Monday, January 26, 2015

Decadent SKINNY Chocolate Cake


In my world opposites quit frequently attract.  Loud noises make me crave quietness.  Dark rooms usually suggest providing some light into the room. Cold floors make me want to have warm socks on my feet. And wanting to loose weight usually makes me search out chocolate night and day.  Yup, opposites do attract for me.  As we come out of the holidays into the NEW year I feel a strong tug towards shedding those extra "Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's pounds" yet all I can do keep myself from eating chocolate is maddening.  Chocolate is mouthwatering.  It's comfort food to me.  It just tastes so good! Yet my clothes feel a bit tighter than they did back in the beginning of November before all the holidays kicked into full swing deliciousness.  Thus my ambition to make better food choices at meal and snack times has been a constant priority.  And well, chocolate at every meal and snack really should just NOT happen.  It won't help my pants from feeling snug.  My brain knows this but does my taste buds and will power know this too? Goodness it better, real fast.  And SOON!!



Recently my world of opposites came to a happy, happy place.  Through my January assignment on the Secret Recipe Club I discovered a fantastic recipe for chocolaty chocolate, decadently decadent CHOCOLATE cake on the blog, Burnt Apple. Oh yes, a cake full of sinful chocolate yet NOT full of fat.  My pants still fit nicely even after eating a piece of this cake! And my need for chocolate was completely satisfied too! The best. 

Burnt Apple is a treasure of a blog as it is packed with many, many recipes that are delicious in taste yet conscious and brilliantly altered to have a healthy make-over.  The ingredients used in the recipes are budget friendly for families of all sizes too.  I have my eyes on a couple more recipes from Burnt Apple such as the Whole Grain "Sour Cream" Coffee Cake Bread and the Pear Walnut Waffles.



For this cake,  plain Greek yogurt and unsweetened apple sauce help reduce the usual amount of fat found in a good chocolate cake.  The addition of hot coffee helps enhance all of the chocolate flavor in the unsweetened powdered cocoa and mini chocolate chips.  As suggested in the original recipe I chose to finish off my cake with a lovely chocolate ganache poured on top of it.  This cake is truly a decadent treat even if the fat and calories are less than in a normal chocolate cake.  I will definitely make this cake again when my chocolate cravings take over my will power of super powers.  

Skinny Chocolate Cake 
         (Recipe from Burnt Apple)

Ingredients:

For the cake - 
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cup sugar (the original recipe calls for 1 3/4 cup sugar)
1 tsp vanilla extract 
3 eggs
1 1/4 cup non-fat plain Greek yogurt
1 cup unsweetened apple sauce  
1 1/4 cups HOT coffee (milk or hot water can be substituted in place of coffee if you wish) 
1/2 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips 

For the chocolate ganache:
1 cup chocolate chips - dark, milk or semi-sweet is great
1/2 cup heavy cream - 1/4 cup of milk can be used (I used 1/2 cup of half and half with success) 


Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease and flour a 10-12 cup bundt pan.

In a large bowl whisk together the unsweetened cocoa powder, flour, baking soda, salt and sugar making sure all are incorporated well.

Mix eggs, yogurt, applesauce in a medium bowl and then pour into dry mixture.  Stir to incorporate and then add in hot coffee.  Stir well all together.  Add in mini chocolate chips.

Pour batter into prepared bundt pan.  Bake for 45-50 minutes or until toothpick inserted into center of cake comes out clean.  Cool cake and then invert onto a serving platter.  

While cake cools make chocolate ganache. Pour chocolate chips into a medium size bowl.   In a small sauce pan heat cream (or milk) to a gentle simmer.  Pour hot cream over chocolate chips and then stir together carefully with a rubber spatula.  Mixture will thicken as the chocolate melts into the cream.  It's really magic in a bowl.  Pour ganache over cake.  Sprinkle with mini chocolate chips if you wish.  Serve and enjoy to the fullest.





Happy Skinny Chocolate Cake Baking!



Saturday, January 24, 2015

EASY Sesame Chicken


I cook a lot of chicken for my family.  That's no lie.  Everyone in my house likes chicken and well yes, it's good for you.   I will often buy at least 4 lbs of boneless skinless chicken breasts at a time and divide and freeze it up.   I can then just grab a bag of frozen chicken in the morning out of the freezer to defrost in the sink during the day and when it is time for dinner prep the breasts are ready to go. 



