recipes

How to kill a chocolate craving

Have you ever been sitting at home and suddenly had the urge to eat a smallish piece of cake? Specifically chocolate cake. I was craving some chocolatey goodness but I had no cake and it was almost midnight and I wasn’t about to bake an entire cake to satisfy a craving. I looked up mug cakes and found this recipe. Well, I found many recipes but this one sounded the best to me and I had all the ingredients on hand.

The results were delicious and I was very impressed. I love to bake and I do plenty of it but this is the cake recipe you want when you’re in a pinch. I would recommend using a mug larger than you think you will need. You don’t want to lose any precious batter to spillage.

I have made this mug cake twice now. Once with peanut butter and a leftover chocolate easter egg in the center the other with almond butter instead of peanut butter. Both times I added a generous squirt of Hershey’s chocolate syrup to the batter. The cake was moist, with a runny sauce in the middle.

Try it!

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Lemon Blueberry Cake

A friend forwarded me a link to a list of must-try cake recipes and this lemon blueberry one from Sally’s Baking Addiction caught my eye. The only thing I did differently was using less lemon than the recipe called for. I prefer a subtler lemon flavor. The cake was easy to make and delicious but I have to say that this cake does not store well at all.

I stored this cake like I do all other cakes and the next day it was hard and very dense. Nothing like the moist, light consistency of the day before. I left it out for a couple of hours and this did little to improve the texture, in my opinion. This cake is best made and served on the same day. I might try making it again in the future to see if I have similar results. I measured my dry ingredients by weight for better accuracy so I know this is not an issue of too much flour.

Regardless of my experience with storing it I give this cake a thumbs up. It’s got that lights citrusy flavor that feels like you’re eating sunshine.

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A slice of cake after being refrigerated overnight.

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Cinnamon Rolls (with cream cheese glaze)

I just can’t help myself, even though I had sworn off baking the sweet stuff I have been sucked back into the kitchen once more. This time I made these cinnamon rolls. I wish I could explain how delicious they were.

I browsed a lot of recipes and settled on the one I found on Epicurious. I don’t think I had ever tried a recipe from this site before. I made the dough using my stand mixer. I also made one teeny, tiny mistake. I forgot to add the egg! Once I had set the dough aside to rise I started cleaning up a bit and that’s when I saw the lone egg still sitting on the counter.

I panicked briefly and wondered if I should throw out the dough but then I thought, cinnamon rolls are bread and plenty of bread is eggless. So I proceeded. They turned out great! I do want to eventually make them again, this time adding the egg. I should probably do this sooner rather than later so I don’t forget what these eggless ones tasted like…

Cooking from scratch is one of my favorite things to do. For one thing, it challenges me. I love attempting something that intimidates me. I also like know exactly what goes into my food. These are by no means  something we should be eating everyday but because they’re labor intensive to make I know that I won’t be eating them frequently.

These are best fresh. They will keep for a day or two (covered) at room temperature.

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Fresh burger buns

I have always bought burger buns from my grocer’s bakery. We don’t often have burgers but when we do we do it the easy way. What’s not to like? It’s convenient to purchase ready made breads. Since I’ve made the decision to eat cleaner I’ve been learning how to make more of what we eat at home. When you make things from scratch you know exactly what is in your food. You also know that your food is free of any unpronounceable preservatives etc. I also happen to enjoy cooking from scratch, but whatever the reason you decide to make them these buns are delicious.

I found this  recipe by Chef John on Allrecipes.com and since I had already made another one of his bread recipes I decided I couldn’t go wrong.  I highly recommend that you try this recipe. For a complete list of ingredients, instructions and a video demonstration click here.

I don’t really have much else to say. This recipe makes eight generously sized buns. You could easily get ten buns out of it. In order to get equally sized buns I weighed the dough and figured out how much each of them should weigh. They are best the day you bake them but they will keep for a day or two in a zip bag.

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My taste tester!

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Also good in a BLT.

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Creamy rice with chicken and vegetables

I was in the mood for a hearty meal today and something creamy was catching my fancy. Now, creamy is one of those words that sets people off towards the gym but let’s be real, eating something indulgent once in a while is perfectly fine. I’ve seen recipes for creamy rice multiple times and a lot of them require canned cream of chicken or something along those lines. Personally, I am not a fan of canned anything so I wanted to make something similar but without all the additives.

The results were delicious. This is not the kind of dish that I would make often but it’s definitely one that I will add to my rotation.  I don’t have precise instructions on how to make it. I don’t measure unless I’m following a recipe, so the best I can do is share what I used and how I cooked it.

