Chocolate Chip Pound Cake

This is one of the best cakes, dense but moist, not too sweet, perfect for dessert, afternoon snack, and often even breakfast.  It is what I usually picked as my birthday cake request growing up, and part of the reason my in-laws like me so much.

The recipe itself is not difficult, but you make it in a bundt pan, so it can take a little practice to get out nicely.  But, the good news is that you cover the top with melted chocolate in the end.  So if your cake doesn’t come out as nicely as you would like, just piece it back together and cover all the flaws in chocolate!

Chocolate Chip Pound Cake

3 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups sugar
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
3 teaspoons vanilla
4 eggs
3/4 cup milk
1 bag mini chocolate chips
chocolate for melting

Pre-heat the oven to 325.  Heavily grease and flour your bundt pan, and set aside.

Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt.  Set aside.

In a mixer, combine the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Mix in the vanilla, and begin adding the eggs one at a time.  Fully incorporate each egg before adding the next.  Then, beginning and ending with the flour mixture, alternate between adding flour and milk, mixing well after each addition.  I usually do 4 additions of flour and 3 of milk.

Leave out 1-2 tablespoons of the flour mixture.  Empty the entire bag of mini chocolate chips into the bowl with the remaining flour, and toss the mix.  Coating the chips with flour is supposed to help them stay suspended in the cake batter better.  Dump the chips and remaining flour into the batter, and fold in so that the chips are spread throughout the batter evenly.  Pour the batter into the prepared bundt pan, and bake for 75 minutes.

Remove the cake from the oven and let it cool for 15-20 minutes.  Run a knife along the inner and outer edge of the pan, and then flip the cake out onto a plate.  This is where things can get tricky.  Hopefully you have greased and floured the pan well enough and the cake just slides right out.  If this happens, take a moment to congratulate yourself.  If not, loosen the edges of the cake some more, and try again.  If part of your cake gets stuck in the pan, just gently pull it out and smoosh it back onto the rest of the cake.

After the cake has cooled, melt together some chocolate with a little bit of water to make the topping.  I usually eyeball this, but you probably want to start with about a cup and a half of chocolate chips and 2 tablespoons of water.  Heat this over low heat until the chocolate melts.  You may need to add more water or chocolate chips. You want a thick chocolate sauce that you can pour over top with a spoon.  So it should be pourable, but you want it to seep down the sides of the cake like a slow chocolate mud slide, so it should still be thick.


Sister’s Corn Salsa

I’ve been a bad blogger, I know.  It’s been a little busy around here, between the working, and the driving, and a  couple rounds of visitors, and planting my Spring garden.  I’ll try to do better, and I have a thing or two saved up that I can post, but I make now promises.

My sister sent me this recipe, and I made it several weeks ago.  That was approximately two weeks before I went to the Farmer’s Market and saw this –

I will definitely have to make this again now that there is fresh corn, perhaps even grill the corn first.  But when I made this the first time I just used frozen corn and it was easy and still nothing to scoff at in the deliciousness arena.

Corn Salsa
 4 ears of corn, or about half a bag of frozen corn
1 red onion
2-3 cloves garlic
1-2 Jalapeno peppers
4 Roma tomatos
1 Lime
about 1/4 cup Cilantro, really however much you like
2 tablespoons Vinegar ( I used white wine vinegar because that is what I had)
1 avocado
Salt and Pepper to taste

Slice the kernels off the corn into your pan with a little olive oil, and heat until the kernels soften and get a little translucent (or grill the corn and then cook for a shorter time). Dice the onion and pepper and throw it in with the corn. If you like a little more heat you can leave these raw. Dice the tomatoes and avocado, and mince the garlic and cilantro.  Throw it all in the bowl, mix in the corn and onions, and then squeeze the lime over it all. Finish with the vinegar, and then add salt and pepper to taste.

We used this to liven up a fast black bean and rice burrito, and boy was it good.  And its so healthy, just lots of veggies, so you can really pile it high and not even feel bad!  This will definitely be making several more appearances this summer.

Chocolate Oatmeal No Bake Cookies

I find myself baking cookies more often than anything else now because they are so quick.  They are also much easier to give away, which is good because we don’t really need to eat an entire recipe of cookies between two people!  These are some of my favorite cookies.  They come together quickly, don’t require any baking, and can really feed a crowd.  I made a double batch (60+ cookies) and took some to work, sent some to the philosophers, and still had a nice pile at home to eat.

