Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Date Squares

I'm back! I know you have all missed me. (haha!) I have a handful of tasty recipes that are husband approved to share. I must apologize for by absence as the last few weeks have just flown by!

Today I bring you a recipe for Date Squares. After leaving Costco with a tub of dates, I knew immediately that I wanted to bake something with them. I scoured a bunch of recipes but never really found one that would be AWESOME. Then I turned to my faithful King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion. Goodness, I adore that book. Well, they had a recipe for date squares, but alas it also wasn't quite what I wanted. What is a girl to do? Make up her own recipe! And here we are. :)

These bars are sweet, crumbly and everything that is good in the world. With my constant need to snack (34 weeks tomorrow) I wanted something that was at least somewhat good for me. These don't have a whole lot of sugar, so I do let myself feel good about eating them. :) Plus! The crumbly yumminess consists largely of flour and oats. Good things, indeed.

Date Squares
recipe by me!

4 c. (loosely filled- no cramming!) chopped dates
1 c. water
1/2 c. brown sugar
pinch of salt
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1 tbl. lemon juice

Crumbly Crust:
2 c. oats
2 c. flour (all purpose or whole wheat or combo)
1 c. packed brown sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. cinnamon (optional)
pinch of salt
2 sticks of butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease your baking dish. (I used a 7.5" x 11.75" pan- but a 9x13 will work in a pinch- may need a little less time baking)
To make our filling, combine all filling ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring to distribute everything evenly. Once it reaches a boil, turn down the heat so that it is just simmering. Stir occasionally until all of the liquid seems to be sucked up and you have a lovely glob of sticky dates. Set aside to cool while making the crust.
In a large mixing bowl, stir together the first six ingredients until thoroughly combined. Pour the butter over the dry ingredients and gently stir with a fork. Think about how you toss a salad, coming from the bottom of the bowl and moving up, gently. We don't want one huge chunk, but rather streusel consistency where all of the dry ingredients seem to be moistened.
Dump half of the crust into your greased pan and press into an even layer across the bottom. Spread the date filling over the bottom crust, evenly. Now sprinkle the remaining crust over top the dates. Do not press this layer down. It ensures a tasty crumbly top!
Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the top is turning golden (a little less for those 9x13 pans!). Once done baking, let cool for a little while before cutting into it so that it doesn't all fall apart completely. I was able to wait an hour. That gave it time to firm up a little, but still was warm and gooey. Enjoy!

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Thursday, June 30, 2011

Snicker Cookies

As anyone who knows me can probably say, I love dessert.It is no wonder why most of my posts are about the sweeter things in the culinary world.
So this recipe comes from my mom's kitchen. She makes these cookies at Christmas time for her friends and our family. From my experience, everyone that has ever tried them, loves them. And you will soon see why.
I decided to make them this time of year because I needed a special dessert for an event. Cookies this good shouldn't just come once a year.

Snicker Cookies
(honestly don't remember where my mom found the recipe- from an ad?)

2 sticks butter (softened)
1 c. creamy peanut butter
1 c. light brown sugar
1 c. granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
3 1/2 c. all purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 package (about 13 or so ounces) Snickers Brand Miniatures, unwrapped
1c. chocolate chips

Combine the first four ingredients until light and fluffy. Add in the eggs one at a time until fully incorporated. Then mix in the vanilla.
In another bowl combine the flour with the salt and baking soda. Mix this into the butter mixture just until combined. Cover the dough and chill for at least a couple hours.
Remove the dough from the fridge and scoop out about a tablespoon at a time. Take a piece of dough and form a ball around a Snickers with it. I ended up using more like a tablespoon and a half for each cookie, my personal preference. Repeat until all of the dough or all of the candy is gone.
Place the balls on a greased cookie sheet a good inch and a half to two inches apart because they will spread. Bake in a 325 degree oven for about 10 to 12 minutes or until they have begun to look dry and firm. Let them cool for 3 to 5 minutes on the baking rack before moving to a cooling rack to completely cool off. If they don't get to sit on the rack, they will just crumble. (Not always bad since you can just eat the pieces as you go)
Melt your chocolate chips, if desired and drizzle over the cookies.

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Monday, June 6, 2011

Innkeeper Pie

So far in my pregnancy I haven't had too many strong cravings. One thing that I have always had and continue to work with is my sweet tooth. I love dessert. I love being able to make dessert at home for myself, my husband and for friends and family.
One such dessert that is pretty easy to put together and tastes amazing is this Innkeeper Pie. It comes from a cookbook my mom has. I have been making it for years and can't remember exactly where it hails from. I think a Hershey's cookbook?
Anyways. This dessert is a pie and a cake. Together. In all of the best ways possible. I thoroughly enjoy it, and so did my husband.

Innkeeper Pie
(from a Hershey's cookbook?)

