Wednesday, September 22, 2010

sunday dinner: acorn squash with rosemary and brown sugar

Yes, we did tailgate Saturday for the Ball State game.  Very fun.  I mostly baked contributing a heavily adapted version of citrus cream cheese pull-apart rolls, the famous cinnamon apple cake and the recently posted chocolate chewies.  I'll post a recipe for the pull-apart rolls because they were divine, but they are adapted from my cinnamon roll bread recipe and it would be way easier to post those two recipes together.  If I forget, for goodness sake, please remind me someday.  The crowd devoured the queso and Maureen's buffalo chicken dip at half time.  We missed the best play of the day wandering back into the stadium at the start of the fourth quarter.  That's a good tailgate if you linger too long at half time, but still rally to head back in for the end of the game.  Pre-game Lance fired up biscuits and gravy and post-game Maureen heated up her excellent pulled pork.  Antje and Audie (the "A" team) contributed too.  Good crowd, good food, kind of ugly football but a win is a win.

Since I didn't title this post "tailgating" you might guess we'll be talking about dinner instead.  Sunday afternoon Sara and I were all set to cook and enjoy our spaghetti squash with fire-roasted tomato sauce and turkey meatballs when Greg's flight was cancelled and he would now be home for dinner and the "Manning Bowl".  We invited his dad over since he's bach-ing it while Becky is in Colorado for "bridge camp".  I'm not sure I've ever written a paragraph with that many parentheses before.  Good thing my resident editor isn't here to correct me.  Anyway, the EIC and I headed off to Whole Foods and just figured the new Fine Cooking magazine she perused would lead us in some yummy direction.  Indeed, the October/November Fine Cooking is worth the splurge at the checkout (seen mainly at Costco and Whole Foods) if you haven't succumbed and subscribed yet.  Already heavily dog-eared it's ready for fall cooking and Thanksgiving (at my house this year) planning.

Our base recipe was for acorn squash with rosemary and brown sugar.  The meat case had some beautiful turkey tenderloins.  We needed to restock our new favorite barbecue sauce, Austin's Own medium sauce with just 4 grams of sugar and amazing flavor.  Some very green and plump local green beans rounded out our purchases for the day.

Sara and I started with the acorn squash dish.  We have a lot of fun with the blog photography.

halve the squash

seed it
slice it

brown it

deglaze with white wine  
season with rosemary, brown sugar and lemon


Acorn Squash with Rosemary and Brown Sugar

1 2-pound acorn squash, unpeeled, halved at the equator, seeded and sliced into 8 wedges or so
1 T unsalted butter
1 T olive oil
1/2 C dry white wine
2 T packed dark brown sugar
1 T chopped fresh rosemary
1 T fresh lemon juice

Score each wedge of quash lengthwise down the middle of the flesh (never figured out why, but maybe it cooks faster or softens better).  Heat the butter and oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat (big fan of my LeCreuset buffet casserole pan for browning).  Arrange the squash in a single layer and brown, turning occasionally until deep golden-brown on all cut sides (about 10 minutes).
Carefully pour the wine into the pan, then scatter the brown sugar, rosemary, lemon juice, 1/2 tsp salt and 1/8 tsp pepper over the squash.  Cover the pan and reduce the heat to low to simmer the squash until almost tender (about 10 minutes more).
Uncover the pan and increase the heat to medium.  Flip the squash and cook to thicken the liquid (about 5 minutes more).  

Serves 4

Here's a photo of the yummy turkey tenderloins.  I rubbed them with olive oil and sprinkled them with salt and pepper before cooking them on a medium hot grill about 10 minutes per side.  I turned mine once, brushed them with the Austin's Own medium barbecue sauce and cooked the other side before turning the second time to finish with more sauce.  

sunday dinner!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

so damn lucky

Yes, indeed.  So lucky to have the time and ability to spend this afternoon wielding a tattered brush for a  a second coat of thick and durable white exterior paint on Victoria's front porch.  Another shift of free-lance volunteering for Habitat for Humanity.  The next two months Sara and I are coordinating our church's efforts on a build with other United Methodist congregations.  This time I joined a crew from Qdoba restaurants on a really cute light blue, two-story, 4-bedroom and 2 bath home for Victoria and her three little kids.