You will need:

brown rice

chopped onion

chicken thighs cut up into bite size pieces (I used two)

chicken stock

flour

butter

olive oil

vegetables of your choice (I used a frozen medley of carrots, peas, corn and green beans)

The first thing I did was sauté the onions in a little olive oil. I then added the rice and toasted it for a bit before adding the stock. Make sure to taste your stock, especially if you’re using store bought. You might not need to add any additional salt. You can either add water or chicken stock to your rice. I chose to use stock. You can also use vegetable stock. Cook the rice as you normally would.

In a pan melt a tablespoon of butter and a generous tablespoon of olive oil. Add your chicken. The chicken should be lightly seasoned with salt and pepper. Sauté until the chicken is mostly cooked and has developed some color. Add a table spoon or so of flour and stir this flour in throughout the chicken. This is going to create our sauce. It is important to cook the flour a little before adding in the chicken stock. After adding in the stock allow it to come up to a simmer. If the sauce is too thick add a little more stock. Once it’s simmering add your vegetables and stir.

At this point your chicken is done and you can use this as a filling for pot pies if you like. You can also skip the chicken and add mushrooms to make this a vegetarian dish.

When your rice is done add the chicken and vegetables to the rice and combine thoroughly. You should have a creamy rice and chicken mixture. Finish with a splash of heavy cream.

If I had thyme, tarragon, or sage I would have definitely added that to the chicken. I was also out of garlic, which was unfortunate but even without these ingredients I was happy with the finished product. Best of all, there were plenty of leftovers which means I don’t have to cook tomorrow!

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Delicious, gluten-free dessert

The holidays are pretty much behind us and it’s time to look to the year ahead. This year, I want to share more savory recipes and as I looked to rid myself of the last of the sugars laying about the house I came up with a dessert that will likely be my go-to whenever I am hosting a dinner.

I love cheesecake, it’s rich, decadent, and refreshing. I had two bricks of cream cheese in the fridge and what better way to use them up than to make cheesecake batter and pour it into a lined cupcake pan? The recipe is simple and all of the ingredients are gluten-free (or can at least be found gluten-free).

The end result is a beautiful dessert that you will be proud to share.

You will need:

16 oz of cream cheese at room temperature

2 eggs at room temperature

1/2 cup of sugar

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

1 tsp orange zest

Directions:

Preheat your oven to 325F.

Beat the cream cheese using the paddle attachment of your stand mixer, you can also use a hand mixer (if you have strong arms you can even do it by hand with a wooden spoon). Once creamy and smooth, add the sugar and cream together.

It is important that the cream cheese be at room temperature otherwise you will have a lumpy batter.

Add the eggs one at a time and mix until combined.

Add the vanilla extract and orange zest and mix until incorporated.

Pour into lined cupcake pan. Depending on how much you fill them you should be able to fill 12 slots.

Bake at 325F for 15-20 minutes. You want the cheesecake to be almost set in the middle but still wobbly. Turn off the oven and allow to cool for about 5 minutes before removing from the oven and setting on a cooling rack.

The cheesecakes will deflate a little. Allow to cool completely before placing in the refrigerator for a couple of hours.

Raspberry orange champagne sauce

The cheesecakes are already wonderful as they are but I had some frozen raspberries I wanted to use up so I threw them into a saucepan along with the juice and pulp of one orange. I also added about a quarter cup of sugar and a teaspoon of vanilla extract. Then I added a generous splash of champagne. I brought it all to a boil and simmered it for a few minutes until it  had reduced a bit.

At this point taste your sauce and add a little more sugar if you feel it needs it. I wanted the sauce to be fresh with a hint of tartness, not sickly sweet.

I then strained the mixture and discarded al the seed and pulp. I returned the liquid to the stove and simmered until it thickened a little. Once I was happy with the consistency I turned off the heat and let the sauce cool in the pan before transferring it into a bowl and placing it in the fridge.

Plating

Carefully, remove the cheesecake from the cupcake wrapper. Place upside down on a plate. This conceals the sunken top part and gives you a flat, smooth surface on which to spoon your sauce. Top with as much sauce as you want and top with fresh whipped cream. I recommend taking the first one you plate up as a little chef’s treat, practice your presentation on this one and modify your approach on the others.

This was my first attempt (too much sauce):

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Never made your own whipped cream before? It’s easy. You need really cold heavy cream and a really cold bowl. I place mine in the freezer for a few minutes. Whip the cream until it’s stiff enough to pipe. You can add vanilla extract and powdered sugar if you want.