1 pie crust- homemade or store bought
2/3 c. sugar + 3/4 c. sugar
1/3 c. cocoa powder
1 c. water
1/3 c. butter
2 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract, divided
1 c. all purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 c. shortening (I like plain ol Crisco)
1/2 c. milk
1 egg
1/2 c. shopped nuts (pecans or walnuts work best, I think)

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
In a medium saucepan, stir together 2/3 c. of the sugar, the cocoa powder and the water. Over medium heat, bring the mixture to a boil, stirring occasionally for one minute. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter and 1 1/2 tsp. of the vanilla until both are fully incorporated. Set aside.
In a small bowl, stir together the flour, the remaining 3/4 c. sugar, baking powder and salt. Add in the shortening, milk and remaining 1 tsp. of vanilla. Stir just until combined. Add in the egg and mix well to combine.
Spoon the batter into the prepared crust. Stir the chocolate mixture a bit and gently pour over the cake batter. Sprinkle the nuts over top the whole thing. Bake for 55 to 60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean and dry. Cool slightly and enjoy!

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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Coffee BBQ Rub

Grilling season is upon us. At least it is here, in California. I just graduated college last week and am working on a couple projects that need to be finished this month. Otherwise I have been having more free time.
My pregnancy cravings vary from day to day. I wouldn't even call them all "cravings" really. It's more of what sounds tasty versus what gives me the dry heeves (spelling?). Grilling has been a great way to get some flavors I haven't had a ton of lately (although let's face it, I married the BBQ master and he grills any month of the year).
For our first meal cooked entirely on the grill, hubby made shish-a-bobs. Well, I strung them up and he cooked them. My mom used to make these a lot and I LOVE the marinade she used. So I called my parents house to realize I didn't have all of the ingredients nor the time to marinate the meat. I was hungry NOW. Not later. :)
Plan B was to find a nice rub for the meat. I whipped up a rub loosely inspired by one I saw in a recent Woman's Day magazine and it was delicious. I really had no idea that I could play with flavors like this so well. I consider myself more of a sweet tooth. And you will see that it totally shines through in my rub. :D
I don't have a name for it (yet). But I wanted to share it amyways. Any name ideas are more than welcome!


2 tbl. brown sugar
1 tsp. ground coffee
1 1/2 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. fresh ground black pepper

Combine everything and rub it on the meat. This recipe doesn't create much, so scale it up if necessary.
It's really nice to let the rub sit on the meat for a half hour or so in the fridge before cooking if you have the time. Then grill it up! Enjoy!

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Tasty Tuesday! at Balancing Beauty and Bedlam

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Super Easy Pineapple Upside Down Cake

Last week I wanted to make pineapple upside down cake as a thank you to some people for taking care of my rabbits. I had some pineapple slices in the fridge leftover, but not a whole lot of butter.
My usual recipe calls for a homemade yellow cake, which is very delicious. But I found an easier (and much faster) way to make a very delicious cake that tastes homemade.

Super Easy Pineapple Upside Down Cake

1/2 c. unsalted butter, melted
2/3 c. packed brown sugar
1 can sliced pineapple in juice(or freshly sliced pineapple)
1 box yellow cake mix + all the stuff to prepare it
1/2 tsp. cinnamon

Preheat the oven to whatever the cake box recommends.
Combine the butter and brown sugar until fully incorporated. Spread evenly on the bottom of 2 9-inch round cake pans or 1 9x13inch cake pan that has been lightly greased. (I would avoid 8inch rounds because they don't hold as much volume as the 9inch ones do, so your cake would probably overflow.)
Prepare the cake mix as directed, except also mix in the cinnamon. With this step, you could easily substitute some of the water needed for the cake mix with some of the pineapple juice if you are using canned pineapple.
Lightly pat the pineapple pieces dry and arrange them however you like on the bottom of the pan(s). Try to keep them from touching so cake can ooze between all of the pieces. If you are making a 9x13, you could easily use a whole can of pineapple, but with the round pans not as much will be needed.
*I like to slice the pineapple rings in half and circle them around the round cake pans that way. When I use a 9x13 pan, I like to keep the rings whole.
Divide your cake batter between the pans, being careful to pour in slowly to not displace the pineapple. Bake as directed on the cake mix box. Once done, let sit on the counter for about 5-10 minutes to partially set, then invert onto your serving tray or plate. If the cake cools completely in the pan, removing it later will be much more difficult and less pretty.
Serve it as is, or with a dollop of whipped cream. Enjoy!

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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

It's been a while!

