Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Chocolate Pistachio Cake

I have no idea where my Mom got this recipe, but it has always been one of my favorites. It is easy, super moist and most importantly, delicious. I ended up only being able to find Sugar Free-Fat Free pudding mix in the actual cake (I used the regular pudding in the frosting) and I didn't taste a difference. If you are in the mood for a moist, light cake (and who isn't?), whip this one up, I promise you won't be disappointed!

Chocolate Pistachio Cake
Makes one 10-inch bundt cake

1 box yellow cake mix
1 package instant pistachio pudding
1/2 c. orange juice
1/2 c. water
4 eggs
1/2 c. vegetable oil
3/4 c. chocolate flavored syrup

Combine cake mix, pistachio pudding, orange juice, water, eggs and oil in a large mixing bowl. Blend to moisten, then beat 2 minutes at medium speed with an electric mixer. Pour about 3/4 of the batter into a well greased bundt or tube pan. Add chocolate flavored syrup to remaining batter, mixing well. Pour over batter in pan.

Bake at 350 for 50 minutes or until done. Cool in pan for 10 minutes. Remove from pan; cool on wire rack.

Pistachio Cake Topping
1 1/2 c. milk
1 envelope Dream Whip
1 pkg. pistachio instant pudding

Whip until thick, about 5 minutes.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Slow Cooker Chicken Tortilla Soup

Let me just start out by saying that I lived in Denver, Colorado for six years and found this little cafe right by my work that had the most amazing chicken tortilla soup. I have tried many other soups elsewhere and nothing comes close to that little cafe. For years I have attempted to make my own version and while this still is not the same, it is quick, easy and really tasty. It is a slow cooker recipe, but if you don't have one, it can be made on the stovetop as well. It freezes well and fed my husband and I for several meals!

Slow Cooker Chicken Tortilla Soup
Adapted from
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 8 hours
8 servings

1 lb chicken breasts (can be thawed or frozen)
1 (15 oz) can whole peeled tomatoes, mashed
1 (10 oz) can enchilada sauce
1 medium onion, chopped
1 (4 oz) can chopped green chilies
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 3/4 cups chicken broth
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1 bay leaf
1 (10 oz) package frozen corn
1 tbsp. chopped cilantro

Place all ingredients into the slow cooker and cook on low heat for 6-8 hours or high heat for 3-4 hours. Shred the chicken breasts and stir them back into the spoon. Optional toppings: cilantro, avocado, tortilla chips, sour cream and cheese.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Marscarpone Chocolate Toffee Bars

My friend Amelia made these delectable cookie bars for a book club I went to a couple weeks ago. I asked her for the recipe right away. These bars are easy to make and just a heads up - they are addictive. Do not make them without having people to share them with or you might make yourself ill, as I did, by consuming them in mass quantities over the past few days. Seriously, I need to start choosing some healthy things to post on here or I am going to be 15 lbs heavier by years end. And just to let everyone know, I do make normal, healthy meals for my family, but I love to bake. So maybe I will just need to up my time at the gym and share my treats with everyone I know, just leaving one (or two) for myself.

Marscapone Chocolate Toffee Bars
Adapted from Giada DeLaurentiis

1 lb. refrigerated Pillsbury sugar cookie dough
2 1.4 oz. Heath or Skor bars, coarsely chopped
1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 c. semi sweet chocolate chips
1 tsp. vegetable oil
1 c. (8 oz) marscapone cheese, room temperature
1/4 c. sliced, toasted almonds
Preheat oven to 350. Place oven rack in the center of the oven.

Spray a 9 x 13 pan with cooking spray. Place a piece of parchment paper large enough for the paper to fall over the outside of the pan. Spray the parchment paper with cooking spray. In a medium bowl combine the cookie dough, vanilla and one chopped toffee bar. Using damp fingers, press the cookie dough evenly into the bottom of the pan. Using a fork, prick the dough all over. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes or until the edges are lightly browned. Cool for 15 minutes.

