Tortilla Soup with Chorizo and Turkey Meatballs

Tortilla Soup with Chorizo and Turkey Meatballs

The days are getting longer.  Yes, that is exactly how I think about it.  Daylight Savings Time is not my friend.  In the fall, it is a completely different story – you get an extra hour of sleep, everything is peachy.  Plus, I actually love when it gets dark at 4pm in the afternoon, there is something very appealing to me.  I think it is because it seems like it should be so much later when it is dark, but you have hours left in the day.  Last weekend really messed me up – I have been exhausted all week – and as I am typing away, I really should be getting some sleep, as I have a 4am conference call tomorrow.  As if my internal clock isn’t already messed up enough.

There is something positive though about longer days…and it all comes back to this blog.  When I started this blog, I went out and got a painter’s light so I could take pictures before dinner (when it was dark), and I would still capture some good shots.  Over the years though life has become just too hectic – and last year, with my New Year’s resolution to simplify (which I tried extremely hard to do, but it never seems to be enough), I decided I would no longer go through the hassle.  Taking pictures outside is much easier and less time consuming.  Easier said then done.  What that means is that half the year, I can only make things on the weekend to post – and they need to be photographed while there is still light in the sky.  At least my family no longer waits for me to take pictures before we eat dinner.

Longer days means taking pictures after I make a weeknight meal – I love it.  Last night I was so excited to run a bowl of soup outside and snap a few shots before sitting down – I felt like I accomplished that much more in my evening.  After all – this very easy soup that I found in Cooking Light was definitely worth photographing.  I took one taste, and I knew it was a keeper.  I love a good meal in a bowl – and this was definitely satisfying.  I must say – do not skip the cilantro – it made the entire dish sing.

So, maybe longer days means I can be more productive.  But seriously, is that really what I need right now?  Just a good bowl of soup and some sleep – now that’s more like it.

Ingredients

  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 3/4 cup chopped seeded poblano pepper
  • 1 ounce smoked Spanish chorizo, finely chopped
  • 4 cups unsalted chicken stock (such as Swanson)
  • 1  (14.5-ounce) can unsalted diced tomatoes, drained
  • 2  corn tortillas, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 12 ounces 93% lean ground turkey
  • 1  large egg
  • Cooking spray
  • 3/4 cup frozen corn kernels
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Preparation

Heat a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add oil; swirl to coat. Add onion, poblano, and chorizo; sauté 2 minutes. Add stock and tomatoes; bring to a simmer. Stir in tortillas.

Combine 1/4 teaspoon salt, garlic powder, and next 4 ingredients (through egg). Shape turkey mixture into 12 meatballs. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add meatballs; cook 4 minutes, browning on all sides. Add meatballs, remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, and corn to stock mixture, and simmer 5 minutes. Top with cilantro.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Tortilla Soup with Chorizo and Turkey Meatballs

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Overnight Oats with Coconut and Chocolate

Overnight Oats

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.  Some say that eating breakfast is almost as important as exercising.  I am not sure how people get away with not eating breakfast in the morning, but I know it is common.  I have a hard time eating before I exercise in the morning, but when I am done – I am usually famished.  I also know that the better night sleep I get, the hungrier I am in the morning.  If I don’t get lot of sleep the night before, I am not usually very hungry, but then throughout the day I feel like I need to eat - just to get a little extra bit of energy.

So what do I eat for breakfast?  It definitely varies – I love a good bowl of cold cereal in the morning, or a nice bowl of hot oatmeal – and lately I have been adding a delicious hard-boiled egg to the mix – and with a bowl of cereal, that really gets me through the morning well.  On Friday I was walking by someone’s office, and happened to notice she was eating something out of a mason jar.  I didn’t mean to be nosy, but when it comes to food, I usually can’t hold back – so I asked her what she was eating.  Overnight Oats.  She quickly explained what she had done – and I was in awe.  Basically you just need a base of quick oats and milk (coconut milk works perfectly), and the rest of all up to what you like.  You can add fruit, yogurt, sweeteners, spices – the sky is the limit.

