Saturday, September 29, 2012

Cinnamon Chocolate Chip Sour Cream Cake

Cinnamon Chocolate Chip Sour Cream Cake. I'm not sure there is a cake out there with a longer title. This is a wonderful cake. I first made it when I was pregnant and obsessed with all things cinnamon-sugar. It's dense and kind of creamy even. There is a good amount of chocolate, but it's not overpowering. There is cinnamon and sugar in the cake and a crisp cinnamon-sugar-chocolate crust. It's amazing. I made this cake for a work party and the left overs were stolen! Luckily, my main man and I had shared a piece for second breakfast (or elevensies if you're kind of a geek.)

Cinnamon Chocolate Chip Sour Cream Cake - recipe adapted very slightly from Smitten Kitchen

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

1/2 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs, separated
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups sour cream
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt

Filling and Topping
1 tablespoon flour
2 cups chocolate chips
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Butter a 9x13 inch baking pan. And lay a sheet of parchment paper in the bottom. 

In a large bowl, cream butter and 1 1/2 cups sugar. Beat in egg yolks and vanilla. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Alternately mix in sour cream and then dry ingredients into the butter mixture until both are used up and the batter is smooth and VERY thick. 

Beat egg whites until stiff and then fold into the batter. The batter is REALLY thick but you want to try to fold in the egg whites without deflating them. 

In a small bowl, mix together the filling/topping ingredients. The flour helps keep the chocolate chips from sinking.  

Spread half of the cake batter in the bottom of the prepared pan. Sprinkle with 1/3 or 1/2 of the chocolate chips and cinnamon-sugar. Drop giant spoonfuls of batter on top of the chocolate chips and try to smooth them around making sure you don't mix in the chocolate chips. Sprinkle the rest of the chocolate chips and cinnamon-sugar over the top and lightly press into the batter... just so they stick.

Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, turning it around halfway through, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.

I should have used a bigger bowl to fold everything together. My set up was a bit small!

Like I said, I baked this cake for a work meeting, so it sat, loosely covered for 15 hours or so. It was great and didn't dry out. 

This is such a good cinnamon-sugar hit with a nice chocolate kicker. And it easily cuts into 30 pieces. It's a filling cake.

Happy Eating!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Asparagus with Balsamic Tomatoes and Onions

Balsamic vinegar tends to put the finishing touch on just about anything.  It’s a staple in my cabinet and I use it whenever I want to give something a little “zing”.  When I saw this recipe in Cooking Light, I knew that this was going to make an appearance in our kitchen. 

The original recipe called for just the asparagus and tomatoes but I added onions because (as you all know by now) I love them.  I can’t make a dish without onions.  When I went to the store and was shopping for ingredients for this dish, I saw yellow pearl onions and thought it would be the perfect accompaniment for the tomatoes.  Boy was I right…

Asparagus with Balsamic Tomatoes and Onions

1 lb asparagus, trimmed
2 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 ½ c halved grape tomatoes
1c yellow pearl onions
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
½ tsp salt
½ tsp black pepper, divided
3 tbsp crumbled goat cheese


Inspired by Cooking Light

Cook asparagus in boiling water 2 mins or until crisp-tender.  Drain.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add tomatoes and onions; cook 3 mins.  Add garlic and cook another 2 mins or until onions are cooked through.  Stir in vinegar; cook 3 mins.  Stir in salt and ¼ tsp pepper. 

Arrange asparagus on a platter; top with tomato mixture.   Sprinkle with cheese and remaining pepper.

Note: Cook the asparagus and sauté the vegetables simultaneously so the asparagus doesn’t get cold.

I served this side dish with baked chicken and honey-almond rice.  It made for a great meal! 

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Chicken Tequila Fettuccine

Once upon a time I worked in The Mall. It was a lovely Mall with nice shops and pretty fountains and ample parking. The Mall had no Dark and Scary Food Court... instead it had real, sit down restaurants. Lovely for guests of The Mall, kind of a hassle for workers of The Mall. I usually had a giant coffee and spent the rest of my lunch hour shopping in The Mall. It was not a profitable time in my life, but man I had some cute stuff.

Anyway, long tale short, there was a California Pizza Kitchen in The Mall and when I actually ate lunch, I ALWAYS ordered the Chicken Tequila Fettuccine.

This is a pretty involved recipe for me... there is a bit of prep work, and a few steps, but the end result is totally worth it when you want a decedent, totally comforting meal. 

And despite the list of ingredients, this doesn't taste boozy, or spicy, or even like some sort of Latin/Italian fusion. It's creamy, tangy, and flavorful. It's so good.

Chicken Tequila Fettuccine - adapted from California Pizza Kitchen and several Google searches. Serves 4 a hearty main meal.

1 pound fettuccine
1/2 cup chopped cilantro plus more for topping
2 tablespoons chopped garlic
1 tablespoon chopped hot chili (I used a red serano)
3 tablespoons butter, divided
1 1/2 chicken stock
2 tablespoons tequila
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 2 inch pieces
1 red sliced red onion
2 cups sliced bell peppers - I used a rainbow of colors, because I had them and they were pretty
1 cup heavy cream

I found this recipe works best with a lot of prep done ahead of time. Chop cilantro, garlic, chili, bell peppers, and set aside. Measure out stock, tequila and lime juice. Cut up chicken and start it marinating in soy sauce. 

