Saturday, May 30, 2009

Pioneer Woman's Chocolate Sheet Cake

When I get bored, I tend to cook or bake. Well, after dinner tonight, I got bored. Realizing that I pretty much had all of the ingredients on hand for Pioneer Woman's chocolate sheet cake, I thought I'd give it a try. I did make some changes: I halved the recipe, I used Hershey's Special Dark Dutch Process Cocoa, subbed sour cream for buttermilk, baked the cake in a 9x13 pyrex dish because I don't have a sheet pan with sides, and I omitted the nuts in the chocolate glaze. Additionally, when I made the chocolate glaze icing I ran out of powdered sugar. I had maybe half of what I needed. So, I just incorporated some milk chocolate icing from the can (judge all you want). The sugar in the icing helped mute some of the cocoa-ey taste, but didn't do much to thicken it like the powdered sugar would have.

The results were pretty tasty. Because I poured the warm chocolate glaze over the warm chocolate cake it sort of melded with a texture like molten chocolate cake, which in my opinion really can't be beat. When you taste each piece separately, the cake itself turned out light and fluffy, and the glaze chocolatey without being overly sweet.

You can get Pioneer Woman's recipe at this link

And here's my halved, modified recipe below:

Ingredients for Cake:
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1 stick of butter
  • 2 tbsp cocoa
  • 1/2 cup boiling water
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla

Ingredients for Glaze:
  • 1 stick butter
  • 2 tbsp cocoa
  • 3 tbsp milk
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar

  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees
  2. In large mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, and salt.
  3. In saucepan on medium-low heat, melt butter, add cocoa and stir to combine. Add boiling water to chocolate mixture and raise heat to bubble mix for 30 seconds.
  4. Pour the mixture in saucepan over the top of the flour/sugar mixture, and stir gently to lightly combine.
  5. In a separate bowl, beat the egg and add sour cream, baking soda and vanilla. Stir to combine.
  6. Add the sour cream mixture to the chocolate mixture and stir well to combine.
  7. Pour into a 9x13 pyrex dish and bake for 20-25 minutes

    While cake bakes prepare the glaze-
  8. Melt stick of butter on medium heat and add cocoa powder, stirring to combine. Let bubble for 30 seconds then reduce heat to low.
  9. Add the milk and vanilla and stir to incorporate.
  10. Add the powdered sugar and stir well until smooth

Pour the warm chocolate glaze over the warm cake and serve!
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Sunday, May 17, 2009

Pasta with Asparagus, Mushrooms and Peas

I hit up the Dane County Farmers Market this Saturday and went home with spring's bounty of fresh mushrooms, asparagus, arugula and spinach. Tonight's dinner features the mushrooms and asparagus, plus the convenience of frozen peas and grape tomatoes. I was trying to find a recipe that used as many of the ingredients in one dish as possible, but when I found this recipe on, I decided I had to give it a try and find other recipes for the rest of my veggies.

I like this recipe for a couple of reasons. First, it came together quickly, which is always important. Second, I think this could be easily modified to fit whatever veggies you've got on hand. It's a pretty simple concept and could easily be made vegetarian. Third and MOST important - the result was DELICIOUS. The only thing I'd change if I did it again was perhaps used diced regular tomatoes. I think the grape tomatoes I used were a bit too sweet and overshadowed the other flavors whenever I had a bite with a tomato.

I did modify this a bit. I halved everything (although nearly everything is approximate anyway), I used thin spaghetti instead of fettucine, I used regular white button mushrooms instead of cremini, added garlic to the sauteed mushrooms, and I used bacon instead of prosciutto.

Here's the recipe on epicurious and I've described a halved version in a nutshell below:

Ingredients for 2-3 servings:
  • 4 oz asparagus cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 8 oz thin spaghetti (or whatever your favorite pasta shape is)
  • 2 sliced of bacon chopped
  • 4 oz mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/2 clove minced garlic
  • 1/2 C. frozen peas
  • 1/2 cup whipping cream
  • Couple handfulls of cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
  • 3-4 tablespoons parmesan cheese

  1. Heat pot of boiling, salted water to a boil. Cook asparagus for 2-3 minutes. Remove asparagus to separate bowl.
  2. In same pot of water, cook the pasta until al dente. Don't over cook!
  3. Meanwhile, in a large saute pan on medium heat, fry bacon pieces until crispy. Remove bacon pieces to a paper towel to drain. Drain off bacon grease, leaving ~1 Tbsp in pan.
  4. Add sliced mushrooms to the saute pan, and saute for 3-5 minutes. Halfway in, add the garlic, taking care to not let it burn.
  5. Add peas, asparagus, and cream and bring to a simmer on medium-low heat and cook until reduced.
  6. Add parmesan cheese to taste, and season with pepper (and more salt if needed)
  7. Add pasta, bacon pieces, and tomatoes into pan, and sautee on mediume high heat for a couple of minutes until sauce coates the pasta thoroughly.
  8. Plate and enjoy!
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Saturday, May 9, 2009

Pesto Chicken Pizza

Pesto is a household favorite and I had all the ingredients on hand to make this tasty, light pizza. I think next time I'll use a little bit more cheese or possibly fresh mozzarella and a slightly stronger pesto. But overall, it's really easy to pull this together, and you could omit the tomatoes and sub roasted red peppers for an equally delicious pizza.

