National Chocolate Cake Day

Supposedly today is National Chocolate Cake Day.  Who decides these things?  Not that I mind chocolate cake day, just curious as to who the deciding body is.

For my first National Chocolate Cake Day (there may have been more of them but I think this was the first one of which I was aware) I decided to try something new.  I had pinned another Noble Pig recipe for Six Minute Chocolate Cake with Balsamic Glaze. Six minutes?  Well, the six minutes is the put it in the pan time.  It takes 30 minutes to bake, 20 minutes to cool in the pan and another 20 or so to cool completely on a rack.  And that's just the cake, not the glaze or the strawberries or the marscapone cream!

Here is a link to the recipe:
Six Minute Chocolate Cake with Balsamic Glaze

The recipe specifically states you must sift the ingredients.  Typically I would skip this step but because Cathy made a point to say it was critical for this cake, I dug out my sifter and sifted away!


The recipe also offers the option of using water or coffee.  I didn't have any coffee brewed so I used a little KAF instant espresso.


Both the batter and the glaze call for balsamic vinegar.  I had some chocolate balsamic on hand from the Olive Grove and I used that for both.


The batter is much like that of the chocolate olive oil cake I made for New Year's Eve.  It's thick and luxurious, no wimpy chocolate cake batter!


The cake bakes up beautifully!

Once the cake has cooled it is glazed.  The glaze is balsamic vinegar, sugar and chocolate!  I may have reduced the balsamic just a little too much because my glaze was very sticky!  But it looks beautiful.


With this gorgeous chocolate cake is served strawberries macerated in balsamic vinegar (chocolate infused of course) and a little sugar.  I actually found pretty nice strawberries in the middle of January in Minnesota.  No, they didn't have the flavor of a summer strawberry, but with a little sugar and chocolate balsamic they would do!


The final step is the marscapone cream.  I was going to skip this but I had some marscapone in the frig from another dish so I made it.  It's delicious!  How could it not be made from marscapone cheese, heavy cream and a little sugar?


So how was the cake?  It was good.  Not "OHMYGOD" good, but good.  It was a denser cake but still very moist.  It had great chocolate flavor too.  I'm not sure I loved the glaze as much as I wanted to, I think I would have preferred a little ganache or even just some powdered sugar.

New York Steaks with Mushroom Cream Sauce - Chef Peter Janiak

I'm not a huge steak eater.  I very rarely make them at home, much to my husband's dismay, and I very rarely order them out.  I'd much rather have a nice piece of halibut or pork or pasta.

I hate mushrooms.  I like the flavor mushrooms impart on a dish but I can't stand the texture. I don't know what it is but that styrofoamy texture (yes even portabellas have it) is just something I can't stand.


So when Chef Janiak posted the recipe for New York Steaks with Mushroom Cream Sauce, why did I feel I had to make them?  Could be that every one of Chef Janiak's recipes that I've tried has been fabulous.  Could be that the recipe said it paired perfectly with the 2010 Home Ranch Zinfandel, my very favorite wine in the whole wide world.  Or maybe I'm just a little iron deficit and I'm craving beef, I don't know.  I do know this afternoon I sent Dave an email with the list of ingredients I didn't have in the house so he could pick them up at the grocery store and we could have these tonight!


I've made steaks this way before and I know how perfectly they turn out.  Simply sear them in a pan, stick the pan in a hot oven, and a few minutes later perfectly cooked steaks.  Look at these steaks, are they not beautiful?


I seared them and stuck them in a 400 degree oven.  I do love my LeCreuset cast iron pan.  I find I use it more than any other I own.

In the few minutes (like 5) it took for the steaks to reach a perfect medium doneness (155 degrees in my book!) I was able to prep the ingredients for the sauce.  



I could have made the sauce in another pan but why waste the yummy brown bits from the steaks?  So once the steaks were to temperature I let them rest on a pre-warmed plate (thanks to the plate warmer I got for my birthday, LOVE it!) under foil while I made the sauce in the very same pan.

Sauteed shallots, yum.  Then mushrooms are added and cooked until they are soft and all that extra liquid is gone.



Mustard, Worcestershire sauce and thyme are added then brandy and chicken stock.  This is when things really started to smell good!  A little cream is added and reduced and finally creme fraiche and parsley.  The aroma in my kitchen was making my mouth water.  The sauce is beautiful!




I served it over my perfectly cooked steaks.  I should have taken a picture but once I took a bite, well I couldn't stop eating!  The sauce is delicious.  It has the great earthy, or umami for those of you who watch too much FoodNetwork, flavor absolutely perfect with the steaks.  I finished the steak!  I never finish a steak.  I finished this steak!


After Dave's first bite he looked at me and just said "mmmmm."  And we agree, it pairs perfectly with the 2010 Home Ranch Zinfandel.  Of course I don't think there is anything that doesn't pair well with a Home Ranch Zinfandel!



I mopped up any extra sauce on my plate with some roasted butternut squash.  I wished I had made some sort of bread!