Of course the hard part comes when I have to figure out HOW to cook or bake the chicken.  Do I make a simple stir fry (for the 3rd time this month) or cube into pieces for breaded chicken nuggets or do I bake it in the oven, seasoned well along with a dash of prayer for it to remain moist?  So yes, I do often lack in creativity with all my stock in chicken breasts.  I find myself radiating often to the "chicken boards" on Pinterest in desperation for a new, fantastically DELICIOUS and SIMPLE recipe that will make my kiddos and my darling Jeff swoon with happiness over their dinner plates.


Believe it or not "swooning" did happen just the other night when I made this very dish that you see above.  Yes, purely simple and lovely, lovely praise over the delicious taste of Sesame Chicken that I, myself made with my own two hands came from the mouths of my family.  Honestly, I couldn't blame them!  This recipe for Sesame Chicken is perfection!  It tastes just like the Sesame Chicken we order from Lee Mt. Fuji (our favorite Chinese restaurant). All the flavors of tangy sweetness along with the hint of salt surrounding the tender chicken tenders is there.  And the best part is that YOU can make this very dish yourself and have the pleasure of having all your dinner companions "swoon" with happiness and admiration for YOU over the dinner you just prepared.  Just follow the recipe below.   


EASY Sesame Chicken
(recipe slightly adapted from Cinnamon Spice and Everything Nice)

Ingredients :
3-4 chicken breasts - boneless and skinless, cut into 2" cubes
salt and pepper to taste
2 whole eggs or 3 egg whites 
1/3 cup cornstarch
4 tablespoons olive oil or canola oil
2-3 green onions - sliced thin
 

Sauce Ingredients:
1/3 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup honey
2 garlic cloves, minced
fresh ginger - 1/2" grated or minced 
3 tablespoons sesame seeds

Directions:

In a large bowl whisk together eggs and cornstarch until they are well incorporated.  Toss in chicken cubes to coat.  

Heat a large frying pan with oil.  Once oil is hot add in egg coated chicken.  Cook chicken until golden brown on all sides and fully cooked - about 5-7 minutes. 

While chicken is cooking make sauce - whisk all together in a medium size bowl soy sauce, honey, minced garlic, freshly grated ginger and sesame seeds.

When chicken in fully cooked add in prepared sauce. Toss chicken with sauce to fully coat.   Sauce will thicken as it simmers with the chicken.  Take pan off of heat and serve chicken over rice along with steamed broccoli.  Sprinkle sliced greens onions over chicken to garnish if desired.  ENJOY!


Happy Sesame Chicken Cooking!


Sunday, January 11, 2015

(EASY) Rustic Homemade Bread

2015 has officially arrived.  With this arrival I feel that it is important to enter into the NEW year with a really good recipe for homemade, made from scratch, delicious bread.  Who can't use such a thing? I guess those that are living a gluten free life-style might fall into such a category - but for those bakers and gluten eating people out there, this recipe that I share with you today will be greatly and fully appreciated.  


It is a super simple recipe.  It makes TWO large loaves and uses only 4 ingredients (yeast, flour, salt and water).  And the best part is that it is mixed, risen, shaped, risen again, baked and placed into your mouth all within a 3-4 hour period of time. You really can't go wrong by making this recipe.  It is completely the best thing since sliced bread in my opinion.  And yes, it does even slice well.


My family enjoyed it first straight out of the oven with a little smattering of salted butter along side a hot cup of tea.  We then moved onto lightly toasting the bread and layering on butter and jam.  Goodness was that just divine!


We also made big fat tuna melts on it and then delicious french toast.  The french toast was my favorite if you were wondering.  Although I do have to say that when I had the bread toasted and buttered it and then laid on some Bonne Maman mixed berry jam my heart did do a little pitter patter of happiness.  It was just SO good. 

So join me in my happiness over this Rrrrrustic Homemade Bread recipe and grab your yeast, flour, salt and water to mix up a beautiful dough.  You can thank me later.