  • Pizza dough (recipe here)
  • 1/2 C. of left over grilled, roasted or rotisserie chicken, diced
  • 1 fresh tomato, thinly sliced with seeds removed
  • 2 Tbsp to 1/4 cup of fresh pesto
  • 1/4 cup mozzarella

  1. Heat pizza stone in oven to 475 degrees
  2. Roll out pizza dough to desired thickness, sprinkle cornmeal on pizza peel and place dough on the peel.
  3. Spread pesto out on the dough with back of a spoon
  4. Top with grilled chicken, and sliced tomatoes
  5. Sprinkle with cheese
  6. Bake for 10-15 minutes until nicely golden brown and cheese is melted
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Pesto Chicken Linguine

I've been making Pesto Chicken linguine for several years now. It's super easy and once you get down the basics to making the sauce you can add whatever vegetables you have on hand to spice the dish up. I often make this a vegetarian dish by leaving out the chicken, and adding things like sauteed baby portobellos. I think that chopped fresh tomatoes, sauteed asparagus, steamed broccoli or sauteed artichoke hearts would also make a great addition.

And please keep in mind that because I've been making this forever and have never sat down and measured things out precisely, the measurements are just approximate. Taste as you go!

Ingredients for 2-3 servings:
  • Linguine - fresh or dry
  • 1 Chicken breast, sauteed
  • 3 Tbsp fresh pesto
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 Cup cream
  • Salt
  • 2-3 Tbsp Parmesan cheese (to taste)

  1. Cook pasta according to directions. Save about 1/4 cup of pasta water
  2. Melt butter with olive oil in skillet - sautee any veggies or chicken at this step
  3. Reduce heat to low, and stir in the pesto. Do not let the pesto burn! It's important to make sure the oil has reduced heat before adding the pesto.
  4. Add cream and turn heat to medium stirring frequently. Taste the pesto cream mixture at this point and add more pesto or more cream as needed.
  5. Stir in parmesan cheese, taste again, and salt as needed
  6. If cream sauce hasn't thickened add reserved pasta water a tablespoon at a time until sauce begins to thicken
  7. When pasta finishes cooking, add linguine to the sauce, turn up the heat and sautee until incorporated
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French Dip Sandwiches

I preface this recipe by saying I like the concept of using my slow cooker to prepare this sandwich, but have not yet found the proper beef broth mix. The recipe I used came relatively highly rated on and while I can't say that it was bad, I also cannot say that it was phenomenal either. Clearly it wasn't too bad because I ate my whole sandwich, and did use the broth for dip, but there was something about the broth that wasn't quite there. For finishing off this dish I sauteed some onions and mushrooms in butter until caramelized, and then used a slice of provolone in the sandwich and finished in the broiler.

If I were to make it again, I think i'll try for a recipe that uses a broth that doesn't incorporate soy sauce or a bay leaf.

Here's the recipe on

  • 1 (4 pound) boneless beef roast
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1 beef bouillon cube
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 whole black peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon dried rosemary, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 20 slices French bread

  1. Remove and discard all visible fat from the roast. Place trimmed roast in a slow cooker.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine soy sauce, bouillon, bay leaf, peppercorns, rosemary, thyme, and garlic powder. Pour mixture over roast, and add enough water to almost cover roast. Cover, and cook on Low heat for 10 to 12 hours, or until meat is very tender.
  3. Remove meat from broth, reserving broth. Shred meat with a fork, and distribute on bread for sandwiches. Used reserved broth for dipping.
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Pioneer Woman's Macaroni & Cheese

I am a firm believer that one can never go wrong with the concept of pasta and melted cheese. So when I saw Pioneer Woman's Macaroni and Cheese recipe pop up in my google reader, I knew it'd be a great match for the French Dip sandwiches I was making for dinner. I have what I consider to be a tried and true macaroni recipe, however it doesn't use an egg, and PW's does so I think it was an interesting mini experiment to try her version. I can safely say that her dish is RICH. Prior to baking, it's an absolutely creamy dish. Too creamy to eat at that stage. However after baking, once I plated the macaroni it seemed almost lumpy, and lost much of that creamy texture. It was still very rich, but I prefer a moderately creamy mac & cheese and so in my book, my go-to recipe wins.

