Thursday, May 26, 2011

Double Chocolate Chip Cupcakes

I came across this recipe years ago and I am still amazed at how simple, moist, and decadent this cake is. Even though it's not "from scratch" (hey, it's still homemade!) I think it's by far my favorite chocolate cake recipe.

The cake is incredibly moist and chocolatey while the extra chocolate chips add richness and even more fun! This time, I made cupcakes with the recipe, but you can also use this to make 2 9" cake rounds. It's amazing and so simple that you'd be crazy not to give it a try!

Double Chocolate Chip Cupcakes

1 box devil’s food cake mix
1 small pkg Jello instant chocolate pudding mix
1 cup sour cream
1 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups mini chocolate chips, plus more for decorating

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a very large bowl, mix together everything except chocolate chips. Batter will be thick. Stir in the chocolate chips. Pour batter into cupcake tins with linters. For cooking time, I use the cooking times on the back of the devil’s food cake box as a guide and usually add 5-10 mins to whatever it says. Then I do the toothpick check, and if it’s not done, I check on it every 5 mins after that.

Allow to cool and then frost with Vanilla Buttercream frosting and sprinkle with extra mini chocolate chips.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Slow Cooked Pork with Green Chilies and Tomatillos

This recipe is again from a cooking class hosted by Qdoba. This pork is used for traditional street tacos and is so flavorful and tender that it's unbelievable. It also happens to be insanely simple, which makes me happy.

If you are looking for a new twist on tacos and are tired of chicken or steak, look no further. This pork was definitely a crowd pleaser and any leftovers would be great in a variety of recipes that call for pulled pork.

Slow Cooked Pork with Green Chilies and Tomatillos

1 boneless pork shoulder roast
1 white onion, cut into thin strips
2 Poblano Chilies, cut into thin strips
2 Jalapeno Chilies, cut into thin strips
2 Anaheim or Hatch Green Chilies, cut into thin strips
2 C. Tomatillos, cut into large chunks
3 cloves fresh garlic, smashed
1 T. Salt
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. black pepper

Place the onions in the bottom of a slow cooker. Top with half of the tomatillos. Place the pork roast into the slow cooker and sprinkle with salt and garlic powder. Add remaining tomatillos. Top with all of the chilies.

Cook on low for a minimum of 6 hours. (The idea is to cook the pork slowly so that it is fork tender)

After 6 hours, the pork will be fork tender and ready to shred. If necessary, remove any fat prior to shredding.

Using tongs or your hands, shred the pork into taco sized pieces. Add pepper and additional salt to taste.

Serve with fresh, warm tortillas and your favorite taco toppings (I suggest the traditional topper of cilantro, red onion, and lime juice.)

Friday, May 20, 2011

Fresh Salsas with Toasted Dry Chilies

This post is more about learning a new method rather than a recipe. I recently attended a class given by Qdoba. Qdoba is a mexi-style restaurant that specializes in healthy, delicious Mexican food. I started going to Qdoba when I lived near St. Louis (Chipotle hadn't quite made it's way there yet!) and I was hooked. So, when given the opportunity to get "insider secrets" I was really excited.

One of the best parts of the class was learning how to make fresh, vibrant salsa. We used dried chilis that we toasted in order to create a deep, flavorful salsa. What's great about this recipe is that you can use whatever dried chili you like. They suggested finding one that smells good to you and go with it. Below I've listed a few that I use and really like along with their flavor profile to help you a bit.

Interestingly enough, the salsas listed below do not use tomatoes. They get their reddish color from the chilies that are used. You can always add tomato to your salsa if you'd like - anything goes here!

(from L to R: salsa verde, chipotle, ancho, and habanero)

Fresh Salsas with Toasted Dry Chilies
yield: about 1 cup

4-5 tomatillos, roasted
2 cloves of garlic, roasted
1/4 onion, roasted
1/4 lime, juiced
1-2 dry chilies of your choice (I really liked Casacabel, chipotle, ancho, and habenero)
salt, to taste

To prepare the tomatillos, onion, and garlic, rinse and roast or grill until blackened and soft. Allow to cool.