In 2 tablespoons of butter, cook garlic, cilantro and chili until garlic is a bit toasted and cilantro is wilted - about 3 minutes. Add in tequila and stock. Use a big pan - this is where all of the food is going to end up. I used a 12" cast iron skillet. 

Once tequila and stock are cooking, let this mixture simmer and reduce while you go about the rest of the cooking. 

Start the water for the pasta. In a second skillet, cook bell peppers and onions in the remaining tablespoon of butter. Once veggies are softened, add the chicken in all of the soy sauce. Cook chicken a bit and then add everything to the stock mixture. 

Poor in the cream and let the chicken cook through while the cream sauce thickens - about 10 minutes. Let the pasta cook at this time. 

Once the chicken is cooked through and the pasta is cooked to your liking, drain the pasta, reserving 1 cup of starchy water. Toss all of the pasta with the chicken and cream sauce. If it seems too thick, add some of the pasta water. Divide pasta, chicken and veggies into 4 bowls. Top with more chopped cilantro and serve with slices of lime.

Happy Eating!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Spinach and Feta Stuffed Sole

This was my first time making this dish and I must say that it was a major success!  For some reason, my experiments turn out to be my best lol.  Maybe it’s because I allow myself to not care as much about how it turns out.  No pressure, right?? 

I actually was inspired to make this by looking on Pinterest and I saw a pin that had a white fish rolled around some sort of filling.  I was like…who knew you could do that?  After all of the cooking I have done, you would think I would have learned that technique by now.  I’m telling you, when it comes to cooking, you learn something new everyday!  After some searching for different stuffed white fish recipes, I decided to combine spinach and feta to give this a Mediterranean feel.  To top it off, I gave it a little crunch by coating in seasoned breadcrumbs.

Spinach and Feta Stuffed Sole

½ c onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp butter or margarine
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
4 sole filets
1.5 c chopped frozen spinach, thawed
1/3 c crumbled feta cheese
Seasoned breadcrumbs
Cooking spray
Lemon (optional)

Preheat oven to 350F.  Drain spinach and squeeze out all liquid using paper towels or a dishtowel. 

Heat butter and olive oil in a small skillet set to medium-high heat.  Add onion and sauté for 2 minutes.  Add garlic and sauté until onions are translucent (another 2-3 mins).

Place spinach, onion mixture, feta, ½ tsp salt, and ½ tsp pepper in a small mixing bowl and stir to combine.    Spread breadcrumbs out on a flat dish.  Lay all four filets on top of breadcrumbs.  Season exposed side of fish with remaining salt and pepper.  Spoon 2-3 tbsp of spinach mixture onto fish and roll each filet around the filling.  Place each roll into a square baking dish, coated with cooking spray.

Note: You can either buy seasoned breadcrumbs or you can season them yourself.  For this recipe, I seasoned plain breadcrumbs with Parmesan, Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper.

Spray the tops of each roll with cooking spray and cook at 350F for 20 mins.  If breadcrumbs are not browned at this time, turn on the broiler for a few minutes until breadcrumbs brown slightly.  Remove from oven and serve immediately.  Garnish with lemon.

Tip: For dishes that cook quickly and you have a breadcrumb topping, spraying the topping with cooking spray allows them to brown and get crispy in a shorter period of time.

To complete this entrée, I served the stuffed sole over lemon & Parmesan orzo with chopped parsley.  The entire meal was fresh, light, and healthy and I can’t wait to make it again. 

Now that I know how to use this technique, I’m looking forward to playing with many different types of stuffing mixtures.  If you can think of any interesting combinations, be sure to let us know!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Thai Basil Meatballs and Mango Coconut Rice

I have really good friends. Like amazing friends! I got this recipe from my dear Jenny. We grew up together. We've been friends since we were but a glimmer in our parent's eyes. We've been through wonderful times, hard times, the best of times and some truly un-fun times. She is in my heart all the time. I only hope that I can help my tiny tot find and keep friends like this. Jenny's latest gift of friendship... meatballs. 

These meatballs are tangy, a little bit spicy (and I upped the spicy because we are into spicy and spicier) and totally flavor-filled. Coconut rice is not sweet, but the mango adds some juicy sweetness that the green onion balances out. I made up a quick cucumber salad and made a whole meal. 

Thai Basil Meatballs - recipe compliments of my dearest Jenny
Preheat oven to 400 degrees

1 pound of ground meat (I used 1/2 pound of ground pork and 1/2 pound ground beef)
4 cloves of garlic - minced
1 egg
1/2 roasted red pepper, chopped (I used jarred roasted red peppers)
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon Sriracha hot sauce
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
1 lime zested, and half juiced
3 tablespoons flour

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. 

Add minced garlic, egg, red pepper, soy sauce, fish sauce (fish sauce does not taste fishy! It's not gross either!) Sriracha, basil, lime zest and juice to a large bowl. Mix well. Whisk in flour. 

