Monthly Archives: May 2012

New Obsession!

I posted about my newfound love of coconut recently, so no surprise that the obsession continues! I follow a blog called Mel’s Kitchen Cafe that I really enjoy reading and yesterday’s post was right up my alley…I just knew I had to run home and try this recipe out! It combined chocolate and coconut into a gooey bar-type brownie with a fudgy frosting sort of thing…mouth watering yet?!

Josh is obsessed with tacos and would love to have taco night at least 3 nights a week, however I apparently have been ‘slacking’ as he puts it, and we haven’t had taco night in at least two weeks!’ So in an effort to please both of us, we had taco Wednesday with coconut chocolate bars for dessert! Doesn’t matter that those two don’t seem to go together at all, we were both very pleased and let’s be honest, chocolate goes with everything!

So here’s the recipe I ended up using, slightly altering the recipe from  Mel’s Kitchen Cafe:

Chocolate Coconut Bars:

For the Bars:

  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened natural cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • dash of  salt
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 4 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla

For the topping:

  • 4 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 4 T butter,  room temp
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/2 t vanilla
  • 1 1/4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups coconut

Heat the oven to 350 degrees  and spray an 8×8-inch square baking pan with non-stick cooking spray. In a larger bowl, combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and sugar until evenly combined. Add the butter (cooled so as not to scramble the egg), eggs, and vanilla, and mix until the mixture forms a stiff dough. Gently press the dough evenly into the prepared pan and set aside.

For the topping: cream together the cream cheese and butter until fluffy. Add the beaten egg and mix well, then the cocoa powder and vanilla and mix until well blended. Add the powdered sugar gradually while beating until the mixture is smooth. Fold in the coconut.

Spread the topping over the base and bake 30 minutes. The edges should be set and the center still slightly under cooked looking. Cool completely, in fact the blog says that the bars are even better cooled and chilled in the refrigerator! Of course I couldn’t wait that long and had them hot right out of the oven! My recommendation would be to let them cool slightly, as they are very difficult to cut when they are still hot and gooey! Rushing out the door this morning I completely forgot to grab one from the fridge so the anticipation all day will be killing me…I can’t wait to get home and dive into them! I’ll let you know how they are 😉

Finally!

I always wonder how those packaged cookies you see at places like Jimmy John’s, Pot Belly’s or even Walgreens look so perfect…all large, perfectly round and shaped, and so soft and chewy still?! Well, by George, I think I’ve got it! After years and years of trying different cookie recipes in a quest to find the ultimate, perfect looking and tasting cookies, I think I did it! I stole the method/idea for these cookies from a pin on pinterest and ran with it! This was a method I have never seen for baking cookies before…it consisted of stacking rectangles of dough on top of each other, with shaved chocolate in between the layers and then using a biscuit cutter to cut out perfect circles! The recipe for this was a bit more difficult than a standard cookie dough recipe but it was well worth it, let me tell you!

Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 cup oats
  • 1 t baking soda
  • 3/4 t salt
  • 1 cup butter,room temp
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 4 eggs, at room temp
  • 1 t vanilla
  • 3/4 – 1 bag peanut butter and chocolate chips (or all chocolate, whatever you prefer), chopped up

Whisk the flour, baking soda and salt together. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and both sugars on medium speed until light and fluffy, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl once or twice. Add the eggs one at a time, beating until combined, then add the vanilla. Slowly and on low-speed, add the dry ingredients, beating just until incorporated.

Divide the dough into three equal portions and try to shape each into same size rectangles as best as possible, then wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. This might seem difficult because the dough will be somewhat sticky, but wrapping in plastic will help shape them.

Unwrap the dough rectangles. Place one on a lightly floured work surface. Sprinkle half of the chocolate evenly over the dough rectangle. Top with a second piece of dough. Sprinkle the remaining chocolate over the second piece of dough, then finally top with the third piece of dough. The tower of dough and chocolate will be tall, and chocolate may fall out the sides, that’s ok.

Like so

Dust the top piece of dough lightly with flour, then use a rolling-pin to gently roll the stack of dough and chocolate into a rectangle about 1 1/2 inches thick. Use a 2-inch round cutter to cut as many rounds as possible from the dough. Transfer the rounds to a parchment-lined or silpat lined baking sheet. (Flour the cutter as necessary if it’s sticking to the dough.) Gather the scraps of dough together into a 1 1/2-inch thick mound and cut additional cookies out.

Pretty little cookie biscuits!

Cover the baking sheet loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate the unbaked cookies for at least an hour or two. You can leave them in the fridge this way for several days even and bake them off as you want/need!

Preheat oven to 375 F. Separate the cookies by at least 2-3 inches because these babies spread! Bake for 12 minutes. The centers will still seem really soft and under-baked, but that’s fine. They’ll set up as they cool. 