While the vegetables are cooling, heat a dry skillet over medium-high heat. Place the dry chili in the skillet and toast. The chili will have wisps of steam/smoke and you will begin to smell the chili. Toast for 30-40 seconds, turning frequently, until the chili becomes pliable. Remove from heat.

In the bowl of a food processor, combine the tomatillos, onion, garlic, salt, and toasted chili. You may want to begin with 1/2 of the toasted chili and then taste...adding more as you want to intensify the flavors.

Chill and enjoy!

Salsa Verde
yield: about 1 cup

4-5 tomatillos, roasted
1 jalapeno, roasted
2 cloves of garlic, roasted
1/4 onion, roasted
1/2 lime, juiced
2 Tbs. cilantro, chopped
salt, to taste

To prepare the tomatillos, onion, jalapeno, and garlic, rinse and roast or grill until blackened and soft. Allow to cool.

In the bowl of a food processor, combine all ingredients. You may want to remove the ribs and seeds of the jalapeno for a less hot salsa.

Chill and enjoy!

*This post is not sponsored by Qdoba in any way...I just wanted to share my love and experience with you guys! :)

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Salted Vanilla Bean Caramels

For Mother's Day, in addition to the Cinco De Mayo feast, I wanted to make a personal gift from my kitchen. I chose to do Salted Vanilla Bean caramels and they were a HUGE hit.

Easy to make, these are not only visually impressive, but chewy, creamy and interesting. The hint of salt is really amazing with the sweet caramel. Make them for someone you love of keep them all to yourself. You won't be disappointed with this recipe!

Salted Vanilla Bean Caramels
Yield: 64 caramels

1 cup heavy cream
5 tbsp. unsalted butter
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 vanilla bean pod, split lengthwise and scraped
1 1/4 tsp. sea salt, plus more for sprinkling
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup water

Line the bottom and sides of an 8-inch square baking dish with parchment paper. Lightly butter the parchment.

In a small saucepan, combine the cream, butter, vanilla extract, vanilla bean seeds, pods, and sea salt. Heat over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and set aside.

In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar, corn syrup, and water. Heat over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally until the sugar is dissolved. Boil, without stirring but gently swirling the pan occasionally, until the mixture is a light golden caramel color.

Remove the vanilla bean pods from the cream mixture and carefully stir the cream mixture into the caramel – the mixture will bubble up, so pour slowly and stir constantly. Continue simmering the mixture until it registers 248˚ F on a candy thermometer. Immediately remove from the heat and pour into the prepared pan. Let cool for 30 minutes, then sprinkle lightly with additional sea salt. Continue to let sit until completely set and cooled. Cut into 1-inch pieces (a buttered pizza cutter works well). Wrap the individual caramels in small pieces of wax paper, about 4-inch squares.

Source: Confections of a Foodie Bride

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Cinnamon Leches Cake with Sugared Almonds

For Mother's Day this year, we decided to combine Cinco De Mayo and celebrating motherhood. I mean, seriously folks, what mother do you know couldn't use a little cerveza and fun in her life? I was definitely excited that they landed close together so we could combine the festivities!

This recipe is a twist on a more traditional Tres Leches cake. Tres Leches means "3 Milks" and since this recipe uses 5 milks, it is now "Muchas Leches," or many milks. :) In both versions, vanilla-cinnamon sponge cake is brushed with a milk mixture that soaks in and saturates the cake. It becomes rich, creamy, and incredibly moist.

I also really liked the addition of the sugared almonds in this recipe. It gives a really good crunch that pair nicely with the creaminess of the cake. Without them, I think the cake would be too soft on it's own. One suggestion for the almonds is to make sure that you keep a good eye on them (not letting them burn) and stir them throughout their cooking time to break them up and help them cook more evenly and quickly.