Add ground meat and using your hands, mix everything together until well combined.

Form into smallish meatballs (I got 20 meatballs out of one pound of meat.; each meatball was about 1 1/2 tablespoons) and place on a parchment lined, rimmed baking pan.

Bake 30 minutes or until internal temp reaches at least 145 for pork/beef mixture or 160 if you use ground chicken or turkey.

The original recipe called for 2 pounds of meat, but I cut it in half since it was just the two of us. 1 pound of meat fed two really good eaters a nice dinner and made a great lunch for me the next day.  

Coconut Mango Rice - recipe from Budget Bytes
1 1/2 cups dry jasmine rice
1 3/4 cups light coconut milk (1 15oz can)
1 cup of water
1 large clove minced garlic
dash of salt
1/2 cup chopped mango (I used frozen chunks that I diced)
1/2 cup chopped fresh green onion

Rinse rice well. Add rice, coconut milk, water, garlic and salt to a sauce pan with a cover. Bring to a full boil and then reduce to the lowest flame your stove has and cover. Let rice simmer for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes turn the flame off and let the rice rest for 10 minutes. Stir in mango and onion while you fluff the rice.

**Update - I've been skipping the garlic and salt in this rice, and I like it better without those two ingredients. 

This was a totally new dinner to us and it's going in the rotation! It was delicious. I am going to try ground turkey next - and I'm going to experiment with coconut oil versus coconut milk to make the rice. I had a taster bite at Trader Joes using coconut oil and it was great. I like the calorie savings with the light coconut milk so I'll do some calorie math before I change it up. I hope you all like this one as much as we did!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Sweet Onion Tart

Lesson of the day: Pie crust is HARD!!!  It is so deceptive with only 4 ingredients but you have to add and mix them perfectly to get the ideal crust.  First, it’s using butter and water at a certain temperature, then you add water…and who knows how much since I think I saw recipes that called for anywhere from 2-6 tbsps lol.  The crazy thing is, the amount of water is probably the most critical ingredient of it all!  In my recipe, I said to add 3-5 tbsp.  In the grand scheme of things, this is a big difference (I know) but it really depends on a lot of external factors such as temperature and humidity and…okay I sound like a weather-girl now.  Bottom line – practice makes perfect!

This onion tart is delicious.  My husband and I are pretty much obsessed with onions.  We put them on everything.  And if something has caramelized onions in it, WE’RE IN!  We don’t care what it is.  Naturally, when I saw this idea in Cooking Light a while back, I decided to make it my own and even try my hand at homemade crust since the original called for store-bought pie crust…which isn’t such a bad idea considering my tirade above.  My husband described this as “eating dessert for dinner”.  Well…obviously this isn’t dessert but I can understand where he’s coming from with the buttery crust and sweet onions.  I guess it just goes to show you how versatile pie crust can be…once you figure out how to not mess it up :)

Sweet Onion Tart

1c all-purpose flour
½ tsp salt
6 tbsp chilled butter
3-5 tbsp ice cold water
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
3 large onions, thinly sliced
1 tsp salt
½ tsp black pepper
4 oz chopped pancetta
4 thyme sprigs
½ c shredded Gruyere cheese

For the crust:  Place the flour and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse a few times just to mix.  Cut butter into small pieces and add to flour mixture.  Pulse until large crumbs form (10-15 pulses).  Add water 1 tbsp at a time, pulsing between each addition, until the mixture sticks together when pressed and is no longer sticking to the side of the bowl.  Empty onto plastic wrap and gather to form a ball.  Press dough into a round disk, wrap in the plastic wrap, and store in the refrigerator for 30 mins to 1 hour.

Tip:  Store butter in the refrigerator and place in the freezer for 15 minutes prior to cutting into small pieces.  Also, I used a fork and knife instead of my fingers when cutting, to prevent any body heat from melting the butter.

Preheat oven to 375.
Add 2 tbsp olive oil to a large sauté pan set at medium-high heat.  Add onions, salt, pepper and stir to combine.  Once the onions soften, lower heat to medium-low and cook until browned and caramelized (20-30 mins).  Add leaves of thyme sprigs to onion mixture just before the onions are fully cooked.

While onions are browning, cook pancetta in a small skillet until brown and crisp (8-10 mins).  Empty pancetta onto a plate lined with paper towel to drain grease and set aside.

Remove dough from refrigerator and roll out into a 10-11” disk on a floured surface.   Carefully move dough to a non-stick baking sheet (or baking sheet lined with parchment paper) and pierce dough a few times with a fork to allow steam to escape.

Tip: Loosely wrap dough around the rolling pin to move it from one place to another.

Top dough with onions, pancetta, and cheese – leaving about 1” of the outer rim uncovered.  Fold over outer rim of dough onto the filling.  Place baking sheet in oven and cook at 375 for 30-35 mins or until both cheese and crust have browned.  Allow to cool for a few minutes before slicing.  Garnish with thyme.

You can serve this with a salad or some other veggie for dinner or as an appetizer or hors d’oeuvre for a party.  Happy crust making!