Sara taking Labor Day literally on a Habitat build site

Terry and I shared the work on the porch with the excited homeowner and we of course got to chatting.  We covered the basics and when asked if I worked, I said I did not.  Lovely Terry from the Qdoba office staff remarked, "you are so lucky to get to spend the day volunteering".  Terry has been waiting for months for this day, she was so happy to be outside on a pretty day working on a breezy porch.

The story took a bit of a turn when she mentioned she was going to the hospital tomorrow.  Turns out Terry's mammogram two weeks ago found a tumor and she's having a lumpectomy for stage 1 breast cancer in the morning.  She said she was sleepless and anxious, but at that moment she was just beaming with speckles of white paint all over her pretty face and a big smile.  She postponed her surgery (with the encouragement of her nurse, God bless the nurses) three days just to have the opportunity to volunteer today.  She hadn't shared her situation with many people until today.  She posted it on facebook asking for prayers that the cancer has not spread.  I am praying for you, Terry.

So for today, no recipes.  Just a bit of reflection.  Life is good.  Not every day is easy, but that's what it's about, right?

Tomorrow is tailgate prep day, so there will be little time for deep thoughts.  Just lots of shopping, cooking and baking.  And most definitely some music.

Here's a clip of a favorite Dave song, "So Damn Lucky".  Enjoy the music.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

extra guacamole??: build a meal around it with whole grain Mexican pilaf

Didn't know it was possible, but I had too much guacamole for the tailgate on Saturday.  Sunday afternoon found me watching a lot of football and pondering Sunday dinner (and truthfully pondering why the Colts don't work out more of those kinks in preseason).  Guacamole has a pretty short shelf life, so it had to be part of the plan.  Chicken breasts from Whole Foods in the freezer?  Check.  Sweet Mesquite barbecue rub from Costco in the pantry?  Check.  Beans?  Nope, off to the store.  We are best termed a "minimally processed" household, some organic, lots of local, mainly fresh but occasionally something from a box, bottle or can just makes life easier and tastier.  My family loves the "Bush's Grillin' Beans" and the Texas Ranchero pinto beans got the nod for this dinner.  Where I got creative was adding a rice or grain dish to the plate with a new purchase, Rice Select's Royal Blend (whole grain Texmati brown and red rice with barley and rye).  Sold in a 2 pound plastic jar, I found it at Marsh, but Meijer and Target also carry the brand.  Obviously this was going to need a little help to go with the theme, so I had some boxed organic chicken broth (Costco) that needed to be used along with a nice 15 ounce can of Muir Glen Fire-Roasted Diced Tomatoes (I know I've mentioned them before, just love them) and the rest, they say is history.  I grilled the chicken breasts rubbed with olive oil and the mesquite rub, heated the beans, chopped some lettuce and served it all with the guacamole, sour cream and lime wedges.

So here's the  recipe for a grain dish to fill up your plate and your tummy with something healthy and delicious.

Whole Grain Mexican Pilaf

1 T olive oil
1 medium onion (white, yellow or sweet), chopped
1 serrano chile, cored, seeded (important, very hot seeds) and chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 tsp cumin
1 C uncooked Texmati Royal Blend Brown & Red Rice
1 15-ounce can Muir Glen Diced Fire Roasted Tomatoes (do not drain)
1 C chicken broth

Heat olive oil over medium heat in a heavy medium saucepan.  Saute onion until soft (3-5 minutes).  Stir in serrano, garlic and cumin and saute another 1-2 minutes until fragrant (do not burn the garlic or you'll have to chuck it all and start over-not hard, just stir and pay attention, no multi-tasking).  Add the rice blend and stir to coat.  Raise heat to medium high and add tomatoes and broth (make sure the tomatoes and broth give you a generous 2 1/2 C of cooking liquid).  Bring to a boil then immediately reduce heat to low and cover pan with a lid that you will not lift for the entire 45 minutes of simmering.  After half and hour, you can check it and make sure you don't need to add a little bit of broth but if you truly simmer on low you should be fine.  Sometimes I think, what's simmering on 1 or 2 going to do and then I always find out that it's going to evaporate your cooking liquid too fast and you will have toothy rice if not burnt rice.  Learn from my mistakes.
If you are feeling flush, sprinkle a little cheddar/jack/queso fresco on top of the finished dish to serve.

delicious dish!

