June 22, 2014

Sweet Sesame Noodles with Chicken and Broccoli

This Cooking Light recipe earned such high marks from my husband that he said it could be a weekly meal. (That never happens in our house because there are way too many recipes to try to repeat that often.) You could easily leave out the chicken and amp up the broccoli in this recipe for a vegetarian dish.

Sweet Sesame Noodles with Chicken and Broccoli
8 oz. angel hair pasta
8 oz. broccoli florets
12 oz. chicken
1/8 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
2 Tbsp. rice vinegar
2 Tbsp. dark sesame oil
2 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 Tbsp. creamy peanut butter
1 tsp. brown sugar
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper
1 garlic clove, minced
3 green onions, chopped (optional)
2 tsp. toasted sesame seeds

Cook noodles in boiling water, adding broccoli the last 3 minutes. Drain noodles and broccoli. Heat a grill pan or cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle chicken evenly with salt and pepper. Cool 6 minutes on each side or until done. Cut into 1-inch pieces.

Combine remaining ingredients, except green onions and sesame seeds. Whisk together until well mixed. Stir into noodle mixture, and add chicken. Garnish with green onions and sesame seeds. Serves 4.

French Toast Cake

Birthdays are an excuse for me to try some of the many cakes and desserts that have caught my eye, like this one from Confessions of a Cookbook Queen. I made this and a TimTam cake from Raspberri Cupcakes for my mother and brother's birthday celebrations, along with Father's Day. Although the TimTam cake was good, it didn't wow me like I had expected.

This, on the other hand, lived up to my expectations for it. It tastes like breakfast, in cake form. It is incredibly sweet but wonderful. My cakes turned out a bit dry, so be careful not to overbake like I did.

No pictures due to the celebrations and devouring. Check out the original blog on Confessions of a Cookbook Queen for pretty pictures.

French Toast Cake
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
2 sticks salted butter, slightly softened
2 cups sugar
3 large eggs
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
2 1/2 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 cup milk
1 cup salted butter, slightly softened
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 tsp. maple extract
4 cups powdered sugar
drop of yellow food color
1/2 cup cinnamon chips
1/4 cup heavy cream
3 Tbsp. maple cream

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Butter and flour two (8-inch) cake pans, and set aside. In a small bowl, stir together brown sugar and cinnamon. In a large bowl, mix together flour, baking powder and cinnamon.

Beat butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each. Add vanilla.

With the mixer on medium low, add flour and milk alternately, starting and ending with flour mixture and scraping the bowl as needed. Pour about 1/4 of the batter in each pan. Divide cinnamon/brown sugar mixture between the two cakes, sprinkling evenly over the batter and then topping with the remaining batter. Bake for about 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.

Remove cakes from oven, and let cool in pans for about 10 minutes. Carefully remove from pans,  and finish cooling on a wire rack.

To make the frosting, beat butter, maple extract and heavy cream on medium low speed until smooth. With the mixer on low, slowly add powdered sugar, and beat on low until just barely mixed. Increase speed to high, and beat for one minute, until fluffy and smooth. Set aside a couple spoonfuls of frosting. Color the small amount of reserved frosting with a drop of yellow food coloring, and place in the refrigerator.

Place one cake top side down on a plate, and cover with frosting. Place the other cake on top, and frost entire cake. Chill for about 30 minutes before pouring ganache over the top, so it doesn't melt the frosting.

To make the ganache, heat cinnamon chips and cream in the microwave, stopping to stir every 15 seconds until smooth. Add maple cream, and stir until combined. Let sit until thickened and slightly cooled.

Pour ganache over chilled frosted, cake, spreading to the edges so it can drip down. Using a small cookie scoop, scoop chilled yellow frosting, so it looks like butter, and place it in the center of the cake.

Rainbow Thai Salad

Periodically one of the (dessert) blogs I read links to someone's healthier recipes. That's how I discovered this salad from Gimme Some Oven. Even though I'm not sold on mangoes, I thought this sounded intriguingly delicious.

I thoroughly enjoyed it several days in a row. When I made it the following week, the mangoes and the avocados didn't work for me as much. I'm not sure why. Still, this was really good and worth repeating even without the chicken.

