One Bowl Chocolate Fudge Brownies

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July 2014 074Ever since I saw this recipe in Rachel Ray Magazine (May 2014), I’ve been baking these brownies.  It certainly can’t hurt that I always have the ingredients on hand & I only have to dirty one mixing bowl!

It’s perfect for those nights when dessert is a must, but I’m short on time.

One Bowl Chocolate Fudge Brownies Adapted from Rachel Ray Magazine (May 2014)

1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter

1 3/4 cups sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/4 teaspoon coarse kosher salt

3 eggs

1 cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder

1/3 cup flour

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Spray an 8 inch baking pan with nonstick spray and set aside.

Melt the butter in a large microwave safe bowl – about 1 minute, or until completely melted.  Be sure to cover your bowl loosely with a paper towel to prevent a mess in your microwave.

Add the sugar, vanilla, and salt to the melted butter and whisk until the mixture is creamy.  Then add the cocoa powder and whisk until incorporated.  Add the eggs, one at a time, whisking after each addition.  Whisk in the flour, just until combined.  Pour batter prepared baking pan.

Bake in the oven for 40 minutes.

Let cool at least an hour before cutting (for nicer looking squares) – if you can wait that long!

Store in a covered container for 2-3 days.

Creamy Chocolate Cheesecake with Cake Crust

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June 2014 191In my family, the best dessert is a chocolate dessert.  An amazing dessert is a chocolate cheesecake with cake crust.  And this my friends, is that dessert.  I never ever. ever. ever. have leftovers of this cheesecake.  ever.

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With that said, I try not to talk too much about the cheesecake while it’s baking, because it requires 4 hours of refrigeration (at least – I prefer overnight) so there’s no instant gratification here.

Which is good, right?  I mean this new techy generation needs to learn that some things are worth waiting for.  Important things.  Like cheesecake.

And in the spirit of full disclosure, I seldom make the same cake base for this cheesecake twice.  I should, but I don’t.  There are just too many chocolate cake recipes out there for me to try.  This particular cake is noted below, but I’ve also used this cake.

Chocolate Cake Adapted from Sweetapolita.com

2 1/4 cups flour

2 1/3 cups sugar

3/4 cup dark Dutch process cocoa powder (Cacao Barry Brute Cocoa Powder)

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt

1 1/4 cups buttermilk

3/4 cup brewed coffee, hot

2/3 cup canola oil

3 eggs, room temperature

1 Tablespoon pure vanilla

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Place parchment (cut to size) in a the bottom of a 10 inch springform pan without disassembling it.  Spray the pan with non-stick spray and set aside.

In a large bowl, add the flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt and beat until combined.  In a measuring cup, add the buttermilk, oil, eggs and vanilla and whisk until combined.  In a separate measuring cup – add the hot coffee and cocoa powder and whisk until smooth.  Set aside.

Add the egg mixture to the flour – beating for 1 minute, then add the cocoa mixture and beat again just until combined.  Pour about 2 cups of batter into the base of the springform pan.

Bake the rest of the batter as cupcakes or cake layers.

Bake the cake layer for about 15 to 20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center has moist crumbs.  Then take the pan out of the oven and let it cool while you make the cheesecake batter.

Triple Chocolate Cheesecake Adapted from Junior’s Cheesecake Cookbook

10 ounces semisweet chocolate, I used Baker’s

Four 8 ounce packages cream cheese, softened

1 2/3 cups sugar

1/3 cup cornstarch

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 large eggs

1 egg yolk

¾ cup heaving whipping cream

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Melt the chocolate in the microwave in a heat-proof bowl for 30 second intervals, then when almost completely melted, take it out and stir it until smooth and it set aside to cool.

Place 1 package of cream cheese in a large bowl and beat with 1/3 cup sugar and the cornstarch.  The mixture will turn from crumbly into creamy while you bead.  When that happens, add in the remaining cream cheese.

Beat the remaining 1 1/3 cups sugar and add the vanilla.  Beat in the eggs (on low speed), one at a time until completely blended.

Pour in the cooled melted chocolate and beat on low.  Then add the heavy cream and beat on low just until incorporated.

Cover the bottom of the springform pan well with foil going up the sides of the pan to keep the water from the water bath from seeping into your cake.

