Chocolate Pound Cake (Bundt)

This was Dad’s birthday cake for today’s party and it was really rich and delicious, not too sweet but very moist. I had cut down the amount of sugar from the original recipe [Chocolate Pound Cake III on allrecipes.com] after reading the many comments saying that the cake was too sweet. When I served it with a very sweet homemade tin roof ice cream (recipe to follow), the cake seemed hardly sweet at all. Eating it later with a little powdered sugar it was just perfect all by itself. If you would like the cake to be very sweet you can increase the amount of sugar.

INGREDIENTS:
1 1/2 cups butter, softened
2 1/4 cups white sugar [orig. called for 3 cups]
5 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon instant espresso dissolved in 1/4 cup hot water [orig called for 2 tsp regular instant coffee- I only had instant espresso]
1 cup buttermilk
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened dutched cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
confectioner’s sugar (for dusting after baking)
DIRECTIONS:
1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Grease and flour a 10 inch Bundt pan. Sift together the flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. [If you don’t sift this the cocoa powder will clump and you’ll have little nuggets of cocoa powder in the cake; the original recipe didn’t call for sifting].
2. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then stir in the vanilla. Beat in the flour mixture alternately with the dissolved coffee and buttermilk. Pour batter into prepared pan.
3. Bake in the preheated oven for 70-75 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Let cool in pan for 20 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack and cool completely.

This cake is much better the next day, so I made it a day ahead so that the flavors would blend – keep it tightly wrapped in plastic wrap in a cool place. Top with confectioner’s sugar just before serving.

 

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French Onion Soup (modified from ATK)

I made this for Dad’s birthday dinner because he loves onions (so do I) and after an icy weekend, what’s better than a bowl of yummy soup with bread and cheese?

I usually make Nanny’s recipe but this time I thought I would try a new recipe, from America’s Test Kitchen.  They have 2 french onion soup recipes listed, but the one I didn’t use called for roasting the onions in the oven for hours and I had too many other things to do to spend that much time on it. This came out wonderfully, no need for hours in the oven. I added more broth than they called for, and more onions, and it made 6 servings.

I always cut the baguette into slices and put gruyere on top and toast it in the oven on a tray so that I don’t need to put the soup bowls in the oven and make them so hot that everyone burns their fingers. This recipe was delicious! I think it’s definitely a keeper. Chris loved it too but said it needed a lot more cheese on top for his taste.  🙂

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 7 medium red onions (about 3-4 pounds), sliced thin
  • salt and pepper
  • 7 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 1/4 cup dry red wine
  • 2 sprigs fresh parsley leaves
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 baguette, sliced (2 slices per serving)
  • 8 ounces gruyere cheese, shredded

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Melt butter in large Dutch oven over medium-high heat; add sliced onions and 1/2 teaspoon salt and stir to coat onions thoroughly with butter. Cook, stirring frequently, until onions are reduced and syrupy and inside of pot is coated with very deep brown crust, 40 to 45 minutes. [Note: at this point I took out some of the onions and moved them to a small saucepan so that I could make a vegetarian version for my stepmom, just using vegetable broth in place of beef + chicken but using all of the other ingredients and steps below]
  2. Stir in the chicken and beef broths, red wine, parsley, thyme, and bay leaf, scraping pot bottom with wooden spoon to loosen browned bits, and bring to simmer.
  3. Simmer to blend flavors, about 20 minutes, and discard herbs.
  4. Stir in balsamic vinegar and adjust seasonings with salt and pepper. (Can be cooled to room temperature and refrigerated in airtight container up to 2 days; return to simmer before finishing soup with croutons and cheese).
  5. Adjust an oven rack to the upper-middle position and heat the oven to 400 degrees. Put sliced bread on baking sheet with shredded gruyere on top of each slice and bake until melted and starting to turn golden on the edges. Fill bowls with soup and top each bowl with two slices of bread and cheese.

Baked Mushroom Marsala (adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

This week brought a flurry of cooking. Cold weather (and horrible rainy/icy weather) and Dad’s birthday party inspired lots of new recipe testing.

Here’s the first of four recipes I made this weekend.

