Sunday, July 31, 2011

Molten Chocolate Lava Cakes

It has been such a long time since my last post, so I needed to make sure this one was a really good one haha and nothing is better than a warm chocolate molten lava cake!!  These delectable desserts have been quite the hit in higher end restaurants the past few years - but there is no need to pay the high price because you can make them at home!  They are very easy to make and they take no time at all!!  Make sure that you have ramekin cups (but if you don't have them you can use a large muffin pan)   Impress your friends with these rich individual cakes!!

You will need...

1 cup extra dark chocolate chips (I normally use Hershey's Special Dark)
10 tbsp butter (remember, unsalted!...I made that bad mistake once...)
3 eggs
1/2 cup flour (I used spelt this time and they turned out really good)
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract (however, this time I used almond extract and it was amazing)
If you have it in the house you can add a splash of orange liquor

First you want to get your butter a medium saucepan over medium low heat and throw the butter down in...

While the butter is melting I like to prep my 6 on a cookie sheet (for easier transporting to and from the oven) and use the butter trick.  For those of you who don't know what the butter trick is, it is my little way to eliminate aerosol spray.  Just take a small chunk of butter, wrap it in a napkin and smear it on the insides of the ramekins.  Aerosol sprays are awful...don't even get me started on them.

After the butter is melted add the chocolate chips and stir stir stir!!  The chocolate will stick to the bottom and burn very quickly so make sure you are constantly moving it around.

When the chocolate is a smooth consistency it should look like this...

Next throw in the powdered sugar and flour...

It should now look like this...

Crank the heat down and add the eggs...stirring quickly once again (sometimes I even remove the saucepan from the heat so that the eggs do not begin to cook).  Once the eggs are mixed in you can turn the heat back up and stir until smooth.

You can then stir in the almond extract (or vanilla) and orange liquor.  After everything is mixed together divide the batter between the six ramekins.

Bake in a 425 degree oven for 14-16 minutes (watching takes some time to get the right amount of time, every oven is different and these cakes are very sensitive.)  They should have a crusty exterior and when they are cut into a gooey center should flow out.

Enjoy!! =)

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Mr. Todd's Pie Factory =)

So last weekend I got to spend with my family and a bunch of great friends at the beach and on the way back we decided to stop at Mr. Todd's Pie Factory in Somerset New Jersey because one of my friends knows Mr. Todd.  For those of you who don't know this jolly baker appeared on an episode of Shark Tank in order to expand his pie factory and get the word out on his to die for pies. With pure excitement we rushed in the doors right before he closed and purchased some delightful pie...the apple pie was AMAZING.  Kudos to you Mr. Todd!!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

chocolate cream cheese brownie cake...yummmmm

This weekend we celebrated my cousins graduation/my sisters birthday/my cousins birthday/fathers day for my uncle and pop-pop/probably something else too...there was lots of it called for lots of yummy desserts of course!  So I was assigned the birthday/fathers day cake...but I wanted to do something different and  I really wanted an excuse to use my semi-new "music to chocolate" cookbook...therefore obviously something chocolaty was gonna be made.  After much thinking I decided on the cream cheese brownies (although to be honest I experimented with the recipe...turned it more into a "cake") you will need...

6 tbsp unsalted butter
1 cup cream cheese
1/2 tsp vanilla extract (although I used almond instead)
1 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
3 tbsp unsweetened cocoa
3/4 cup self rising flour (if you don't have self rising flour regular flour will do just fine however for ever cup add a tsp of baking powder and a pinch of salt)
1/3 cup chopped nuts (of your choice...although I didn't use them this time)

However, I did not follow this recipe exactly...I doubled the butter and eggs but only added a tiny bit more sugar (I didn't want to use a full 2 cups cause thats waaayyyy to much)...I also cut back on the cocoa powder and added a bar of special dark chocolate to the butter as it was melting).  Basically I needed to make the brownies fit into a larger pan so I needed to "brownie" part to be bigger...however my experiment could have gone a little better (I personally thought they were a little dry, although it just made it taste more like a cake than a brownie).

First thing you want to do is cream together the cream cheese with 5 tsp of the sugar...once creamed add the vanilla extract (or in my case the almond extract)...

Once this is all blended together set aside and beat the eggs with the sugar until fluffy...while this is happening have the butter melting on the stove and once melted add the cocoa powder (and dark chocolate too, if you want)...once this is melted add the mixture to the fluffy egg mixture...