Place the chocolate chips in a large glass measuring cup with the vegetable oil. Microwave for 2 minutes or until melted. Cool for 10 minutes. Whisk in marscapone cheese until smooth. Using a spatula, spread chocolate mixture evenly over cooled cookie dough. Sprinkle the remaining chopped toffee bars and toasted almonds over the chocolate. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or until firm.

Pull bars out of pan by parchment paper and cut. Serve at room temperature.

*To toast almonds place on a cookie sheet at 350 for 3-5 minutes or until lightly browned.

*Option: The original recipe calls for the bars to be made in a 7 X 11 pan, which makes larger, more rich bars.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Confections of a Closet Master Baker

I love the library. I actually wanted to volunteer there in high school during my free time (I never did, but I actually wanted to). I used to buy all of my books, but after moving so many times during and after college, I decided I was sick of moving them all. Or maybe I was sick of hearing my husband complain about carrying the 100 lb boxes. Regardless, since we are currently living on one salary so I am able to stay home with my son, buying books is a luxury I can no longer afford.

I went to the library with my son last week. As anyone who has ever had a toddler knows, these kind of trips need to be short and sweet. As I passed the new release shelf on my way out, a book titled Confections of a Closet Master Baker by Gesine Bullock-Prado caught my eye. It looked like an easy, fun read and was exactly that. Luckily I had it in my purse when I went to a Doctor's appointment that afternoon and even though my appointment was at 3:40 pm, I didn't see the Doctor until almost 5 pm...and I wasn't even mad because this book saved my sanity. It was a funny and refreshing look at a woman who leaves her high profile career in Hollywood to open a bakery in rural Vermont. She relates much of her life to baking throughout the cook, plus it has several great sounding recipes!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

TWD: Cran-Apple Crisp

Since joining Tuesdays with Dorie and starting this blog, I have gained 6 lbs. I have a gigantic sweet tooth and having all of these goodies in the house means trouble. I have made a promise to myself to only make these recipes when I actually have someone (preferably, many people) to share them with.

This Cran-Apple Crisp was a breeze to make and tasted delicious. I made it before I had to head out to an organizer meeting for a local Mom's group I belong to. Although I didn't have any at the meeting, everyone gave it rave reviews. I was hoping to get mine home and have it with a little vanilla ice cream, but I didn't get home until late. Since I just couldn't wait until tonight to try it, I had a little bit this much for self control. The topping is delicious and the cranberries provide a nice, tart addition to the mix. Hopefully my husband feels the same way about it so it is all gone by tonight!

Monday, November 2, 2009

New Mexican Pizza

Oftentimes when I go out to eat, I try to figure out the ingredients in whatever I am eating in order to see if I can try making it at home. My Mom started me on this and when I used to go out to eat a lot (i.e. before we had a baby and subsisted on only one salary), it seemed like I tried to dissect everything I was eating. Needless to say, our nights out at nice restaurants are limited these days, but I seem to continue to do it even with the simplest of meals, as evidenced by the pizza below. It is one of mine and my husband's favorite pizza.

New Mexican Pizza
One pizza dough (store bought or homemade)
15 oz. can black beans
Cooked chicken strips or 1 cooked chicken breast, cut into strips
Fresh salsa fresca (store bought or homemade)
Mozzarella (to your liking)
Cheddar (to your liking)
Sliced pickled jalapenos (optional)
Sour cream (optional)
Rinse the black beans and place in a food processor. Add a little bit of water and puree until smooth. Spread the black bean mixture on the pizza as you would tomato sauce. Top with salsa fresca, chicken, jalapeno slices, and both cheeses. Cook according to the pizza dough directions. Serve with a side of sour cream.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Chocolate Cinnamon Bundt Cake with Mocha Icing

I made this bundt cake for a picnic I went to a few weeks ago. It was super moist and had a nice, chocolatey, coffee flavor. Some of the reviews I read online did not care for the mocha frosting, but I liked it. One reviewer said a piece of this cake would be excellent with a glass of milk and I could not agree more. It is easy to make and most, if not all, of the ingredients are pantry staples.
Chocolate-Cinnamon Bundt Cake with Mocha Icing
Adapted from Bon Appetit
12-16 servings