Chocolate Oatmeal No Bake Cookies
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 stick butter
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups oatmeal
1/2 cup peanut butter

Combine the sugar, butter, cocoa, and milk in a large pan over medium heat.  Stir until everything is combined and melted.  Bring to a boil for one minute.  Remove from the heat and add the oats, peanut butter, and vanilla. Mix until everything is well combined.

After you mix everything together, you might need to let the mixture sit for a minute or so.  You want it to still be very pliable, but not so much that your cookies are going to run.  While the cookies sit, lay out a long sheet of wax paper on a flat surface.  Using a tablespoon, scoop mounds of the cookie mixture onto the wax paper.  The cookies should set up pretty quickly, but if it’s particularly hot or humid they might need to be helped along a bit by the fridge.

Lemony Risotto

A few weeks back I read a recipe for Meyer Lemon risotto over at the Simply Recipes blog and was intrigued, so I grabbed a couple of lemons off of my Grandpa’s tree last weekend when we went over to visit. I didn’t look back at the original recipe, just sort of proceeded with my own basic risotto recipe, but I’m sure they are quite similar. I love risotto. It’s very warm and satisfying – creamy but still rice like. The lemon keeps this recipe very light. It goes really nicely with some sautéed veggies or some baked salmon.

Lemony Risotto
1 tablespoon butter
1 large shallot (or small yellow onion), diced
1 cup arborio rice
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups warm liquid (water, veggie broth, or chicken stock)
Zest from one large lemon
Juice from one large lemon
1/2 shredded Parmesan cheese
Pepper to taste

Melt the butter in a pot over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook until soft. Add the rice and give it a cook stir. Once the rice has absorbed all of the butter, start adding the water, 1/2 cup at a time. Give the risotto a good stir after each addition of liquid. The stirring helps it develop the creamy texture. Add more liquid once the rice grains have absorbed all that is in the pot. Add the salt after the first cup of liquid has been absorbed. Mix well. If you are using a stock with some sodium already in it, you might not need the additional salt.




















Once all the liquid has been absorbed and the grains are soft, remove the risotto from the heat and mix in the lemon zest, lemon juice, parm, and pepper. Let it rest for a minute or two and then serve.

Testing out wedding cakes

So my best friend since second grade is getting married in the fall and I might get to make the cake.  She is planning on having other desserts, so it won’t have to be as massive of a construction as some, but still, making someone’s wedding cake is a pretty big deal.  Since I haven’t tried anything like this before, I decided to start testing out some recipes.  Tonight some friends were having a birthday party, so it was the perfect time for my first test.  The recipe is based mostly on one I found on epicurious.  I stayed pretty close to the recipe for the cake, but ventured out a little farther with the rest.  This recipe makes enough for one 11 x 7 x 2 rectangular cake.

I’d say this was a pretty good first test.  The cake was very good, although I think my friend prefers raspberries to strawberries.  I just happened to notice that strawberries were starting to come back in season here in Southern California.  The cake was sense enough to cut nicely, but still moist, especially with the lemon syrup.  And the lemon flavor helped kick up the flavor of the fruit.

Lemon Cake with Strawberries and Cream Cheese Frosting
2 1/2 cups flour
2 1/2teaspoons baking powder
1 1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick plus 2 tablespoons softened butter
1 1/4 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cups milk
1 1/2 tablespoons finely shredded lemon zest

Lemon syrup
1/3 cup water
1/3 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup sugar
Zest from one lemon, removed in large strips

Preheat the oven to 350.  Butter the bottom and sides of the baking dish.  Line the bottom of the pan with wax or parchment paper, and then also butter the paper.  Coat the pan with a light dusting of flour and set aside.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt.  Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add the vanilla, and then the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition.

Add the flour mixture and milk alternately, beginning and ending with the flour, mixing until just combined after each addition. Add the lemon zest and mix until just combined.

Pour batter in to the pan, and bake 35 to 40 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean.  Cool on a wire rack for five minutes, and then invert the cake on to the rack or a clean baking sheet, and remove the paper.  Allow the cake to cool completely.  I found it helpful to make the cake a day ahead of time, so I didn’t feel rushed the day of and it had plenty of time to cool.

Using a serrated knife, cut the cake in to two layers horizontally. Remove the top half so you have the two layers sitting cut side up.

In a small sauce pan, heat the ingredients for the lemon syrup over low heat.  Stir occasionally until all of the sugar is dissolved.  Remove from the heat and allow to cool completely. Strain out the lemon zest.