Rustic Homemade Bread 
(recipe discovered on Somewhat Simple)  
makes 2 large loaves 
 
Ingredients:
3 cups warm water (not too hot as you don't want to kill the yeast)
1 1/2 tablespoon yeast - I used fast-acting but regular is fine too
6 1/2 cups flour 
1 tablespoon salt  

Directions:

1. In a large bowl sprinkle yeast over warm water and gently stir.  Let sit for 10 minutes so the yeast can really come alive and grow.

2.  Add in flour and then salt to the yeast and water mixture.  Stir all together until no remaining dry spots .  Cover bowl with a clean dish towel and then place bowl in a draft-free location.  All dough to rise for about 1-2 hours - it will double in size.  My dough only took 1 hour to full rise - it all depends on how warm your home is.  

3. Once dough has doubled in size divide in half and place each half on a piece of lightly floured parchment paper.  Gently form into a nice rounded bread shape.  Flouring your hands will help for this step.  Cover your breads and allow to rise again - about 30-45 minutes. With a serrated knife cut three slits across each bread.....



4. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.  Place parchment paper and bread dough onto an upside down cookie sheet or pizza stone and then pop into the oven.  On the rack below the bread place a large roasting pan and fill with water about 1" high.  The steam from this water will give your bread a lovely crusty crust.  Yum! I baked the loaves of bread one at a time.

5. Bake bread for 24-28 minutes - until loaf of bread is a beautiful golden brown.  Cool, slice and enjoy! 


Happy Rustic Homemade Bread Baking!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Chocolate Dipped Macaroons



Do you know that today I found an almost empty quart of milk and a plate of half eaten cookies in the fort my kiddos built?  Yes, that's right my girls do not fool around when it's play time to play "house" or hide and seek.  Cookies and milk are invited into their precious little world of make believe.  Fortunately for them my little kitchen has been buzzing with all kinds of baked sweets and treats for this season of holiday festivities.  As a baker and lover of all things holiday my kitchen workshop has been laden with all things chocolate, parchment paper and vanilla extract as I try to keep up with the sweet needs of my girls and wanting to fill tins and baggies up with treats for others.


Today I was able to try my hand at making macaroons for the very first time.  Chocolate Dipped Macaroons at that! Simple, delicious and beautiful macaroon cookies. I have Melissa of Fried Rice and Donut Holes to thank for the recipe. I was honored to have her blog assigned to me as part of the Cookie Carnival 2014 event via the Secret Recipe Club.  This month the Secret Recipe Club is show casing COOKIES because let's face it, December should really be called Cookieber instead as in many, many parts of the world this month is all about cookies along with all things holiday and magical. 





Melissa of Fried Rice and Donut Holes has a wonderful collection of cookie recipes.  I was very tempted to make her Eggnog Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies but then decided to take the road leading to coconut happiness topped off with milk chocolate and decided to make these cookies instead.  Can you blame me!? I didn't think so.  I loved this recipe! All you need is a  short list of simple ingredients along with NO fancy moves to make these cookies.  Just a large bowl, a good mixing hand and a nice hot oven.

Chocolate Dipped Macaroons
(recipe from Fried Rice and Donut Holes)

Ingredients:
14 oz. of sweetened coconut
4 egg whites
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup flour
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup chocolate morsels (I used milk chocolate but semi-sweet or dark is fine too

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.  Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper.
2. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and mix well all together.
3. Using 2 spoons or a cookie scoop, drop cookie mixture onto prepared sheets.  Leave about 1" in between each cookie. Bake for 25-28 minutes or until cookies are lightly browned.  Cool cookies on wire racks while you melt your chocolate in a double boiler.
4. Once cookies have cooled completely dip into melted chocolate.  Lay cookies upside down to allow chocolate to cool and harden before placing on platter or into treat baggies to give away. 

  Happy Chocolate Dipped Macaroons Baking! 


Monday, November 24, 2014

Peanut Butter Fudge


 Today I am patting myself on the back as I am feeling quite accomplished.  Not only did I order my Christmas cards from Shutterfly but I also made my first batch of holiday fudge - both before Thanksgiving has even arrived. Now I just need to shop for all my gifts, wrap the gifts, address and send out my Christmas card, bake up a storm, decorate the house inside and out and pray that everything goes smoothly.  After all that I will REALLY feel accomplished! 


