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!