These can be plated a few hours in advance and kept in the fridge until you’re ready to serve.

Enjoy!

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Delicious butternut squash soup

I find myself cooking a lot of the same things over and over again. It can get pretty boring. My husband doesn’t have an adventurous palate and in this way he is the toddler our table. Diego will eat pretty much anything and although some new textures receive a less than warm reception from him at first, he usually comes round.

When we went grocery shopping last week I picked up some butternut squash. I love butternut squash soup but rarely make it. The first time I had it was at Whole Foods and I loved it so much I made my own that same week. Now, I probably mention this in every recipe I share but it’s worth noting that I don’t really cook from a recipe most of the time. I use recipes as guides, not rules. I am comfortable enough in the kitchen where precise measurements aren’t my thing. Baking is VERY different in that regard, but for savory meals a little common sense and knowledge is all you need.

This is my take on butternut squash soup.  I hope you try it and love it as much as I did!

You will need:

1.5- 2 lbs butternut squash

2 medium carrots

1 small/medium onion

1 large garlic clove (or a couple of small ones)

2 cups stock (vegetable or chicken)

3 basil leaves

1 tblsp cream cheese

1/4 tsp cumin

1/4 tsp paprika

salt & pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Peel and roughly chop your vegetables. You will need to remove the seeds from your squash. Don’t worry about being neat, just try to make the pieces somewhat uniform so they cook evenly. You can either mince the garlic or throw it in whole. If you throw it in whole you can remove it before pureeing it (something to think about if you don’t want/like too much garlic).
  2. In a pot heat some olive oil on medium-high heat (you can also use coconut oil, or really, any oil of your choice) and add vegetables. Season with salt and pepper to taste. If you are not using salt-free stock go easy on the salt at this point. Add the cumin and paprika. Sauté until the vegetables have developed a little color and have begun to soften.
  3. Take your basil leaves and roll them up as best you can. Cut at an angle down the length of your basil cigar 😉 add to your vegetables and stir to combine.
  4. Add two cups of stock. (I used chicken stock that I had made the night before). To make this a vegetarian meal just use the vegetable stock.
  5. With a clean spoon taste the soup. If you feel it needs some more salt and pepper add it now. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes.
  6. By this point your vegetable will be soft and fully cooked. Remove the pot from the heat and leave to cool for a bit. This is a good time to remove the garlic clove if you left it whole and want to do so.
  7. This next step can be done in a countertop blender, immersion blender, or food mill. I used a blender and all I did was pour the soup into the jar along with the cream cheese and blend until smooth. You can use heavy cream instead of cream cheese and how much you use is up to you. I would say about 1/4 cup should be plenty. Also, if you use heavy cream make sure not to add it when the soup is boiling as that will cause it to split. And that wouldn’t be, as Alton Brown says,”good eats”.
  8. Pour the soup back into the pot and gently heat up again if needed. Your soup is now ready to serve and enjoy.
  9. Refrigerate any leftovers.

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Bonus recipe!

Did you know that your delicious butternut squash soup can double as pasta sauce? It is delicious and a perfect way to use up leftovers. All you need is the pasta of your choice and an additional spoonful of cream cheese. Here’s what I did: I cooked my pasta according to package directions. While my pasta cooked I poured some of the soup into a pan and gently heated it through. Once the pasta was cooked and drained I added it to the soup along with a spoonful of cream cheese. I stirred until the cream cheese had melted into the sauce and pasta. I garnished with basil (I grow it in my garden and find any excuse to use it!). If I’d had some parmesan cheese on hand I would have added some…next time!

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Chocolate Zucchini Cupcakes

The zucchinis in the fridge had to be eaten. In the interest of not wasting food I decided to look up recipes and was pleased to find this recipe on The Idea Room for Chocolate Zucchini Cake. I was immediately sold on it and decided I would try it out the next day. I ended up altering the recipe and making cupcakes instead of a cake but the results were nothing short of amazing. If you check out the original recipe you will notice that I substituted the lemon juice for white vinegar and I omitted the nuts and ground cloves. The reason is simple, I didn’t have these ingredients on hand! Lemon juice is acidic and is often added to milk in order to sour it and turn it into a buttermilk substitute. I am guessing you could substitute the milk and vinegar with buttermilk.

The only oil I had in the house was olive oil so I used that. I would probably use coconut oil the next time around but I can attest that the olive oil worked beautifully. The cupcakes were moist, rich and chocolatey. My husband had no idea they had zucchini in them. They are by far the most delicious chocolate cupcakes I have had in a long time.

