Monthly Archives: June 2014

Crazy Chocolate Cake

I have been making this particular chocolate cake for as long as I can remember; at least since I was in middle school.

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I am not entirely sure where it came from but I believe it has been around for many many years.  If you are looking for a great recipe to teach a child try this one. It mixes easy in one bowl and is pretty forgiving.  The frosting is pretty simple as well.  The benefit is no box is necessary.

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If your house is anything like mine, any given night an impromptu dinner party can happen.  I am pretty sure the majority of people out there like a little something sweet to have after dinner. I believe it is always a good idea to have a few recipes in your back pocket for such an event.  It also helps if the recipe has everyday ingredients you probably already have on hand. It doesn’t take long to put together or bake.  I think the longest part of the process is waiting for it to cool. I know be impatient; I  have even served it slightly warm.

You know when you go to someones house for dinner and you are asked to bring the dessert.  Even though you are full everyone still wants to at least sample it. The host insists you bring the leftovers home.  Well I have not been asked to bring this one home.

This delicious cake meets all of the requirements I listed above; plus it travels well.

 

Crazy Chocolate Cake

Bake at 350’ for about 25-30 minutes – Cool completely before frosting

You can leave in the pan or remove and plate

1½ cup flour

1 cup sugar

1 tsp baking soda

3 Tbs cocoa

½ cup vegetable oil

1 Tbs vinegar

1 tsp vanilla

1 cup milk

Add all ingredients in a bowl and mix well.  Spray a 9×9 pan or similar.  This makes one small cake I tried doubling it but I didn’t care for the way it came out.  It is so easy to throw together if you want to make a layer cake just add ingredients to the same bowl.

 

Buttercream frosting

1 stick of softened butter

1 tsp vanilla

2 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar

If too thick to spread add a dash or two of milk

In a mixing bowl add all the ingredients turn on the mixer on medium until all combined about 3 minutes.  You may need to scrape down the sides of the bowl.

Pan Seared Scallops

If you like Scallops and have only ever had them battered and fried; you are missing out on something pretty special and extremely simple to make.  Sea Scallops need very little attention before you can enjoy them.  Make sure to remove the small side muscle from each scallop, rinse with cold water and thoroughly pat dry.

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Get out your favorite 12 to 14-inch sauté pan heat to about high to medium high and add a small amount of olive oil, once the oil start to shimmer and just before smoking.  Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper each scallop and place them gently into the pan; careful not to let them touch each other.  Sear the scallops for a 1 ½ to 2 minutes per side.  They should have about a ¼ inch golden brown crust on each side.  Take special care not to overcook them; they will become rubbery.  The center should be translucent. 

Transfer them to a plate and enjoy!  OR I personally enjoy making a simple sauce to serve over them.  A little white wine, some fresh crushed garlic and to finish it off a tablespoon or two of butter and life is good!

While the heat is still on add some white wine, with a wooden spoon scrape up all the yummy leftover bits. Cook down the wine for like 3-5 minutes, turn off the heat and add a pat or two of butter.  Once melted you can add the scallops back to the pan to re-heat a little or just pour the love over them and enjoy.

Searing is a very important part of making a wonderful flavorful caramelization to most meat.  It is all about building the depth of flavors.  Most people want to move, flip and lift whatever it is they are searing.  Please refrain from touching it for 1-2 minutes for scallops, 3-5 minutes for pork and beef – time is relative to your personal stove; only you know how hot it gets, how quickly it heats up.  I sear Steak, Chicken, Pork and fish fairly often and finish it off in the oven.

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Make sure your using a pan that can go into a hot oven, make sure you pre-heat your oven.  Size matters; that is the thickness of the meat you are searing and finishing off in the oven.  Times will vary so if you have an instant meat thermometer; that will help you until you get a feel for how long things will take to your doneness.

In one of my cooking classes we were searing chicken.  I had 2 saute pans and 2 students watching them.  I literally had to set the timer on my stove to help them with the timing.  Another good tip is to wait for the meat to release itself; that is another way to know when you should flip to the other side. If you have to fight to remove what you are searing from the pan, it is not done building flavors.

I work with one of the students from this class.  She came up to me last week and told me she waited for the chicken to release before turning and her whole family loved the crust and additional flavor that it added to her dish.  She mentioned it was pretty painful for her to not flip but I was in her head saying let it be; leave it alone…I love hearing these types of stories.