Fold in the flour and then pour into a greased...WITH BUTTER NOT SPRAY!!! (sorry, just had to interject that since I HATE cooking/baking spray...*coughpamcough* is the WORST for any bakeware/cookware...which I have probably ranted on about on here before, but just as a reminder stay far far away from that awful stuff.  Okay, back to the brownies...pour half of the batter into a butter greased 8x8 inch pan (or larger if you are doubling the recipe) spread on the cream cheese mixture...and then pour the rest of the batter on top...

Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 35-45 minutes and then allow to cool.  While its cooling I whipped up a quick buttercream icing...literally just took a stick of room temperature butter, threw some powdered sugar and a splash of milk in a bowl and creamed it all together with a hand mixer...super easy!!  You can add some unsweetened cocoa powder to it if you want it to be chocolate.

Once cool spread the frosting on and your good to go!!

This recipe was adapted from "The Food and the Music of Chocolate"

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

banana muffins with chocolate cream cheese frosting

For my sister's birthday today she wanted a banana bread, and she loooooves any kind of I thought it would be good to turn the banana bread into muffins and frost them with a cream cheese frosting.  Using Rachael Ray's banana bread recipe I whipped up these muffins in like 20 minutes, they are so so soo easy and bake much quicker than a bread.  To make the muffins you will need...

1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup sugar (however, I cut it down to 1/3 sister doesn't like things sweet)
1 tsp baking soda
pinch of salt
1/4 cup oil
2 eggs
3 bananas

First you want to mix together the flour, baking soda, salt, and sugar (although you technically are supposed to add the sugar to the banana's, I forgot though and threw it in with the dry ingredients...but it was fine)...

Next you want to mash up the bananas...I find that a fork does the job best...

Then you can incorporate the wet ingredients with the dry ingredients and fold together...don't overmix!

I like to use a small ladle to add the mixture to the muffin helps them to be uniform and it doesn't drip off the spoon as easily...

Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes...just watch them though when they turn a golden brown color its time to take them out....

So that they would cool faster I removed them from the muffin tin and placed them on a cookie sheet.  While they were cooling I whipped together the frosting...for which you will need...

8 oz cream cheese
4-5 tbsp butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
2 tbsp unsweetened dark cocoa powder

First you want to cream the cream cheese with an electric hand mixer...

Then add the butter and mix again...slowly!  You can then add the vanilla and powdered sugar (in batches)...beating slowly and evenly...once it is all combined you can add the cocoa powder and beat again until there is no more white...

Allow the frosting to chill in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes so that it s easily spreadable...

Frost and enjoy!!  I found its best to keep the muffins in the fridge =)

black bean and rice burgers

Today is my wonderful sister's birthday and so I set out to make her a birthday dinner.  Lately she has been on this vegetarian kick and so I decided to make her homemade veggie burgers...except these are different than the kind you buy frozen, these are made primarily with beans and rice.  They are super simple to make and they taste great, a million times better than those gross frozen discs you buy in the freezer section of the grocery store.  All you need for them are:

1 1/2 cups black beans
1 cup cooked brown rice (I used long grain)
2 cups bread crumbs (I used panko because they are crunchier, but you can certainly use any kind!  I would stay away from the seasoned ones though because they normally have additives in them - and you can certainly make your own by putting stale bread in the food processor)
1 white onion
1 red bell pepper
4-5 cloves garlic
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp cumin

The first thing you want to do is follow the directions for the rice you are using and begin to boil the water.  While the water is boiling you can definitely multi-task and get the onion and garlic down in your pan with a little olive oil.  Whenever working with onions and veggies make sure you always start the onion before the other veggies because they take longer to cook.  Throw in a pinch of salt to start pulling the moisture and allow them to "sweat".

Once the onions and garlic are a translucent color you can add the red pepper...make sure you are stirring occasionally to keep everything from sticking, but don't stir too often or they won't get a nice browning.  After  the pepper is soft add the tumeric and cumin.

While the onion/pepper mixture is cooking you can start mashing the black beans.  You can do this by hand but it is much easier to throw them into the food processor and pulse until they are mashed with a few chunks still there (you don't want to puree it or anything!) It should look like this...

Once the beans are mashed add the onion/pepper mixture (which should be cool, you don't want to put it in there scalding hot or it will start to cook the beans...and not to mention burn your hands!)  Your rice should be cooked by now as well.  I threw my rice in the food processor and pulsed a few times just to break it down a little...but you still want it to be slightly chunky.  Also, add your breadcrumbs at this time.  Start to incorporate it all together with a spoon...