Pour the batter into the partially cooled crust.  Then carefully place the cheesecake into a large roasting pan – place the roasting pan in the oven and pour enough boiling water into the roasting pan to go up about 3 inches high on the cheesecake pan (careful not to splash the cheesecake) and bake for about 1 ¼ hours.

When the cheesecake is done – the top should be smooth and raised.  Transfer the cheesecake to a wire rack (removing it from the hot water bath carefully!) and let it cool for 2 hours unmoved.

After two hours, remove the foil from the outside of the pan – leave the cake in the pan and refrigerate with a paper towel loosely placed on top of the pan until completely cold – overnight if possible.

After the cheesecake is completely chilled, unlatch the side of the pan, then carefully pick up the springform pan – holding the bottom of the pan with one hand and the ring with the other and push the cake bottom up so the ring releases and ends up around your arm.

Cut and serve!  Refrigerate any leftovers for up to 4 days.

Fresh Gulf Seafood Nachos


Fresh Shrimp and Crab Nachos 022My family just got back from vacationing in St. George Island, FL.  And like any normal foodie, I took along my camera and sketchbook to hunt down local recipes to recreate at home.

I read about Eddy Teach’s Raw Bar in a magazine about three years ago, and after learning that they have other menu options to offer, decided to go check it out.

For those of you interest in the raw bar bit, happy hour is at 3:30 p.m. until 4:30 p.m. (subject to change – if you click the website you’ll understand that they make their own rules), for half priced oysters – cooked or raw.  There is no happy hour on holidays and weekends.  Oh, and if you’re new just grab a table and the waitress will find you.  Weird right?

Also, I should say that their oysters are so popular that they literally open them and serve them – raw.  Obviously the cooked ones are opened and then cooked.  But the shells are not cleaned – they literally have shells attached to them.  I’ve never seen such a thing.  If you’re into dives and a really laid back atmosphere (with live music) then this place is for you.  Don’t forget to bring your sharpie to sign the table!

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Moving onto the seafood nachos – the bad news is that I completely didn’t take any photos of Eddy’s Seafood Nachos, because I forgot.  Sigh.  However, you should know that they were yellow corn chips assembled in the traditional way with all the toppings stacked on top.

This always bothers me, because the nachos on top get all the love, then when you polish those off the rejects are left behind with no toppings.  And if you’re sharing, then there is a mad rush to see who gets all of the good ones.

Well, I decided that there had to be a better way, so I used Tostitos Scoops for my chips – my husband balked at first, because the restaurant used yellow corn chips, but he came around when he realized that using the scoops meant that you were guaranteed to get everything in each bite.

It goes without saying that these would make an awesome summer appetizer – and you can really stretch your fresh seafood.  I’m thinking I may add come fresh cooked corn next time.

Fresh Gulf Seafood Nachos Inspired by Eddy Teach’s Raw Bar - their menu lists these as Seafood Nachos

32 Tostitos Scoops chips

3/4 cup grated Asiago cheese

1 cup grated Colby Jack cheese

1 cup grated Mozzarella cheese

1/4 cup frozen spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry

1/2 cup sour cream

1/4 cup salsa, I used Herdez

1/3 cup of diced sweet onion, I used Vidalia

1/2 cup of diced, and seeded, fresh tomatoes

8 large shrimp (16 ct), cooked*, each cut into four pieces

1/2 cup of fresh cooked crab meat

6 cooked bay scallops (preferably seared in butter), chopped

1/2 cup fresh cilantro (whole or chiffonade)

1 lemon

1 lime

*Clean and devein the shrimp – then boil the shrimp in boiling water with a sprinkle of salt and 1/2 a lemon and lime for 2 minutes, then place the shrimp in a bowl of ice to cool them down.  Squeeze the remaining 1/2 lemon and 1/2 lime over the cooked and cooled shrimp.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Place the scoops onto a baking sheet and place a bit of spinach in each cup.  Then sprinkle with the Colby Jack, Mozzarella, and Asiago cheeses.  Place in the oven for about 3-4 minutes, or until the cheese is nice and melted.

Take the chips out of the oven and set aside to cool for a moment.  In the meantime, mix together the sour cream and the salsa – adjust as needed for taste (more of either).  Then set aside.

