Sunday, December 27, 2009

Chocolate Cake

Today we celebrated Christmas with my mom's family at Grannie's house. We (read: not Grannie) decided to have different kinds of soup and salad instead of having a huge, traditional Christmas dinner. This idea appealed to us because by today some of us had been eating for four solid days and it would save Grannie a lot of work. So we had chicken chowder, white chicken chili, taco soup, and broccoli soup. I made Baby Blue Salad, and everyone brought dessert. However, Grannie didn't like the idea of soup (even though she made the broccoli one), so she decided to make a ham and Cornbread Dressing as well. As often happens with our family, the menu ended up being over the top!

For dessert, I decided to make a chocolate cake that combined two recipes. The cake itself is Coca-Cola Cake, which is very moist and fluffy. The icing is for Texas Sheet Cake, which I love because it has a grainy quality that reminds me of Grannie's homemade Fudge Icing. Once I had the cake iced, I decided that some melted caramel would make a nice addition. Both of these recipes are super easy, and the whole cake is ready in less than 45 minutes. Enjoy!

Chocolate Cake
1 cup Coke
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 cup butter, softened
1 3/4 cups sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 tsp. vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 bag semisweet chocolate chips (optional)
1 tsp. baking soda
Chocolate Icing

1. Combine Coke and buttermilk; set aside.
2. Beat butter and sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Combine flour and next 2 ingredients. Gradually add flour mixture to butter mixture alternately with Coke mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Add in chocolate chips, if desired. Pour batter into a lightly greased 13-x 9-inch pan.
3. Bake at 350°‚ for 30 to 35 minutes or until a pick inserted in cake comes out clean. Let cool in pan 10 minutes. Spread icing over warm cake.

Chocolate Icing:
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/3 cup milk or cream
1 (16-oz.) package powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla

1. Combine butter and next 2 ingredients in a small saucepan. Cook over low heat 5 minutes or until butter melts. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Remove from heat, and stir in powdered sugar and vanilla. Beat chocolate mixture with an electric mixer until mixture is smooth and sugar dissolves.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Blueberry-Apple Fritters

For breakfast on this beautiful day after Christmas, my mother-in-law had a recipe for Cranberry-Apple Fritters she wanted to make. (What could be better during this season of excess than fried dough?) The recipe she had called for a lot of unnecessary steps (i.e., separating the eggs and then beating the whites into soft peaks), so I decided to make some changes. Who knows what the original would have tasted like, but our version was yummy. Andy and his mom ate theirs with syrup; I liked them as they were with just a dusting of powdered sugar. Enjoy!

Blueberry-Apple Fritters
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 to 1/2 cup ice water
1 cup blueberries
1 apple, peeled and chopped
Peanut oil
Powdered sugar

1. Combine flour and next 4 ingredients in a mixing bowl. Stir in eggs and next 3 ingredients until combine.
2. Pour oil in a Dutch oven to a depth of 2 inches and heat. Drop batter in tablespoonfuls in hot oil, and cook, turning if necessary, until golden. Drain fritters on paper towels, and sprinkle with powdered sugar just before serving.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

How To Easily Store Soup

We eat a lot of soup at our house and because there are only two of us, we always have leftovers. I prefer to freeze soup in zip-top bags, but it's a pain to get the soup in the bags. I've tried everything to make this process easier, but nothing has worked very well. I had a brainstorm the night we had Black Bean Soup: I placed a quart-size zip-top bag in the round plastic measuring cup that came with my immersion blender and then slowly ladled in the soup. It worked like a charm!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Black Bean Soup

What better meal for a blustery night? This recipe makes a ton and freezes well, so there will be plenty of meals at the ready for later. I usually don't put any meat in this soup, with the exception of bacon on occasion, but tonight I decided to use some Italian sausage links. The flavor addition was subtle, but it was tasty. An immersion blender is a helpful gadget to have when pureeing soups—it saves you the step of pouring the soup mixture into a food processor or blender and then back into the pot to reheat. I served the soup with Homemade Tortilla Chips and a dollop of sour cream. Enjoy!

Black Bean Soup
2 bacon slices, chopped
1 onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp. olive oil
1 lb. Italian sausage, casings removed
3 cans black beans, drained
1 (28-oz.) can diced tomatoes
1 (10-oz.) can diced tomatoes and green chiles
1 (32-oz.) container chicken stock
1 1/2 Tbsp. cumin
1 Tbsp. chili powder
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Cook bacon in a Dutch oven until beginning to crisp. Remove from Dutch oven, and drain; reserve drippings in skillet. Cook onions in hot oil and drippings until onions begin to soften; stir in garlic, and cook 1 minute. Add in sausage, and cook until meat crumbles and is browned. Remove sausage from Dutch oven. Stir in black beans, tomatoes, chicken stock, cumin, and chili powder.
2. Puree mixture in Dutch oven with an immersion blender until desired consistency is achieved. Stir in sausage, bacon, and salt and pepper to taste. Simmer until thoroughly heated.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Pumpkin-Pecan Muffins

This week at Grace's Kitchen, we served these muffins and Sausage-Cheese Muffins. Because last week was Thanksgiving, I think pumpkin was fresh on my mind. These have a soft texture and are yummy! The nuts are tasty addition. The first time I made them, I only used cinnamon and felt that the flavor needed something else, so the second time I added a little nutmeg. Delicious!

Pumpkin-Pecan Muffins
1 cup butter, softened
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
1 cup pumpkin
1 (8-oz.) container sour cream
3 cups flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. grated nutmeg
1 cup chopped pecans, toasted

1. Beat butter and sugar with an electric mixer until creamy. Add in eggs, 1 at a time, beating until blended after each addition. Beat in vanilla, pumpkin, and sour cream.
2. Combine flour and next 3 ingredients; gradually add to butter mixture, beating until blended. Stir in pecans.
3. Divide batter among 24 muffin cups, coated with vegetable cooking spray.
4. Bake at 350° for 25 minutes or until done.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Recipe Rewind: Bacon-Sun-Dried Tomato Pizza

This is absolutely one of my favorite dinners. In fact, I always have these ingredients on hand (buy the pizza dough at Publix and freeze it until ready to use). It's very helpful to have go-to ingredients on hand for those nights when planning dinner is almost too much to handle. The great thing about pizza is its versatility—customize yours to your family's taste. I use my pizza stone (allow it to preheat in the oven); this ensures a crispy-on-the-outside, soft-on-the-inside crust. Enjoy!