Brush the cut sides of each layer of the cake generously with lemon syrup.  Allow the layers to sit for at least 15 minutes so that the syrup can absorb.

Cream Cheese Frosting
1 1/2 sticks butter, softened
1 1/2 blcoks cream cheese, softened ( 12 ounces total)
3 teaspoons vanilla
5-8 cups powdered sugar

In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together the butter and cream cheese until smooth.  Mix in the vanilla.  Gradually add the powdered sugar until you reach the desired consistency.  It should be thick enough so that it doesn’t run off of the spoon, but still spreadable.  Continue to mix until very smooth.

Spread a thin layer of frosting on the top of each layer of cake.  This helps hold in the crumbs.  I found it helpful to refrigerate the cake after each application of frosting.  It was quite hot here today, so that might not be necessary on cooler days, but I found it helped solidify the frosting a bit so everything was a little easier to work with.

Take the layer that is going to be the bottom of your cake, and add a little more frosting to the top.  Arrange a layer of thinly sliced strawberries, covering the top of the layer, and pressing down slightly so that the strawberries stick in the frosting.

Invert the second layer on top, so that both cut sides are facing the center of the cake.

Spread a thin layer of frosting on the top and sides of the cake, and the refrigerate once more for 10-15 minutes.  Spread the final layer of frosting around the sides and top.

I decided to decorate my cake with sliced strawberries around the edge, which I gently pressed in to the frosting.

Crock Pot applesauce

Applesauce is one of my favorite foods.  A while back I posted a recipe for Ina Garten’s oven roasted applesauce, which was very good.  But I had to roast it in the ceramic part of my crock pot because I don’t own a dutch oven.  And I thought to myself that day that applesauce in the crock pot must work.  So I finally tried it, and it’s awesome!  You get an easy, fuss-free applesauce that comes out with caramel undertones from the long cooking time.  I started with pretty sweet apples, so the long cooking time highlights the natural sweetness of the apples so you don’t even need to add any extra sugar.

Crock Pot applesauce
8 apples, peeled and cut in the about 1 inch pieces
3/4 cup of water
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Toss everything together in the crock pot.  Cover and cook on low for about 5 hours.

Once the apples are really soft, mix with a spoon to break them up.  It’s that easy!

I love eating the leftovers the next morning for breakfast with a croissant.

Polenta and Artichoke Tart

I came across this recipe on a blog the other day and was instantly intrigued. I love artichokes, and polenta, and I thought polenta for the crust was such a neat idea. When we invited some friends over for dinner last night, I had the perfect excuse to try it out. The original recipe I found called for goat cheese, which I think would be delicious, but unfortunately Justin does like goat cheese. Obviously he has the wrong preferences, but because I love him I changed this around a bit to use mozzarella instead. It was still delicious, but if you like goat cheese, I think the goat cheese would make it even better.

Polenta Crust
1 1/2 cups vegetable stock
1 1/4 cup water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cup polenta (cornmeal)
1/2 parmesan cheese
1 large egg at room temperature
1/4 teaspoon peper

Heat the vegetable stock and water in a large pot over medium high heat.  Add the salt when it starts boiling, and then slowly pour in the polenta, whisking constantly.  Continue to whisk for another 30 seconds, and then turn the heat down to low and cover.  Cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Remove the pan from the heat and let the polenta sit, covered for another 10 minutes, stirring it once or twice while it sits.  Add in the egg, cheese, and pepper.

Grease a 10 inch cake or tart pan with olive oil, and then spoon in the polenta.  Using your hands or a wooden spoon, push the polenta around to cover the bottom of the pan, and push it up the sides a little bit to form a crust.  Wetting your hands or the spoon with a little bit of cold water will help keep the polenta from sticking.

Artichoke Filling
1 cup plain greek yogurt
2 large eggs
1/2 cup finely chopped shallot (1 small)
2 tablespoons chopped flat leaf parsley
1 tablespoon chopped Thyme
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
12 ounces artichoke hearts
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella
1/2 cup grated parmesan

Spread the artichoke hearts around the crust and top with the mozzarella.  Whisk together the yogurt, eggs, shallots, herbs, and salt and pepper.  Pour over the artichokes, and spread evenly.  Sprinkle the last 1/2 cup of parmesan over the top of the tart.  Bake at 375 for 45 minutes, until the cheese on top is nicely browned.  Allow it to sit for a few minutes after you take it out of the oven so that everything can solidify.