Hello everybody! I know it's been awhile since I have posted anything. It has been in part due to my serious lack of cooking these last few weeks. I have family in town from out of state- so my mom and aunt have been making bulk of the meals. I just eat. :)
Earlier this month one of my rabbits developed an abcess in his mouth and required surgery and daily care to heal up from that. He is healing up from the sugery, but still requires twice daily antibiotics to fight off any bacteria that want to make his mouth a home. So much bad stuff for such a good little bunny!
This is also the end of my semester, thus the bigger projects are due around now.
It has definitely been one crazy month! Please stick with me- as all of the hub-bub dies down I am hoping to get back into the swing of things.
On a side note! If anyone wants to guest post a delicious recipe (dessert or something to go along with the weather warming up) please shoot me an email. :)

Monday, March 28, 2011

Cranberry Orange Scones

Hello everybody! I am finally back with a recipe. And boy is it a good one. First, I thought I would explain a little bit of where I have been.
I have been sick as everybody knows. And I think it's starting to clear up because I can taste again. Haha. However, I was a different kind of sick before this head congestion thing struck. Good ol morning sickness. That's right! Hubby and I are going to have a baby! While m/s was kicking my butt, I didn't do much cooking and wasn't interested in lots of food I usually am- so I didn't really feel qualified to write any food related posts. Well now I am on the track back thanks to food cravings (and less aversions, thank God).
Lately I had been thinking about making something with the dried cranberries in my cupboard. Then the other day while spending time with a friend at a coffee shop, the barista was passing out samples of cranberry orange scones. Yum. I've had these before and they are totally one of my favorite scones. Okay, cranberry orange scones it is.

This morning I began searching for a good reciple- preferably one that I already had all of the ingredients for. Then there it was. I had everything it needed in my kitchen. It was go time. I followed the recipe exactly. There really was no need to deviate from such a simple recipe. Glad I didn't because boy are those scones yummy! And they are literally fresh from my oven right now. I just finished eating my first scone while writing this paragraph. :)

Cranberry Orange Scones
recipe by Brown Eyed Baker

1/4 c. granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsp. orange zest
1 1/2 c. + 2 tbl. all purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
a pinch of salt (I forgot to add this since I was hungry for some scones and in hurry!)
3/4 c. dried cranberries
1 c. heavy cream
1 tbl. melted butter
some more granulated sugar for sprinkling

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees and line a baking sheet with a piece of parchment paper or a silpat baking mat.
With your fingers, rub together the granulated sugar and the orange zest in a large bowl until everything is all nice and incorporated.
Add in the flour, baking powder and salt and mix together thoroughly. Mix in the cranberries.
Add the heavy cream and stir until combined. Lightly knead the dough on a lightly floured surface just until everything is combined. Too much kneading leads to a stiff and less light and fluffy scone.
Now you can pat the dough into a 8-inch circle and cut said circle into 8 even wedges. Place the wedges on the baking mat a couple inches apart. I like the look of round scones (that then puff out with the rigid edges) so I divided my dough into 8 portions and formed them into slightly flattened balls and placed them on the baking sheet.
Brush the tops of the scones with the melted butter and lightly sprinkle with the granulated sugar. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until they have puffed and are starting to gain a light golden brown color.
Allow to cool on a baking rack and enjoy. Yumm!!

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Monday, March 21, 2011

Make Mine Chocolate

Since I am still sick and starting to regain the ability to smell and taste (there was about a week there where I couldn't smell or taste a darn thing- really makes food blogging difficult!) I want to write about something very close to my heart.
I realize this may sound weird for some of you, so let me give you a little history about me. Time to open up on the world wide web (kinda freaky).....
Growing up, I always had cats. I loved cats and I still love cats. Animals were always treated as a part of the family. They were spoiled, they went to the doctor and above everything else, they were and are loved.
Having pets always filled my heart with happiness. I know I'm not the only one that feels this way because as I got involved with the veterinary field I got to meet others that felt the same way I do about their pets- dogs, cats, rabbits, horses, yada yada yada.
I cannot wait until I can work in a veterinary setting to improve the life of animals, and by doing that, improve the life of the people who love them.
Okay, so how does all of this relate to rabbits you ask?
This story begins May of 2009. My at the time boyfriend and I were taking a walk around his neighborhood when he spotted a little brown rabbit- definitely not a wild jack rabbit- hoping along in someones yard next to a small family walking in the opposite direction of us. He asked if it was their rabbit, but it wasn't They had no clue it was even following them. So I walked up and scooped up the bunny into my arms. He didn't try to flee. He wasn't all skin and bones. Just a cute little rabbit that didn't know what was going on, probably looking for something to eat. Boyfriend and I walked around the entire neighborhood knocking on doors to see if anyone was missing a bunny- but those that answered declined. At this point it was getting dark and there was no way I was going to just set the little rabbit back down on the ground and walk away. I was instantly attached.