Cinnamon Leches Cake with Sugared Almonds
Yield: About 16 servings

For the cake:
2 cups (8 oz.) blanched almonds
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar, divided
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
7 large eggs, separated
2 tbsp. all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. baking powder

For the soaking liquid:
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tbsp. dulce de leche **See Note/recipe below
1/4 cup cream of coconut (usually found in the liquor section although it contains no alcohol)
1/4 cup sweetened condensed milk
1/4 cup evaporated milk
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

For the sugared almonds:
2 large egg whites
2 cups slivered almonds
1/2 cup sugar

For the whipped cream frosting:
2 cups heavy whipping cream
3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar, plus more for dusting
Splash of vanilla extract

Fresh berries, for garnish (optional)

To make the cake, preheat the oven to 350˚ F. Line the bottom of a 9 x 13″ baking pan with parchment paper, and butter and flour the edges of the pan. Place the almonds in the bowl of a food processor with 1/4 cup of sugar and the cinnamon. Process until finely ground. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites on high speed until stiff peaks form. Transfer the beaten egg whites to a different bowl and set aside. Wipe out the mixer bowl. In the now-empty mixer bowl, combine the egg yolks and the remaining 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons of sugar. Beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes. Fold in the flour and the baking powder with a spatula. Fold in the ground almond mixture. Mix in a third of the beaten egg whites to lighten the batter. Fold in the remainder of the egg whites until evenly incorporated and no streaks remain.

Pour the batter into the prepared baking pan and smooth with a spatula. Bake approximately 26 minutes, or until lightly browned and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan 5-10 minutes, then invert onto a wire rack and let cool completely.

To make the soaking liquid, combine the whipping cream, dulce de leche, cream of coconut, sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk and vanilla in a bowl or liquid measuring cup. Whisk together until smooth.

To make the sugared almonds, place the egg whites in a clean, dry bowl and whip on high speed until frothy. Stir in the almonds and sugar until evenly incorporated. Spread the mixture in a thin, even layer onto a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone baking mat. Bake at 325˚ F until golden brown and crisp, approximately 20 minutes (let cool a minute or two before touching). Allow to cool and then break apart into small chunks.

To make the frosting, place the heavy cream in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whip on medium-high speed until soft peaks form. Mix in the confectioners’ sugar and continue beating until stiff peaks form. Blend in the vanilla.

Using a serrated knife, cut the cooled cake into thirds width-wise so that you have three pieces of cake about 4 1/3 x 9 inches each. Place one of the segments of cake on a rectangular serving platter and brush with a third of the soaking liquid. (You may want to poke the cake with the tines of a fork to help it absorb the liquid.) Frost with a layer of the whipped cream. Top with another layer of cake, brush with half of the remaining soaking liquid, and frost again with whipped cream. Top with the final layer of cake and brush with the remaining liquid. Frost the top and sides of the cake with the whipped cream. Press the sugared almonds into the top and sides of the cake to cover evenly. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Before serving, dust lightly with confectioners’ sugar and top with fresh berries, if desired.

Source: adapted from The Pastry Queen by Rebecca Rather

**Note: I couldn't find dulce de leche at my grocery store. Rather than hunt it down, I decided to have fun making my own. If you're not feeling up to it or don't have time, just substitute an additional 2 Tbs. of sweetened condensed milk.

If you do want to try making your own, I have listed the recipe as well. This uses a whole (small) can of sweetened condensed milk, so you can definitely use the extra over ice cream, cupcakes, or other desserts!

Dulce de Leche

Preheat the oven to 425° F.

Pour one can (14 ounces) of sweetened condensed milk (not evaporated milk) into a glass pie plate or shallow baking dish. Stir in a few flecks of sea or kosher salt.

Set the pie plate within a larger pan, such as a roasting pan, and add hot water until it reaches halfway up the side of the pie plate.

Cover the pie plate snugly with aluminum foil and bake for 1 to 1 1/4 hours. (Check a few times during baking and add more water to the roasting pan as necessary).

Once the Dulce de Leche is nicely browned and caramelized, remove from the oven and let cool. Once cool, whisk until smooth.

Store in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Warm gently in a warm water bath or microwave oven before using.

Adapted from The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Oven BBQ Chicken

After almost 3 days of nonstop rain, everyone at my house was getting a little stir crazy. I couldn't take the dreary weather and winter-y food anymore! I decided to find a recipe that reminded me of summer, but could be executed indoors. I came across this recipe for Oven BBQ Chicken and I knew I'd found a winner.

This recipe uses chicken legs, but a whole cut up chicken could also work - in fact, this is what I used because I had one in the freezer. One suggestion would be to use bone-in chicken rather than boneless, skinless chicken breasts (those tend to get dry in recipes like this one).

