Friday, March 13, 2015

Cake, cake, and more cake !

I first made this recipe for a cake for my husband’s 50th surprise birthday party last June.  I received a lot of compliments about this rich and moist cake, and it’s now my go-to recipe for birthdays and other special occasions.  

Super easy to make, there’s no need for a boxed cake mix or canned frosting for this delicious chocolate layer cake!  

Since last June, I've made quite a few variations on this cake. 

My husband's choice was with vanilla frosting.  




In November, my middle child wanted a quasi-black forest cake with chocolate frosting and cherry pie filling.  This was quite messy to make, as the cherry pie filling kept oozing out the side while I was trying to frost it.  



In early March, my youngest child wanted chocolate on chocolate with sprinkles on top. Simple and delicious. 


I also used this cake (with vanilla frosting) for the cake in my Kit Kat Cake I made this past weekend.  This cake was a huge hit!


Note:  The recipe for the vanilla frosting is made exactly the same as the one below, except it omits the cocoa.  

I hope you enjoy this cake as much as we all do!
Super Easy and Delicious Chocolate Cake
CAKE

Ingredients:
2 cups granulated sugar
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup natural cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
1 cup boiling water

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour two nine inch round pans.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt. 
  3. Add the eggs, milk, oil and vanilla, mix for 2 minutes on medium speed of mixer. 
  4. Stir in the boiling water last. Batter will be thin. 
  5. Pour evenly into the prepared pans.
  6. Bake 30 to 35 minutes in the preheated oven, until the cake tests done with a toothpick. 
  7. Cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

FROSTING
(makes enough for one 8” or 9” round layer cake, or about 30 cupcakes)

Ingredients:
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup natural cocoa, sifted
5 cups icing sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup milk or cream

Directions:

  1. In a large bowl, beat butter and cocoa together until smooth.
  2. Stir in vanilla and icing sugar.
  3. Slowly add milk, a little at a time, until frosting reaches desired consistency.
  4. Scrape sides of bowl and whip until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.


Monday, October 21, 2013

Perfect-Every-Time White Sandwich Bread


Homemade bread.  There's nothing tastier than hot out-of-the-oven bread ... lovingly and painstakingly made by hand.  With this family's busy schedule, it seems I just don't have time to make handmade bread very often.  Certainly not nearly as often as I would like to feed the family homemade bread.  


Water, sugar and yeast in the pan

I owned a bread maker several years ago but barely used it.  I'm not sure if it was the recipes or the maker, but I never found a recipe whose results I was happy with, and so I got rid of it.  About a year ago, I saw a bread maker on sale and decided I'd give machine bread making another try.


Flour, salt and oil added; now starting to blend

My bread maker makes it so easy to make fresh bread for my family.  The breads at the grocery store are chock-full of preservatives which keep them shelf stable for weeks.  My hungry boys now consume enough bread that I don't have to worry so much about shelf stability, and I'd much rather make it using fresh ingredients and fewer chemicals.



My quest for the perfect loaf began.  I began testing, trying and tweaking various recipes in order to come up with something quick and easy that would produce a perfect everyday bread for sandwiches or toast.  This recipe makes a soft, light-textured 1 ½ lb loaf which has quickly become my family's favourite.  




I've also used this recipe as a base for cheese bread which was absolutely delicious!  Just add about a pound of cheese (cubed) when machine signals you for add-ins.