Top the chips with onions and tomatoes, then spoon the sour cream mixture onto each chip.  Top each chip with crab, a piece of shrimp, and some bay scallop and sprinkle on the cilantro.

Serve immediately!  As with most nachos, these don’t stay warm for long, which is okay because they are awesome at room temperature with a glass of wine.

Beef Chili Mac and Cheese

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June 2014 045This is another family favorite meal, and it comes together super quick and easy.  Another favorite part?  There is actual real cheese stirred right in, and it’s so good.  I love how the meat ends up cradled in the saucy shells.

My kids prefer it with crackers instead of green onion, but it’s the only way I get a whole bowl to myself.  A mom’s got to do what a mom’s got to do!

Feel free to double this or omit the noodles and freeze it for an easy school night meal.

Beef Chili Mac and Cheese Adapted from Tracey’s Culinary Adventures

1 Tablespoon vegetable oil

1 medium sweet onion, minced

1 Tablespoon chili powder

1 Tablespoon ground cumin

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 tablespoon brown sugar

1 teaspoon salt

¼ – ½ teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

Sprinkle of red pepper flakes

1 pound ground beef

1 1/2 cups water

1 15-oz can tomato sauce

8 oz (about 2 cups) orecchiette, slightly undercooked (it’ll continue cooking in the sauce)*

1 1/2 -2 cups shredded fresh Colby Jack cheese

In a large skillet, brown the ground beef in the oil.  Then add the sugar, seasonings, garlic, and onions.  Stir in the tomato sauce and water and heat until boiling.  It’ll cook down a little, then add the undercooked noodles and the shredded cheese - stir until melted.  Continue to cook until it’s the consistency you prefer – as you can tell, I prefer mine thick.  Keep in mind, it will thicken slightly as it cools.

*This can be made gluten free simply by using gluten free noodles – I’ve had great luck with Tinkyada Gluten Free Pasta.

Rustic Peach Slab Pie

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June 20114 145

I just love the smell of fresh peaches, and I was lucky enough to get some frozen sliced peaches from my in-laws after their recent trip to a pick-your-own farm.  Doesn’t pie look indecent without ice cream. . .almost naked?

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Ah, much better.  Whew that was a close one!

For those of you who don’t store your Crisco in the refrigerator – consider it!  It makes throwing together a pie so much easier when the recipe calls for cold Crisco.  I usually buy the premeasured sticks – which makes my life easier!

Rustic Peach Slab Pie

Pie Crust Adapted from Popular Plates Magazine

1 stick of unsalted butter, chilled and cut into cubes

5 cups flour

1 Tablespoon sugar

2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt

1 cup shortening, cold and cut into cubes

1/2 – 3/4 cup cold ice water

In a food processor, combine the flour, salt, and sugar.  Pulse until combined.  Add the cold chunks of shortening and pulse until it looks like sand.  Add the cubes of butter and pulse until there are chunks the size of peas.  Then pour the butter/flour mixture into a bowl and stir in the water a little at a time until the dough is moist (but not sticky).*

Divide the dough into two equal portions and flatten into discs and wrap in plastic wrap.  Place them in the refrigerator for about 1 hour to chill.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

*You can pour the ice water into the food processor and continue to mix, but often I end up with dough that’s sticky – so it’s easier to just add the water to a separate bowl so that I can see, and immediately feel, when I’ve added enough water.

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Peach Pie Filling Adapted from Better Homes and Gardens

3/4 cup sugar

2 Tablespoons cornstarch

4 cups sliced fresh peaches, reserve 1/2 cup

dash of salt

1/3 cup water

2 Tablespoons real maple syrup

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Place the sugar and the cornstarch in a medium pot and whisk together to break up any lumps.  Then add the water, salt, cinnamon, and maple syrup and stir well.  Add in the peaches.

Cook over medium heat stirring constantly until the sauce is thick and just starting to boil.  Stir for 1 to 2 minutes more, then take off the heat and add the reserved 1/2 cup of peaches.  Let cool.

To assemble, roll out each disc of pie dough on a large sheet of parchment, make sure you roll the dough an inch or two over the size of the pan, mine was 15 x 11.

Place the bottom layer in the pan by carefully flipping over the parchment.  Then top with the cooled peach filling.  Dice up 2 Tablespoons of butter and scatter on top of the peach filling.

