Monday, December 13, 2010

Chocolate-Mint Brownie Cake

Brownie Cake with Peppermint White Chocolate Icing, topped with Melted Semi-Sweet Chocolate.

Recently I have been posting a lot of holiday recipes, and today's post will be no different. I threw in a fish taco post yesterday so that you all would realize that my diet doesn't solely consist of sugar, butter, and chocolate. But it is the holidays, so I thought I would post another solid dessert to serve at Christmas dinners and office holiday parties, or package up as homemade gifts.

Franken-brownie-cake: Part brownie-part cake.

For my own office potluck holiday party I knew I wanted to bring a chocolate dessert. Chocolate is such a crowd pleaser. My first thought was brownies, but I wanted to spruce them up a bit (Christmas tree pun intended). What better compliment to chocolate than peppermint (with peanut butter a close second)? I found a recipe on for a Chocolate-Mint Brownie Cake. Now it's not usually a good idea to bring food that you've never tried out to a party. But having had good luck with epicurious I opted to give it a go.

Makeshift double boiler with white chocolate.

This brownie-cake thing comes together in three steps. First you make the brownie cake. I multiplied all the ingredients by 1.5 to fit into a 13x9 inch pan. The brownie-cake has no leavening ingredient which is what makes it more cake-like. However it is a rather dense cake, making it somewhat in between brownie and cake.

Frosting with peppermint white chocolate icing.

After the cake comes out of the oven you can start on the peppermint frosting. The frosting is essentially a white chocolate ganache with peppermint extract. Mine came out a little grainy and was a little hard to spread, but once I froze it for an hour it seemed to solve the texture problems.

Top with melted semi-sweet chocolate.

Once the cake has been in the freezer for at least an hour you can make the chocolate ganache topping. I opted just to spread melted semi-sweet chocolate on top. Then I put it in the refrigerator to set up. The cake tastes great a little on the cold side. You can let it sit out for a couple hours to soften up a bit. I loved the hard peppermint chocolate topping to complement the softer chewy cake. These are kind of hard to resist. Like a more decadent york peppermint patty.

Mmm peppermint chocolate perfection.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Fish Tacos and Red Cabbage Slaw

Pacific Dover with mango, jalapeño glaze and red cabbage slaw and avocado.

Today AJ kicked my butt with an intense lifting circuit. I haven't lifted in months, so this was pretty hard for me. I really need to start lifting more. All the ladies out there should start too, because we all have to be worried about osteoporosis as we age. Weight lifting strengthens bones as well as making your muscles strong. Also, muscle burns more calories than fat, so you can eat more!

So after my workout session I was ready for some protein. I was in the mood for fish tacos and despite the plethora of Mexican food options in San Francisco I felt like making these myself. I ran to the store and picked out some pacific dover fillets from Oregon. I have never eaten dover before, but its a white fish that I thought would work with tacos. I marinated the fillets (which were super thin btw) in a store-bought mango jalapeño dressing. Always keep your marinade time to a minimum with thin flaky fish. One time I left some fish fillets in for a couple hours and they basically disintegrated. Those acids will par-cook the fish, so be careful! I seared the fillets in a pan and finished them off in the oven. They were super flaky and some of the fillets came apart in the process. But with fish tacos it doesn't really matter, it's all going in a tortilla.

Red cabbage, carrot, and cilantro slaw with a citrus, garlic dressing.

To compliment my fish, I immediately thought of cabbage slaw. I have been eating a lot of red cabbage in salads. It is super crunchy and adds great texture. It also holds up well to vinegars and citrus, so I knew it go well with the fish. I added some grated carrot and chopped cilantro to the sliced cabbage. The dressing was a simple lime, orange, vinegar, oil, garlic, salt mixture. It was delightful with the fish. The finishing touch was slices of avocado. Mmm now that's a good meal.

Fish Tacos

- 1 lb white fish (dover, tilapia, red snapper)
- mango jalapeno marinade (or your favorite storebought)
- 2 tbsp canola oil

- quarter to one half head of red cabbage, sliced thinly
- 1 carrot, grated
- 2 handfuls cilantro, chopped
- 1/4 cup lime, orange juice
- 1/4 cup champagne vinegar
- 1/4-1/3 cup canola oil (depending on how vinegary you like it)
- 2 cloves garlic (minced)
- 1/4 tsp salt

4 flour tortillas
1 avocado, sliced
lime wedges

Place fish fillets in a glass pan with marinade just covering them. Let stand in fridge for 20 minutes. Start on cabbage slaw while the fish marinates. Mix citrus juice, vinegar, oil, garlic, and salt in a bowl. Place the cabbage, carrot, and cilantro in a large bowl. Pour dressing on top and mix well. Place in fridge until ready to eat.