1st tailgate of 2010

Saturday's successful tailgate at Purdue was the first of seven, so last week Greg and I spent hours trying out the new grill, restocking the supply box and cooking/baking/prepping and packing food and beverages.  This is the heart of our fall and we really do love all of it.  The new 26th anniversary present Paul Jr. Coleman RoadTrip grill is sweet.  The new Purdue beer pong table from Costco made an excellent buffet table.  Not sure when we'll break out the nets for beer pong.  Possibly when sorority girl and her friends are of legal drinking age.  But the big hit of the tailgate set-up was my snazzy PVC pipe trash bag holder I fabricated.  Yep, went to Lowe's and bought the supplies and grabbed the hack saw and cut the PVC pipe out on the driveway.  Pretty sure I made a very amusing sight for the house painters across the street.  Whatever, it worked like a charm.  I used it for the big black trash bag and hooked the official Boilermaker recycling bag on one end.  Fabulous.  Other tailgaters actually came by to see it.  Awesome!
Here's the link if you'd like to try your hand at one:  tailgating trash bins.  Many thanks to Uncle Jim for sending the tailgating pages from a Lowe's magazine.
10 a.m. at the tailgate:  Greg relaxing with his parents, Lance making some point and Sara finding him funny
This week for the breakfast round of tailgating I made breakfast casserole (you know, the overnight one with sausage, onion-my twist, cheese, eggs, milk, bread and etc), a really moist and delicious coffee cake from Cooking Light and fresh peaches cut up and lightly sugared to keep them pretty.  Lance fried up some bacon in his cast iron skillet and toasted bagels on the grill.  Bloody Marys are served in the blue cups.  It was delightfully cool and cloudy (never happens for the September games) so the bees did not join us.  The Thetas rallied from their pre-game fraternity function and made the late shift for breakfast in time to head to the stadium for all the rituals we love.
If you are a Boilermaker, say it loudly and say it proudly!  Right, and don't forget to say it gratefully!

Happily, at Purdue they give "pass-outs" so we hike back up to the golf course for a little food and beverage break at half time.  This is critical for a couple of reasons:  some of us are starving because we play mostly noon games and regardless of the breakfast served, by half time you feel like you missed lunch and a lot of times you just need a drink after a half of Boilermaker football.    More Thetas arrive for the halftime festivities so the Paul Jr. was fired up for some burgers (from Joe's Butcher shop in Carmel, so much better than the frozen patties from Costco), turkey burgers (always need the white meat option) and really good beef hot dogs (Applegate Farms from Whole Foods).  The one-burner Coleman tabletop burner fired up the queso.  Wonderful mother-in-law, Becky served her fruit salsa with cinnamon multi grain chips (chips from Meijer, delicious).  As long as the chips are out, so is the guacamole and so on.  Before we headed back into the game the treat of the week was passed around too.  This week's treat:  peanut butter cookies sandwiched with a peanut butter/chocolate chip filling from the Fine Cooking Tailgating magazine.  Worth it.

We all made it back in to the game some time in the third quarter and the good guys won.  Looked a little like a pre-season game with a constant rotation of players on the field (kept our handy roster in my hands the whole time).  That's a whole different blog.  Generally I agree with whatever the guys at Boiled Sports have to say so check out their blog for some insight (the humor is a bonus).  

Post game tailgating this week was just more of the half-time goodness.  If you're ever on campus for a game, let me know and plan on stopping by the "D" lot!

This week's "keeper" recipes:

Breakfast Coffee Cake

1 1/2 C sugar, divided
1/2 C Grape Nuts cereal nuggets
2 tsp espresso granules
1 tsp cinnamon
1 3/4 C flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 C plain fat-free yogurt (I used Greek yogurt)
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 C butter, softened
1/2 C egg substitute (bought the Costco kind, used it for the casserole too)
1 1/2 C powdered sugar, sifted
2 T cooled brewed coffee

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Combine 1/2 C sugar, Grape Nuts, espresso granules and cinnamon in a small bowl and blend with whisk.  Combine flour, remaining 1 C sugar, soda, baking powder and salt in mixing bowl.  Add yogurt, vanilla, butter and egg substitute and beat with an electric mixer until combined (1-2 minutes).  Spread half of batter in an 8x8x2 dish coated with cooking spray.  Sprinkle cereal mixture evenly over the batter.  Top with remaining half of batter.  Bake at 350 degrees until a tester comes out clean (make sure to test all the way through the batter, I did not and my center was not done-oops).  Cool in pan on a wire rack.  Combine powdered sugar and brewed coffee in a small bowl and spread evenly over top of cooled cake.  