Another fabulous recipe from Chef Janiak!   Thank you!  There is plenty of extra sauce.  I won't be home for dinner tomorrow so Dave's plan is meatloaf and mashed potatoes left over from last night topped with the leftover sauce and mushrooms from tonight!

New York Steaks with Mushroom Sauce
by Chef Peter Janiak, Seghesio Vineyards
Ingredients• 2 Tablespoons of butter • 2 each diced shallots • 1# of fresh morels or 4oz dried and reconstituted • 2 teaspoons of dijon mustard • ¼ cup of brandy • 1 Tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce • ½ cup of chicken stock • ½ cup of heavy cream • 1 teaspoon of chopped fresh thyme • 2 Tablespoons of crème fraiche
Technique• Sauté diced shallots in butter over medium heat until soft and translucent (no color) • Add morels and cook until soft and all liquid is cooked off of them • Add mustard, Worcestershire and thyme, then stir until mixed evenly • Add brandy and chicken stock; proceed to reduce by half • Add cream and reduce by half (sauce will be thick and bubbly) • Turn off heat, let stand for 1 minute and then stir in crème fraiche  • Adjust with salt and pepper to your taste and spoon over steaks. 


Baked Onion Rings?

I've been contemplating baked onion rings for a long time.  Way back when I started on Weight Watchers there were always recipes for baked onion rings passed around.  I've seen them all over Pinterest too.  But really?  A baked onion ring?  That just sounds wrong!

This past weekend I asked Dave what he wanted for dinner.  He wanted burgers.  We had onions.  So I decided let's try this baked onion ring thing and see if it is any good at all.

The recipe I used is from Closet Cooking, a blogger I follow.  He posted this recipe on Pinterest.  Crispy Baked Onion Rings

It's very simple, if not a little putzy and messy.  Slice your onions.



Next they are dredged in flour, dipped in a batter of some liquid (milk or buttermilk, I used beer!), an egg and flour, then dredged in panko.  I found the best way to get the panko to stick was to put the ring in and shake the container around.  If I tried to use my hands the panko got too wet, then clumped, then wouldn't stick to the ring at all.







The onion rings go on a rack on a cookie sheet.  I don't have any racks that one, fit my sheet pans, and two can go in the oven.  They all have rubber on them somewhere.  So I used a broiler pan.  It worked just fine.


Bake these beauties for about 15 minutes at 375 degrees and you have onion rings.




How do they taste?  Well, I was shocked.  They were very good!  Were they Zazu rings, no, but nothing beats a Zazu ring.  They were very good and you could taste the beer!  I will make these again.  I may make Dave help because they are a bit labor intensive but they are worth it when you're craving onion rings and either don't want all the fat and calories or, like me don't need the fat and calories and don't own a deep fryer!

My version of Italian Sesame Bread

Yesterday was a lazy Saturday for me.  I can't remember the last one I had where I didn't have a ton to do around the house and a billion errands that needed to be run.  I did get some English muffins made, we were down to our last one.  And I did get the house cleaned up a little but that was about the extent of my ambition for the day.

It's very cold here this week with highs in the single digits and below zero wind chills.  I knew we were having salmon for dinner and since I didn't have anywhere I had to be, I had time to make bread.

I searched the Cook's Illustrated, Red Star Yeast and King Arthur Flour websites for something new to try.  I even did a little wandering around Pinterest.  Many of the recipes called for an 8 or 12 hour starter.  I didn't have that much time.  I wanted to make bread today!  So I settled on a recipe for "Italian Sesame Bread" from King Arthur Flour.  It only required a few hours of raising time, not an overnight starter.  Plus it was a braided bread, something I don’t think I’ve done before.

Here is a link to the recipe:
King Arthur Flour Italian Sesame Bread

The recipe called for a couple of ingredients I didn’t have, European-Style Artisan Bread Flour (the recipe said unbleached all-purpose could be used, I had that), “Easy-Roll Dough Improver”, whatever that is and “Bread Shine” which is like an egg wash so I used the egg wash.

I checked out the King Arthur Flour site on the dough improver.  Supposedly it helps you roll out dough smoothly and easily with no shrinking or snapping back.  I sure could have used that when I made the flatbread!  I may have to add that to my next KAF order!  It might be fun to try the artisan bread flour too just to see if it makes a difference.

This was a really easy dough to throw together.  All of the ingredients are mixed together at the same time.  I used my trusty Kitchenaid!   The recipe calls for a little olive oil.  I decided to add some garlic infused oil from, you guessed it, my favorite place The Olive Grove Olive Oil Company.  It smelled so good I decided I would add some roasted garlic to the bread too!  

After just a few minutes of kneading I had a nice elastic dough.




The first rise was two hours.  While the dough was rising, I roasted a head of garlic.  If you are a gadget addict like I am you have a nice terra cotta garlic baker.  If not, a little aluminum foil will work.  I cover mine with oil and bake it at 375 degrees for about 40 minutes.  Your nose will tell you when it’s done!