Gorgeous, I should have stacked them on top of each other!

 I might have cooked mine a minute or so too long, the edges got a little crunchy for my liking, but the centers were still soft and gooey! The peanut butter added a wonderful element of surprise to an otherwise chocolate chip cookie and the oats add a great, chewy texture.  I am so happy with this result, the extra work is well worth it in my opinion!!

Times are Blue (not really but the title is fitting)!

Living downtown Chicago during the NATO Summit has been nothing but a pain in my ass! So in an effort to avoid as much of the ruckus as possible, I ditched out on the city and spent the weekend at my parents’ house! What a great weekend it was, shopping with my mom, going out to eat, spending time with my brother, sister-in-law and two nieces, going to the taste of Glen Ellyn (something I haven’t been to in over 5 years now), and the list goes on! Aside from 4 of 8 of us getting a 24-hour flu bug, the weekend was fantastic…but always seems too short! Before I left, the fam barbecued a buffet of food in a last effort to enjoy the beautiful weather! I made some pan-fried potatoes to go with the rib-eyes, burgers and shish-kabobs!
Pan-Fried Potatoes:
  • 5 potatoes, cubed
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 shallot, diced
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • cayenne pepper to taste
  • dash of onion and garlic powder
Heat oil in pan over medium-high heat until hot. Add potatoes, toss to coat with oil, add seasonings and cover pan, let cook/steam for 5 or so minutes without touching. Lift lid, stir potatoes around, cover again and let sit another 5 minutes. Repeat once more, remove lid for good, toss around and cook until desired browness. Super easy,  very tasty and healthier than french-fries!
When I finally made it home last night, I was unpacking all of the groceries I bought and stumbled across a fruit tray in the fridge that a patient generously brought us last week. Neither Josh nor I are big fans of berries (except I love strawberries, but that’s it) so those were all that were left in the tray. I absolutely hate wasting food and didn’t have the heart to throw them out…so instead, I whipped up a blueberry quick bread and saved the raspberries and blackberries for smoothies or possibly another bread!
Blueberry  Bread
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup blueberries
  • 1/4 cup cornmeal
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup Silk Vanilla
  • 1 t vanilla extract
  • Blueberry Greek Yogurt
  • 3 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
photo.JPG
Heat oven to 350. Coat 8 1/2X4 1/2 loaf pan with spray. Sift flour into a bowl, remove 1 Tbsp flour and toss with blueberries in a separate bowl. Add cornmeal, baking powder and salt to flour and mix well. In another bowl, whisk sugars with eggs, milk, yogurt, vanilla and lemon juice. Stir wet ingredients into dry ingredients until just blended; fold in blueberries. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake 40 minutes. You can add a crumb topping to this or make these as muffins as well!

Happy Anniversary to Us!

Josh and I have been celebrating our one year wedding anniversary for a few weeks now…we have already had three celebrations so far and a fourth is yet to come in June! I say after such a spectacular first year of marriage, why not celebrate the hell out of it!? We started a week early when Josh surprised me with a Tiffany necklace and we went out to a wonderful dinner at Kinzie Chophouse. What a great restaurant, we had been there a few times before for dessert and drinks (fantastic wine list and molten chocolate cake)! I knew it would be good, after all it’s a Chicago steak house but it really surprised me how good it really was. My filet was cooked absolutely perfectly and was so tender and juicy, and they serve their steaks with four different dipping sauces, all of which were fantastic additions, even though, not necessary since the steak was so good on its own! We also shared a baked french onion soup that was better than most I have had in French restaurants and a roasted red pepper pureed soup that was also smooth and flavorful. We also shared a broccoli fondue, which was not awesome but very tasty…can’t go wrong with broccoli and cheese! Lastly, they brought us out a buttered rum cheesecake that was to die for! I was a little upset at first, thinking I wasn’t getting my molten chocolate cake, but what a welcomed surprise, it was sooo good and went perfectly with our wine and cappuccinos! I definitely cannot wait to go back!

photo.JPG

Our next mini-celebration took place on our actual anniversary, May 14th. We were working late and Josh had to coach a hockey game late that night, so I stuck around and we had some dinner, went to see the Avengers and ate some of our wedding cake! Nice romantic, not fancy way to spend our night together!

Third celebration took place last night, our first night home together for dinner in a while! So we teamed up in the kitchen and cooked an amazing dinner of basil orzotto with goat cheese stuffed chicken and a nice bottle of wine, followed by yet more wedding cake! Orzotto is risotto made with orzo instead of Arborio rice! The orzo was super creamy and cheesy and the chicken was a perfect highlight for the pasta. The goat cheese and lemon from the filling paired perfectly with the basil and parmesan in the orzo.