12 servings

my IT department is at school, can't seem to rotate this cookie picture, but you get the idea

Peanut Butter Cookies with PB-Chocolate Chip Filling

1 1/3 C all-purpose flour
1/2 C cake flour (they sell King Arthur unbleached cake flour at Meijer now)
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 C unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
3/4 C creamy peanut butter
1/2 C sugar
1/2 C firmly packed brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 large egg

1 1/2 C powdered sugar
4 T unsalted butter, softened
3/4 C creamy peanut butter
3 T milk (I used 2%)
1/4 C mini semisweet chocolate chips

Heat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.  In a medium bowl, whisk together the two flours, soda and salt.  In a stand mixer, cream the butter, peanut butter and sugars on medium speed until light and fluffy.  Add the vanilla and egg and beat until smooth and fluffy (about 3 minutes).  Stir in the flour mixture until it's just incorporated (if you overmix, the cookies will be tough).  Drop heaping tablespoonfuls of batter about 2 inches apart on the lined sheets.  With a juice glass or small bowl dipped in flour, press the cookies into 2-inch rounds.  Bake until puffed and golden, 12 to 14 minutes, rotating the sheets if necessary for even baking.  Transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool.
While the cookies cool, cream the powdered sugar, butter and peanut butter until smooth (remember to start slow or you'll have powdered sugar everywhere).  Add the milk and beat until smooth and fluffy.  Add more powdered sugar or milk if necessary to achieve desired consistency for filling.  Stir in the chocolate chips.  Line a work surface with parchment or waxed paper and flip half the cookies over.  Spread filling on one half and top with another.  Press gently to spread filling.  

18 sandwich cookies

Boiler Up!

Friday, September 10, 2010

transitional food: Pasta with Ricotta, Arugula (or Spinach) and Basil

Finally some cooler weather seems to be settling in after a very summery Summer.  It hasn't really rained here since July, but of course rain is finally predicted and expected (those are two very different things, by the way, Mr. Weatherman) tomorrow morning for our first tailgate.  Regardless, we forge ahead testing the new anniversary tailgate grill, packing the tailgate basics box, bringing home massive quantities of food to prep and the whole delightful lot.

With all eyes on Saturday, it was a week of easy meals including this pasta dish from the June/July issue of Fine Cooking.  This was my first attempt at cooking with arugula and if you aren't sure you like the sharpness of that particular green, use baby spinach instead like I have always done until this point.  I have watered my basil once or twice a day for six weeks (do or die this year) so I still have a healthy supply.  I served the pasta with a little flank steak and cherry tomatoes roasted in a pan on the grill.  The tomatoes on the plate with the pasta make a lovely combination.  A little heartier fare for the cooler weather transitioning the way for warm Fall food.  Enjoy!

I would be remiss if I didn't throw in a "Boiler Up!" and "Go Colts" for the weekend!  Tailgate posts next week!
Cooking today:  breakfast casserole, queso, guacamole and caramelized onions for burgers.
Baking today:  peanut butter cookies with peanut butter/chocolate chip filling, coffee cake.
Prepping today:  fruit and vegetables.  Dinner tonight?  Greek Fest!

creamy goodness

Pasta with Ricotta, Arugula (or Spinach) and Basil

1 lb. dried pasta:  penne, orecchiette, or campanelle
8 oz. ricotta (low fat is fine, obviously whole milk would be creamier)
1 oz. (about 1 C) freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (buy the big wedge at Costco)
2 T olive oil
2 tsp grated lemon zest ( one lemon)
5 oz. (about 6 C) loosely packed baby arugula or spinach
1 1/2 oz. (about 2 C) loosely packed and coarsely chopped basil

Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil over high heat.  Cook the pasta until al dente as directed on the package.  Reserve about a 1/2 cup of cooking water before draining the pasta.  (note:  leave a liquid measuring cup with a ladle in it next to the cooking pasta so you don't forget and pour all the useful water down the drain).  Drain the pasta.