This quick BBQ sauce here is also delicious. It's sweet and slightly tangy. As is, it has a little heat in the background, but if you want to add more, you can just chop another chipotle and add it to the party. Enjoy!!

Oven BBQ Chicken

18 whole Chicken Legs
1 Tablespoon Canola Oil
1/4 whole Onion, Diced
2 cloves Garlic, Minced
1 cup Ketchup
1/4 cups Packed Brown Sugar
2 Tablespoons (additional) Brown Sugar
4 Tablespoons Distilled Vinegar (less To Taste)
1 Tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce
1/3 cup Molasses
1 Chipotle Chili, minced ***See Note Below
4 Tablespoons Chipotle Adobo Sauce (the Adobo Sauce Chipotle Peppers Are Packed In)
Dash Of Salt

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place chicken legs on a broiler pan or any pan with a rack, then roast for 20 minutes.

While the chicken is roasting, heat canola oil in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Add onion and garlic, and cook for five minutes, stirring, being careful not to burn them.

Reduce heat to low. Add all remaining ingredients and stir. Allow to simmer while the chicken roasts. Taste after simmering and add whatever ingredient it needs (more spice, more sugar, etc.)

After 20 minutes of roasting, crank on the broiler to get a little color on the legs. Broil for five minutes.

Remove chicken legs from oven. Reduce oven to 350 degrees. With tongs, dip each chicken leg into the sauce, submerging completely. Place back onto the pan. After all chicken is coated, return pan to oven for five minutes, or until hot and sizzling.

Remove from oven. Brush/dab generously with remaining sauce. Allow chicken to sit a few minutes before serving.

Source: The Pioneer Woman

***Note: In order to save the rest of the chipotles, find a spare ice cube tray. Put one chipotle and some adobo in each well. Freeze solid then pop them out into a freezer bag. This allows you to easier get one or two chipotles whenever you need them and not waste a whole can when a recipe calls for only one. :)

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Spicy Fish Tacos with Southwest Slaw

Are your knives sharpened and your avocados ready and waiting?! I think Cinco De Mayo may be one of my favorite food holidays. It's amazing how much it makes me feel like summer has started (or at least it's right around the corner).

Admittedly, the sound of "fish tacos" has never really appealed to me. However, I did come across this recipe which pairs mild, white fish with a crunchy/spicy slaw. I thought I would give it a go....and I am sure glad I did! I am now a fish-taco convert. These were truly inspiring. They were lean, spicy, and had a really satisfying crunch. Plus the avocado cream added a coolness that was delicious.

If you're looking for something a little lighter (hey, I did say summer was around the corner!) or just different for your Cinco De Mayo celebration, then this recipe is for you!

Spicy Fish Tacos with Southwest Slaw
yield: 6 - 8 servings

6 whole Talapia Fillets (or Other Mild Flaky White Fish)
2 Tablespoons Hot Sauce (I Use Frank's Red Hot)
Canola Oil (I had olive oil and used that)
Lime Juice, To Drizzle On Grilled Fish
12 whole Corn Tortillas
1 cup Southwest Slaw
1/4 cup Cilantro, Chopped Medium-fine

1/3 cup Canola Oil
2 whole Limes, Juiced
1 teaspoon Garlic Salt
2 Tablespoons Adobo Sauce (from A Can Of Chipotles In Adobo)

1 whole Large Hass Avocado, Peeled, Seeded And Diced
1 cup Sour Cream
1 whole Lime, Juiced
2 teaspoons Your Favorite Hot Sauce
1 teaspoon Garlic Salt

Important: Make sure the fish is fresh! It should be firm, with good color, and a clean briny (not fishy) smell.

If you can’t find talapia, any mild white flaky fish would work. Mahi mahi, cod, red snapper, or halibut would be fine.

Combine all of the marinade ingredients in a small mixing bowl and whisk to combine.

Put the fish in a gallon zip-top bag and add the marinade.

Slosh the fish and the marinade gently in the bag to ensure that all of the fish is coated.

Seal the bag (removing the excess air) and set aside to marinate for 30 minutes.

