Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Fabulous Fudge Chocolate Cake

I made this cake for someone's birthday. When we were preparing to light the candles and sing "Happy Birthday", someone said, "Catherine made this cake from scratch", to which my Dad quickly and bluntly responded, "Why?!". It garnered a few chuckles from people, including me.

With so many shortcut (and delicious) options at today's grocery stores, I understand how it can seem silly to spend time making a cake from scratch. And, believe you me, I am well prepared to be buying a Costco cake for birthdays in the future when my life gets a little more hectic. 

But, if you have time, and if you have someone you care about, why not show your love for them by making a cake from scratch? And if you're going to be making a cake from scratch, you should try this Fabulous Fudge Chocolate Cake.

*Adapted from Allrecipes.com


2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter
2 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
3 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
8 (1 ounce) squares unsweetened chocolate, melted (Add 2-4 more squares if you want it very chocolate-y)
1 cup sour cream
1 cup boiling water


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl, beat 1/2 cup butter and 2 1/2 cups brown sugar until well mixed. Add eggs one at a time. Beat in the vanilla and melted chocolate squares. Add 1/2 the sour cream then 1/2 the dry ingredients to the butter mixture until well blended.

Add the remaining sour cream and dry ingredients to the batter. Stir in boiling water.

Bake in a greased 9x13 inch pan for 35 minutes. For cupcakes, bake in greased muffin tins for 18 minutes.

When cool, top with white frosting.


Top with mini-colored marshmallows for extra pizazz.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Best White Frosting

Husby's birthday was this weekend. He is super low-key about birthdays and doesn't like a lot of presents, but he'll never turn down a delicious chocolate cake. So, I decided to make a good one. With GOOD frosting. This is the frosting. Cake recipe will follow tomorrow.

*Recipe and photo from Tasty Kitchen Blog


5 Tablespoons flour
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar (not powdered sugar)


In a small saucepan, whisk flour into milk and heat, stirring constantly, until it thickens. I was stirring for about 5-8 minutes, maybe more. You want this to be very thick, like a brownie mix or thicker. Remove from heat and let it cool to room temperature. Be sure the mixture is completely cool before you use it in the next step. Stir in vanilla.

While waiting for the mixture to cool, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, making sure that there is no sugar graininess left. Add the completely cooled milk/flour/vanilla mixture and beat on high speed for 3-5 minutes until completely blended and mixture resembles whipped cream. 

Spread on a cooled chocolate cake. Mmmmm mmmm mmmmmm.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Lemon Mint Chicken

As promised, here is the second mint recipe. I love how simple the ingredients are and, of course, the delicious flavor they create. Have a happy weekend!


2 skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup margarine
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup chopped fresh mint leaves


In a medium bowl, mix together chicken pieces and garlic. Toss with flour to coat and shake off excess. 

Heat the margarine in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken pieces. Cook and stir until browned. Add the mint leaves and lemon juice, cover and steam for about five minutes until chicken is just cooked through, being careful not to overcook. 


Thursday, October 21, 2010

Good Old-Fashioned Pancakes

Nothing tastes better on a rainy Saturday morning than warm pancakes with delicious syrup. Growing up, I never tasted anything different than Bisquick pancakes. Don't get me wrong, I think Bisquick pancakes are great, but in my effort to learn to make more things from scratch, I discovered this amazing pancake recipe and I don't think I'll ever go back. These pancakes are simply perfect.

*From allrecipes.com

Yield 9 pancakes


1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon white sugar
1 1/4 cup milk
1 egg
3 Tablespoons butter, melted


In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar. Make a well in the center and add milk, egg, and melted butter. Mix until smooth.

Heat a lightly oiled griddle or frying pan over medium-high heat. Pour or scoop the batter onto the griddle, using approximately 1/4 cup for each pancake. Brown on both sides and serve hot.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Shrimp with Basil and Mint Pesto

Cooking with Mint. I've always loved mint in my desserts and candy, but I've never thought about trying it in an actual meal until I spotted this recipe. My goodness. Scrumdiddlyumptious. And I have another equally delicious mint chicken dish coming later this week. Mint adds an element of cool freshness that perfectly balances a savory, warm meal. This will make you feel fancy, even though the dish is quite easy.


1 pound uncooked shrimp, peeled and de-veined
1/2 cup lightly packed fresh mint leaves
1/4 cup lightly packed fresh basil leaves
2 Tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
1 garlic clove, minced
2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 Tablespoon grated parmesan cheese
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil


Blend the mint, basil, pine nuts, and garlic in a food processor until finely chopped. With the machine still running, gradually add 2 Tablespoons olive oil, processing until well blended. Transfer the pesto to a medium bowl. Add parmesan cheese and season with salt and pepper to taste. 