I did a quick search on Bing to see what I could find – and wow, this is all over the food blogs.  I had no idea!  I tried hard to get it out of my head until after work – I had way too much to do on Friday to be distracted, but it made my day knowing I had this to look forward to.  On my way home that day, I was spent.  It was a long week – too long – all I wanted to do was sit on the bus and do nothing.  Then I remembered my little project – and I created a great recipe in my head – the focus was on coconut and chocolate.

I whipped this up in less than 5 minutes, and on Saturday morning, I couldn’t wait to dig in.  It was better than I could have imagined – and since I prefer my oatmeal to be warm, I just stuck it in the microwave for a minute, and it was perfect.  I have a new favorite breakfast treat – thank goodness I walked down that hallway on Friday.  Which leads me to wonder…what other breakfast treats are hiding in the hallways at work?  I may have just found a new way to get a little exercise on Friday mornings, while focusing on the most important meal of the day…

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup quick oats
  • 1/2 cup vanilla flavored coconut milk
  • 1 tablespoon shredded coconut
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean seeds
  • 1 ounce grated dark chocolate

Preparation

Add all ingredients to a 1/2 pint canning jar. Shake the jar, and place in fridge overnight. In the morning you will have a healthy breakfast waiting for you!
For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Overnight Oats with Coconut and Chocolate

Canal House Lentils

Canal House Lentils

To most of us, the world is not black and white.  The world is filled with beautiful colors all around us, that make us smile and think.  Of course here in the Pacific Northwest, there are definitely times of the year where the world truly does seem gray, but when you look beyond the gray skies, there is still a vibrancy in the air.  Many times it is what’s going on inside though that makes those colors dance.  At work, I live in a very gray space – and although there are times when we long for the black and white - it is the gray that can haunt people.  I watch it all the time.

Fortunately for me, even though I may live in a very gray space (literally and figuratively), I have plenty of color that keeps my days interesting.  Whether that is coming home to the drama of having two daughters, my co-workers that never cease to amaze me, or the food that I dream of making in all of my spare time.  It is the color that always keeps me going.

I have been on a little lentil kick lately.  It always seems to happen, I make a dish using a certain ingredient, and it is so good – I think about what else I can do.  That’s what happened with the lentils.  I saw this recipe in Bon Appetit, and after my last dish came out so wonderfully, I decided to try for another.  Wow.  That’s just about all I can say.  Wow.  I never thought of using soy sauce with lentils before – and I have been missing out.  Even my younger daughter was eating them up – although I can’t claim true victory with her, she has been eating just about everything lately.

So, the next time you find yourself in a gray space, try to dig a little deeper.  Just think about lentils.  They look so boring and drab, but if you season them right, they will be singing at your table.  Even though black and white may be easier, life is a hell of a lot more interesting when you add a bit of color.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium leek, white and pale-green parts only, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 cup green lentils, preferably French
  • 2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Thinly sliced scallions (optional; for serving)

Preparation

Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add leek, garlic, and tomato paste and cook, stirring often, until fragrant and tomato paste begins to darken, about 4 minutes. Add lentils and 2½ cups water. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, cover, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until lentils are tender, 45–55 minutes.

Remove from heat and let sit, covered, 10 minutes; add soy sauce and season with salt and pepper. Serve lentils topped with scallions, if desired.

DO AHEAD: Lentils can be made 5 days ahead. Cover and chill.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Canal House Lentils

Chocolate Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Chocolate Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting 2

It is not often that I get to go all out on desserts.  Mostly it is when I am baking for others – which hasn’t happen very much lately.  Maybe because we are just so darn busy??  Yes, I think that is exactly it.  Combine that with the fact that we have even been too busy to go to book club, and my baking has definitely suffered.  Now, one would say that is a good thing, but in our house, I think the girls were starting to get discouraged.  Cookies for lunch is one thing, but a real dessert is something else.  There is also something to be said for a multi-layer cake.  It somehow gives you the impression that you are getting more dessert than usual.  Two pieces of cake instead of one – and yes, since it is hard to cut very small pieces of a tall cake – that is exactly what happens.

