March 2015

chocolate-toffee-texas-sheet-cake

I feel like a fool.  A classic fool.  I have been shunning sheet cake for years. Why would I make a sheet cake? It’s either a boring looking chocolate cake, or a slightly puffier brownie.  Why?

Well, I’ll tell you why.  BECAUSE IT’S AMAZING.  Like, seriously amazing. And seriously easy.  I can’t wait to make this for everyone for every event forever.

I researched multiple recipes online, merged different features and added sour cream, subbed toffee chips for the pecans, and added a pinch of coffee in the frosting.

Recipe 

Cake:

  • 2 cups Flour
  • 2 cups Sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon Salt
  • 4 heaping tablespoons Cocoa
  • 2 sticks Butter
  • 1 cup Boiling Water
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon sour cream
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon Baking Soda
  • 1 teaspoon Vanilla

Topping:

  • 1 stick Butter
  • 4 heaping tablespoons Cocoa
  • 1/4 cup coffee
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon Vanilla
  • ~16 oz Powdered Sugar
  • 1 bag Heath Toffee Bits

Preheat the oven to 350.

In a large bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, salt, and baking soda.  In a medium saucepan, melt the butter. Whisk in the cocoa powder, then add the boiling water.  Let the mixture bubble for a minute, then turn off the heat and mix into the flour mixture.  In another bowl, beat the eggs then add the sour cream, milk, and vanilla.  Mix this into the batter, making sure the chocolate is cool enough so it doesn’t cook the eggs. Pour the batter into an ungreased jelly roll pan, and bake for 20 minutes.

While the cake is baking, make the topping.  Melt the butter in a saucepan, and add the cocoa powder. Whisk in the coffee, milk, vanilla, and powdered sugar to make a thick glaze (or a thin frosting).  As soon as the cake comes out of the oven, pour the toffee bits on top of the cake, followed by the frosting.

the-holy-grail-of-chocolate-chip-cookies

I have been looking for these for a long, long, long time. I have made countless batches of chocolate chip cookies – all great – but always wanting them to be a bit more….something.  Chewy. Substantial. Thick. Like a mix between Potbelly’s and Starbucks cookies. I’ve never quite succeeded….UNTIL NOW.

I could die tomorrow a happy lady with an autopsy report that reads “Chocolate Chip Cookie Overdose.”

What’s the secret? Not much, it turns out. Just a pinch of corn starch does the trick. It does wonderful, wonderful things to the cookie and keeps them very thick, chewy, and substantial.

PS – there is no satire in this post.  I feel like a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders, and my trolling for new cookies recipes can cease and I can focus on other aspects of my life.

Recipe

  • 2 cups + 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ sticks butter, melted and cooled
  • 1
    cup brown sugar
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1½ cups semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350.  Mix flour, baking soda, corn starch, and salt in a bowl.  In the bowl of a standing mixer, cream the butter and sugar, only until incorporated (over mixing will cause cookies to spread).  Add the eggs and vanilla, then mix in flour mixture.  Stir in Chocolate chips.  Refrigerate dough for at least 30 minutes (also keeps the cookies nice and thick).

Finally, drop the cookie dough into large balls on a cookie sheet (I used a 1/4 cup). Bake for about 9-11 minutes, taking them out when the edges are lightly golden but the middles look a bit underdone.  EAT THEM WITH MILK AND NEVER LOOK BACK.

 

the-most-delicious-pulled-pork

I could have titled this post ‘Spicy Pulled Pork,’ or ‘Pulled Pork in a Spicy Dark Beer Sauce,’ or ‘Pulled Pork Tacos,’ but none of them were as fitting at ‘The Most Delicious Pulled Pork.’

Seriously, I will never make pulled pork any other way again.  This is my recipe, forever and ever until the end of time.