Ingredients

1 cup warm water (about 100-110° F)
2 tbsp white sugar
2   1/4 tsp bread machine yeast
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3 cups bread flour
1   1/2 tsp salt

Directions for Bread Maker
  1. Place the water, sugar and yeast in the pan of the bread machine. 
  2. Let the yeast dissolve and foam for about 10 minutes.  
  3. Add the oil, flour and salt to the yeast mixture.  
  4. Choose: (A) 1 1/2 lb size; (B) light crust**; and (C) sandwich setting (basic or white setting also work well).
Directions for Baking in Oven
  1. Place the water, sugar and yeast in the pan of the bread machine. 
  2. Let the yeast dissolve and foam for about 10 minutes.  
  3. Add the oil, flour and salt to the yeast mixture.
  4. Choose the dough cycle.  
  5. Once the cycle is complete, remove the dough and knead a few times.
  6. Place in prepared bread pan.  
  7. Cover with clean tea towel and let rise to about an inch above the rim of the pan.  
  8. Bake at 350° F for about 15 minutes or until golden brown.
** I find that using a darker setting makes the crust too thick and much too dark with this recipe

Friday, July 12, 2013

Omelette Roll-Up

I try to cook a hot breakfast for my boys most weekends.  After being gone to work for 12 hours each weekday, and hubby cooking most of the meals for the boys, I like to treat them all to a nice, hot breakfast; and we pause, and sit, and reflect, and plan, and share a hearty meal together, before we start into our crazy, busy weekend. 

Most weekends I do bacon, eggs, hashbrowns, and toast... after a while though, it can get a little boring (and heavy!) so I do change things up a little.  Occasionally, I will make a frittata.  Other times homemade pancakes or Belgian waffles with fruit coulis and whipped cream (or maybe even ice cream for a treat!). 

If I want something super easy, I turn to this amazing recipe.  The most time consuming part is the vegetable chopping, but if you're in a rush, you could easily swap out the freshly chopped peppers and onions for some from your freezer.  When buying, look for a blend of diced onions and peppers in the frozen section of your grocery store sold as suitable for stir frying. 

I have tried similar recipes with cheese sprinkled on the top, rather than blended throughout, and found that it is messier to do it that way as the cheese tends to slide while rolling these up.  

You can modify this recipe to substitute or add other vegetables your family loves.  Maybe mushrooms, or spinach, or tomatoes, or... the choices are endless.  Just make sure everything is finely diced (and you don't add TOO much) so you are still able to roll it up!  

Once this is on a platter, I let it sit for a minute or two and then slice it (as in picture) into about 10-12 slices.  With a house full of boys, it's the perfect amount to feed the four of us.

The boys love this breakfast because it's delicious and filling.  I love it because it's easy to prepare, clean up is a breeze, and it makes them happy.  

I hope that your family loves it as much as ours does!






Ingredients

8 eggs
1/3 cup flour
1 cup milk
1 red pepper, finely diced
1 cup black forest ham, thickly sliced & finely diced; OR bacon (cooked & crumbled)
1/2 cup onions, finely diced
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano leaves, crushed
1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
salt and pepper, to taste

Directions
  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Line 17"x 11" x 1" pan with parchment paper, with ends extending over shortest sides of pan. 
  3. Spray with cooking spray. 
  4. Beat eggs, flour and milk in a large bowl with whisk until well blended. 
  5. Stir in remaining ingredients, then pour into prepared pan.
  6. Bake 15 minutes or until edges are set.
  7. Roll up omelette immediately, starting at short end and peeling off paper as omelette is rolled. 
  8. Place on platter, and cut into slices.
Prep Time: 15 Minutes
Ready In: 30 Minutes
Serves 4

Monday, December 31, 2012

Rice Pudding

So, after finding the ramekins for the bacon baskets I bailed on, I decided that I should put them to good use (since they were already out) and make some rice pudding.

I LOVE rice pudding, but it's such a pain to make it.  Invariably, I eat some, the kids don't, and then I have a large casserole dish of rice pudding I need to (a) eat, (b) find a home in my fridge for, or (c) toss out.  If you've ever seen the inside of my fridge, you'd know (b) is not an option.  

A while back I took my favourite rice pudding recipe and converted the grams to tablespoons (etc.) and re-wrote the recipe to make in ramekins (for a change, I actually wrote them down so that I don't have to continue to look up the conversions EVERY TIME I make them!!).  Made in ramekins the "leftovers" are easier to find a place for in the fridge, and they're a good individual portion size.  