Speaking of accomplishments I have to say that April Turell is quite an accomplishment in many, many facets of her life.  Not only is she the owner and creator of the wonderful food blog named, Angels Homestead (my Secret Recipe Club assignment for this past month of November), she is also a lovely wife, a mother to 5 children and mamaw (grandmother) to 2 grandchildren along with one of the original owners of the Secret Recipe Club! I was honored and delighted to have been assigned to April's blog.  I discovered delicious recipes along with fantastic household hints (who knew you can actually make your very own disinfecting wipes).  Most importantly I came upon a recipe for Peanut Butter Fudge



 Creamy, simple, rich and yes, delicious Peanut Butter Fudge.  So good!  I whipped up a batch and made everyone in my household test taste it.  Umm they all kinda LOVED it!  But before it disappeared completely I wrapped some up to hand out as a homemade, made from the heart gift.  I plan on giving fudge to those that I adore.  You should too! - and I have just the right recipe for you to use....just follow the directions below. :-)


Peanut Butter Fudge 
(recipe found on Angels Homestead)

Ingredients - 
2 sticks salted butter
1 cup creamy peanut butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 cups powdered sugar 

Directions - 

1. Place butter and peanut butter in a large microwave proof bowl.  Heat for 1 minute microwave and then stir.  Continue to microwave in 30 second intervals - stirring after each 30 seconds until completely melted. 

2. Add in vanilla extract and powdered sugar - one cup at a time, stirring well in between each cup of sugar.  

3. Once the mixture is completely smooth pour into an 8x8 square pan that has been lined with buttered tin foil or parchment paper.  Refrigerate for at least 2 hours and then cut into bit size squares.  Enjoy! 

Happy Peanut Butter Fudge Making!



Monday, October 27, 2014

Cinnamon Cauliflower Coffee Cake



I have used cauliflower in many dishes.  I have made cauliflower au gratin, I have made quite a few stir fries with cauliflower tossed into it.  I have also made MANY a salad with cauliflower and even soups.  I have NEVER made a coffee cake (or anything sweet for that matter)  with cauliflower.  That is until just this month.  This month I made a lovely puree of steamed cauliflower, mixed in some eggs, melted coconut oil along with some maple syrup and honey and stirred it all into a dry mix of flour and other regular components of a coffee cake batter.


Magically the pureed cauliflower made a beautiful and delicious coffee cake!  Imagine that.  Once again, my world as been enlightened by my participation in the Secret Recipe Club.  I was assigned, 84th&3rd this month.  I owe my new insight and experience of baking with cauliflower to the lovely and EXTREMELY talented, JJ of 84th&3rd. JJ's world on her blog of 84th&3rd is full of exquisitely gorgeous food.  Although JJ was born and raised in the United States she now lives, works and plays in Australia.  Her writing is witty and well spoken.  Her recipes are full of vibrant flavor, beautiful presentation and amazing creativity.  Even though JJ eats eggs, dairy and fish (no meat though) many, if not most, are gluten-free, dairy-free and vegan.  I have honestly never seen so many beautiful and decadent CHOCOLATE recipes that are actually good for you as I have on JJ's blog.  So yes, I am completely smitten with amazement over all JJ's talents in the kitchen.  She truly creates a beautiful world around eating well and eating healthy (delicious and beautiful) food. 


 I did alter JJ's recipe for this fantastic one-of-a-kind coffee cake in a few areas as I didn't have all the special gluten-free or vegan ingredients available in my pantry.  For the cake batter instead of using spelt flour and arrowroot or tapioca flour I used all-purpose and whole wheat pastry flour.  For a sweetener I replaced rice syrup with maple syrup.  And then in the filling ingredients instead of using coconut sugar I used brown sugar. All of these substitutions worked out fine as the taste and appearance of the cake both came out wonderfully and I was given rave reviews from those that shared the cake with me. 



Please take the time to make this cake.  It may sound a little out of the norm at first glance but it really is a wonderfully creative treat.  Your friends and family will be impressed and maybe even in a little bit of shock once they discover that cauliflower has been baked into such a delicious cake.  But seriously, no matter what they will continue to eat the cake with a smile on their face along with happy taste buds to encourage them to continue on eating.