While the pasta is cooking mix the ricotta, Parmigiano, 1 T of the olive oil, lemon zest and 1/2 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper in a large serving bowl.

Heat the remaining 1 T of olive oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat.  Add the arugula/spinach and basil along with 1/2 tsp salt and cook, tossing the greens with tongs (get the nice silicone tipped tongs, don't ruin your pan), until just wilted (about 3 minutes). Transfer the greens mixture into the serving bowl with the cheese mixture and mix well.

Add the hot pasta to the serving bowl with the cheese and greens and toss to coat.  Add some of the reserved cooking liquid as needed to moisten the pasta.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Serve with additional grated Parmigiano if desired.

Serves 4 to 6

beautiful cherry tomatoes from my in-laws, thanks!

Grill Roasted Cherry Tomatoes

pint of cherry tomatoes, washed, dried and halved
1-2 T olive oil or garlic olive oil
2 sprigs of fresh rosemary, stripped and chopped (about 2 T)
6 sprigs of fresh thyme, stripped and chopped  (about 1 T)
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper

Place all ingredients in a shallow grill roasting pan (mine is about 8 x 8 solid aluminum with little handles).  Roast on a medium hot grill 10-15 minutes until tomatoes burst and caramelize a bit, stirring occasionally.  If you don't halve the tomatoes, they will burst when you stick your fork in them to eat and that's maybe not a desirable outcome.  Season to taste with additional salt and pepper if needed (i.e. this is my "recipe" and I started low on the seasoning since I do not measure very often).  If you don't use garlic olive oil (I have a nice garlic grilling oil from Joe's Butcher Shop), you might want to mince a clove or two of garlic to the pan.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Cinnamon Apple Cake, enough said!

Thankfully, some cooler temperatures have made appearances here recently and Fall is on it's way.  If the cooler weather mercifully comes and stays around for awhile, here's an amazing Cinnamon Apple Cake adapted from Cooking Light, October, 1997.  Have I really been baking this cake for 13 years?  Lord.  Speaking of Him, this cake was featured in an article regarding baking for the Jewish New Year.  I believe Rosh Hashanah begins tomorrow at sundown, so celebrate with your Jewish friends and bake some cake.

I promise you I will bake this for a tailgate within the next month (if not this weekend!) and I'll post a lovely photo then.  Serve this cake warm with a little vanilla bean ice cream and a drizzle of honey.  Or, just eat it anytime at room temperature.  Great breakfast or coffee treat.

Cinnamon Apple Cake
1 1/2 C sugar
1/2 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 generous tsp vanilla
6-ounces light cream cheese (not fat free, yuck)
2 large eggs
1 1/2 C flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 C sugar
3 C peeled and chopped Rome/Gala apples (2 large)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Beat 1 1/2 C sugar, butter, vanilla and cream cheese at medium speed until well-blended (4 minutes or so).  Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Whisk together flour, baking powder and salt.  Add flour mixture to creamed mixture, beating at low speed until blended.
Combine 1/4 C sugar and cinnamon.  Use 2 T of this mixture and toss with the chopped apples to coat.  Stir the cinnamon-sugared apples into the batter.  Pour batter and spread evenly in an 8-inch springform pan coated with cooking spray.  Sprinkle remaining cinnamon sugar over batter.
Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour and 15 minutes until cake pulls away from the sides of the pan.  Cool completely in the pan set on a wire rack.  Release from the pan and cut into wedges with a serrated knife.
note:  if you only have a 9-inch springform pan, reduce the baking time by 5 minutes.

Friday, September 3, 2010

grilled pita bread

Don't be intimidated by this recipe.  Or, don't think there is no reason you should make your own pita bread when it's pretty darn easy to buy it.  Try this because it is just unbelievably good coming off your grill.  Technically, you are not grilling the pitas.  You are baking them in a cast iron pan on your grill.  Two things are essential to this recipe:  a cast iron pan (inexpensive go to Target and get one) and a stand mixer with a dough hook (not really inexpensive, but very handy).  My cast iron pan is a hand-me-down from my mother-in-law, Becky who is a great cook from a farm family full of good cooks.  My stand mixer is a classic Kitchenaid white model that I believe my wonderful in-laws gifted to me one year after many years of longing for one.  Now they come in some great colors which is actually pretty important since it's massive and stays out on the counter in many kitchens including mine.