1 c. boiling water
1/2 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
4 tsp. instant espresso powder, divided
2 c. unbleached all purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. salt
2 1/2 c. (packed) light brown sugar, divided
1 c. vegetable oil
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 1/4 c. mini semi-sweet chocolate chips, divided
(Note: regular sized chips fall to the bottom of the cake)
1/4 c. unsalted butter, room temperature

Preheat oven to 350. Spray bundt cake pan with cooking spray. Whisk boiling water, cocoa powder and 2 tsp. espresso powder in a small bowl or measuring cup. Whisk 2 cups flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt in a medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat 2 cups brown sugar, 1 cup vegetable oil, and 1 tbsp. vanilla in a large bowl to blend. Add eggs; beat to blend. Beat mixture until smooth. Beat in half of flour mixture, then cocoa mixture. Add remaining flour mixture; beat to blend. Fold in 1 cup chocolate chips. Transfer batter to bundt pan.
Bake cake until tester inserted in center comes out clean, about 50 minutes. Cool the cake 10 minutes, invert cake onto rack, and cool 15 minutes longer. Meanwhile, stir 1/2 cup brown sugar, 2 tsp. espresso powder and 2 tbsp water in a small saucepan over medium heat until sugar melts. Remove from heat. Add butter and remaining 1/4 cup chocolate chips, stir until butter and chocolate melt. Cool slightly. Using spoon, drizzle icing over cake. Cool completely, slice and serve.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Grilled Lemon-Oregano Chicken

I have made this recipe a couple of times and I get rave reviews each time. These drumsticks are super easy and so tasty. I have no doubt you can substitute white meat if you prefer it over dark. I paired the chicken with an old standby recipe from Cooking Light (circa December 2003) which is also quick, easy and delicious.

Grilled Lemon-Oregano Chicken Drumsticks
Adapted from Bon Appetit
4-6 servings

2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
2 tbsp. coarsely chopped fresh oregano
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 tsp. coarse kosher salt
1 tsp. finely grated lemon peel
8 chicken drumsticks

Whisk the first 6 ingredients in small bowl. Season to taste with freshly ground black pepper. Pour marinade into a 1 gallon resealable plastic bag; add chicken and seal. Turn bag to coat chicken. Marinate at room temperature 30 minutes or in a refrigerator up to 2 days, turning occasionally.
Prepare barbecue (medium-high heat). Place chicken, with some marinade still clinging, on grill rack coated with cooking spray. Grill chicken until cooked through and golden brown on all sides, turning frequently, about 30 minutes.

Spicy Roasted Potatoes and Asparagus
Adapted from Cooking Light
2 servings

2 tsp. olive oil, divided
1/4 tsp. sea salt, divided
1/8 tsp. dried thyme
1/8 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper
6 small red potatoes (about 3/4 lb), quartered
Cooking spray
2 tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese
1 tbsp. minced garlic, divided
1/2 lb. asparagus spears, tough ends removed, chopped into 1-inch pieces
Preheat oven to 450. Combine oil, salt, thyme, peppers and potatoes in an 11x7 inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Bake at 450 for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in cheese, garlic and asparagus. Bake for 10 minutes or until asparagus is crisp-tender.

Monday, October 12, 2009

TWD: All Spice Muffins

I made these muffins for this week's Tuesdays with Dorie. They are a good sweet and peppery combination and the streusel topping is a nice crunchy addition. A few other TWD bakers recommended substituting cinnamon for all spice (which makes for a Snikerdoodle tasting muffin), which I will definitely try the next time I make these to see which I prefer.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Lemon Bars

I have been in a lemon bar frenzy lately. I am typically a chocolate kind of girl, but as I get older I have started to progress into more fruit type desserts. I feel like my mother, who I always remember saying that she disliked desserts that were "too sweet." Growing up I thought that statement was absurd, but I am beginning to understand what she was talking about!
Needless to say, I can still stomach a whole lot of sweet. In the past few weeks, I have tried a few lemon bar recipes, but by far my favorite has been these Toasted Almond Lemon Bars I found on one of my favorite cooking blogs, She's Becoming DoughMessTic ( I thought they were even better frozen, which was the way I served them. They are definitely not to sweet and unfortunately, they are super addictive. So pass them on to friends if you decide to make them (which you most definitely should) or you might gain a few pounds... or ten. I received a million comlipents on them from both a large get together and a bunch of out of towners this past weekend.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

One of my best friends...