I placed the roasted garlic and a little more olive oil in my mortar and pestle and made a nice paste.  I just love the sweet aroma of roasted garlic!



After the first rise the dough is split into three pieces.



Each piece is rolled into a long cylinder so they can be braided.



Before I braided my dough I brushed it with the roasted garlic paste I made earlier.




The dough is then braided on a parchment-lined baking sheet (or you can use a little cornmeal).  Here’s a shameless product plug.  I bought these pre-cut parchment sheets from King Arthur Flour right before Christmas.  With the number of Christmas cookies I usually do, I decided to splurge and get them thinking I’d use them this Christmas and go back to buying the cheaper rolls of parchment.  Well it turns out not only do I love the convenience of these sheets, they are of better quality than the parchment I had been buying in the grocery store and you can reuse them in some cases (if you haven’t made something that gets them too dirty).  I’m addicted.



After the second rise, the dough is brushed again with egg white and the toppings are added.  The recipe called for toasted sesame seeds or whole flax seeds.  I use flax seeds in the Everyday Bread I make so I had them in the house.  But I also had King Arthur Flour’s Harvest Grains Blend in the house and I thought I would like that better.




I popped this beauty into the oven and twenty minutes later I had this beautiful loaf of bread!  The house smelled wonderful!  Can you beat the smell of fresh baking bread and roasted garlic?




I will definitely make this bread again.  I can make it fit whatever I am making based on what I put on top of it; Italian seasoning, rosemary, cheese?

It went perfectly with our salmon dinner!

 

Michael Symon's Orecchiette with Sausage & Swiss Chard

I just love Carnivore by Michael Symon!  A few weeks ago I made the Bucatini with Bacon, Tomatoes and Jalapeno and absolutely loved it!  Last week we tried another pasta dish, Orecchiette with Chorizo and Swiss Chard.

I will admit to a few pangs of guilt when eating the bucatini dish.  Each piece of bucatini was coated in bacon fat, so delicious!  So with the orecchiette dish, I thought I would try and "skinny" it up a bit.  I bought, sorry Mr. Symon, chicken sausage!  I used Al Fresco brand Chipotle Chorizo Chicken Sausage.


And of course I found beautiful orecchiette at The Olive Grove.

Like the bucatini, this dish comes together in a matter of minutes.  Even faster when you use a pre-cooked sausage like I did.  It was less than 20 minutes start to finish.   Here is a link to the recipe from The Chew website.


Start your water boiling!  The pasta will be done by the time the rest of the ingredients are prepared.  If you are using uncooked sausage start browning that in a large dutch oven when you drop the pasta in the water.  It should be nice and browned when the pasta is almost done.  I did brown up the pre-cooked sausage to add a little more flavor.


This is how easy this dish is!  To the browned sausage add the Swiss chard, cook until it is wilted a little, add the pasta water, beans, and pasta and cook until the pasta is done, maybe 2 minutes!

Off the heat add lemon zest, parsley, butter, olive oil, lemon juice and parmesan cheese and you're done!  I will admit I wasn't sure about all the lemon but it was really, really good!



What was the verdict on the chicken sausage?  We really liked it!  It had great flavor, good heat and was better for us than true chorizo.  Would the chorizo have tasted better?  Maybe, but this was good enough for me to make again the very same way.  I'll save my "fat filled" dish for the Bucatini with Bacon!

This was very good and we'll definitely make it again because it's so easy and so delicious.  Perfect for a night when there's lots going on after work.  You can change the flavor profile by changing the sausage that you use so the possibilities are endless!  Another winner from Michael Symon! 


How much better was it for us using the chicken sausage?  Had I made the dish with chorizo the nutritional information would have been:

Per Serving: 757 Calories; 33g Fat (39.8% calories from fat); 33g Protein; 81g Carbohydrate; 8g Dietary Fiber; 73mg Cholesterol; 892mg Sodium.  Exchanges: 5 Grain(Starch); 2 1/2 Lean Meat; 1/2 Vegetable; 0 Fruit; 5 Fat. 

For those of you on Weight Watchers that's 20 points plus per serving

Using the chicken sausage the nutritional information per serving is:

Per Serving: 620 Calories; 16g Fat (23.1% calories from fat); 35g Protein; 84g Carbohydrate; 8g Dietary Fiber; 73mg Cholesterol; 713mg Sodium.  Exchanges: 5 Grain(Starch); 1 Lean Meat; 1/2 Vegetable; 0 Fruit; 1 1/2 Fat.

That comes to 16 Weight Watcher points per serving.  Still a lot, but this is really good!

And according to the recipe it makes 4-6 servings.  With a side and some bread it's more like 8 servings in our house.

Per Serving: 465 Calories; 12g Fat (23.1% calories from fat); 26g Protein; 63g Carbohydrate; 6g Dietary Fiber; 55mg Cholesterol; 535mg Sodium.  Exchanges: 4 Grain(Starch); 1/2 Lean Meat; 1/2 Vegetable; 0 Fruit; 1 Fat.
 
Or 12 Weight Watchers Plus points

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