I’ve made pulled pork several times before, and I’ve loved them all. But, this time I tried to get creative by creating a darker sauce, a bit more spice, and the addition of a Pasilla pepper.  And that, my friends, it what threw the flavor over the edge.  Slight smokey and medium heat, the Pasilla pepper did something very special to this pork and I will forever be grateful.  Now, if you don’t have access to a Pasilla pepper, which you probably don’t unless you live in Texas, you can substitute for an Ancho chile.  Both a Pasilla pepper and Ancho chile are dried versions of a poblano-type pepper.  And that’s all the education I’m going to give you on this topic, because it’s all I know.

Do yourselves a favor, and MAKE THIS FOR YOUR FAVORITE PERSON THIS WEEKEND.

Recipe

  • 3 lb boneless pork shoulder
  • 1 teaspoon ground pasilla pepper, if you can find it (otherwise ground poblano)
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1.5-2 teaspoons kosher salt (2 if using low-sodium broth, 1.5 if using regular)
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground oregano
  • 1.5 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1.5 teaspoons chile powder
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped (I used a food processor)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3/4 can Mexican beer (I used Tecate)
  • 1-3 cups Beef broth

Preheat the oven to 300.  Mix together the chopped up Pasilla pepper (in many grocery stores you can find pasilla in a bulk spices section – the flavor is very rich and often used in mole sauce…it is GOOD), cocoa powder, brown sugar, salt, pepper, oregano, cumin, and chile powder.  Cut the pork shoulder into about 4 large chunks, and rub all over with the seasoning (reserve all the extra seasoning that doesn’t ‘stick’).  Heat a large dutch oven (or oven proof covered pot) over medium high heat, with plenty of olive oil.  Sear all sides of the pork until browned, working in shifts if you need to. Reduce the heat to low and transfer pork to a bowl. Add the onion, and cook for several minutes. Add the pork back in (and any remaining seasoning that fell off), and add the beer (use GF beer if cooking gluten free).  Pour in enough beef broth to pretty much cover the pork (you can use half broth and half water here to cut down on the salt content).  Bring to a boil for a few minutes, then cover the pot and transfer to the oven.  Cook for about 4 hours, remove, and shred!! To reduce the sauce a bit, you can place it on the stove top and bring to a low boil for 10-15 minutes (if you want a thicker sauce to pour over the meat). Otherwise, just use a slotted spoon to transfer pork to a serving bowl. Serve on tacos with avocado, corn salsa, cheese, sour cream, and thank your lucky stars that you’re not a vegetarian.

pan-seared-sea-bass-with-sweet-soy-glaze
Sea Bass: I like you. I like you a lot.  You’re easy. You’re fancy. You’re versatile.

You’re tasty. You’re perfect for dinner parties.
And that’s just what I did with you a couple weekends ago.
And it’s tricky to keep coming up with statements about you
in first person so I’m switching to third (do I have that right? It’s been a
while since I’ve taken an English class).
Sea bass is so easy to prepare! And it seems so much fancier
than salmon so it’s perfect for a special occasion.  For our dinner I marinated the fish in a sweet soy-sauce based marinade,
pan seared it for a few minutes to caramelize the top,
then finished roasting it in the oven.
10 minutes cooking time, and very little manual labor. Which, by the way, is the key to a successful dinner party.  Simplicity = calm and relaxed pre-dinner prep, a highlight of great ingredients, and more time for wine.

PS – You may have noticed how good the
photos look in this post.  It’s safe to assume these photos were NOT
taken by me, but rather by my more photography-inclined friend Jessica.
With her iPhone. Same as mine. How did she do it???!!
Recipe
  • 1 cup soy sauce
  • ½ cup orange juice
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 2-3 tablespoons honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ginger (more to taste)
  • 1/4 teaspoon chopped garlic (jar)
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 4 sea bass fillets, skin removed

Mix all marinade ingredients,
and marinate fish in a large Ziploc bag for 1-3 hours.  Preheat the oven
to 400.  Coat a nonstick grill pan with oil, and heat over medium
high.  Add the fish; brown the first side for 3 minutes, flip for 1-2
more minutes, then transfer the pan to the oven (make sure it’s oven
safe), until fish is flaky – about 6-7 more minutes.  Serve with a popover.   (everything should be served with a popover).