Cinnamon Cauliflower Coffee Cake 
(recipe adapted moderately from 84th&3rd )

Filling Ingredients:
1 cup raisins
1 Tbsp rum or fruit juice
1 Tbsp warm water
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 Tbsp brown sugar (JJ used 1 Tbsp coconut sugar)
2 Tbsp flour (my addition to the recipe as it helps keep the raisins and chopped nuts from falling down into the batter)

Cake Ingredients:
1 1/2 -2 cups fresh cauliflower
2 Tbsp lemon juice 
1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
1/2 cup maple syrup (JJ used 1/4 cup rice syrup)
1/4 cup honey
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract (my addition)
1 cup all purpose flour (JJ used 2 cups spelt flour)
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour (JJ used 1/4 cup arrowroot or tapioca flour)
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon 

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease and flour bundt pan and set aside. 

2. In a medium bowl combine raisins, water and rum (or fruit juice).  Toss all together and allow to sit for 15-20 minutes. Then add in chopped nuts, cinnamon, brown sugar and flour.  Mix well and set aside.

3. Steam fresh cauliflower until very soft and then place into a food processor along with lemon juice.  Mix in food processor until cauliflower is smooth and silky. Add in 1/2 of melted coconut oil and pulse to combine.  Add in remaining coconut oil, eggs, maple syrup and honey - mix well all together.

5. Sift all dry ingredients together into a large bowl and whisk to combine well.  

6. Add cauliflower mixture into dry ingredients.  Mix well all together.   

7.  Pour 1/2 of batter into prepared bundt pan.  Spoon filling mixture evenly over batter and then pour on remaining batter over the filling layer.

8.  Bake for 40-50 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean and cake is golden brown.  Cool in pan for 15 minutes before inverting onto serving plate. * Serve warm or at room temperature.  Enjoy!


 Happy Cinnamon Cauliflower Coffee Cake Baking! 

*JJ made a delicious caramel sauce to be poured over this cake.  I choose not to make the sauce but instead to sprinkle confectioner's sugar over the cake. 

Monday, October 6, 2014

Maple Almond Granola


I have discovered and perfected a recipe for granola that I am completely smitten with. Head over heals, in-love I say.   The simplicity of how to make it, the ingredients are fantastic (um yeah - oats, dried fruit and chopped nuts, coconut oil, maple syrup, honey and spices all make my heart happy) and the taste are all just divine. 



I like to have my granola is all different ways.  I sprinkle it over fruit and yogurt.  Sometimes (well, most of the time I should say) I eat it by the handful.  I have also been known to bake with it, tossing into cookie batter or over fruit to make a crisp.  BUT I think my all time favorite, favorite way to eat granola is fresh out of the oven with milk, a spoon and a bowl.  How about you?  How do you like to eat your granola? 


Jolie - my dear oldest daughter - likes her granola any way she can get it.  Especially straight off of my camera shot! I do have to point out that granola is also a wonderful gift to give to others.  Make up a big batch and package it up in pretty bags with a ribbon and such.  Your friends, family, neighbors and long lost friends will adore you even more once being handed such a gift. 


Maple Almond Granola  
(slightly adapted from Iowa Girl Eats

Ingredients -

3 cups rolled oats
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt  
1 cup whole almonds - divided
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
6 Tbsp maple syrup
2 Tbsp honey
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract 
1 cup dried fruit (raisins, chopped apricots, chopped dates etc.) 

Directions -

1. Heat oven to 300 degrees F.  Line cookie sheet with parchment paper and set aside.


2. In a large bowl combine oats, cinnamon and salt.  Roughly chop 1/2 cup of almonds and add to oat mixture.  Mix well all together.  Set aside.

3. In a medium saucepan melt coconut oil.  Add in maple syrup and honey once coconut oil has melted.  Cook and stir until all are combined.  Remove pan from heat and add in vanilla and almond extract.  Stir to combine.  

4. Pour warm liquid over oat mixture. Gently stir all together.  Pour carefully onto parchment paper lined cookie sheet.  Bake for 30 minutes - tossing granola half way through baking time. Continue baking for remaining baking time.

5. Once granola is finished baking add in remaining 1/2 cup whole almonds and dried fruit to granola.  Toss gently together and enjoy! 




Happy Maple Almond Granola Making!

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