If you would like to give them a try here is what you will need:

Ingredients

  • 1 and 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup oil (you can use any flavorless oil of your choice)
  • 2 and 1/2 cups flour
  • 4 Tbsp. cocoa
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • a pinch of salt
  • 2 eggs at room temperature
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup milk with 1 Tbsp. white vinegar
  • 2 cups grated zucchini
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips

For the full recipe visit The Idea Room!

These cupcakes do not need any frosting! If you want you could dust them with some powdered sugar but in my opinion they are perfect as is.

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Vanilla Cupcakes

It has been a few years since I took a Wilton cake decorating course at my local Michael’s so I felt it was time to dust off my box of cake decorating paraphernalia and practice my piping. I also decided it was a good time to try a new cupcake recipe. This recipe from Williams-Sonoma resulted in moist cupcakes that I am pretty sure I will make again. It yields 12 cupcakes, which is perfect for me because I don’t want any more than that hanging around!

Here are the ingredients:

  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 6 Tbs. (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 whole egg plus 1 egg white, at room temperature
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup milk

For detailed instructions please visit Williams-Sonoma.

This simple recipe makes a great base. For more adventurous cupcake lovers you could add some lemon zest or almond extract, or you could dress them up with frostings of various flavors. My husband prefers his cupcakes unfrosted as he finds most frosting too sweet. I made plain buttercream frosting and scaled back a bit on the sugar. The result were cupcakes that were not too sweet but still a treat to eat.

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Chicken Pot Pie two ways

I have been doing a lot of cooking lately and been in the mood to share the results as you can tell from my recent posts. Last week I had some of this crust dough leftover in the fridge along with some roast chicken thighs from the night before and I decided to combine these to make chicken pot pies. As I often do, I did not work from a recipe.  I pulled out some mixed vegetable from the freezer and threw about a cup and a half into a pot along with a dash of salt and pepper, a little water, and a tablespoon of butter. I also added some celery seed and a bay leaf. Once the veggies were boiling I added the cut up chicken along with the bones (for flavor). I let this cook together for a few minutes and then strained the veggies and chicken, saving the liquid for the filling.

In that same pot I added some butter and flour to make a roux. Once this had reached the desired color I added back the cooking liquid along with a splash of milk. Once it thickened I added back the chicken and vegetables (minus the bones and bay leaf).

I had my left over dough rolled out already and I had cut around the ramekins I was going to use. I then spooned the filling into the ramekins and topped with the dough. I baked it at 375 for about 20 minutes. I was able to make three pies with the amount of filling and dough I had on hand.

The results were delicious and it felt good to use up my leftovers and dough scraps.

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I would say that making the dough from scratch is well worth it but if you prefer you can always use store-bought. I find that the Pillsbury pie crust is decent, and before I started making my own crust it is what I used. Some people use cream of chicken for the filling, which is fine, but if you can make a roux and make it yourself. It’s not difficult and with practice it will be a cinch to make.

Today I found myself with some crust in the fridge but no cooked chicken. I decided to  make pot pies again but I had to cook the chicken this time. I wondered if cooking the chicken on the stovetop would make a difference. I didn’t have a lot of crust so I only used one chicken thigh. I took the skin off and trimmed off the fat before separating the meat from the bone and cutting it into bite sized pieces. I seasoned the chicken with salt and pepper. Instead of discarding the chicken fat like I would normally do I decided I would cook the chicken in its own fat. I threw it in a pot and let it melt, I then added some chopped onion to the pot and let it cook for a bit. When the onions had softened I added the meat and the bone and sautéed it all together until the chicken had browned some. At this point I added one cup of water and let it all come to a boil and cook until the meat was done.

At this point I added in my frozen vegetables. When the vegetables were cooked I removed about a half cup of the liquid in the pot and melted a tablespoon of butter into it. I then added some flour to this liquid and made a paste that I added back into the pot and cooked (adding a splash of milk) until it thickened (you can add some additional milk if the mixture is too thick). This worked out just as well as making a roux in the traditional way. My intention was to keep it to one pot without having to make an additional mess.

From this point I proceeded exactly as I had before. I spooned it into my ramekins and topped with the rolled out dough. This time I only made two pot pies and they were just as good as the last. The flavor was not exactly the same but the flavor profiles were the same.

Whether you use left over chicken or cook your chicken specifically for making pot pies this is a hearty, easy to eat meal that won’t disappoint!

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