So last week we actually able to make it to book club, and I happened to see the email asking people what they wanted to bring rather quickly – so the stars aligned for me to make that double layer cake the girls had been eyeing for months in my recipe stack.  This was one that I found in Cooking Light - but it was in their favorites edition.  Well, are you surprised?  Chocolate cake with cream cheese frosting?  What could be better?  Even if you screw up on the cake, the frosting is so over the top delicious, it can hide any disasters that might happen.

The cake was slightly dry, but as I mentioned, the cream cheese frosting covered that up completely.  This was no ordinary cream cheese frosting either – it had a cup of marshmallow cream – which made it even fluffier.  Of course there was a little left over after I frosted it, and I just couldn’t help myself.  I swear, I would be fine if someone just served me a bowl of cream cheese frosting for dessert…  I also gave a spoon to my younger daughter, who basically devoured it in a matter of seconds.  So here’s to double layer cakes…which offer you double the pleasure – particularly when it has a cream cheese frosting on top!

Ingredients

Cake:

  • 1/4 cup Dutch process cocoa
  • 1/3 cup boiling water
  • 1 1/2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 6.7 ounces cake flour (about 1 2/3 cups)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup nonfat buttermilk
  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 3  large egg whites
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • Baking spray with flour (such as Baker’s Joy)

Frosting:

  • 3/4 cup (6 ounces) cream cheese, softened
  • 1  (8-ounce) package 1/3-less-fat cream cheese, softened
  • 2 tablespoons cake flour
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 cup marshmallow cream

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350°.

To prepare cake, combine first 3 ingredients in a small bowl; let stand 1 minute. Stir until smooth; set aside.

Weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a bowl, stirring with a whisk. Place granulated sugar, buttermilk, and oil in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at low speed until blended. Add chocolate mixture; beat at low speed 1 minute. Add flour mixture; beat at low speed just until combined.

Combine egg whites and cream of tartar in a medium bowl. Using clean, dry beaters, beat egg white mixture with a mixer at high speed until stiff peaks form (do not overbeat). Gently stir one-third of egg white mixture into chocolate mixture. Fold in remaining egg white mixture. Divide the batter evenly between 2 (8-inch) round metal cake pans coated with baking spray. Bake at 350° for 18 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out with moist crumbs clinging. Cool for 10 minutes in pans on a wire rack. Remove cake from pans, and cool completely on wire rack.

To prepare frosting, place cream cheeses, 2 tablespoons flour, vanilla, and 1/8 teaspoon salt in a large bowl. Beat with a mixer at medium speed for 2 minutes or until smooth. Add powdered sugar; beat 1 minute or until well combined. Gently stir in marshmallow cream just until combined.

Place 1 cake layer on a plate; spread with 1 cup frosting, leaving a 1/2-inch border around edge. Top with remaining cake layer. Spread remaining frosting over top and sides of cake. Refrigerate the cake until ready to serve.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Chocolate Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Indian Parantha

Indian Parantha

What a week…and I can’t believe it is only Wednesday.  I am only posting this tonight because I need a break from the madness.  Yes, there has been some serious madness going on this week.  I have probably two of the most important meetings I will have all year – tomorrow.  Isn’t that always the way things go?

And just when I didn’t think I could take anymore – tonight my daughter went to her new middle school she was redistricted to next year.  We have all been trying to look on the bright side of this move, but seriously, I see very little positives at all.  The worst part of all is that the majority of her friends will not be joining her.  Tonight they invited current 6th and 7th graders to come and talk about their new school, and what electives they would like to see.  This will be the first of a series of meetings with the kids – because at this point, they still have nothing but a Principal and a couple of teachers.  When she got in the car, she started telling me about how depressing it was.  The school is horribly old and run down, the science classrooms are from the dark ages (unlike her current school that was renovated a few years ago, and is beautiful) – and there won’t be an orchestra room (we are still crossing our fingers for an orchestra – there are 5 in her current school).  She said at one point the principal asked them to write down what they like about their current school – and one of her friends wrote this:

MY FRIENDS

Thanks for taking them away from me

I almost burst into tears.  I guess the principal saw this, and told the girl that they were supposed to be focusing on the positives, and to please turn that piece of paper over.  ARE YOU KIDDING ME???  My daughter said they are just looking for a way to get out their feelings – and I completely agree with her.  They need to be a little sensitive about this change…geez.