Now is when you get dirty...the best tool for this job is your roll up your sleeves and get in there and mix everything together...

Once its at the above stage you can form the mixture into patties which can be refrigerated to use the next day or frozen for up to I would say 3 months.

As you can see the pepper chunks are still pretty can make them smaller but I like having them bigger because it gives the burgers more texture.  These burgers can be cooked on an outside grill, an indoor grill, or a skillet.  Sometime I want to try using quinoa instead of rice...that will be my next project!  Enjoy!!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Orzo Salad

This is one of my favorite go-to side dishes because its so super easy to make - especially in the summertime for picnics and outdoor events because its a pasta salad that has a vinegar based dressing, therefore heat will not contaminate it.  Orzo is a really fun little pasta because it acts almost as a rice, it absorbs all of the liquid that it is being cooked in.  To make this orzo salad you will need:

4 cups chicken broth
1 1/2 cups orzo (uncooked)
1 red onion
1 can chick peas (also called garbanzo beans)
1-1 1/2 cups cherry tomatoes (cut in halves or thirds)
Fresh mint
Fresh basil
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup red wine vinegar (although I used balsamic because that's all I had on hand)
2 tbsp honey (or agave nectar)
2 tsp salt
2 tsp black pepper
the juice of half a lemon

The first thing you want to do is take your chicken broth and put it in a heavy bottomed pot (I prefer to use a non-stick pot when working with orzo because it helps to keep it from sticking after all the water is absorbed).  Set the heat on high and cover until the broth begins to boil.  Add the 1 1/2 cups of dry orzo to the chicken broth, cover and reduce heat to a simmer.

While the orzo is cooking you can finely chop your red onion, tomato, mint, and basil.  When the orzo is done cooking it should look like this...notice all of the water is absorbed.

Move the orzo to a large bowl and allow to cool before adding the chick peas, red onion, tomatoes, basil, and mint.  While it is cooling you can make the dressing.  To do this first you whisk together the vinegar with the lemon juice, honey or agave nectar, and salt...then you will SLOWLY add the olive oil making sure that you are whisking continually as the oil is being added in a steady stream.  By doing this you are emulsifying the dressing.

When the dressing is completely emulsified it will look like this...

Once the orzo is cooled you can add all of the ingredients as well as about half of the dressing...the rest of the dressing you want to save for serving later because when the orzo is chilling in the refrigerator it tends to soak up a lot of the dressing.  Make sure that you re-dress the salad right before serving.  It can be served room temperature, but it is best served cold.

Friday, June 17, 2011

French Onion Soup

My absolute favorite time of year is fall leading into winter...crisp cool air, sweaters, leaves, Thanksgiving...and then Christmas!!  And of course lots and lots of baking happens in the fall, its only natural =)  One of my favorite fall-ish foods in french onion soup...its so warm and homey, and really easy to make!!  Already tired of summer (least favorite season of them all) I decided to do something to remind me of fall, so I whipped up this french onion soup.  All you really need is about 5 white onions, some garlic, a carton of beef broth, balsamic vinegar, and whatever spices you want to add.
The first thing I did was take a heavy bottomed pot...I used the Calphalon 4 quart soup pot...put a little olive oil in the bottom and add your chopped onion...throw in a little salt to pull out the moisture and let them cook down until they begin to get limp and sweat.
After they begin to cook down they will look like this...
When they start to brown a little you can add a few splashes of balsamic vinegar and a little bit of sugar...I used agave nectar but I used a little too much and my soup was sweeter than I wanted it to its better to use less and add more later if you wanted to...basically the sugar is just to help caramelize the onions...once they start to caramelize they will look like this...
Allow them to continue to cook...stirring occasionally to make sure they all get evenly browned and caramelized...
Once the onions look like the above picture you can add the carton of beef broth and whatever spices you want...I got a little spice happy haha and added a whole bunch of different things...dried basil, paprika, red pepper, nutmeg...
Cover the soup and allow to simmer for about 30 minutes...after its finished simmering ladle it into crocks and add croutons or slices of french bread...
Then you can add cheese, most recipes call for gruyere, but I didn't have any so I just used fresh mozzarella...
 Stick under the broiler for a few minutes until the cheese turns brown and bubbly...

 Enjoy!! =)