IMG_0474

 

This was a new recipe posted to the Smitten Kitchen blog (Marsala Mushroom Pasta Bake) and as soon as I saw it I wanted to make it. Chris and I make pappardelle with mushrooms and parsley often and this was a very similar dish but with a full marsala sauce (I usually just add marsala to the mushrooms as they cook but don’t make a rich sauce with it) and a little fresh mozzarella. I increased the mushrooms, marsala and mozzarella from the SK recipe, otherwise I left everything else the same. It was delicious! In case you’re curious, I added the recipe to myfitnesspal and it came to 550 calories per serving (4 servings in the dish). It was really filling and delicious. Chris devoured 2 servings (half the tray!) and I’m saving the remaining serving for tomorrow’s dinner. Yum.

This made 4 servings. For a crowd I would double it in a 9×13 pan. I used a 2 Qt pyrex casserole dish.

Baked Mushroom Marsala

1/2 pound (8 ounces) ziti
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound fresh cremini mushrooms, sliced
1 medium onion, halved and sliced thin (I used a red onion)
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup marsala wine
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups broth (I used chicken because I had it open from another recipe)
1/2 cup finely grated pecorino romano cheese
8 ounces fresh mozzarella, cut into small cubes
3 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Cook the pasta: Bring a pot of well-salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook until al dente, about 1 to 2 minutes before perfect doneness. Drain and set aside.

Heat oven: To 400 degrees.

Make the sauce: Heat a saute pan or dutch oven to high heat. Add oil and once it is hot, add mushrooms and cook until they’ve begun to brown and glisten, but have not yet released their liquid. Reduce heat to medium-high, add onions, salt and pepper and saute together until the liquid the mushrooms give off is evaporated. Add Marsala and cook mixture, stirring, until it has reduced considerably (just a little left in the pan). Add butter, stir until melted. Add flour, and stir until all has been dampened and absorbed. Add stock, a very small splash at a time, stirring the whole time with a spoon. Make sure each splash has been fully mixed into the butter/flour/mushroom mixture, scraping from the bottom of the pan and all around, before adding the next splash. Repeat until all stock has been added. Let mixture simmer together for 2 minutes, stirring frequently; the sauce will thicken. Remove pan from heat.

Assemble and bake dish: If you’re cooking in the dutch oven, add cooked pasta and stir until combined. (If you’re not, transfer this mixture to a 2-quart baking dish.) Stir in the pecorino romano, all of the mozzarella and two tablespoons of the parsley until evenly mixed. Sprinkle the top with remaining parsley. Bake for 25 minutes, until edges of pasta are golden brown and serve hot.

Thanksgiving dinner: Mushroom stuffing and more

Just in case you needed a laugh, I baked 3 apple pies for our families. Then Scruffy jumped up on the table and ate half of one! So I baked a fourth pie. Chris ate the other half of Scruffy’s pie! Now that’s love.  🙂

Our Thanksgiving dinner looked like this…

IMG_20141127_133616_055

That cranberry sauce was homemade by Dan B. …. so delicious! I made the rest.

Turkey: see my upside down turkey recipe… I brine it with Fire and Flavor herb brine kit (used a 1/2 recipe since the turkey was 12.5 lbs) and then follow this cooking method.

Mashed potatoes:

Super simple – 3 lbs yukon golds, peeled (Chris peeled them the day before and I kept them in the cooking pot in water in the fridge until T’day morning. Then take it out, drain the water (removes starch), cut into 2″ chunks, refill pot with water, and put on stove so that it will come to room temp by the time you want to cook. Bring to boil, cook for about 15-20 min after that  until soft and easily pierced with knife. Drain and return to pot. Mash and add 10 tbsp unsalted butter, 1 to 1 1/2 cups whole milk (start with 1 cup and check for thickness), and stir. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Green Beans with Caramelized Scallions:

I also loved the string beans with caramelized scallions… so easy and flavorful. I used about 4 large scallions for 1.5 lbs of haricot vert. Just cook the scallions (thinly sliced) in olive oil and butter until lightly golden. Then I steamed the beans in the microwave with a little water. When I was ready to serve the turkey I cranked up the heat for the scallions, tossed in the beans, and cooked for about 5 minutes. The scallions will brown further and the beans warm through: then it’s ready.