In a large bowl, toss the shrimp with EVOO, salt, and pepper to coat. 

Heat a heavy, large skillet over high heat. Add the shrimp and sauté until just cooked through, about 3 minutes. Toss the shrimp with pesto to coat and serve. 


Serve with couscous: Cook one box of plain couscous according to package instructions. Add 3 Tablespoons butter and 1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese to cooked couscous and mix until fully incorporated. Serve shrimp over couscous. 

Friday, October 15, 2010

Apple Crisp

What says fall more than apples and apple desserts? The sweet, crumbly goodness of a crisp combined with the tart crispness of apples is a no-fail combination. With the weather looking a bit dreary this weekend, this is a surefire way to warm things up.

*Recipe and photo from Allrecipes.com


2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups rolled oats
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
1 1/2 cups butter, cut into small cubes
2 quarts peeled, cored, and sliced apples (I ended up using about six large apples)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, combine flour, oats, cinnamon, nutmeg, and brown sugar. Cut butter into mixture until crumbly. (I use my fingers for this...a pastry blender would probably be helpful if you have one.)

Take half of the mixture and pat it into the bottom of a 9x13 inch baking dish. Cover crumb mixture with apple slices, then sprinkle apple slices with remaining crumb mixture. 

Bake for 45-50 minutes, or until apples are tender.

De-lish and welcome fall!!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Adobo Chicken Tacos

With so many Latin-Asian fusion eateries popping up (think Kogi Korean Tacos and the recently-opened Zengo restaurant at Santa Monica Place), it's no wonder my mind drifted to tacos after figuring out what to do with the leftovers from my shredded chicken adobo

Maybe I just have a special place in my heart for tacos, maybe I just really love the caramelized onions in this chicken. Whatever it is, this dish melts my heart.

Adobo Chicken Tacos

Serves 2 (6 tacos)


12 small corn tortillas
1 cup shredded cheese (I used cheddar)
1/2 cup sour cream
1 handful of cilantro, chopped
1 avocado, sliced (optional)


Place three sets of two tortillas each of a microwave-safe plate. Sprinkle each tortilla set with cheese and heat in the microwave for 50 seconds, or until cheese is melted. Top each tortilla with 1/4 cup (or more) chicken, a dollop of sour cream, sliced avocado (if desired) and top with cilantro. 

Serve and enjoy. 

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Shredded Chicken Adobo

There is something amazingly delicious about savory, slow-cooked meats. Pork, beef, or chicken and more. No matter the meat, you can tell when it's been cooked with love for hours and hours. The way it tenderly falls off the bone and into a watering mouth is succulent. This chicken is one of those meals. It is the national dish of the Philippines, and it is simple yet delicious.

*Adapted (slightly) from Williams-Sonoma Food Made Fast: Slow Cooker Cookbook


2 yellow onions, halved and sliced
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
1.5 lbs. chicken (I used three large chicken breasts, with bones and skin still attached; might be a good idea to remove the bones first so as to make the shredding step a bit easier) -- may also substitute for 1.5 lbs. pork or 1.5 lbs. beef
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar


Spread half of the sliced onions in the bottom of a slow cooker. Add one of the garlic cloves, peppercorns, and the bay leaf. Arrange chicken in a single layer on top of the onions. Top with the remaining onions and garlic. Drizzle the vinegar and soy sauce over the ingredients and sprinkle with sugar. 

Cover and cook on high setting for 4 hours or low setting for 8 hours. When finished, discard the bay leaf. Using two forks, shred the chicken, being careful to remove all bones first. 

Serve with rice.

**Stay tuned for Adobo Chicken Tacos.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Simple Orzotto

Sometimes the best part of a meal is the side dishes. One of my favorite BBQ restaurants has an option on their menu called the "sidecar". It is basically four of their sides (choose whatever you want, from mac and cheese to okra to blues on the cob to sweet potatoes and more) as your main course meal. Genius. 

Thanks to Kelsey Egan, I have recently discovered orzo as a quick, simple, and versatile side dish that can complement just about any meal. The recipe below offers orzotto in its simplest form, but it can also be dressed up and added to to match the style of your main course. Variations on this recipe (including one with bacon...yum) can be found at the bottom of this post. 