Gyoza & Ramen birthday dinner

HAPPY FATHER’S DAY!!!  It is a beautiful day here in NH – Having my husbands family over for Father’s day dinner in a few hours!  I hope you were able to do whatever you wanted today!  My husband took a nap after lunch on his hammock – Life is good!!!

Last week was both of my children’s birthday’s they are 2 years and a day apart.  Believe it or not they were actually planned just not THAT close.  She was early, he was on time. They could have had the same birthday but I thought they should at least have their own day.  I told the Doctor that I couldn’t come in the next day as I was busy.  I had family coming over for my daughters’ 2nd birthday party.  Still to this day they each get to pick what they want for their birthday dinners.  Unfortunately this year my daughter is living in Japan had to fend for herself.  I think my son was being a little devious this year; he wanted to pick something I had never made before.  I am not sure what that was all about but he took 2 days and finally came up with a couple of things he had while visiting his sister that he really liked; Gyoza and Ramen.  Some of you might be thinking about the packages of ramen you can buy for like a buck that has a flavored sodium packet included, just add water and voila’. Unfortunately Japanese ramen I have come to find out is quite a process and the most important part is the broth, it took a couple of days to make as it wants to sit overnight.

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Gyoza I found out is pretty much a dumpling with a dipping sauce – These came out yummy and I will definitely make again.  Ramen was very good but I think I can do better.  I was so worried that it tasted like seaweed I was a little nervous so I added some chicken base and my son noticed and said it tasted like chicken oops!

Gyoza

1 tablespoon sesame oil

2 cups chopped cabbage

¼ cup chopped onion

2 cloves garlic

¼ cup chopped carrot

½ pound ground pork

1 egg

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 (10oz) package wonton wrappers

¼ cup water

 

¼ cup soy sauce (lower sodium)

2 tablespoons rice vinegar

Heat sesame oil in a large skillet over medium high heat; mix together cabbage, onion, garlic and carrot.  Cook and stir until the cabbage is limp.  Mix in ground pork and egg. Cook until pork is evenly brown and the egg is no longer runny.

Gather some friends to help fill the Wonton’s – it goes by quicker

Preheat vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium high heat

Place approximately 1 tablespoon of the cabbage and pork mixture in the center of each wrapper. Fold wrappers in half over the filling, and seal edges with moistened finger

In the preheated vegetable oil cook the Gyoza approximately 1-2 minute per side, until lightly browned.  Lower the heat; add ¼ cup water and place the cover on the pan and let them steam until the water evaporates.

In a small bowl, mix soy sauce and rice vinegar.  Use the mixture as a dipping sauce for the finished wrappers.

Square the other cookie (Raspberry Squares)

There are a couple of types of bar cookies the typical chewy type like brownies and blondies.  Then there is a very nice alternative that is more like a pastry shortbread type that is tender, buttery and crumbly.

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Sometimes you want something sweet but you don’t have the time or patience to make individual cookies.  I will admit I do make more cookies than bars and I am not a fan of jelly filled anything but I found this raspberry bar recipe and fell in love.  I have made these many many times now, when I offer to bring them places I always double the batch just so I can leave some at home.  They are really easy to make, generally can be thrown together in about 15 minutes, not including baking I hope you try making them.  You can substitute the filling for whatever your preference is.

Raspberry Bars

1½ cups all-purpose flour

1¼ cups quick-cooking oats

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1/3 cup packed brown sugar

¼ tsp baking soda

¼ tsp salt

½ cup finely chopped pecans or almonds, or a combination of both

12 tablespoons unsalted butter softened but still cool.  Cut into pieces

1 10oz jar of raspberry preserve

 

Easily doubled – which is how I generally make them

Preheat oven to 350’

Spray 9×9 pan fold two 16-inch pieces of parchment or aluminum foil. Fold and press the first sheet into the pan pressing the corners, with the second sheet crisscross over the other.  You will want to make sure the end over hang; this is to take the bars out of the pan a lot easier.  Spray with the sheets with cooking spray.

