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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