For fish, heat oil in saute pan on medium high. Make sure to wipe away excess marinade from fillets. Place fillets in pan in batches (I put 3 at a time). They cook very quickly, so they only need about 60 seconds on each side. You can preheat the oven and keep the fillets warm while you finish the rest. Warm tortillas in microwave or toaster oven for 30 to 60 seconds. Serve fish on tortillas with slaw, avocado and lime juice (if you desire).


Thursday, December 9, 2010

FFWD: Sweet and Spicy Cocktail Nuts

Sweet and spicy nuts.

Hey Gang! Sorry about the absence from FFWD, but I have been traveling and getting over a cold for the past couple of weeks. This week I made Dorie's sweet and spicy cocktail nuts. I like sweet, I like spicy, so I figured I would like these.

These nuts are a perfect treat for the holidays. You could bag them up and give them to friends, or put them out at a party. They are super crunchy, slightly salty, slightly sweet, with just a touch of spice. These nuts came together rather quickly and were devoured shortly thereafter. I used a blend of almonds and pecans, but you can use whatever nuts you like best. I increased the amount of chili powder, but these were still on the mild side because I was out of cayenne pepper. So if you want a little more kick be sure to add that. Again, I love Dorie's recipes because they are simple, yet brilliant.

Mixing together the sugar, egg white, spice, nut mixture.

Toasting in the oven.

Another holiday treat to add to the list! These might become a tradition in our household (If I can stop myself from eating them all myself).

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

...then we'll eat a whole roll of Tollhouse Cookiedough as fast as we can

Thin mints and cranberry, white chocolate, pecan cookies.

Can anyone guess the movie that this quote is from? I will give you a hint, it's a film from the last decade that has become a holiday classic. Will Ferrell is in it. It's Elf! AJ and I have watched this film every Christmas season since it came out (that's going on 8 years)! Now Elf is one of my favorite ways to celebrate the holiday season, second only to eating a whole roll of cooking dough (and snuggling).

This year we had some friends over to watch the movie, drink some eggnog, and feast on some cookies. I decided to go with two of my favorite holiday cookies, thin mints and cranberry, white chocolate, pecan cookies. The thin mint recipe came from that lovely robot, Ms. Martha Stewart. But in all seriousness she has some amazing cookie recipes (and she's only part-robot). I made them a couple years ago when I spent New Year's Eve in Boston. The best way to finish these cookies off is to drizzle them in white or dark chocolate. This year I didn't have time, but they still tasted great.

The second cookie I chose to make is a JAM holiday favorite that all started 4 years ago or so (Jenny or Malia can correct me if I'm wrong) in my mom's kitchen. Us girls got together for a seasonal cookie bake off. We ended up making the cranberry, white chocolate, pecan cookies, mexican wedding cookies, and one more that I seem to have forgotten. The cranberry, white chocolate cookies have been made with great frequency ever since. Sometimes we throw in some oats for extra texture, sometimes we don't. This time I left out the oats, but they still have the most wonderful sweet, tart, nutty flavor. The recipe (from the Washington Post) calls for cups and cups of cranberries (dried and fresh), pecans, and white chocolate chips. I ended up reducing the amounts by about half a cup each, so that they were more cookie like and less mass of mix-ins. Either way they're super tasty, but the more mix-ins you add the more crumbly they become.

I'm going to have a marsh made out of marshmallows.

To top off my whole baking extravaganza I made marshmallows...from scratch. They were actually pretty easy to make. You soften some gelatin in water, heat up a sugar, corn-syrup, water mixture, and then mix them all together. Fresh marshmallows are the jam! Seriously, you can't beat them. I dusted them in confectioners sugar so you can handle them without them sticking to everything. The only hard part is waiting three hours to eat them (they have to cool and set sufficiently).

I hope I have inspired you all to bake some sweeeet holiday treats! Merry Chrismakwanakah everybody!

Friday, November 12, 2010

FFWD: Roast Chicken for Les Paresseux

Roast Chicken with potatoes, carrots, and onions.

For this French Friday with Dorie I decided to make the roast chicken for les paresseux. Les Paresseux means "lazy people." I love recipes for lazy people. My mom has a fabulous recipe for lemon roast chicken, that is extremely easy and delicious, so I was hoping for similar results.

Roast chicken in dutch oven, stuffed with garlic and herbs.