Here's the Macaroni & Cheese recipe from Pioneer Woman's Website

  • 4 cups dried macaroni
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick, 4 tablespoons) butter
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 2 heaping teaspoons dry mustard (more if desired)
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 pound cheese, grated
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (more to taste)
  • 1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt (more to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • *Optional spices: cayenne pepper, paprika, thyme

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Cook macaroni until very firm. Macaroni should be too firm to eat right out of the pot. Drain.
  3. In a small bowl, beat egg.In a large pot, melt butter and sprinkle in flour. Whisk together over medium-low heat. Cook mixture for five minutes, whisking constantly. Don’t let it burn.
  4. Pour in milk, add mustard, and whisk until smooth. Cook for five minutes until very thick. Reduce heat to low.
  5. Take 1/4 cup of the sauce and slowly pour it into beaten egg, whisking constantly to avoid cooking eggs. Whisk together till smooth.
  6. Pour egg mixture into sauce, whisking constantly. Stir until smooth.
  7. Add in cheese and stir to melt.
  8. Add salts and pepper. Taste sauce and add more salt and seasoned salt as needed! DO NOT UNDERSALT.
  9. Pour in drained, cooked macaroni and stir to combine.
  10. Serve immediately (very creamy) or pour into a buttered baking dish, top with extra cheese, and bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until bubbly and golden on top.
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Sopaipillas with Warm Honey Butter

My husband has become the official flour tortilla maker in our house. He has been striving for the perfect tortilla recipe and I think the one he's using now is pretty close. Ideally, they'd come out like the ones at Don Pablo's which my husband and I used to frequent on an almost weekly basis back before we moved! At Don Pablo's their sopaipilla dessert was phenomenal, so I decided to emulate it with my husband's tortilla dough.

  • Tortilla dough, rolled out into a tortilla (but not cooked)
  • Oil for frying
  • 4 Tbsp of Butter
  • 2 Tbsp of Honey (or to taste)
  • Powdered sugar

  1. In small saucepan, melt butter and add the honey. Taste it and add more honey (or more butter) as needed
  2. Fill a deep skillet with about 1/4 inch of vegetable oil for frying and heat to 350-375 degrees
  3. Carefully slide the tortilla dough round into the oil and fry until golden brown
  4. Remove tortilla to a paper towel
  5. Plate tortilla with honey butter and sprinkle powdered sugar on top
  6. This would be good with ice cream and/or cinnamon sugar as well!
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White Sandwich Bread

I've made a few yeast breads so far, and thought I'd give a sandwich loaf a try. Annie's Eats blog didn't let me down with this recipe.The dough came together easily, it baked up wonderfully, and the interior, while denser than regular sandwich bread, was still delicious and made one heck of a grilled cheese sandwich.

Here's the recipe which you can also get on Annie's Eats

  • 3 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup warm whole milk (about 110°)
  • 1/3 cup warm water (about 110°)
  • 2 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
  • 3 tbsp. honey1 envelope (about 2 ¼ tsp.) instant yeast

Adjust an oven rack to the lowest position and heat the oven to 200°. Once the oven temperature reaches 200°, maintain the heat for 10 minutes, then turn off the oven.

Mix 3 ½ cups of the flour and the salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. Mix the milk, water, butter, honey and yeast in a 4-cup liquid measuring cup. Turn the machine to low and slowly add the liquid. When the dough comes together, increase the speed to medium and mix until the dough is smooth and satiny, stopping the machine two or three times to scrape dough from the hook, if necessary, about 10 minutes. (After 5 minutes of kneading, if the dough is still sticking to the sides of the bowl, add flour 1 tablespoon at a time and up to ¼ cup total, until the dough is no longer sticky.) Turn the dough onto a lightly floured work surface; knead to form a smooth, round ball, about 15 seconds.

Place the dough in a very lightly oiled large bowl, rubbing the dough around the bowl to coat lightly. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in the warmed oven until the dough has doubled in size, about 40-50 minutes.

On a floured work surface, gently press the dough into a rectangle 1 inch thick and no longer than 9 inches. With a long side facing you, roll the dough firmly into a cylinder, pressing with your fingers to make sure the dough sticks to itself. Turn the dough seam-side up and pinch it closed. Place the dough seam-side down in a greased 9×5-inch loaf pan and press it gently so it touches all four sides of the pan. Cover with plastic wrap; set aside in a warm spot until the dough almost doubles in size, 20-30 minutes.

Keep one oven rack at the lowest position and place the other at the middle position and heat the oven to 350°. Place an empty baking pan on the bottom rack. Bring two cups of water to boil in a small saucepan. Pour the boiling water into the empty pan on the bottom rack and set the loaf onto the middle rack. Bake until an instant-read thermometer inserted at an angle from the short end just above the pan rim into the center of the loaf reads 195°, 40-50 minutes. Remove the bread from the pan, transfer to a wire rack and cool to room temperature. Slice and serve.

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