Growing up, my Grandmother loved to bake and she did it often. She was always making cakes, cookies, cookie bars, brownies - you name it, she made it. When my family first moved to Virginia when I was in elementary school, I remember sitting in my Grandparent's kitchen and watching my Grandmother create masterpieces with her trusty Kitchen-Aid mixer. Many out there have sung the praises of Kitchen-Aid mixers and my Grandmother was one of them. Ever since I was in high school, I wanted one. I finally got my wish one Christmas from my now-husband. I am not joking when I tell you that one of my good girlfriends got engaged that same Christmas. When I told her I received the Kitchen-Aid as a gift, she told her fiance that she would have been just as excited to get the mixer! Needless to say, they have been happily married for 4 years and she eventually did get her Kitchen-Aid.
Now that I stay at home taking care of my 2 year old, the mixer is so wonderful in helping me to manage more than one recipe at a time while also making sure my house is not destroyed in the process. I also praise anything that allows me time to do other things rather than hold a hand held mixer for five minutes while stiff peaks form. I love you my little red Kitchen Aid, you are one of the best friend's any girl (or guy) could ever have.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Zucchini Muffins

I have loved zucchini bread for as long as I can remember. After I graduated from college, I took it upon myself to make a loaf one sunny Saturday afternoon. I was a bit of a novice baker back in those days and when the recipe I happened to be following called for cloves, I went ahead and added them in. Complete cloves. Not ground. Needless to say, only one of my girlfriends was brave enough to eat some of the bread, simply picking all of the whole cloves out of her piece. I have since tried many zucchini recipes, always searching for either the best overall or the best healthwise. My 2 year old son also happens to love zucchini bread and throughly gobbled up this most recent recipe. Although this recipe is super tasty, it definitely does not pass the "healthy" test. Next time I might try some healthier substitutions, but for now, this recipe is delicious as is. I made them into muffins instead of loaves of bread since I had to take some to an event last week.
Mom's Zucchini Bread
3 cups all-purpose flour (I used 2 c. white flour, 1 c. whole wheat)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3 eggs
1 cup vegetable oil
2 1/4 cups white sugar
3 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups grated zucchini
1 cup chopped walnuts (optional - I went without)

Grease and flour two 8 x 4 inch pans or muffin pans. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Sift flour, salt, baking powder, soda, and cinnamon together in a bowl.
Beat eggs, oil, vanilla, and sugar together in a large bowl. Add sifted ingredients to the creamed mixture, and beat well. Stir in zucchini and nuts until well combined. Pour batter into prepared pans.
Bake for 40 to 60 minutes, or until tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pan on rack for 20 minutes. Remove bread from pan, and completely cool.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Tuesdays with Dorie: Espresso Cheesecake Brownies

This is my first Tuesday's with Dorie assignment and I was excited to make this recipe! Seeing as I love chocolate, cheesecake and espresso, I figured this would be a no brainer. I even managed to make these before my son's nap time, conveniently scheduling them around his favorite tv show, Yo Gabba Gabba. The recipe was easy to follow and they appear to have turned out correctly (at least they taste that way). I also decided that while I love brownies and I love cheesecake, I am not sure I am crazy about them together. Don't get me wrong, these are very tasty, they just wouldn't be my first dessert choice; however, someone who enjoys brownies, cheesecake and espresso would be pretty thrilled with this recipe.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Cooking and other adventures...

I am a stay-at-home Mom to a wonderful 2 year old boy. I love cooking, reading, exercising, being outdoors and hanging out with my silly kid and even sillier husband. I thought creating a cooking blog might give me something to do just for me, which hopefully I can achieve during nap times without a child wrapped around my leg...wish me luck!