This recipe really is rather lazy. You simply season and stuff the chicken with half a head of garlic, fresh rosemary, thyme, and oregano and put it in a dutch oven for 90 minutes. BAM! Dinner is served. (Emeril couldn't have said it better.)

New Le Creuset! Thanks Mom and Dad!

The great thing about this dish is that it will give you chicken for days to come! There are only two in this household, so I have been eating chicken sandwiches for lunch (which are delicious). It's like I'm preparing for Thanksgiving early. But seriously, the chicken is extremely moist and allows you to spend time doing other things (like baking cookies or watching reruns of "Parks and Recreation" - you know the important things).

Beautiful bird out of the oven.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Apple Cider Doughnuts

Apple Cider Doughnut and Coffee

There are a couple of things that come to mind when I think of Fall: leaves, pumpkins, turkeys, crisp air, and apples. I love apples, don't you? Malia went apple picking recently, and boy was i jealous. I love walking through orchards and hauling a big bag of fruit home with you. Apples are great on their own, versatile in sweet and savory dishes, and darn do they make some nice cider.

And of course apple cider makes me think of apple cider doughnuts. Apple cider doughnuts may be more of an east coast thing, as I haven't seen these in California. So when Malia came to visit, we decided to make something epic - and apple cider doughnuts are pretty epic if you ask me.

I thought it would be cute to make doughnuts shaped liked pumpkins
(but you couldn't really tell).

Cute shapes don't work well for frying.

Test batch of doughnut holes.

Smitten Kitchen has a great recipe for apple cider doughnuts (see link for recipe) with excellent tips from how to heat the oil, to rolling out the dough. Her pictures are absolutely lovely. Now let me make it clear that these are cake doughnuts, no yeast involved. I usually prefer yeast doughnuts to cake, but you haven't lived until you've had a cake doughnut straight out of the oil!

The oil is probably the most critical step. You want to make sure that the oil heats up to the correct temperature and stays there. Too hot and you'll burn your doughnuts, but too cold and they won't cook all the way through. You need a thermometer. Unfortunately, Malia and I picked up a meat thermometer (only goes up to 250 degrees). So we ran a test batch and ended up with the right temperature (but I don't recommend this kind of improvisation).

Frying up the big ones.

We served these doughnuts on Sunday morning for some friends who came over to watch the Redskins play. These were a hit! We dusted them in sugar and cinnamon mixture. Delicious! These are more dense than a yeast doughnut, but still rather delicate, with a perfectly crisp exterior. I wish the apple cider would have been more of a dominant flavor, but that is my only minor complaint. The dough was really easy to put together. Just make sure to give yourself adequate time to prepare these if you're serving them for brunch. Now go make them.

Enjoying the finished product.

Caught me doughnut handed.

Don't forget to fry the doughnut holes. Because they're smaller you can eat more.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

FFWD: Pumpkin Flan

Pumpkin Flan with Brown Butter Fried Sage

Happy Friday everyone! This Friday marks the fourth recipe I have made with French Fridays with Dorie(check out the other members' posts using this link), from Dorie Greenspan's cookbook, "Around My French Table". We were given free reign to choose the order that we want to cook the four recipes for the month of November. Being in the pumpkin mood, I decided to make the Pumpkin Gorgonzola Flans. Flan makes me think of Sabrina the Teenage Witch (anyone get that reference?) and delicious caramel. However, this recipe is for savory flan. Because I don't care much for gorgonzola, I excluded the cheese and the walnuts. Due to my substitutions, my flans could aptly be named "pumpkin flan with brown butter fried sage".

Frying the sage leaves in brown butter.

My flans had some cracks in them, but they were the perfect consistency.

These flans came together in a snap. You simply toss eggs, heavy cream, pumpkin, salt, and pepper (and my secret addition of nutmeg) in a blender and the flan is ready to be poured and baked.

Mmm savory pumpkin flan.

These flans were like a pumpkin pie without the sugar. AJ kept thanking me for making pumpkin pie for dinner! They were creamy, yet light. I loved the hint of nutmeg and the crunchy sage leaves. Really a wonderful meal, especially with the weather getting cooler. I served these with sauteed garlic kale and a Riesling. Delicious and by far my favorite dish thus far!

Friday, October 29, 2010

FFWD: Marie Helene's Apple Cake

Apple Cake

Marie Helene's Apple cake had a few simple ingredients: flour, eggs, sugar, butter, vanilla, salt, baking powder and rum. I ended up subbing bourbon for the rum. Not sure this was an entirely good idea, although I think it still tasted pretty good.

