farther from the truth.

It worked out perfectly to make soup this week. We had a rainy, windy, sleety (here in Minnesota, that is a perfectly acceptable word to describe the weather. Trust me.) day and this was exactly what we needed.

Tortellini Soup
*I doubled this recipe so that we could have leftovers for a couple days. The original recipe says it yields 3-4 servings.* The original recipe is listed below.

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 cloves minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 (15oz) can diced tomatoes, with juices
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth (can also use vegetable broth)
9 ounces tortellini, any variety (I used Bertolli tortellini from the refrigerated section)
3 cups fresh baby spinach, loosely packed (I used bagged spinach)
Salt & Pepper to taste
Grated Paremesan, optional for serving

In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the chopped onions to the pan and cook until beginngin to soften, about 5 minutes. Add in the garlic and cook, stirring frequently, just until fragant, approximately 1 minute. Mix in the oregano (I threw in some basil too) and diced tomatoes. Add the chicken brtoh to the pot. Bring everything to a boil. Add your tortellini to the pot and cook according to package directions. (My tortellini really puffed up. I've never made tortellini of any kind before so I'm not sure if this was normal. Perhaps that's because it was 'fresh' and not frozen tortellini? I'd be interested to hear if this happens to anyone else.)

One minute before the tortellini is fully cooked, stir in the spinach. Remove from the heat & season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm with grated Parmesan, if you choose.

I knew that just having soup wouldn't be satisfying for Matt so I paired it with homemade ciabatta panini.

At work, we have a cafe called The Muffin Man and it's so good. A funky little cafe that's a much needed break from the lunch options at our Cafeteria. Have you ever had broccoli that was so badly cooked that you could mush it with your tongue against the roof of your mouth? If not, you're lucky. If so, you can probably imagine my dissappointment when I added a side of broccoli to my lunch one day at the cafeteria. Blech. Anyway, back to our lunch paradise; The Muffin Man has a southwest turkey grilled sandwich. Southwest mayo, roasted red peppers, turkey and cheddar cheese on ciabatta bread, grilled to perfection.

That was my inspiration for these sandwiches. Our grocery store was out of red peppers (yes, really) so I had to skip the peppers. I had spinach leftover from the soup so I added some spinach to our sandwiches. I didn't have any cheddar cheese so I used some shredded cheese that I had in the refrigerator. These sandwiches are completely customizable to whatever you may be feeling.

Southwest Turkey Grilled Sandwich
Inspired by: The Muffin Man Cafe

Loaf of cooked ciabatta
Turkey deli meat
Fresh spinach leaves
Prepared chipotle mayo, recipe below.

I bought a loaf of 'Take and Bake' ciabatta at our local grocery store. I sliced it in about 4" sections and then cut them almost in half lengthwise. Similar to how they would cut your bread at a sub shop. I then put it in the oven and baked it per the directions. When done, spread mayo on both halves, add your deli meat, cheese, spinach and then place on a warm griddle for a few minutes on each side. Just until cheese melts.

I'd really like to invest in a panini maker or a sandwich griddle. These were fantastic sandwiches. My Husband, Matt, loved them so much. He declared them "the best sandwiches ever." Our meal of tortellini soup and southwest turkey panini sandwiches won him over so well, he said that it puts his previous favorite meal to shame.

Chipotle mayo
Amy's Kitchen Creation original
(Although I'm sure I'm not the only one to ever make this)

2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
A few tablespoons of mayo

Cut up the peppers so they're smaller and then stir them into your mayo. If you'd like it spicier or less spicy, just adjust the amount of peppers you put into the mayo or add a little additional mayo.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Buttermilk Pie

This is a recipe that I found on Amy's blog.  Amy is a very, very talented Woman. She's an Opera-singin'-pie-bakin'-beautiful-picture-takin' Blogger! She describes this Buttermilk pie as 'Man-Pleasin'. She wasn't kidding! Matt loved it. I also shared it with my Mom and Dad. They weren't as thrilled with it. Like Amy says, it is a very sweet pie. If you're watching your sugar intake, this will definitely be an indulgence for you. Well, it's not like you should or would want to eat something like this everyday anyway...

I really wanted to bake something on a low-key Friday night, so I decided to try Amy's Buttermilk Pie. Being from Minnesota, I've never had a slice or even heard of Buttermilk pie. I had everything available and it was something new, so in an effort to expand my baking skills, why not!

I had to email Amy because I was concerned that I had about 3/4 cup leftover buttermilk filling. She said that's normal and usually always has some left. I wonder if next time, I should try deep dish crusts and see how that turns out.

Clearly, I need to be less eager to try my baked goods...that's not a crack in the pie, that's a knife mark from starting to slice the pie before taking it's photo!

Our oven has issues and bakes unevenly. Does anyone know if there is some sort of solution to this?  I put the two pies side by side in my oven, just like they're pictured below. The pie on the right, the filling bubbled over and had a little bulge to it once cooled and out of the oven. I cooked the one on the right a litle longer because it was pretty 'jiggly' when the timer went off. I only had it in the oven for about 10 or 15 minutes longer than the first pie, but they baked completely different.

I definitely think that I will be making this pie again, perhaps for Easter? If you've never heard of or tasted Buttermilk pie, it's definitely worth a try. It's super easy to prepare and you'll likely have all of the ingredients already at home!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Saturday Breakfast: French Toast with Fresh Whipped Cream and Strawberries

As much as I love the weekends, they always go way too fast! I know that everyone says that but my Husband works Sunday-Thursday so our weekends together consist of Saturdays. A one-day weekend. Boo. I really like when I can make a breakfast that's something other than yogurt or oatmeal which is usually what we eat for Breakfast during the week.This is where I'll start a new 'series' of Saturday Breakfasts. These will be breakfasts above and beyond the 'normal' quick and easy breakfasts.

The yummiest part of this breakfast was the fresh strawberries and fresh whipped cream. We recently bought a magic bullet and you wouldn't believe how easy it is to make fresh whipped cream. Not to mention smoothies, salsa, guacamole..I'm in love with that thing! What's better yet, we got it for $20 thanks to also using a Kohl's gift card.

French Bread French Toast
Any Amy's Kitchen Creation Original Recipe

Half of a loaf of french bread, sliced
Fresh strawberries, stems removed & berries sliced
4 Eggs
Splash or two of milk
~1tsp Cinnamon

Crack eggs and place in bowl, add the splash (or two) of milk and the cinnamon and beat together. I always spray a litle non-stick cooking spray on my cooking surface (griddle). Heat the griddle to medium-high heat. Dip your bread into the egg mixture, flip to the other side and make sure that side is coated as well.

Place on griddle for a few minutes each side until golden brown and the egg mixture is obviously cooked.

Serve with fresh whipped cream and strawberries and a shake or two of powdered sugar.

Fresh Whipped Cream
If you have a magic bullet, pour about 1 cup of Heavy Whipping Cream into the short cup. Add a tablespoon or so of powdered sugar and a little splash of vanilla. Blend together until the bullet stops making the blending sound and makes more of a whirring sound. (Thats the wording from the recipe book that comes with the bullet :-))

If you do not have these ingredients, you could use a blender or kitchenaid mixer to whip up some whipped cream!

Enjoy your Saturday morning Breakfast!