So – as you can see, I am in fine form right now, and trying to get out of this funk in preparation for tomorrow.  So now it is time to switch gears and talk about something that puts a smile on my face.  Indian Parantha.  The other week I took a class at my favorite Community Kitchen - all about making Indian breads.  One of my very good friends is from India and when I was pregnant she would bring me to her house so she could cook for me.  This was one of the things she would make – and she make them so easily – and beautifully.  I have to admit – they were not that difficult to make, and boy did they taste delicious – particularly with some ghee brushed on top.  Maybe if I can get through tomorrow, this will be my treat afterwards.  Personally, I think I will need something a little stronger, but this will be a nice accompaniment…

Ingredients

  • 2 cups white whole wheat flour (Chapatti Atta in the indian grocery stores)
  • 3/4 cup cool water

Preparation

Using your hands, bring this together in a large mixing bowl to form a ball.  Knead it in the bowl for a minute until the dough comes off your hands.  Let the dough rest at room temperature for 5 minutes.

Preheat a cast iron griddle on medium low.  You will have to adjust the heat after the first roti depending on how fast or slow it is cooking, every stove is different.

Divide the dough into 10 equal portions.  Place one portion of dough in the palm of your hand and knead it with your other hand 10 times, roll it into a ball and flatten it slightly.  Pinch it into a flat disk about 3″ in diameter, lightly dust it in dry flour. On a lightly floured wooden cutting board or smooth countertop roll out to a 6″ diameter circle. If it starts to stick, pick it up and dust with more flour. Place the roti between the palm of your hands and shake off any extra flour. Place the roti on the grill for approximately one minute.  When the color of the roti has changed to a slightly deep tan flip the roti. There should be no brown spots on the other side. If there is, lower the heat until light brown spots appear all over the other side. Cook for another minute gently pressing down on the roti with a folded tea towel until light brown spots appear all over the other side.  Flip roti one more
time and cook for another minute gently pressing down with a tea towel slightly turning the roti. The roti should fill with hot air. Continue pressing gently, remove from heat and serve immediately with a dab of butter.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Indian Parantha

Lentil Salad with Soft-Cooked Eggs

Lentil Salad with Soft-Cooked Eggs

Lunch has never been my favorite meal and I think I know why.  At home on the weekends, it seems to be more of a chore than anything else.  The girls are usually not starving, because they had a late breakfast – and they never know what to eat.  If it were up to them they would have a brunch every day – with eggs, pancakes, bacon, etc…  At work, although I am starving, I have to force myself to get to the cafeteria just to get something healthy in my body.  Then I just march back up the five flights of stairs just to sit in my office and eat while I catch up on email.  How is that healthy?

When I am traveling in Europe it is completely different.  Even when I am in the office we take the time to go to the cafeteria and sit down and eat – that is if we don’t get out of the building and eat somewhere else.  Even when we have meetings, we take the time to have lunch.  When I studied there during college, I remember that was the only meal that I didn’t eat with my French family – that was their family time – the kids left school to go home for lunch, and that was the big meal of the day.  It makes sense – you have hours to burn off the food and then you eat a light dinner before going to bed.

When I am home on the weekends, my go-to-lunch is an egg sandwich.  I tend not to eat eggs for breakfast, but by lunch time that is exactly what I need.  I have been staring at the lentils in my pantry for quite a while now, when this recipe flew out of the stacked pile from Cooking Light.  A big light bulb went off in my head.  Instead of my typical egg sandwich, why not take the time to make this lentil salad that I can enjoy a few times this week, and cook a soft boiled egg to go on top – just like the beautiful picture next to the recipe.  I swear, it was calling me.

My egg was probably a little softer than the recipe called for – but it was perfect for me.  The yolk drizzled over the top of the arugula and the combination with the lentils was to die for.  By the time this was done, the girls had already eaten, and were upstairs – so I had the kitchen to myself.  It was almost luxurious – sitting there with my beautiful salad. Not having to get up and get something for someone.  I took my time, and savored every bite.  Now I can see why lunch is so appealing – if only life always quieted down during the middle of the day.  Keep dreaming…

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cups dried petite green lentils
  • 6  large eggs
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
  • 1 1/4 cups diced red bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup chopped green onions
  • 1/2 cup diced celery
  • 8 cups baby arugula

Preparation

Place lentils in a medium saucepan. Cover with water to 3 inches above lentils; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes or until lentils are tender. Drain and keep warm.