Mix the flour, oats, sugars, baking soda, salt, and nuts in a bowl of an electric mixer on low speed until combined, about 30 seconds.  With the mixer on low, add the butter pieces; continue until the mixer is well blended and resembles wet sand; about 2 minutes.

Transfer two thirds of the oat mixer to the prepared pan; use your hands to press the crumbs evenly into the bottom of the pan. Bake until the crust starts to brown, about 20 minutes.  Using a rubber spatula spread the preserves evenly over the baked oats; sprinkle the remaining oat mixture evenly over the preserves. Bake until the preserves bubble around the edges and the top is golden brown, about 30 minutes.  Cool on a wire rack to room temperature, about 1 ½ hours. Remove the squares using the foil or parchment paper handles. Transfer to a cutting board. Cut into 1 ½ inch squares.

Pork the Other White Meat

This past year or so we have definitely explored pork more often and in a varied of ways; and thoroughly enjoyed the journey.  I am not sure when or who said pork apples and mustard sounds delicious let’s put them together; but damn were they right.  Some of the recipes I have tried and loved are in my monthly and sometimes weekly meal plans.  BBQ Pulled Pork with Homemade Coleslaw on a bun is outstanding and simple – I had no idea.

Growing up I knew that we had applesauce with our pork chops but I was pretty sure that was to add some liquid to the chewy dry overcooked piece of meat we were served.  Thankfully we are now able to have a juicy cooked to perfection chop, loin, bone-in, boneless vehicle to add so many different combinations of flavors – I am hooked!

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Pork Chops with Cider-Dijon sauce

4 center-cut-bone-in chop
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 apple – Fuji, Gala or Granny Smith halved, cored, and cut into small diced pieces
1 medium shallot, chopped
½ teaspoon fresh thyme
½ cup apple cider
½ cup chicken broth
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard (coarse-grain if you have it)

Position rack in the center of the oven – pre heat at 425’F Line a large rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil. Season the chop with 1tsp kosher salt and ½ tsp pepper. Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  If needed working in batches, sear the chops on both sides, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer to the baking sheet and roast until no longer pink near the bone. About 8-10 min.

Lower heat to medium and add the apples, shallots and thyme to the skillet and cook, stirring often, until beginning to brown and soften, about 2 minutes.  Add the cider, scraping any bits off the bottom of the pan, cook until reduced by half, about 2-3 minutes. Add the broth and mustard and continue cooking until slightly reduced, about 2-4 minutes. Remove from heat and season to taste with salt and pepper.  Serve the sauce over the chops.

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Roast Pork Loin with Apples

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 (2-pound) boneless center cut pork loin
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 medium onion, thickly sliced
2 carrots, thickly sliced
2 stalks celery, thickly, sliced
3 cloves garlic, smashed
3 sprigs fresh thyme and/or
3 sprigs fresh rosemary
4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter
2 apples, Fuji, Gala, or Granny Smith, cored and cut into slices
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 cup apple cider
2 tablespoons whole grain mustard

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

In a large ovenproof skillet heat the vegetable oil over high heat. Season the pork loin all over generously with salt and pepper. Sear the meat until golden brown on all sides, about 2 to 3 minutes per side. Transfer the meat to a plate and set it aside. Add the onion, carrot, celery, garlic, herb, and 2 tablespoons of the butter to the skillet. Stir until the vegetables are browned, about 8 minutes. Stir in the sliced apples, then push the mixture to the sides and set the pork loin in the middle of the skillet along with any collected juices on the plate. Transfer the skillet to the oven and roast the loin until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of the meat registers 140 to 150 degrees F, about 30 to 35 minutes.  Pork cooked this way will be slightly pink. If desired, cook the pork to 160 degrees F, but note that this lean cut will not be as moist at the higher temperature.

Transfer the pork a cutting board and cover it loosely with foil while you make the sauce. Arrange the apples and vegetables on a serving platter and set aside. Remove and discard the herb sprigs. Return the skillet to a high heat and add the vinegar scraping the bottom with a wooden spoon to loosen up any browned bits. Reduce by half then add the cider and reduce by about half again. Pull the skillet from the heat and whisk in the mustard, and the remaining 2 tablespoons of cold butter. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper, to taste.
Slice into 1/2-inch thick pieces and arrange over the apple mixture. Drizzle some sauce over meat and serve the rest on the side.