*If you end up rolling your dough too short (like I did above – I blame it on distraction), then just crimp the edges as best you can inside the pan for a rustic look.  Otherwise, follow the directions below!

Roll out the top layer of dough on parchment and make any cut-outs with cookie cutters.  I used these cutters for this pie.  Carefully place the top layer of pie dough on top of the filling.  Cut the edges of the pie dough so that the bottom and top are the same length (about 1 1/4 inch overhang) and tuck them under all around the pie.  Then go back and make a design with a fork, or your fingers, to crimp the edges to seal them.

Next, use egg wash (1 egg yolk and 2 Tablespoon heavy cream, beaten together) to brush the top of the pastry.  Top with cut-outs and brush those (if using), sprinkle with sugar and bake for 35-45 minutes until it’s golden brown and the filling is bubbly.

Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.

Buttermilk Cake with Strawberry Hearts

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January2 2014 049

Whew – that was a mouthful!  This is the perfect cake to make for the Fourth of July or Valentine’s. .or any day (for that matter)!

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There are three soft layers of buttermilk cake, filled and topped with a decadent French buttercream, sprinkled with coconut, and topped with fresh strawberries.  Yum!

January 2014 067

Look at those soft gorgeous layers!!!  It doesn’t get much better than this.  Sigh.

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And a close up of those beautiful ridges, courtesy of this cake decorating comb.

If you don’t like the contrast between the golden yellow frosting and the white coconut, try this Italian Meringue Buttercream, which uses egg whites and has a whiter color.

Buttermilk Cake Adapted from The Model Bakery

1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

2 3/4 cups cake flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt

1 1/4 cups buttermilk (whole milk, if possible)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 3/4 cups sugar

4 large eggs, at room temperature

French buttercream

1 small bag of sweetened coconut

1 package of strawberries

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Spray three (9 inch) cake pans with nonstick spray and place parchment circles in the pan and spray again (especially around the parchment edges).

Whisk the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl really well, then set aside.

Measure the buttermilk and add the vanilla extract, stir - set aside.

Beat the butter in a Kitchenaid stand mixer with the whisk attachment for 1 minute.  Add the sugar, and beat for an additional 4 minutes.

Add the eggs, one at a time, until each one is completely beaten into the sugar mixture.

With the mixer on low, add 1/3 of the flour mixture, alternating with the buttermilk mixture – beginning and ending with the flour mixture.  Continue until all the flour and buttermilk has been added.

Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix just until combined.  Divide the batter between the three cake pans, then gently tap the cake pans on the counter to release any air bubbles from the batter.

Bake the cakes for about 25-30 minutes, or until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out relatively clean (a few small crumbs are fine).

Cool on a wire rack in the pans for 10 minutes.  Turn out of pans and onto a sheet of plastic wrap and wrap well – cakes will be hot!  Place cakes on a large baking sheet or cutting board and tent with foil (if using the same day – otherwise wrap well with foil), and place them in the freezer until you are ready to frost.

French Buttercream Adapted from Robicelli’s a Love Story, With Cupcakes

1 cup water

2 cups sugar

2 Tablespoons light corn syrup

1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

Combine all the ingredients (in the order listed) into a heavy medium pot.  Stir and place on high heat, attach a reliable candy thermometer to the side of the pot (make sure the candy thermometer is not touching the bottom of the pot).

While the sugar mixture is boiling, get the eggs ready.

5 egg yolks

1 whole egg

1/8 teaspoon xanthan gum

1 1/2 pounds of cold butter (the higher quality, the better), but into Tablespoons

Place the egg yolks and egg into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, turn on high and beat until it’s tripled in volume.  You can not overwhip – so let it beat until the sugar mixture is done!

When the sugar syrup reaches 235 degrees, turn off the mixer – add the xanthan gum and turn the mixer to medium.  Take the thermometer out of the sugar syrup and slowly pour the syrup into the mixer – avoiding the whisk (pouring in between the whisk and the bowl would be ideal).

When all the sugar syrup has been added, beat the mixture on high until cool – about 10 minutes.  Turn off the mixer and switch to the paddle attachment, and put the mixer guard on (it’s optional, but recommended).  On high, add the cold butter a couple of chunks at a time.  Continue to add chunks of butter every couple of seconds so that the temperature in the bowl continues to drop at a constant temperature – this will make sure that your frosting isn’t a soupy mess.*

When all the butter is added, continue to beat on high until all the butter has blended in and the frosting is fluffy.