Rainbow Thai Salad
3 cups shredded cooked chicken (optional)
2 cups shredded purple cabbage
1 cup shredded green cabbage
1 avocado, diced
1 mango, peeled, pitted and diced
1 (large) carrot, julienned
1 red pepper, cored and julienned
1 cup roughly chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1/2 cup chopped green onions
1/4 cup chopped cashews or peanuts
1/2 cup peanut butter
2-3 Tbsp. hot water
2 Tbsp. rice wine vinegar
2 Tbsp. soy sauce
2 Tbsp. honey
1/4 tsp. sesame oil
Juice of 1 lime
Pinch of red pepper flakes

To make the salad, combine all the chopped ingredients together. Combine dressing ingredients, and stir until well blended. Pour over salad immediately prior to serving. Serves 3 to 4 as a meal, more as a side dish.

Mushroom Walnut Turnovers

I was pleasantly surprised my husband enjoyed these savory Cooking Light turnovers. The mushroom filling was quite delicious (enough so that I made more the following day for an omelet). I made a slightly more kid-friendly version for our son.

I would definitely repeat these turnovers, but I also like the idea of using a similar crust for other savory meals.

Mushroom Walnut Turnovers
2 Tbsp. finely chopped onion
8 oz. mushrooms, chopped
1/3 cup dry white wine
1 Tbsp. fat-free cream cheese
2 tsp. fresh thyme, chopped
1/2 tsp. salt
3 Tbsp. chopped walnuts, toasted
1 1/4 cups flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 Tbsp. butter, chilled & cut into small pieces
1/4 cup ice water
2 large egg whites, divided
1 Tbsp. skim milk

Prepare the filling by cooking onion and mushrooms in a pan coated with cooking spray. Cook 6 minutes over medium-high heat, stirring often. Add in wine, and cook 5 minutes or until the liquid is almost evaporated. Remove from heat, and stir in remaining ingredients.

Set aside to cool to room temperature, and preheat the oven to 350ºF. Grind walnuts until smooth in a food processor. Add remaining dry ingredients and butter, and pulse until mixed. Add ice water and one egg white to flour mixture. Stir by hand until moist and mixed. Turn dough onto lightly floured surface, and divide dough into 18 portions. Working with one piece of dough at a time, roll balls into a 3-inch circle. (Keep remaining dough covered while rolling out the individual doughs.) Spoon about 2 tsp. of mushrooms into each crust, and fold dough over filling. Crimp the edges with a fork to seal, and set on a lined baking sheet. Repeat until all dough and filling is used.

Combine remaining egg white and milk in a bowl. Brush the egg wash over all the pastries. Bake for 16 minutes or until golden. Cool on a wire rack. Makes 9 appetizer servings or 4 entree portions.

May 30, 2014

Skillet Chocolate Cake

I asked my dad what type of cake he wanted for his birthday, and his answer was chocolate cake with white frosting or white cake with chocolate frosting. Really, dad? I repeatedly told him how boring that was and offered him literally 20 or more recipes I had bookmarked to try with enticing options. He still wanted plain chocolate cake with white frosting or white cake with chocolate frosting.

Begrudgingly, I honored his request. I did, however, find a bookmark tucked away for Cookies and Cups' cake made in a cast-iron skillet. That's the recipe I selected since it let me try a new recipe and was at least a bit unique. I didn't manage to get a picture before we ate it, so I guess that tells you it was a solid cake. It's worth repeating ... if I'm ever requested to bring a plain chocolate cake anywhere.

Skillet Chocolate Cake
1/2 cup cocoa powder (I used a mix of regular and dark)
1/3 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
3/4 cup water, brought just to a boil
1 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp. butter, room temperature
1 1/4 cup light brown sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
3 eggs
1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp. buttermilk

Preheat oven to 350° F. Grease a 10-inch cast-iron skillet with butter. Line bottom of pan with parchment paper, grease again and dust lightly with flour. Set aside. (Note: the parchment paper was necessary for me. As in, I didn't do this step and had my cake not come out of the pan in one piece.)

In a medium bowl, whisk together cocoa powder and chocolate chips. Pour hot water over top, let sit for 1 minute and then whisk until smooth. Set aside to cool.

In another bowl whisk together flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

Using a stand mixer, beat together butter and light brown sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add in eggs and vanilla beating until combined and smooth. Turn the mixer to low, and pour in melted chocolate mixture slowly until incorporated. Finally add the flour mixture and buttermilk in alternating portions, beginning and ending with flour. Stir until just combined, scraping sides when necessary.

Pour batter into prepared skillet. Bake for 40-50 minutes, turning skillet halfway through baking. Cake is done with a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean or with only a few crumbs dangling.

Cool on wire rack for 15 minutes in the skillet, and then invert onto a wire rack to finish cooling. Frost as desired. Makes about 12-18 servings.