Mixing up the apples.

Side view.

Lots of apples.

Another issue I had is that I didn't have a springform pan (I know I should just buy one!) I decided to use a regular cake pan instead. I lined it with wax paper as some other FFWDers suggested. My cake doesn't look as pretty as the one in the book, and I'm not sure if it could have used another 5 minutes in the oven. I also kept opening the oven (another no-no). I might try making this one again, as I loved the way the apples tasted, but was a little less enthused about the cake.

Warm slice.

Friday, October 22, 2010

FFWD: Hachis Parmentier

Hachis Parmentier - For One.

So I missed last week's French Friday's with Dorie (FFWD). Long story short, it was hot, I didn't feel like making soup. I apologize. But now that the temperatures are below 90 degrees, I'm feeling a little more in the comfort food mode. This week's dish is Hachis Parmentier - the French equivalent of Shepherd's Pie. Leave it to the French to make something simple like Shepherd's pie sound like something gourmet. "Hachis" refers to a dish in which the ingredients are chopped or minced (my French language friends can correct me if I'm wrong). And indeed this meal consists of chopped meat and veggies. I should note that traditional hachis parmentier does not have vegetables, but I enjoyed the added flavors from the mirepoix. Look at me using fancy french terms (mirepoix means carrots, celery, and onion)!

Filling ingredients - ground (grass-fed) beef, chicken sausage, celery, carrot, onion, garlic, tomato paste.

This dish is rather simple and comes together fairly quickly. I ended up making this dish for one. Don't look at me with those sad eyes, it was actually rather fun enjoying this meal by myself with a glass of merlot. That's right I had a glass of wine - by myself. No, I don't think that makes me an alcoholic. I think it makes me rather French! But back to the Hachis Parmentier! It essentially entails sauteeing ground beef, vegetables, and some tomato paste and topping it with mashed potatoes and cheese. Does that sound delicious? That's because it is delicious.

Sauteeing the mirepoix and tomato paste with the ground beef.

Now, I'm not usually a huge beef person. I think this is actually the first time I've made red meat at home since I moved to California. Don't get me wrong, I love a good hamburger. I had a burger a couple of weeks ago. But in an attempt to decrease my carbon footprint (ya da ya da ya da) I don't usually cook meat at home. I found this dish easy to make, especially because I went for the ground beef instead of the cube steak. The cube steak may be super amazing, but I didn't use it.

The filling goes into a casserole dish.

Once, the filling is done you start on the mashed potatoes. I boiled one potato (as this dish was for one person). You make the mashed potato and add it on top of the filling. Then you add some grated gruyere on top and bake. The flavors were rather wonderful, I think the herb and garlic sausage I used was a great addition. The mashed potatoes are nice and creamy and work well with the ground beef filling. I recommend eating this with a glass of merlot. As Julia Child would say, a little sherry for the soup, a little sherry for me! Replace with merlot and repeat.

"A little sherry for the soup, a little sherry for me!" - Julia Child

Mashed potatoes.

Top with gruyere.

Golden out of the oven.


Friday, October 8, 2010

French Fridays with Dorie (FFWD) - Gerard's Mustard Tart

Mustard Tart with carrots and leeks.

Happy Friday everyone! I recently joined a cooking blog called "French Fridays with Dorie." Every Friday I will be posting about a different recipe from Dorie Greenspan's book "Around My French Table." I am excited about this new venture as it will expand my recipe book and give me a better hand on french cuisine. AJ says he doesn't like French food, but I am convinced that I will prove him wrong!

This week's recipe is called "Gerard's Mustard Tart." If you have ever made a quiche before, then you will be familiar with the steps. The crust was the first step, which was a pate brisee - made with flour, butter, a little sugar, salt, egg, and water. My typical pie crust leaves out an egg, so I was interested to see how different this would taste. I made the crust a day in advance and I would recommend you do the same. It needs to chill for several hours.

Food processor makes this easy.

Turn out onto a clean surface and then...

Form into a nice disc and chill.

Then you end up with something like this - ready to bake!

Whisking together the filling.

The filling came together in a cinch! And once you have the dough baked this comes together in just over 30 minutes. The mustard adds a tanginess that compliments the custard very nicely. The sweetness of the carrots and leeks really brings this together! I wasn't sure if the mustard would be too overpowering, but I really enjoyed this. I have lots of tart to eat for brunch on Saturday - yum.

Layering the steamed carrots and leeks on top of the filling.

Fresh out of the oven!