Just relaxing on the floor

Sammy grooming me

We brought the bunny back to my boyfriend's house because I had cats back at my parents place where I lived and I knew that predator animal wouldn't mix with prey animal very well. At least not initially.
We decided to keep Sammy and as soon as possible brought him to the vet. He was about 4 months old or so. Quite possibly someones baby Easter bunny that they decided they didn't want anymore and just set "free". I began studying up about rabbits immediately. I wanted to make sure that I was able to give our new little rabbit everything that it needed. Growing up with cats is a lot different than rabbits.
I have since learned so much about rabbits and how good of a house pet they really can make. But one thing has always been a soft spot for me- people that buy rabbits for young children, only to realize that a rabbit actually does requite some work and usually DON'T like to be held and then surrender them to a shelter to be euthanized or just set free in the backyard. It frustrates me to no end.
I see my little Sammy, and now also my little Daisy Marie and can't imagine how someone would not want to learn about and give them a great home. Sammy is very loyal. The little boy follows me around when he is out during play time. He gets back into his hutch with ease when it's bed time, and even likes to play chase.
Daisy is a little feisty girl. She loves her play time, but is still a little shy.
Here is where Make Mine Chocolate comes in. This website helps to inform anyone who is thinking of becoming a rabbit owner for the first, or third, or whatever time a little about what you are actually getting yourself into. Then the reader can decide if they would rather just have a chocolate bunny for Easter than a real life one.
Rabbits really do make wonderful pets. They each have different personalities like cats and dogs. Speaking of, they can (with some training and supervision) get along just fine with most cats and dogs.
Now that I have two bunnies of my own, I honestly can't imagine life without rabbits!
If you, or anyone you know is thinking about bringing a cute little bunny into your home for Easter, or for whatever reason, please check out Make Mine Chocolate and really think about the decision! :)

Other great rabbit resources:
My House Rabbit
House Rabbit Society
Rabbits Online- Forum

If you have any rabbit related questions, please send me an email. I'm not a vet, so I don't have all of the answers, but I would love to help if I can. :)

Baby Daisy next to a mug

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Fortune Cookies

Happy Mardi Gras to everyone!! I don't have a recipe for King Cake, but I have another quick and fun recipe for everyone to try.
I love fortune cookies. It's always so fun after going out for Chinese to sit around the table with friends and hear the fortunes that each other received. I had no idea how easy they were to make until my high school foods class when we got to make them one day. Years later I can still remember how much fun I had making them and so I wanted to share the recipe with you. I don't know where this specific recipe came from- it was probably one of those just passed out in class and somehow all these years later I managed to keep it.
You could easily write up fortunes of your own- or even some announcement you would like to make on small stripes of paper and stick them in the cookies when you fold them up.
Since we are now in the year of the rabbit, I thought it would be nice to show pictures of my babies.



Yes, I have been looking for a reason since I started the blog to stick pictures of my rabbits in here. Since we are making fortune cookies and it's the year of the rabbit- what a better opportunity? :)

Fortune Cookies

1 egg white
1/8 tsp. vanilla
pinch of salt
1/4 c. all purpose flour
2 tbl. granulated sugar

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees and grease a cookie sheet- or put down one of those handy silicone mats. Also have out a muffin tin as this will be what we set the cookies in to cool off and harden up.
Mix together the egg white and the vanilla until foamy. Sift in the remaining ingredients and blend together thoroughly.
Place a heaping teaspoon of the batter on the cookie sheet in three or four places- about four inches apart. Thin out the batter into a bigger circle with the measuring spoon. You want to be able to just barely see through the batter.
Bake for 5 minutes until the edges just start to turn golden and the top looks dry.
Take them out and fold in half so you have a half circle, then take the two points and pull them together. (This would be the perfect time to slip in your paper fortune.)
Set the cookies in the muffin tin to finish cooling- they won't harden up as much as the cookies you get at the restaurant, but they will be very tasty.

Once you have made a round of the cookies, you can adjust the amount of batter on the cookie sheet as well as the thickness you spread the circles into to your liking. More batter = bigger cookies. :)


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Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Buttermilk Pralines and Chocolate Covered Almond Clusters

Today is the last night for my decorating basics class. I'm still on the road to getting better from this cold. I really really dislike coughing. I think I have done enough of it in the last three days that I shouldn't need to for the rest of the year.
So to celebrate the last day of my cake decorating class, I thought I would post about some tasty candy that is good any time of the year. I made this around Christmas time- but they would be just as great for Easter or even a birthday. Make up a bunch and wrap them individually for Halloween.
The first recipe I found on (Better Homes & Gardens) while looking for something to do with the buttermilk I had in the house. The second came from Food Network a long long time ago. I actually have it hand written on the back of some piece of paper somewhere in the kitchen. Luckily, the recipe is super easy with very little ingredients.

Buttermilk Pralines makes about 3 dozen or so
(recipe from

2 c. packed brown sugar
1 c. buttermilk
2 tbl. butter
2 c. pecans, slightly chopped (you want to have lots of big pieces)

Spray the inside on a heavy 2 quart saucepan with nonstick spray. Combine the brown sugar and buttermilk in the pan and cook over medium high heat until the mixture comes to a boil, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. Carefully attach a candy thermometer to the pan and lower the heat to medium low. Continue cooking and stirring occasionally until the thermometer reaches 234 degrees F, or soft ball stage.
Remove the saucepan from the heat and add in the butter, but don't stir. Let the mixture cool until the thermometer reaches 150 degrees F. Once cooled down, take out the candy thermometer and quickly stir in the pecans. Doing this will further cool down the mixture, so you have to work quickly from here. Beat the mixture with the wooden spoon untul the candy feels like it's thickening, but still looks glossy.
Drop the candy by tablespoonfuls (smaller if you desire) onto wax paper a couple inches apart because the mixture will spread a little. If the mixture in the pan begins to stiffen before you can finish scooping it out, mix in a couple drops of hot water at a time until the consistency you need returns. Let the pralines cool until set and then store in an airtight container.