Carrots:

Peel carrots and quarter  lengthwise or until about 1/2″ thick sticks. Sprinkle with olive oil and salt and pepper and toss in sheet pan. Roast at 425 F for 20-30 min flipping occasionally until softened and caramelized slightly.

Gravy:

The gravy was just made from the pan drippings (note: i put the turkey neck, 1 onion quartered, 2 carrots and 2 celery stalks in the roasting pan with 2 cups stock while roasting the turkey) and then skimmed the fat off, added 1 cup dry white wine, cooked and stirred until syrupy, then whisked in 1/2 cup flour, and a little more stock, salt and pepper. Cook until thickened.

Back to the stuffing:
IMG_20141127_133624_805

This was delicious! Nice and moist and flavorful with some crunchy bits around the edges. It’s my adaptation of a recipe from Everyday Food magazine (Mushroom and Walnut Stuffing, Nov 2010). Here is my version:

Mushroom Stuffing

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 loaf white bread (I used a country white), cut into 3/4″ pieces
  • 2 large yellow onions (or 4 small), diced small
  • 3 large celery stalks, diced medium
  • salt, pepper
  • 16 oz cremini (baby bella) mushrooms, diced small
  • 1/2 tsp dried sage
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme, stripped from stems
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 1/2 – 2 cups low sodium chicken stock (as needed to moisten)
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 F. Keep rack near top of oven. Spread bread cubes out onto 2 sheet pans and bake for 10-12 minutes until crisp.

Keep oven at 400 to preheat for stuffing, move rack to about 1/3 down oven.

In saute pan, heat 1 tbsp oil and 1 tbsp butter. Add onions and celery and season with salt and pepper. Saute until soft, 5-7 minutes. Transfer to large bowl.

Add another  1 tbsp oil and 1 tbsp butter to pan and saute mushrooms (with salt and pepper) until browned, about 5 minutes.

Add wine to mushrooms and stir to scrape brown bits from pan and cook until wine evaporates.

Transfer to bowl and add bread and toss. Add stock until bread is moist but not too soggy (I used 2 cups but my bread was well toasted).

Add eggs to bread mixture and toss to combine. Pour into 2 qt buttered baking dish.

Bake for 30-40 minutes until golden on top.

Potato and Ham Torte

I made this for a weekend lunch with Mom and Pop. I served it with a salad and it made for a perfect lunch. It has their seal of approval, as well as Tom’s, including a request for a repeat performance.   🙂

This is rich but delicious, and it looks great on the plate because the top and bottom sliced potato layers help it hold its shape. I wish I had taken a photo but I forgot in my excitement to get it over to Pop’s house as soon as I took it out of the oven!

This is my modified version of an Everyday Food recipe called Ham and Potato Bake. The dish is basically a crustless quiche; serve it hot, cold, or at room temperature. I like it best slightly warm.

Serves 8-10. Prep Time 25 minutes, Cook Time 2 hours

Ingredients

  • Cooking spray, for casserole dish
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 2 baking potatoes (about 1 1/4 pounds), peeled
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • 10 ounces ham, diced
  • 1 package (10 oz) frozen broccoli, diced, thawed and squeezed dry with paper towels
  • 1/2 – 1 cup grated gruyere cheese (2-4 oz)

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Spray a 9” square casserole, at least 2-3” in height, but you could use any shape of the smaller size casseroles.
  • Line bottom of casserole with a parchment paper keeping the paper long on two sides to go up a couple inches beyond the side of the dish so it will slide out easily.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together eggs and cream; season with salt and pepper.
  • Thinly slice potatoes (less than 1/4 inch thick); drop into egg mixture.
  • Lifting potatoes out of egg mixture, arrange half the potatoes in pan.
  • Layer with ham, broccoli, onions, cheese, and top with remaining potatoes.
  • Pour egg mixture over top. Press down firmly so that potatoes are fully submerged in egg mixture.
  • Cover with foil; bake until potatoes are tender, about 1 hour. Uncover and continue baking until golden and set, for about 1 hour more.
  • Cool 15 to 20 minutes in pan. Run a knife around the edge, and using the parchment handles, slide it out of the casserole. Peel off parchment. Slice with a serrated knife.