Basil Orzotto:

  • 2 shallots, diced
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, sliced or minced
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 2 T butter
  • 1 1/2 cups orzo
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 cup peas
  • 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1 T butter
  • 3 T chopped fresh basil

Heat oil in pan over medium, add shallots, cook 3-5 minutes until softened. Add garlic and orzo, cook until orzo is slightly browned. Deglaze pan with white wine. Cook until wine is evaporated. Add the broth, salt & pepper to taste and let come to a boil. Simmer over low, cover and cook until liquid is evaporated, about 12-15 minutes. Uncover, remove from heat, add in peas, parmesan, heavy cream, butter and fresh basil.

Goat Cheese Stuffed Chicken:

  • 3 chicken breasts
  • 4 ounces goat cheese
  • 2 t lemon juice
  • 1 t chopped fresh basil
  • 1-2 T grated parm
  • Salt & pepper to taste
Mix together the goat cheese, lemon juice, basil, parm, salt and pepper. Pound each chicken breast until thin but not too thin that it will fall apart when rolling. Place 1/3 of the filling in the center of each pounded chicken breast, roll up tightly. Salt and pepper outside of each breast (or use lemon pepper or any other seasonings you prefer). Grill or bake until cooked through. Serve atop the orzotto! We followed this decadent meal with the top-tier of our wedding cake…pistachio, Josh’s absolute favorite and a Ma Crawford special! She had never made pistachio for a wedding before we put in a special request…it came out sooooo good!!
And last but certainly not least, our fourth celebration is yet to come! We are going to Italy in June! We debated going for our honeymoon but in the end decided we would rather sit on a beach, relax and do nothing but be waited on hand and foot! Best. Decision. Ever. I don’t think I would have truly been able to appreciate Italy having gone right after my wedding, being exhausted, excited, overwhelmed, etc!  But when we got married, Josh promised we would go for our one year anniversary and I thought he was full of it! But much to my extreme delight, he is making it happen! I. Cannot. Wait.

Weddings, Speeches and Cakes, Oh My!

My best friend is married…welcome to the club Em!! I had the honor of being Emily’s maid (matron sounds so old) of honor for her wedding last Friday evening. What a beautiful wedding it was too, she looked absolutely stunning and everything was just perfect…75 degree weather, gorgeous venue, amazing band and of course, delicious cake! Em had an idea a while back that her and I bake the cakes for the wedding and that her and Joe (the groom) would only have a small cake to cut into for pictures. Everyone thought we were crazy taking on such a huge and important task however, it turned out to be an amazing idea and not only made a great looking dessert table but we got a ton of compliments to boot! I ended up making four different cakes and frosting combinations, including red velvet with cream cheese frosting, german chocolate with coconut pecan frosting, marble cake with chocolate frosting and a cinnamon crumb cake. Em ended up making a pistachio cake with cream cheese frosting and a banana cake with Nutella frosting. Here is a pic of the dessert table:

I have already posted the Red Velvet recipe from Em’s wedding shower but here it is again!

Red Velvet Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting:

Cake:

  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 cup butter, softened
  • 3 cups flour
  • 2 T cocoa powder (heaping)
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1 1/2 t baking soda
  • 2 1/4 cups sugar
  • 2 t vanilla
  • 1-2 ounces red food coloring
  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk
  • 2 t vinegar
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 9X13  baking pan. Beat butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in eggs one at a time.  Add in vanilla and red food coloring. Sift together flour, cocoa, and salt. Mix together baking soda and vinegar. Alternately add buttermilk and flour, ending with flour. Beat in vinegar mixture. Pour into prepared pan and bake 35-40 minutes.

Frosting:

  • 8 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 8 oz butter, softened
  • 3 1/2 – 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 t vanilla

Cream butter and cream cheese together. Add in vanilla and powdered sugar, mix until smooth. Frost entire cake, eat and enjoy!!

German Chocolate with Coconut Pecan Frosting:

Cake:

  • 1 pkg. (4 oz.) German Chocolate
  • ½ cup water
  • 4 eggs, separated
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 t baking soda
  • ¼ t salt
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 t vanilla
  • 1 cup buttermilk

Heat oven to 350°F. Cover bottom of 9X13 pan with waxed paper; spray sides with cooking spray. Microwave chocolate and water in large microwaveable bowl on high 1-1/2 to 2 min. or until chocolate is almost melted, stirring after 1 min. Stir until chocolate is completely melted. Beat egg whites in small bowl with mixer on high-speed until stiff peaks form; set aside. Mix flour, baking soda and salt. Beat butter and sugar in large bowl with mixer until light and fluffy. Add egg yolks, 1 at a time, beating well after each. Blend in melted chocolate and vanilla. Add flour mixture alternately with buttermilk, beating until well blended after each addition. Add egg whites; stir gently until well blended. Pour into prepared pan. Bake 40 min. or until toothpick inserted in centers comes out clean.  Cool cake in pan 15 min.; remove to wire racks. Cool completely.