Chocolate Covered Almond Clusters
(The amounts are estimates. You can use more or less almonds, more or less chocolate as desired)
recipe adapted from Food Network

1/2 c toasted slivered almonds
24 individually wrapped caramels, quartered
1 c. chocolate chips

Spray a mini muffin tin with nonstick spray and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Divide the almonds among 24 muffin wells (less wells if you want more almond per each candy).
On top of the almond slivers, place 4 of the pieces of caramel. This amounts to one caramel per candy. If you overfill the wells with almonds, the caramel won't be able to reach all of the almonds.
Pop the pan in the oven and watch carefully. About 5 to 8 minutes and the caramel will be melted. If left in the oven too long. it will all burn. Remove from the oven and let the candies cool just until hardened and easy to handle.
Melt the chocolate over a double boiler or in the microwave. Dip each almond cluster in the chocolate with a couple forks and set on some parchment or wax paper to harden. Store candies in an airtight container.

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Friday, February 25, 2011

Soda BBQ Sauce

Hello everyone!! My, my it sure has been a while. So much for my new years resolution, right? Things have been busy over here in my neck of the woods. I am finishing up school and preparing to graduate in May.
Note: Just because a class is online, doesn't make it automatically easier. Just easier to forget about sometimes.
I'm also taking a Wilton Cake Decorating class with hopes to be AWESOME in the very near future.
So aside from the normal routine and my last semester of schooling (ever?) I have been feeling kinda sick lately. Some sort of head/nose/throat sort of thing. I would love to say "it's going around", but unfortunately I don't know anyone else right now with similar symptoms. Let me just say that I am TIRED of coughing and having a sore throat.

So here I am, back in lovely bloggy-land. I have missed it. I wanted to bring with me a tasty recipe to welcome Spring in with (now that we're getting some rain here in Cali, naturally- whatever!).
This recipe is pretty versatile. Use whatever soda you want (strawberry cola is probably gross- but you won't know until you try it!) I left out the steak sauce from the original recipe because we never have that stuff in our house. Feel free to add some if you want. Start with a little and taste it. You can always add more!
I also like some sweetness in my BBQ sauces, so if you are like me with that, add in a tbl or 2 of brown sugar. Yummy!

Soda BBQ Sauce
(adapted from a recipe from the Barbeque Bible Sauces Rubs and Marinades)

1 c. soda
1 c. ketchup
1/4 c. worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. onion flakes
1 tsp. garlic powder or flakes
1/2 tsp. fresh ground black pepper

Combine all of the ingredients in a medium sized nonreactive saucepan and slowly bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring everything to mix well. Reduce the heat to keep the sauce at a simmer and reduce it by a quarter. So, 3/4 of the original volume should be left. Use right away. We loved it over brisket, but chicken would be delicious too!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Buttermilk Bread

Has anyone ever taken a walk down the bread aisl at the store and seen how many different kinds of bread there is available? So many! Not to mention the fancier brands cost a ton for just one loaf!
My favorite kinds of bread from the store are the potato bread and the buttermilk bread. The only time I ever buy the stuff is when it's on sale. Not anymore!
This recipe actually came out of a need to use up some buttermilk. You see, I bought a half gallon on sale (cheaper than a quart). I thought it would be interesting to see what all I could come up with. This recipe isn't completely my own, I found it at and just slightly tweaked it.
What I really loved was not only that I got to use lots of the buttermilk I had, but I also had all of the rest of the ingredients in the house! The dough is made in the bread machine (baked in your oven) for added convenience. Surely, you could mix up the dough and let it take the first rise without the machine, but I really enjoyed being able to push start and go about my business.
So if you love buttermilk bread, or just have some extra buttermilk in the fridge, give this recipe a try. Makes for some good PB&J sandwiches. (Or just good snacking!)


Buttermilk Bread yields 1 loaf
(recipe slightly adapted from

1 1/4 c. buttermilk
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 c. honey
3 tbl. unsalted butter
3 c. all purpose flour
1/4 c. powdered milk
1 tsp. sugar
2 1/4 tsp. active dry yeast (or one of those packets)

Let the buttermilk come to room temperature. Add all of the ingredients to your bread machine in the order the manufacturer desires. For me, it's usually liquids first, then the dry goods, always ending with the yeast.
Set the machine on a dough cycle. We don't want to bake it, just make the dough.
When the bread machine has finished, remove the dough and on a lightly floured surface shape into a log that will fit into a 9x5inch loaf pan. Spray the pan with nonstick spray and place the log in. Let it rise in a warm place until doubled*. Bake the loaf in a 325 degree oven for 20-30 minutes or until it's nice and brown on the outside, watch it to make sure it doesn't burn. Enjoy!
*When the house is cold, I like to let my yeast doughs rise in the oven. I turn the oven onto it's "warm" setting while making the dough, and turn it off once it comes to temperature. Turn the oven light on, as that keeps a nice gentle warm for the yeast!