*If your frosting is a soupy mess, don’t fret!  Place the bowl in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to allow the butter to partially solidify and then beat (about 5 minutes or so) until fluffy.

To frost, place a serving dish on top of a cake decorating turntable, and place a cake layer in the center of your serving dish.  Then add a nice dollop (or two) of frosting and spread until evenly coated (about 1/4 to 1/2 an inch thick), place another layer on top and (with a flat cookie sheet evenly press down on the layers).  Continue to add frosting and the next layer.

When all the layers are complete, coat the cake all over with a thin layer of frosting (a crumb coat).  Try not to dip your frosting spatula back into the frosting bowl (because you could introduce crumbs).  Place the cake in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes.

When the cake is ready, frost the cake all over as smoothly as possible.  Then using the cake comb noted above, swipe it across the top to make ridges, then coat the sides with coconut by gently pressing a handful of coconut around the sides of the cake.

Wash and dry the strawberries.  Then hull them and cut them in half.  Next cut a notch in the top of each strawberry and position on the outer rim of the cake.


Refrigerate any leftovers for up to 4 days, covered.

Chocolate Sheet Cake

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June 2014 092My friend, Janna, and I were talking about cakes a few months ago, and she mentioned that her chocolate sheet cake recipe was super delicious.  So I prodded her some about what she puts in her cake and was surprised to find sweetened condensed milk and cinnamon as ingredients.

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Well, curiosity got the best of me, I asked her to share her recipe and I made it!  My kids loved it and my husband loved that the icing wasn’t “grainy” – he has texture issues.  Lucky for me, she agreed to let me share it here on my blog!

In case you’re wondering how I magically got clean cuts – I used this handy scraper.  I love it for cutting cakes and brownies.  Plus it’s great for frosting cakes as well.

Nuts are completely optional, Janna likes to add them chopped to her cake, but my family is 1/2 and 1/2 when it comes to nuts, so I opted to toast 12 pecans (on a baking sheet at 350 degrees for 9 minutes) and place them on the top of the icing.

A couple of extra notes. . don’t be crazy like me and even think of omitting the cinnamon – it really compliments the chocolate and my daughter that dislikes cinnamon didn’t mind it in the cake.  Also, the cake may look a little bumpy coming out of the oven, but miraculously when coated with icing it’s not noticeable – see for yourself!

June 2014 140

Need more incentive to make it?  My son claimed that “all great cake tastes like this.”  So there you go, words to live by from a future food critic.  Now go get in that kitchen and bake up some deliciousness!

Chocolate Sheet Cake Adapted from my friend Janna

1 1/4 cups unsalted butter, divided

1/2 cup cocoa powder, divided

1 cup water

1 1/2 cups light brown sugar, packed

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt

1 can of sweetened condensed milk, divided

2 eggs

1 cup powdered sugar

1 cup chopped nuts or 12 pecan halves toasted, optional

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and line a 15 x 10 inch pan with parchment.  Set aside.

In a medium saucepan add 1 cup butter, 1/4 cup cocoa, and the water.  Heat on low to melt the butter.

In the meantime, in a large mixing bowl combine the flour, brown sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt - whisk until combined.

Bring the cocoa mixture on the stove to a boil and then add to the flour mixture – whisk just until combined.  Whisk in 1/3 cup condensed milk, the eggs, and the vanilla.  Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for about 15 minutes.  Be sure to test with a toothpick.

Let the cake cool on the counter for 30 minutes before adding the icing, otherwise it will run off the cake – I learned this the hard way!

To save dishes Janna makes her icing in the same pot she boiled the cocoa mixture in, and I suggest you do the same.

Pour the remaining sweetened condensed milk, 1/4 cup butter, 1/4 cup cocoa, and 1 cup powdered sugar into the pot at the same time and on low heat whisk vigorously to prevent lumps.  Let sit on a warm burner (turned off) until the cake is cool enough to ice.

You may have to heat the icing and whisk it off and on to minimize a crust forming on the top – if you make it too far in advance.  Pour the warm icing on the cake and top immediately with the pecans before the icing sets.  Let sit for another 30 minutes before serving.

Store leftovers covered at room temperature for 2 days.

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