This recipe is from Fine Cooking magazine.  Love that magazine.  I make this whenever I make Greek food (see the omg chicken skewers from an earlier post).  I also make it often when I'm just grilling chicken because there is still room on the grill for the cast iron pan.   Remember to start the dough at least two hours before you are going to grill the pitas.   Fresh and hot off the grill the aroma, taste and texture are heavenly.  One of the keys is the honey which makes them good in a way that the fried biscuits at the Nashville House (all Hoosiers who have had the pleasure of dining on the fried chicken family-style dinner there after a hike in Brown County, say "Amen!") are worth the drive.  Another key is brushing a reasonable amount of olive oil in the pan as a new batch is about to go in.  Don't worry about the calories.  Olive oil is good for you.  Besides, you are going to serve them with tzatziki or maybe a dipping oil or more honey.  It's not a diet food.  Take an extra walk and eat the carbs.  Life is short.  Eat good food!
first side down on on the grill in the vintage pan

Grilled Pita Bread

1 T honey
2 tsp active dry yeast
3 1/2 C unbleached, all purpose flour (King Arthur Flour is excellent)
1/2 C whole wheat flour
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
2 T olive oil

In a glass measuring cup or small bowl, mix the honey with 1/2 C of lukewarm water and stir in the yeast.  Let mixture sit until foamy, 2 to 3 minutes (yeast digesting honey, yummm).  Put both flours and the salt in the mixing bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the dough hook.  With mixer running on low speed, blend in the olive oil until fully incorporated, 2 minutes.  Add the yeast mixture and an additional one cup of warm water and mix until fully incorporated, 2 to 3 minutes more.  Raise the speed to medium and "knead" the dough until it forms a smooth ball that is no longer sticky, 4 to 5 minutes.  If the dough is too wet sparingly add more flour a teaspoon at a time.  Raise the speed to medium high and knead for an additional 5 minutes.  Oil the mixing bowl around the dough and turn to coat a bit, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it rise in a draft-free and warm place (easy to find this time of year, but when it's chilly just preheat your oven for a couple of minutes just until it's warm, not baking hot and turn the oven off and put the bowl in the oven) for about an hour or until doubled in size.
Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead by hand to or three times to remove air bubbles. Form the dough into a log and cut it evenly in 10 pieces.  Form each piece into a ball and roll the balls into disks about 1/4 inch thick and 6-inches in diameter.  It's pretty easy to do this with just your hands, no rolling pin required.  Lightly brush two baking sheets with olive oil and place disks on the sheets, cover with a tea towel and let rise until just doubled in thickness, 30 minutes or so.  Prepare a medium high gas grill fire, leaving one burner off.  Brush a cast-iron skillet with olive oil and put it over the cool zone on the grill.  When the pan is very hot, cook the pitas in batches (I can fit two in mine) until starting to brown, 2 to 3 minutes.  Flip the pitas and continue cooking until lightly golden brown on the bottom and cooked through, 2 or 3 minutes more.  Don't walk away for long and burn your pitas!  Serve warm.  If you cool them, wrap them tightly to keep them fresh (freeze them if not using in a day).

finished delicious pitas!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

while we are at it, another chocolate craving: Texas Sheet Cake

Let's go on the record, that I am not one of those "chocoholic" girls.  Far from it.  As a kid I did not even like chocolate.  Still can't stand chocolate icing, chocolate shakes or chocolate ice cream.  Not my thing.  I am a vanilla, caramel or fruit girl.  I do like my chocolate with cinnamon, nuts, caramel, salt (see salted macadamia caramels from Costco) and dark.  If Greg brings me home Mozart balls (hazelnut) or truffles from Europe they will be carefully portioned out for maximum enjoyment.  First I'll have a small pity party that Greg keeps going to Europe without me and all I get are chocolates and a nice quiet house, but then I get over that (it's not like he is touring the countryside and going to museums) and just enjoy the luxury of them.

Here's a chocolate recipe I actually do like, Texas Sheet Cake.  Again, it's adapted from Cooking Light.  I've been making it for probably ten years.  Most people would frost it with chocolate icing and sprinkle on pecans.  Go ahead, but it's easier to take somewhere and still delicious if you just let it cool and generously sprinkle powdered sugar on top.  I think I'll try a pinch of sea salt across the top some time too.  Could be just the thing.