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Monday, January 24, 2011

Stacia's Steak, Spinach and Pasta Dish

One of my resolutions for this year was to cook healthier food. It's not that I didn't cook healthy before, it was just that "healthy" wasn't on the top of my mind when making dinner. Now, I am putting more effort into thinking dinner through before hand, to try and figure out ways to keep lots of flavor, and make it good for our bodies.
The inspiration for this dish came, like so many other dishes, from watching Food Network. Specifically, Rachael Ray. I think she is fun and has lots of great recipes. This one, however, isn't hers. It's mine. :)
Anyway, she was grilling up portobello mushrooms for sandwiches (yum). I printed the recipe and actually ended up changing the whole marinade up so much it can't even be called the same recipe anymore. I thought it was great on the mushrooms. Well, my husband doesn't really care for mushrooms, so the recipe took another twist with the addition of beef in place of the mushrooms. It's also no longer a sandwich. (I discovered how good it was without the bread when I ate the leftovers the next day).
I am so proud of what I came up with, and I just know that you will love it too! Not to mention, that this recipe is also super versatile. You can switch out the beef for chicken or portobello mushrooms. You could also mix up the veggies to include ones that you like. I usually use whatever is fresh and in the fridge. I have pasta as part of this, to make it work for dinner. If you want to whip it up for lunch, you could certainly leave that out, just don't make as much sauce.

Stacia's Steak, Spinach and Pasta Dish

for the marinade:
1 tbl. veggie oil
2 tbl. mustard (I have been using plain yellow)
2 tbl. worcestershire sauce
1/4 c. red wine vinegar
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes (optional)

1 lb. steak, cut into thin strips (I have also used tri tip and cross rib roast for this- just make sure to cut against the grain)
Veggies of your choice, I like:
1 yellow onion, sliced into half rings
2 med. carrots, sliced 1/4inch thin
1-2 bell peppers, sliced thin
1 stalk celery, sliced thin (I don't really care for the stuff, but it works in this!)
small head of broccoli, cut into bite sized florets
half of a normal sized bag or prewashed baby spinach, or two big handfuls

ingredients for the marinade again, (leave out the chili flakes to keep it less spicy) plus:
1 1/2 tbl. cornstarch
1/3 c. water
salt& pepper to taste
1/2 lb. small pasta (macaroni, shells, rotini)

Mix up all of the ingredients for the marinade and put the sliced up steak in it to marinate for an hour or two.
When you are ready to start making dinner, bring a large pot of water to a boil to prepare the pasta.
In a large pan or skillet, begin cooking your onion, bell pepper and celery in a little bit of oil until the veggies are nice and soft. Should take a few minutes on a medium/med-low heat. Drop the pasta and add the broccoli to the pan of veggies. Cook, stirring for a couple of minutes to get a little brown on the broccoli. Pour about 1/4 c of water into the veggies and quickly put a lid on the pan. This will steam the broccoli to make sure it is cooked thoroughly. After a couple minutes have passed, the broccoli should have taken on a lovely broght green color. Move all of the veggies to the outer rim of the pan once the remaining water has evaporated and dump the steak in the middle. Don't move it around too much, we want it to brown nicely. Flip over the meat. It won't take long to cook. Add in your spinach and mix everything together so that the spinach wilts.
Mix together all of the ingredients that you used for the marinade again, plus the cornstarch and water this time. Now you have made the sauce.
Drain the pasta and dump into the veggies, pour the sauce mixture over everything and cook, stirring constantly so that the sauce coats everything as it thickens up. Season to your liking with salt and pepper. Serve immediately. Enjoy!

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Monday, January 17, 2011

Perfectly Simple Dark Chocolate Tart

To continue on my theme of chocolate desserts, I bring to you this rich chocolate tart. I know what you may be thinking, and no, these last three decadent desserts were not in my house at the same time. There was no overlap, at all......Thank goodness.
This dessert comes from a tasty little cookbook of mine called Luscious Chocolate Desserts. So far everything that I have made from this book has turned out fantastic. This tart, is certainly no exception. But be warned, it is only for the chocoholic. The party I made this for had lots of people, and I still ended up keeping half of it because it is so rich that everyone only took small slices. (May also be because there were so many other delicious desserts there, and you can't fill up on just one.)
However, if you are looking for a relatively quick and easy to put together dessert, this is definitely one to keep in your arsenal. With so few ingredients, The only thing that I changed was the kind of chocolate I used for the filling. There really wasn't anything else for me to change about it. Although, next time, I may add just a touch of ground cinnamon to the filling. I love how cinnamon and chocolate compliment each other so nicely.