Add water to a large saucepan to a depth of 3 inches; bring to a boil. Add eggs; boil 5 minutes and 30 seconds. Drain. Plunge eggs into ice water; let stand 5 minutes. Drain and peel.

Combine oil, vinegar, mustard, garlic, salt, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper in a medium bowl, stirring with a whisk. Set aside 2 tablespoons oil mixture. Add lentils, bell pepper, onions, and celery to remaining oil mixture; toss gently to coat. Place reserved 2 tablespoons oil mixture and arugula in a large bowl; toss to coat.

Place about 3/4 cup lentil mixture and about 1 cup arugula mixture on each of 6 plates. Cut eggs in half lengthwise; top each serving with 2 egg halves. Sprinkle evenly with remaining 1/8 teaspoon black pepper.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Lentil Salad with Soft-Cooked Eggs

Creamy Queso with Sausage

Cream Queso with Sausage

There is a time and place for just about everything.  My mother loves to entertain – and she took after her mother.  One of the many dishes I remember her making when I was growing up was her chili con queso dip – there were two main ingredients as far as I can remember – a can of Hormel chili without beans and Velveeta cheese.  I am not exactly sure what was in that chili if it didn’t have beans, but whatever it was – once it was mixed with that velvety fake cheese, magic happened.

It has been years since I have even thought about Velveeta cheese – but I found this recipe in Bon Appetit, and would you believe that was one of the ingredients?  I know Velveeta is nothing but processed cheese – and eating a hunk of Velveeta cheese is definitely not something I am interested in doing.  In fact, I seriously never imagined myself buying a stick of Velveeta ever…but there is really nothing like melted Velveeta cheese when you are making a dip.

The other weekend when I was trying to figure out what to make for the Super Bowl, I kept coming back to this recipe.  Part of me wanted to just make the recipe that my mother had engrained in my head – but this recipe looked even better.  It had a combo of Velveeta and real cheese – and some sausage.  Well, this dip was just about the best I have ever had.  I could have easily just sat down with a bowl and a spoon…but I was good and stuck to the chips – but let me tell you, there was no way to stop at just one.  Fortunately I wasn’t the only person that felt that way, so it went pretty quickly – otherwise I seriously would have eaten it all.  Velveeta – I’m sorry for ignoring you all these years, and thinking that I was done with you.  I just had to find the right time…and now that I have, there will be a place for you always.

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 6 oz. fresh chorizo, casings removed
  • 2½ cups half-and-half
  • 8 oz. Velveeta cheese, cut into cubes
  • 8 oz. Monterey Jack cheese, grated
  • 8 oz. sharp cheddar, grated
  • 2 tablespoons chopped canned chipotle chiles in adobo
  • 1¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¾ teaspoon ancho chile powder
  • ¾ teaspoon chipotle chile powder
  • 2 oz. crumbled Cotija cheese or queso fresco

Preparation

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add chorizo and cook, stirring and breaking up with a spoon, until browned and crisp, 8–10 minutes; set aside.

Heat half-and-half and Velveeta in a large heavy saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until Velveeta is melted, 6–8 minutes. Add Monterey Jack and cheddar; cook, stirring, until mixture is smooth. Mix in chipotle chiles, salt, and both chile powders.

Transfer queso to a warm dish and top with Cotija cheese and reserved chorizo.

DO AHEAD: Queso (without toppings) can be made 2 days ahead. Cover and chill.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Creamy Queso with Sausage

Mocha Cake with Fluffy Frosting

Mocha Cake with Fluffy Frosting

I have a little bit of a split personality when it comes to following recipes.  I am either all in, or not at all.  For the most part when it comes to baking, I follow the recipe completely – unless I really know what I am getting myself into, and feel completely comfortable with the substitutions.  For example, I am pretty confident now in my ability to substitute coconut milk for milk in pretty much any cake.  When it comes to cooking, there are no rules – and I am always making little changes here and there.