This recipe is SO fast and easy to prepare, though cooking takes some time.  I prefer mine without nutmeg or raisins, and like to serve it with a dollop of raspberry jam (must be the British in me!).  Feel free to add those if you'd prefer.



Ingredients

4 tbsp short grained rice
2 tbsp white sugar
600 mL milk

Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 325°F.
  2. Spray four (5 oz) ramekins with non-stick spray.  
  3. Into each ramekin, place 1 tablespoon of rice, and 1/2 tablespoon of sugar. 
  4. Pour 150mL milk into each ramekin.  Stir to blend.
  5. Place ramekins on rack in the centre of oven.  Place a cookie sheet on the rack below in case of spillage. 
  6. Bake for 30 minutes.  Stir gently.
  7. Bake for a further one hour.  
  8. Remove from oven. Serve hot or cold. Top with a dollop of red jam to serve.
Makes 4

Woven Bacon and Eggs

I decided today to attempt to make bacon baskets for brunch.  My plan was to make the baskets, fill them with scrambled eggs, and sprinkle them with cheese.  A nice, simple brunch. 

A few recipes I saw suggested putting the weaves over the backs of muffin tins (with a cookie sheet grease-catcher below).  I thought myself smart to use upside down ramekins.  Unfortunately, once I'd measured (OCD much?), and figured out I'd have to use about two pounds of bacon to make four of them, I quickly ditched that idea and chose to make a  woven bacon sheet instead.

I'd seen these made for "The Big Game BBQ'd Sausage and Bacon Coronary Rolls" (or some such similar yet appropriate moniker), but I had other ideas.  Plus, there's too much snow to dig out the bbq, and who bbq's breakfast anyway?

I wove a full pound of bacon on a cutting board and then flipped it onto a foil lined, non-stick sprayed cookie sheet.  

I cooked the bacon until it was crispy (Although the boys all prefer it chewy, I only eat it crispy, and since I didn't want raw bits on the double-thickness woven bits, Mummy got her way).  ;-) 

Once it was cooked I carefully drained it as one piece on paper towels, then placed it on a platter.  I topped it with scrambled eggs and grated cheddar, then put it in the microwave for a minute to melt the cheese.  A pizza cutter worked well to cut this into quarters.  

Unfortunately, I only have a photo of the bacon, woven and raw.  Once it was out of the oven and topped, it went like lightning.  Either my seven year old is again in a growing spurt, or he REALLY liked it, as he was first done (and usually he's the one still eating come next meal time!)


Ingredients

1 lb bacon
9 eggs
1/4 cup milk
cheddar cheese, shredded
salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

Bacon-Weave
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Line a rimmed cookie sheet with foil then spray with non-stick spray.  
  3. Lay seven strips of room temperature bacon horizontally on your cutting board (or directly on your cookie sheet).
  4. Starting from the middle, fold over every second horizontal piece of bacon from the middle, and place a strip vertically across, then fold everything back. 
  5. Again, fold back bacon, but use the opposite pieces that laid flat last time.  Lay another vertical piece, then fold everything back again.  Continue until all bacon has been woven on one side, then repeat on the other side (left/right).
  6. Transfer woven bacon to cookie sheet by gently flipping cutting board over.
  7. Bake for 30 minutes or until desired crispiness is reached.
  8. When bacon is cooked, place bacon-weave on paper towels to drain any fat.
Eggs
  1. While bacon is cooking, pre-heat a large non-stick frying pan to medium. 
  2. In a large metal or glass mixing bowl, whisk the eggs with the milk. Beat vigorously for 2 minutes (or blend in blender for 20-25 seconds).
  3. Pour the egg mixture into the pre-heated frying pan.
  4. Do not stir immediately. Wait until the first hint of setting begins. 
  5. Using a spatula or a flat wooden spoon, push eggs toward center while tilting skillet to distribute runny parts.
  6. Continue this motion as the eggs continue to set. Break apart large pieces as they form with your spoon or spatula. 
  7. You will come to a point where the push-to-center technique is no longer cooking runny parts of the egg. Flip over all the eggs. 
  8. Allow the eggs to cook 15 to 25 seconds longer. 
Assembly
  1. Place bacon-weave on platter.  Top with scrambled eggs and sprinkle with cheese.
  2. Place in microwave for one minute (or if using an oven proof platter, under a broiler) until cheese melts.
Serves 4