(my apologies for the poor picture quality. It was nighttime and all I could get was glare)

Perfectly Simple Dark Chocolate Tart serves at least 12
(recipe adapted from the awesome book, Luscious Chocolate Desserts)

1/2 c. powdered sugar
1/4 c. toasted walnuts, cooled (you can toast your walnuts in the oven at 350 for a few minutes, or stovetop, just keep an eye on them because they'll burn quickly)
3/4 c. flour
1/4 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 c. cold, unsalted butter, cut into smaller pieces

6 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
8 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped (or any combination of the two that you like)
1 c. heavy cream
6 tbl. unsalted butter
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 c. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Lightly grease a 11-inch tart pan with a removeable bottom. (one that has sides that go up at least a couple inches) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
In a food processor, blend together the powdered sugar and walnuts until the walnuts are very fine. Add the flour, cocoa powder and salt, blend just until it's all incorporated. Now add the butter and pulse just until the mixture starts to clump together a bit in the machine. Turn it off and press some between your fingers, if it sticks together, you're ready. Pour the dough into the tart pan and press down evenly to form a crust over the bottom and about an inch and a half to 2 inches up the side. It's going to shrink down just a bit when baking.
Bake the crust for about 15 minutes, or until it begins for pull away from the sides of the pan. It may take a few minutes longer. Let the crust cool.
Now onto the filling. Melt together the heavy cream and chocolate in the microwave. Starting at 30 seconds, then moving onto 10 second incriments. Alternatively, put the bowl of chocolate and cream over a pot of lightly simmering water. Whisk until all of the chocolate is melted and the mixture is nice and smooth. Whisk in the remaining ingredients for the filling. (Note: if the chocolate mixture is really really warm, I recommend that you should temper your eggs first with a little of the chocolate mixture)
Pour the warm filling into the crust and pop back into the oven. Bake for about 12 minutes. The filling should appear set all around the outside, but just a little jiggly in the center. Transfer the tart to a wire rack and cool completely. When you are ready to serve, remove the rim of the pan, gently and set on a cake stand, or whatever you plan to serve it on. Dust with cocoa powder if desired, and enjoy!!

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Monday, January 10, 2011

Triple Chocolate Indulgence

I am going to share with you something I am very proud of. I have been thinking for a long while what to call it. Chocolate comes in three distinct forms (four if you count the pirouettes) in this elegant cake. It is decadent, rich, moist and very delicious. If you don't like chocolate, this is definitely not for you. I thought of my friend, Barb when making this because I know she, too, loves chocolate. :)
This cake was for a New Years Eve party. There was going to be a dessert competition and I wanted to show off my best. Chocolate was not just an option, it had to be the main attraction. And so I came up with this lovely chocolate concotion.
While there was no official voting, I do think that this cake would have, stick with me here, taken the cake. Ha! With two layers of homemade Devil's Food cake, homemade dark chocolate mousse and a delicious chocolate ganache encompassing the entire thing, how could anyone go wrong?
When you make this cake yourself, you can certainly use a store bought cake mix, but I really think the mousse and the ganache need to be homemade to get the best flavor. As for the Pirouettes, they are optional. You can definitely leave the cake as is with the ganache, however, I haven't met a single person that doesn't like Pirouettes. Plus, they come in a few different flavors, something for everybody.
My chocolate mousse is very good. I have made it so many times for so many reasons and everybody loves it. It does use uncooked egg whites, so get your eggs from someplace you trust, and try to make sure they are very fresh. (Save those yolks for zabaglione or chocolate lava cakes!) The recipe is also versatile in that you can use the good baking chocolate, or half of a normal sized bag of chocolate chips.
The ganache is super easy to put together and oh so good. Chill it and pipe into eclairs, or warm up and put over vanilla ice cream.

First make the cake, since it needs to cool completely. Once it has cooled, trim up the tops if they aren't very flat. I just left mine as is, a little rounded-ness never hurt anyone.
While those cakes are cooling, make the ganache. Put one cup of the finished ganache into the fridge to firm up. Leave the rest out at room temperature.
Once the cakes are cool, make the chocolate mousse. This recipe makes about twice as much as you need. However, if you decide to make a triple decker cake (double the cake batter recipe and split it between 3 pans) the extra mousse will come in handy. Hubby and I just ate the rest of it as is.
Now we can begin putting this bad boy together. Put on of your cake layers on a cake stand, top of the cake side down (this helps eliminate that top bulge). Spread on desired amount of mousse. Place other cake layer on top of that and make sure you have enough mousse to ensure no gaps along the sides.
Mix up the room temperature ganache a bit and then begin spreading it all over your cake, starting with the top and moving downward. I recommend using an offset cake spatula for this. Don't worry about how pretty the sides are if you are going to stick pirouettes on it.
Once you have completely covered your cake with ganache (this should have used up all, or just about all of the room temperature ganache), stick your pirouettes (1 normal sized can, pirouettes cut in half) onto the cake. Your chilled ganache should be nice and firm now, so put that into a decorator bag fitted with a large star tip and pipe some stars on the top. I put 12 on because the cake is pretty rich and the standard 8 slices would have been way too big.