Frosting:

  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1 can (12 oz.) evaporated milk
  • 1-1/2 t vanilla
  • 1-1/2 cups sugar
  • ¾ cup butter or margarine
  • 1 pkg. (7 oz.)  coconut (2-2/3 cups)
  • 1-1/2 cups chopped pecans

Beat egg yolks, milk and vanilla in large saucepan with whisk until well blended. Add sugar and butter; cook on medium heat 12 min. or until thickened and golden brown, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Add coconut and nuts; mix well. Cool to desired spreading consistency. Frost entire cake!

Cinnamon Crumb Cake:

  • ½ cup brown sugar divided
  • 1 ½ cups plus 5 T granulated sugar, divided
  • 3 t ground cinnamon, divided
  • 1 ½ cups chopped walnuts, divided
  • 2 cups plus 7 T cake flour, divided
  • ½ lb. (2 sticks), plus 5 T butter, divided
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 ¾ t vanilla, divided
  • 1 t baking soda
  • 1 t baking powder
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • ¼ cup powdered sugar
  • ½ T milk

Directions: heat oven to 350, 9X13 inch pan. Combine ¼ cup brown sugar, 2 T granulated sugar, 1 tsp. cinnamon and ½ cup chopped walnuts for filling, set aside. In bowl, combine 7 Tbs. flour, 3 Tbs. granulated sugar and remaining brown sugar, cinnamon and nuts. Using 2 knives, cut in 5 T butter until crumbs form. In bowl of electric mixer, cream remaining butter, gradually adding eggs, 1 ½ t vanilla and remaining granulated sugar. Beat 2 mins. In separate bowl, combine baking soda, baking powder, and remaining flour. Add flour mixture to butter mixture. Beat in sour cream. Mix 1 min. Pour ½ batter into pan, sprinkle reserved filling over batter. Top with remaining batter and crumb mixture. Bake 45 mins, let cool. In bowl, combine powdered sugar, milk, and remaining vanilla. Drizzle icing over cake.

The marble cake was a little more difficult since I had to make two cake batters, chocolate and vanilla.

Chocolate Cake:

  • Butter, for greasing the pans
  • 1 3/4 cups flour, plus more for pans
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cups good cocoa powder
  • 2 t baking soda
  • 1 t baking powder
  • 1 t kosher salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk, shaken
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2  eggs, at room temp
  • 1 t pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 9X13 inch cake pan or line with parchment paper and spray with cooking spray.

Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and mix on low-speed until combined. In another bowl, combine the buttermilk, oil, eggs, and vanilla. With the mixer on low-speed, slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry. With mixer still on low, add the coffee and stir just to combine, scraping the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula.

Yellow Cake:

  • 4 cups plus 2 t cake flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/2 t baking soda
  • 1 t salt
  • 2 sticks (1 cup) butter, softened
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 t vanilla
  • 4 eggs,  room temp
  • 2 cups buttermilk, well-shaken

Preheat oven to 350°F. Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until pale and fluffy, then beat in vanilla. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well and scraping down the bowl after each addition. At low-speed, beat in buttermilk until just combined (mixture will look curdled). Add flour mixture in three batches, mixing until each addition is just incorporated.

Add a 1/4 cup of chocolate to center of 9X13 pan. Follow with 1/4 cup yellow cake. Repeat until pan is 3/4 full (there will be extra chocolate and yellow batter left over…I just made some cupcakes to have around for the weekend)! The important thing here is to make sure that both batters are the same consistency. If not, the runnier one will spread more and the cake will be dominantly that color, instead of marbled throughout. Either way it will still taste good though!!

Thick, Rich, Chocolate Frosting:

  • 6 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled
  • 4 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 3 sticks butter, room temperature
  • 6 T milk
  • 1 T vanilla

Add butter to mixer with whisk attachment, beat until light and fluffy. Add in powdered sugar, whisk again until fluffy and incorporated. Add in cooled, melted chocolate, milk and vanilla extract.  Frost entire cake!

Em and I use the same pistachio cake/bread recipe…it was her mom’s recipe and comes out perfectly every time…so here is that one as well! But I’ll have to get the banana one from Em to share with you guys since it was soooo good!! Josh and I were lucky enough to taste test that one out before the wedding!

Pistachio Cake:

  • 1 pkg instant pistachio pudding
  • 1 pkg yellow cake mix
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/4 cup water or milk (I always use milk)!
  • 1/4 cup oil

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 9X13 inch pan or line with parchment paper and spray with cooking spray.  Beat all ingredients together, pour into prepared pan and bake 40 minutes or until cake tester comes out clean. Let cool in pan 30 minutes, turn out onto wire rack, cool completely. Frost with cream cheese frosting (recipe above)!

My beautiful friend Colleen modeling the red velvet, banana and pistachio cakes!