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Cornbread Muffins








Here's the recipe for the cornbread muffins I paired with the Chicken Tortilla Soup this evening.  They're not too sweet, and just the way my husband likes them.  

He even likes to snack on these with honey, although with the soup he didn't do that.  

Pair these with the Chicken Tortilla Soup for a quick and delicious Mexican meal. 




Ingredients

1  1/2 cups cornmeal
2  1/2 cups milk
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup white sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup vegetable oil













Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Spray two standard size muffin tins with nonstick spray.
  3. In a small bowl, combine cornmeal and milk.  Let stand for 5 minutes. 
  4. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt and sugar.
  5. Mix in the cornmeal mixture, beaten eggs, and oil until smooth.  Do not overmix.
  6. Pour batter into prepared pans.
  7. Bake in preheated oven for 20 to 22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cornbread comes out clean.  
Makes 24 muffins.


    Chicken Tortilla Soup



    We're on vacation from work for a few weeks, so I'm finally able to cook dinner for the family outside of just doing it on weekends.  I had a look through my favourite recipes and realized it had been a while since I'd made this one.  The last time I made this I had company visiting from Oakland, CA, and by the time I sat down to eat mine, it was stone cold (I just hope that my company's wasn't also cold -- if so, they were gracious enough not to complain!).  

    This recipe calls for a short list of ingredients (most or all of which I always have on hand), and it's a delicious way to warm up after being out in  the cold (or watching it from the window, like me!).

    I paired this soup with corn muffins (recipe follows) for a quick and delicious Mexican meal. 



    Ingredients

    2 skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into cubes
    1/2 tsp olive oil
    3 cloves garlic, minced
    1/2 tsp ground cumin
    2 (900mL) cartons chicken broth
    1 can corn kernels
    1 cup onion, chopped
    1 tbsp lemon juice
    1/2 tbsp chili powder
    1 cup chunky salsa
    tortilla chips
    1/2 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
    1/2 cup sour cream

    Directions
    1. In a large pot over medium heat, cook and stir chicken in the oil for 5 minutes. 
    2. Add the garlic and cumin and mix well.
    3. Add the broth, corn, onion, lemon juice, chili powder, and salsa. 
    4. Reduce heat to low and simmer for about 20 minutes.
    5. Pour soup into bowls.  
    6. Top with a handful of crushed tortilla chips, a sprinkling of Monterey Jack cheese and a dollop of sour cream.

    Saturday, December 29, 2012

    Monterey Chicken



    Even my fussy children enjoyed this Monterey Chicken.  It's quick and easy to make, it's bright, it's colourful, and best of all, it's delicious!

    I served this with mashed potatoes and salad, but it could also be served with rice instead. 




    Ingredients

    4-6 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
    1 cup barbecue sauce
    6 pieces bacon, cooked to crispy
    3/4 cup Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
    3/4 cup Cheddar cheese, shredded
    1-2 Roma tomatoes
    2 green onions, diced
    Salt and pepper, to taste

    Directions


    1. Place chicken breasts in a baking dish.  Season with salt and pepper.
    2. Place in preheated 350°F oven and bake for 40 minutes.
    3. While chicken is baking, cook bacon until crispy.  Crumble and set aside.
    4. Combine cheeses in a medium bowl.  Set aside.
    5. Remove chicken from oven and drain off liquid.
    6. Brush each chicken breast with about 2 tablespoons of barbecue sauce.
    7. Top each chicken breast with a handful each of crumbled bacon and cheese.
    8. Place baking dish in an oven broiler until cheese melts (1-2 minutes -- keep watch!)
    9. Remove from oven, and top with tomatoes and green onions to serve.