It was time to get back into my dairy-free baking mode – and what better to do that with than a chocolate cake.  My husband’s favorite dessert is a big chocolate cake – and it had been a while since I had made one.  I found this recipe in Cooking Light - and for some reason the title really got me.  Who doesn’t love fluffy frosting?  If you know me at all, I am not a frosting person – unless it has cream cheese in it – or it is marshmallow.  I read the ingredients, and this was neither – but I couldn’t get past the fluffy frosting.

The recipe – which I copied exactly below – called for a 9×13 pan.  Ordinarily I wouldn’t have thought twice, but for some reason I thought that a double layer cake might be even better.  We were having friends for dinner, and I figured it would be nicer to serve – so I found the 8″ round cake pans.  It didn’t hit me until I was making the frosting – of course, there is no way this can be a double layer cake.  This truly is FLUFFY FROSTING that will just sink if I layer another cake on top.  Duh.  So I ended up freezing one of the cakes, and just using the other and mounding the frosting on top. Of course that didn’t impact the taste what so ever – this cake was as moist as can be – and the fluffy frosting was like biting into a cloud.  I drizzled some caramel on top that I had brought back from Paris, and boy was this delicious.  Maybe my way was the right way – now I have another one in the freezer just waiting for an opportunity to pile some clouds on top…a little slice of heaven.

Cooking Light

Ingredients

Cake:

  • 9 ounces unbleached all-purpose flour (about 2 cups)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup canola mayonnaise (such as Hellmann’s)
  • 3 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 cup hot strong brewed coffee
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • Cooking spray

Topping:

  • 9 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 6 large egg whites
  • 1/3 cup light chocolate syrup

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350°.

To prepare cake, weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour and next 6 ingredients (through 1/2 teaspoon salt) in a large bowl. Add mayonnaise and oil; beat with a mixer at low speed until well blended. Slowly add brewed coffee and vanilla; beat with a mixer at low speed 1 minute or until well blended. Stir in chocolate chips; pour batter into a 13 x 9-inch metal baking pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan on a wire rack.

To prepare meringue, combine 9 tablespoons sugar and next 3 ingredients in the top of a double boiler. Cook over simmering water 2 minutes or until candy thermometer registers 150°, stirring constantly with a whisk. Remove from heat. Beat egg mixture with a mixer at medium speed until soft peaks form; beat at high speed until stiff peaks form. Spread meringue over cake. Store cake, loosely covered, in refrigerator. Drizzle each serving with 1 teaspoon chocolate syrup.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Mocha Cake with Fluffy Frosting

Spiced Hot Chocolate

Spiced Hot Chocolate

It doesn’t snow in Seattle all that often.  Maybe once a year, if we are lucky, we get a decent storm, and that means only a couple of inches.  And when that happens, the city usually shuts down.  You can basically guarantee that schools will be cancelled if there is any snow on the ground.  Of course on the east coast where I grew up, things were a little different  – and I actually had to learn how to drive in the snow.  Here they don’t plow the roads, and the hills are so steep that it can get pretty treacherous quickly.  So, it is really best just to stay home.

This morning we woke up to a winter wonderland.  Even though there was only a few inches on the ground, it was enough to cancel Sunday School, and for all the neighborhood kids to get outside and have some fun. Of course now most of the snow is already gone, but we still have remnants of a snow man in our back yard.  While the kids were outside, I was inside making pancakes for breakfast, and some special hot chocolate.  I saw this recipe in Bon Appetit, and I decided to make it kid-friendly, so omitted the alcohol and the chiles.  I knew it would be delicious, but I really had no idea I would get the reaction I did.