Peanut Butter and Jelly Cookies

pbjcookies

The last time I made PB&J thumbprint cookies they were too crunchy, I didn’t like them at all –  I had used a recipe from Martha Stewart’s cookie book. This new recipe is also a Martha Stewart recipe (from MS Living magazine, 2011) but the texture of this recipe is much better. I modified it only in the presentation – they are supposed to be heart-shaped but I think a simple circle is just fine (and easier).

Chris loved these straight from the oven. They were delicious the next day, soft and jammy and delicious. These were a hit at Dan & Kathy’s Easter dinner today.

Just be careful, don’t move them or stack them if they are still warm at all, they will collapse in the empty spaces! You can see that the jammy middle caved in on the top row – that one was warm when I moved it to the top of the pile.

Martha Stewart’s Peanut Butter and Jam Cookies 

makes about 24 cookies (my batch made 25)

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed light-brown sugar
  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/3-1/2 cup raspberry jam, stirred to loosen

Directions:

  1. Whisk together flour, baking powder, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Beat butter and sugars with a mixer on medium speed until pale and fluffy. Beat in peanut butter, then egg. Reduce speed to low, and beat in flour mixture until dough forms. If dough is sticky, refrigerate for 5 to 10 minutes.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Roll dough into 1 1/2-inch balls (I used a  2 tablespoon scoop). Arrange on parchment-lined baking sheets, spacing 1 1/2 inches apart. Press down to flatten into 1 3/4-inch rounds. Make indentation in center with bottom of 1/2 teaspoon measure. Refrigerate for 20 minutes.
  3. Bake for 12 minutes. Remove from oven, and re-press the indentation using the 1/2 tsp measure. Fill indentation of each with a generous 1/2 teaspoon jam. Bake until cookies are firm, 6 to 7 minutes more.

I also dyed some eggs – we had some dye in the back of the pantry for a few years and I figured I should use it. I only did 6 eggs, but forgot that ours are brown, but the colors took pretty well anyway! I only did the bright colors – the 4 on the right are their natural color.

eggs

Confetti Vegetable Soup

souppot
Now that the new year is here, it’s time to get back to my nutritarian diet, and it’s time for everyone else to start eating better too.

Today was a snow day for everyone here – we spent the morning shoveling and clearing out. I broke that up by baking 2 small loaves of banana chocolate chip bread – one for Chris and one for our neighbor Chris –  and playing with the dogs, and  so the afternoon was just begging for soup, a comfort food all for me!

I was craving veggies but not the raw crudite leftover from the recent festivities, so I decided to put it into a soup. This is such a colorful soup that it looks like party confetti, and it’s just delicious. I don’t often have corn but it really adds sweetness to the soup and the diced bell peppers also add great flavor and freshness.
This is really an “empty the fridge and freezer” soup, so use whatever you have on hand, as long as you start with the holy trinity (onions, celery, carrots).

Happy, healthy new year!

Confetti Vegetable Soup (makes 5 quarts)

2 yellow onions, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 large carrots (or 10 baby carrots), halved and sliced into half-moons
3 large bell peppers (I had red, orange, and yellow), diced
1 bag (10 oz) frozen organic corn kernels
1 bag (16 oz) frozen organic peas
2 cans (14 oz each) cannellini beans
2 boxes (32 oz each) low-sodium organic vegetable broth (I used Pacific brand)
1 bag (10 oz) organic tuscan kale (washed and chopped)

ingredients

Water saute (or saute in a little olive oil) onions, celery and carrots in dutch oven or soup put (mine was 7.25 qts and it just fit everything). Add salt if desired, I didn’t. Cook about 5-10 minutes.
Once onions are translucent and soft and other veggies are starting to cook, add peppers and saute for another 5-10 minutes. Add frozen corn and peas, cannellini beans, and broth, cover, and bring to a rapid boil. Lower heat and allow it to simmer for 20 minutes.
Add kale and cook for another 10-15 minutes.

soupcontainers

Delicious! According to myfitnesspal, the recipe calorie count comes to 197 cal per pint (I consider 1 pint a serving; this recipe makes 10 pints). I have shared the recipe on myfitnesspal in case you want to use it for your calorie tracking, listed as “confetti vegetable soup (homemade)”.