    Sunday, December 9, 2012

    Garfield's Spaghetti Cupcakes

    My ten year old son wanted his birthday party to be held at home this year.  More to the point, he wanted a sleepover.  His first.  My first.  I do know my limitations, in some instances, so I did limit him to two boys staying the night, although he did manage to talk me into seven coming for the party.  He decided to have a movie party, and so we scoped out the "on demand" movies available, and settled on something all parents would be okay with,  The Garfield Movie.  

    I had recently seen a recipe for Spaghetti Cupcakes on one of my favourite food blogs.  I showed my son who thought they'd be cool, and appropriate, so I decided to be nuts daring and give them a go.  

    As I've discovered, ten year old boys don't want any sort of "organized" party.  You can't plan for pin the tail on the donkey, or other silly party games.  You can barely plan to even eat, since they don't want to sit for any length of time.  We did put the movie on, and some of them did watch it.  Then my son opened presents.  One of his gifts was a Nerf "bullet" launcher.  All of a sudden, I had nine boys, all somehow armed with Nerf weapons, plastic swords, and throwing stars (thanks to my mini-ninja), racing around my house playing some sort of survival game. 

    When they finally did stop for dessert, they were all (but one) keen on trying these amazing looking cupcakes. 

    After a few false starts with the icing, I can tell you that you need to allow A LOT of time for making the spaghetti.  I never imagined that it would take SOOO long to ice them.  My false starts were (a) using a zipper bag that was not a good quality.  All I had were "No Name" brand in the size I needed, but unfortunately, it sprung a leak before I'd finished icing two cupcakes, (b) moving the icing to a new, proper icing bag, but forgetting to drop in the tip first (!!), and (c) ultimately using too small of an icing tip to ice them (I ended up using a #2 round, but should have used at least a #3, if not a #4). 


    I chose to use Ferrero Rocher chocolates because they look textured like a meatball, and because they are made in the town where I live!

    I used "1/3 less sugar, 1/3 more fruit" E.D. Smith Triple Fruits (strawberry, raspberry & red plum) jam.  I would have preferred an even less sweet jam for this recipe, as I found it a bit too sweet for my taste.  

    Do try them -- they're an awesome fake-out, and great for April Fool's too!


    Ingredients

    1 boxed cake mix (any flavour) (Betty Crocker/Duncan Hines, etc.)
    1 - 450g tub vanilla frosting
    2 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder
    6 drops yellow food coloring
    1 & 1/2 cups low sugar strawberry jam
    24 Ferrero Rocher chocolates, unwrapped
    3-4 tablespoons grated white chocolate

    Directions
    1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
    2. Line 24 muffin cups with paper liners.
    3. Prepare the cake mix according to package directions.
    4. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans.
    5. Bake until cupcakes are lightly golden and a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, about 20 minutes.
    6. Transfer the cupcakes to a wire rack and cool completely.
    7. Place frosting into large bowl.  Add cocoa powder and food colouring, and mix well with stand mixer or hand mixer to whip and combine.
    8. Spread a thin layer of frosting on top of the cupcakes.
    9. Place the cupcakes on a serving platter with edges touching.
    10. Spoon the remaining tinted frosting into a Ziploc or cake decorating bag.
    11. Snip a small corner from the bag (1/8 inch), or use a #3 or #4 round tip.
    12. Pipe the frosting all over the cupcakes to make the spaghetti.  Pile it high and have some of the frosting hang over the edges of the cupcakes. 
    13. Place chocolates in a bowl, and add the jam.  Stir to coat.
    14. Spoon one teaspoon (or more) of jam on top of each cupcake.
    15. Place a jam-coated chocolate on top of each cupcake.
    16. Top cupcakes with any remaining jam.
    17. Grate white chocolate over each “meatball”.