The kids were just about to go down the street to play more when I called out and told them that the hot chocolate was ready.  I quickly took them out of these colorful mugs, and put them into some paper cups that they could take with them.  They all grabbed a cup, said thanks and took off.  An hour later when they appeared back at the house – the first thing they said was how amazing the hot chocolate was.  I guess all the neighborhood kids were trying to guess what I had done – they decided it was not ordinary cocoa.  Score for mom!  I think I just need it to snow more often, and I will be elevated to super-mom status in no time…I knew my cooking would help me out eventually.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1  cup heavy cream
  • ⅓ cup  sugar
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • ½ vanilla bean, split lengthwise
  • 3 oz. bittersweet chocolate (at least 70% cacao), chopped

Preparation

Combine milk, cream, sugar, and cinnamon stick in a medium saucepan; scrape in seeds from vanilla bean and add pod. Bring to a simmer; remove from heat, cover, and let steep 15 minutes.

Remove cinnamon stick and vanilla pod; discard. Add chocolate and heat over medium-high heat, whisking constantly, until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth, about 5 minutes. Remove hot chocolate from heat and add serve hot.

DO AHEAD: Hot chocolate can be made 1 day ahead. Let cool; cover and chill. Reheat and serve.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Spiced Hot Chocolate

Smoky Quinoa and Bacon Salad

Smoky Quinoa and Bacon Salad

My kids love Top Chef.  It is one of their favorite shows on television.  It is hard for me to put myself in their shoes – when I was their age I was watching Little House on the Prairie.  The only cooking shows were on PBS, and I don’t think there were many to choose from.  Today with DVRs, On Demand, and the Internet, you can basically watch any show you want whenever you want.  Life is very different – and my children take full advantage of the choices available.

Tonight is the season finale of Top Chef, but since we rarely watch a show when it actually is aired – I am sitting here typing this blog post – while they are finishing their homework.  Hopefully this weekend we will see who wins, if we don’t find out beforehand.  So why are my kids so fascinated with Top Chef?  Well, I think for many reasons.  They love a good competition.  They love finding out what the challenges are.  And they love Padma and Tom.  But seriously, who doesn’t?

I don’t know a lot of famous people – meaning, if I saw Tom Hanks walking down the street – I would never know.  But get a celebrity chef – even just a local chef near me, and I know exactly who they are.  I have seen quite a few over the years, but have never met Tom.  He is one of the good guys – I really respect him as a chef and as a person – especially after reading my brother-in-laws interview with him.  I loved it.  I feel exactly the same way about my food – and I spend a lot of time getting my food from the places I feel good about.  And yes, I avoid hormone and antibiotics in my food any way that I can.

One of my favorite foods is bacon.  I have mentioned this many times before – but I am not sure I have mentioned where I get my bacon.  Skagit River Ranch has just about the best bacon in the world (in my opinion).  I have to go to the Farmer’s market to buy it – but let me tell you – it is absolutely worth it.  I don’t know what they do to their bacon, but it is salty yet sweet, and really meaty.  So of course when I saw this recipe in Food & Wine, I knew exactly where the bacon was coming from.  This salad was outstanding.  I love quinoa, and the bacon and caramelized shallots were a delicious combination with the nutty grain.  I adapted the recipe slightly below, but feel free to add even more ingredients – like a nutty green soy bean that I am thinking of…that goes perfectly with bacon.  So for those of you watching Top Chef tonight – I hope the best chef wins, and their life if filled with perfectly smoked bacon that is antibiotic and hormone-free.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa
  • 2 cups water
  • Pinch of kosher or sea salt
  • 8 pieces of bacon
  • 3 small shallots, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon spicy brown mustard
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground chipotle
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
  • Fresh cracked black pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley

Preparation

Combine the quinoa, water and salt in a medium saucepan. Bring the water to a boil, and after the water begins to boil, reduce the heat to low and cover the pan. Gently simmer, covered, for 15 minutes (there may still be some water not yet absorbed).  Remove from heat. Keeping the pan covered, let it stand for 5 minutes, or until the remaining water is absorbed. Remove the lid and gently fluff the quinoa. Set aside to cool.

Crisp the bacon, drain and cut into 1-inch pieces. Set aside reserving one tablespoon of the grease.  Sauté the shallots in the bacon grease, then set aside.

In a bowl, whisk together the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, mustard, brown sugar, smoked paprika, chipotle, salt and pepper. Set aside. In a large bowl, toss together the cooked quinoa, bacon pieces, shallots and parsley. Toss with the dressing and serve at room temperature or chilled.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Smoky Quinoa and Bacon Salad