Homemade Devil's Food Cake
(recipe modified off of the Softasilk box)

1 c. sugar
1 stick, unsalted butter, softened
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 egg
1 1/4 c. cake flour (I like Softasilk)
1/2 c. dutch processed cocoa powder, or unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 c. + 2 tbl. buttermilk

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour 2 9-inch round cake pans.
Beat together the first three ingredients, scraping down the bowl as necessary, until light and fluffy. Mix in the egg until completely incorporated. Combine in another bowl the cake flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt. Beat the flour mixture alternating with the buttermilk into the butter. Scrape down the bowl and beat for another minute to get it nice and smooth.
Divide the batter between the two pans and bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Flip the cakes gently onto cooling racks and allow to cool completely.

Dark Chocolate Mousse

6 ounces dark chocolate (or whatever chocolate you have on hand)
1 1/2 c. heavy cream
3 egg whites
2 tbl. sugar

Melt the chocolate in a microwave safe bowl, and then leave out while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
Whisk the heavy cream in a chilled mixer bowl until stiff peaks form. Set aside until needed.
Put the egg whites in a very clean mixer bowl. Any little fat molecules will prevent the whites from holding up as a meringue. Whisk together until soft peaks form. With the mixer on, slowly add the sugar and continue beating until stiff peaks form.
Here is where you have to work fast. Quickly whisk one quarter of the  whipped cream into the chocolate. If you don't work fast enough, the chocolate will just cool and harden. (in which case, pop in the microwave for 5-10 seconds and try again. Once that is all nice and incorporated, carefully fold in the egg whites and the remaining whipped cream. Refrigerate until ready to use. Store in an airtight container in the fridge.

Semisweet Chocolate Ganache
(recipe slighty adjusted from the book, Death by Chocolate)

1 c. heavy cream
2 tbl. unsalted butter
2 tbl. granulated sugar
12 ounces semisweet chocolate (1 bag or 2 cups of chocolate chips)

Heat together the heavy cream, butter and sugar in a small saucepan over a lower heat. Stir together until everything is incorporated, but do not allow to boil. Put the chocolate into a medium sized bowl and pour the cream over top. Allow this to stand for 5 minutes, then gently stir until smooth. Allow the ganache to cool to room temperature. (Any leftover should be refrigerated)

Enjoy! :)

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Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Dark Chocolate Fudge Cookies

Happy New Year to everyone out there! I hope everyone had a fun and safe new years eve and day. I went to a party on New Years Eve. Not just a normal, wait for the ball to drop, kind of party. This one had a dessert competition. My kind of party, right? I made a delicious chocolate cake- more on that later (insert shameless plug here)
I know lots of people talk about making resolutions this time of year. From the ones I have heard, they seem to be based around eating better and exercising. Well, one of my resolutions is to work out more consistantly, but also to get a recipe posted up here at least every week. With that, I would also like to make more bloggy friends.
My first recipe of the year isn't a "healthy dish", exactly. Just remember portion control. A sweet treat every now and then, in moderation, isn't a bad thing. I would be a very unhappy camper if it was a bad thing. This cookie recipe comes out of the cookie saga I have mentioned before. My husband likes to have a few cookies packed in his lunches for work, and he usually prefers chocolate chip. Chocolate chip is good, but it just bores me after a while, so every now and then I like to change it up. I found this delicious recipe in a cookbook that my mom-in-law gave me called Death By Chocolate. (Part of that cake I mentioned earlier is from this cookbook also!)
We found these cookies to be absolutely delicious! They are moist and oh so chocolately. The drizzle on top is completely optional, but makes for a nice presentation. Give these a try and they might just become your go to cookie recipe!

Dark Chocolate Fudge Cookies makes about 3 dozen
(recipe from the book, Death By Chocolate)

1 1/2 c. all purpose flour
1/2 c. unsweetened cocoa (yes, I wrote that right, unsweetened)
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
8 ounces semisweet chocolate, broken into 1/2ounce pieces (I like Baker's chocolate)
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, broken into 1/2ounce pieces (I like Baker's chocolate)
1 1/2 c. packed brown sugar
12 tbl. unsalted butter, softened
3 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3 c. semisweet chocolate chips (optional, but highly recommended)

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees. Sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt. If you don't have a sifter, just mix them together with a whisk to keep it all nice and light.
Melt the semisweet and unsweetened chocolate together over a double boiler or in the microwave. Stir until smooth and let sit at room temperature until ready.
Mix together the brown sugar and butter with an electric mixer until nice and fluffy. Scrape down the bowl and mix some more to ensure everything is incorporated. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing at medium speed. Scrape down the bowl after each egg is mixed in. Mix in the vanilla extract.
Add the melted chocolate to the mixer and beat just until it is all mixed in. Scrape down the bowl. Add in the flour mixture as well as the chocolate chips and mix just until incorporated.
Portion out the cookies into rounded tablespoons on a cookie sheet about two inches apart. Bake for 7 to 10 minutes. If the cookies are bigger, they will need more time. Remove to a wire rack to cool completely.
Optional: Melt about 1/2 c. of chocolate and drizzle over the cookies.

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