Combine all of the avocado cream ingredients in an medium mixing bowl and whisk to combine, then cover and refrigerate.

Tip: The marinade and/or avocado cream can be made up to a day in advance.

Start your grill and prepare for direct cooking over a hot fire (450-500ยบ).

Remove the fish from the marinade and drain well.

Pat each fillet dry with a paper towel.

Smear each side of each fillet with a teaspoon of hot sauce, applying it as evenly as you can.

Oil the grill grate and both sides of the fish lightly with the canola oil. The oil on the grate will smoke, so wait for it to dissipate.

Put the fish on the grill and cook for three minutes.

Flip the fish over and cook for another minute.

Move the fish to a warm platter, drizzle the fish with lime juice, and cover the platter with plastic wrap.

Quickly warm each tortilla on the grill.

To serve, offset two tortillas by half, smear the inside with avocado cream, add some fish chunks (separated with forks), then top with about two tablespoons of slaw and some cilantro.

Southwest Slaw

1/4 head Green Cabbage
1/8 heads Red Cabbage
1/4 whole Medium Red Onion, Sliced Very Thin (about 1/2 Cup)
1/8 cup Cilantro, Chopped Medium-fine

3 Tablespoons Mayonnaise (I actually used Mayo here - surprised?!)
2 whole Limes, Juiced
1 whole Chipotle Chile, In Adobo Sauce (canned)
1 Tablespoon Adobo Sauce (from the canned chipotle in adobo)
1 teaspoon Garlic Salt

Preparation Instructions

Combine all of the dressing ingredients in a small mixing bowl with tall sides, or a large tumbler cup/glass.

Blend the ingredients well with a stick blender, then set aside.

Slice the green cabbage thin (just under 1/4″) and put it in a large mixing bowl. You need about three cups.

Slice the red cabbage just like the green and add it to the mixing bowl. You need about 1 1/2 cups.

Add the sliced onion, cilantro, and the dressing to the bowl.

Stir all of the ingredients well.

Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

(Makes about 4 cups)

Monday, May 2, 2011

Classic Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

I think you've noticed I've been on an ice cream kick lately. But with summer rapidly approaching (yippee!!) I really want to make sure I have an arsenal of ice cream. Buying ice cream from the store just seems so boring now!

With all of the fancy and exotic flavors jumping around my head, I kept coming back to one thought...Breyer's Vanilla Bean ice creams is really good. It's pretty well known that vanilla is the most popular flavor. After tasting this recipe, I can see why.

It's fresh, bright, and to-die-for delicious. I think it definitely give Breyer's a run for its money. After this recipe, be sure to check out the Pecan Praline Sauce I've included (from my Bread Pudding might just lose it after pairing these too. Have fun and happy churning!

Classic Vanilla Bean Ice Cream
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
3/4 cup sugar
pinch of salt
1 vanilla bean, split in half lengthwise
3/4 tsp. vanilla extract

Pour 1 cup of the cream into a medium saucepan and add the sugar and salt. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the saucepan and add the pod to the pot. Warm over medium heat, stirring, until the sugar is dissolved.

Remove from the heat and add the remaining 2 cups cream (or cream and milk) and the vanilla extract.

Chill the mixture thoroughly in the refrigerator. When ready to churn, remove the vanilla bean, and then freeze the mixture in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Source: The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz

Pecan-Praline Sauce

2 cups unsalted butter, cubed
1 1/2 cups chopped pecans
3 pounds light brown sugar
1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 1/2 cups sour cream
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Heat 1 cup of the butter in a large saucepan until melted. Add the pecans and mix well. Bring to a boil. Cook until the pecans begin to change color. Be careful! This mixture will foam over, so use a large saucepan.

Add the remaining 1 cup butter and mix well. This will cool the pecan mixture and stop the cooking process. Remove from heat.

Combine brown sugar, whipping cream and cinnamon in a saucepan and mix well. Cook over low heat until blended, stirring constantly; increase heat. Cook to 230 degrees on a candy thermometer. Stir in pecan mixture. Add sour cream and vanilla and mix well. Remove from heat.

**Just remember this makes a LOT of praline sauce - probably more like 12 cups. However, it freezes amazingly well and keeps that way for a long LONG time. :)