2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 1/2 cups orzo (or pearl barley)
1/2 cup dry white wine or red wine
3 cups chicken stock
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup grated cheese (I use parmesan)
salt and pepper to taste
herbs or fresh aromatics as desired


In a large sauce pan, heat the olive oil. Add the onion and garlic and sauté until fragrant and translucent. Add the orzo or barley and toast for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the wine and cook until absorbed. 

Gradually add the stock, stirring frequently. Bring to a simmer and cover. Cook for 8-10 minutes until liquid is almost absorbed and orzo or barley is tender. Remove from heat.

Stir in heavy cream and cheese. Season with salt and pepper or any other desired seasonings and serve. 


Lemon Asparagus Orzotto: add 1/2 cup steamed diced fresh asparagus, 1 Tablespoon lemon juice, and zest from 1/2 lemon.
Mushroom Orzotto: add 1 cup wild or cultivated mushrooms. Substitute chicken or beef stock with mushroom stock. Add 3/4 teaspoon fresh chopped thyme leaves and 1/2 cup parmesan cheese. 
Sweet Corn with Bacon Orzotto: Add 1/2 cup sweet corn, 1 Tablespoon sugar, and 1/2 cup cooked and crumbled bacon. 

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Shortbread Cheesecake with Strawberry Syrup

The idea of making cheesecake scared me, until I actually made it and realized it was not difficult at all. Especially with this recipe. The shortbread crust means you don't have to spend time crushing graham crackers or make a special purchase of graham cracker crumbs. And I just love shortbread. And strawberries.

*Adapted from Kristin Ann


Shortbread Cookie Crust:

1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 cup flour

Cheesecake Filling:

24 ounces cream cheese (3 boxes), at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
3 eggs
1 Tablespoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cup sour cream

Strawberry Syrup:

2 cups ripe (or very ripe) strawberries
1/2 cup water
1 1/2 cups sugar


For the crust, cream butter and sugar in a mixer until completely combined. Add flour, and mix until combined. In a buttered spring form pan, press dough on the bottom until completely even. Make sure the depth is consistent all-around. 

Wrap the outside of the pan with heavy-duty foil. Bake at 375 degrees for 10-12 minutes. Edges should be slightly golden-brown.

For the filling, cream the sugar and cream cheese together in a large bowl. Add one egg at a time, scraping the bottom of the bowl after each egg is added. When completely combined, add vanilla, salt, and sour cream. Mix until smooth. Pour filling into crust and smooth out the top. 

Bake for about 1 hour and 30 minutes at 330 degrees. The cake is done when the top loses its luster and has a dull look to it, or when it starts to brown on the top. Check in at the hour mark to make sure it doesn't burn. 

Let the cake cool and then place in the fridge for at least 48 hours before serving. (I know!! Patience is not my strong point, but this is worth it.)

For the strawberry syrup, puree strawberries and water using a blender or food processor. When smooth, transfer to a saucepan and add sugar. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. Reduce heat and let simmer for five minutes. Remove from heat and let cool. Transfer to a serving spout and serve over cheesecake. De-lish!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Chicken Vesuvio

I really, really, really, really, really need to find my camera charger so that the pictures of my food don't look completely yellow-colored or unappetizing. My philosophy is any picture is better than no picture so the show must go on. 

The sauce in this dish. Oh, my, goodness, The sauce. That's all I have to say.

*Recipe from Giada De Laurentiis


3 Tablespoons olive oil
4 chicken thighs with skin and bones (I used chicken breasts, but I think thighs would be more tender)
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 pounds small red-skinned potatoes, halved
4 large garlic cloves, minced
3/4 cup dry white wine (I recently bought cooking wine and it has been a great investment)
3/4 cup chicken broth
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried thyme
8 ounces artichoke hearts
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter


Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Heat the oil in a large, ovenproof pot over high heat. Sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper. Working in batches if necessary, cook the chicken in the pot until brown on all sides, about 10 minutes. Transfer chicken to a bowl. Carefully add the potatoes to the same pot and cook until golden brown, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and saute for 1 minute. Add the wine and stir to scrape up any brown bits on the bottom of the pot. Add the broth, oregano, and thyme. Return the chicken to the pot and stir all ingredients to combine. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. 

Cover and bake in the oven until the chicken is cooked through, about 15-20 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a platter and arrange potatoes around the chicken. Add the artichoke hearts to the sauce in the pot. Cover and simmer over high heat until the artichokes are tender, stirring often, about 4 minutes. Turn heat to low and stir in the butter. Pour the sauce over chicken and potatoes, and serve. 

Be generous with the sauce, it's the best part.