Give it a try.  I use my stoneware jelly roll pan from Pampered Chef.  Love that thing.  Perfect for this recipe, but a 13 x 9 x 2 metal pan (get the one with the lid) will also work just fine (and then you don't have to plate it).

Soooo ready for college football!

Boiler Up!

sheet cake, anyone?

Texas Sheet Cake

2 tsp flour (or cooking spray with flour in it, Trader Joe's makes one now)
2 C flour
2 C sugar (personally, I think this disqualifies this recipe from "light" but who am I to argue?)
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 C water
1/2 C unsalted butter
1/4 C unsweetened cocoa
1/2 C low-fat buttermilk, shaken
1 tsp vanilla
2 large eggs

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Coat a metal jelly roll pan or 13 x 9 x 2 metal baking pan with cooking spray and dust with flour.  Tap off excess.  Set aside.

Combine flour, sugar, soda, cinnamon and salt in a large bowl (use your mixer bowl if mixing other than by hand).  Whisk to combine.  In a small saucepan, combine water, butter and cocoa and bring to a boil, stirring frequently.  Add to flour mixture.  Beat at medium speed with an electric mixer or blend well by hand.  Add buttermilk, vanilla and eggs and beat well.  Pour batter into prepared pan.  Bake at 375 degrees for 22 minutes or until tester comes out clean.  Cool on a wire rack.  When cool, generously dust with powdered sugar.

ingredients (cocoa, butter and water are on the stove already)

water, cocoa powder and butter on the stove

going into the oven
all powdered sugared and pretty

Family Day at Purdue 2009 with my family (the not blond one is Kelly's BFF, Kimmie)
my parents and Audie and Chris's family


Two cookies always seem to jump in my cart at Whole Foods, the outstanding lemon knots and the addictive chocolate chewies.  Don't know how they get there and how they disappear so quickly once they get home.  I'm sorry, but I can not give up treats.  Don't care how much exercise I have to add in to balance them out.  Just give me a cookie, or real cake or if you really love me, fruit pie.

Picked up a newstand magazine last Sunday during our weekly post church run to Whole Foods:  Cooking Light's "Quick Baking".  I'm not generally a fan of lightened baked goods.  Possibly because I'm a good cook who almost never measures and that does not translate to a good baker.  Not measuring accurately and or substituting for what you have on hand can translate into rather sad baked goods.  But, I've tried two recipes and the second one will save me the money on those delicious chocolate chewies.

This recipe looks small, but it did easily yield two dozen cookies.

Here you go:

Chocolate Chewies

1 C all-purpose flours
1 1/4 C powdered sugar, divided
1/4 C unsweetened cocoa
1 1/4 tsp salt
5 1/4 tsp vegetable oil (I like Smart Balance)
1 1/2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1 1/2 tsp espresso granules
3/4 C packed brown sugar
3 T light Karo (corn) syrup
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
2 egg whites

Combine flour, 3/4 C powdered sugar, cocoa, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl and whisk until blended.  Combine oil and chocolate in a small saucepan over low heat, cook until chocolate is melted, stirring constantly.  Add espresso granules to chocolate and stir until blended.  Remove pan from heat.  pour chocolate mixture into a large bowl.  Cool 5 minutes.  Stir in brown sugar, syrup  and vanilla.  Add egg whites, stirring in with a whisk.  Add flour in and stir gently until just combined.  Cover dough, and chill for 2 hours or overnight.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.  Place 1/2 C powdered sugar in a shallow bowl or dish.  Roll dough into 1-inch balls and roll balls in powdered sugar to coat.  Place on baking sheets about 2-inches apart.  Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes until tops are cracked and the cookies are almost set.  Remove from oven and cool on pan for 2 minutes until set.  Remove cookies from pan and place on a wire rack.

Makes two dozen cookies and if you are into that kind of thing, each cookie is about 100 calories with 2 grams of fat.  Respectable for a cookie.  Really, I'll make them again because they are really yummy.  Love the texture.  More substantial than a meringue, but still light feeling and wonderfully toothy.

my cookies minus the two I have already devoured