Sunday, August 5, 2012

Coco-Banana Muffins

Every week I buy bananas.  Every morning I eat a half of one of those bananas and head out to the gym for my workout.  And every Friday, I still have 2-3 bananas, and I think to myself "How can this be?!".  Somehow I never finish the bananas!  So what does one do with several, overripe bananas? Make banana bread or muffins of course.  Muffins have been my selection du jour lately, and since I've had plenty of opportunity to make them I've been able to try a bunch of different variations of the same recipe.  This week I tried to beef up the health factor a bit by incorporating wheat germ and wheat flour.  In just 20 minutes you can have 12 delicious muffins packed with wheat, perfect for dessert or snacking!  The coconut is optional but adds a fun, sweet taste on top :)

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Creamy Cucumber Salad

This is my third year growing/maintaining a vegetable garden.  My mom has always told me that some crops will be better than others on certain years.  Of course that makes sense, but this is the first year I've actually had the opportunity to make that observation myself, and it's been bittersweet.  To date I have not harvested any zucchinis :(  In previous years I've been up to my elbows in zucchini, cranking out zucchini bread, muffins, casserole, fritters, etc. like it was my job.  This year the plants are healthy, and the weather has been great for growing with blazing hot days with intermittent rain, so what gives?  The other day, my suspicions were confirmed.  At about 3pm I observed a large (and obviously well-fed) rabbit snatching the flowers from my zucchini plants as an afternoon snack!  How irritating!  Short of erecting a fence around the zucchinis (our yard is already fenced in!) I've tried everything to no avail to ward off this rabbit.  I've sprinkled fox urine, spritzed animal deterrent and even stuffed a few wads of cat fur around the base of the plants in an attempt to scare this bunny off.  Although I've been unsuccessful in salvaging any zucchini flowers I still remain hopeful each time I see a new flower thinking "maybe this one will make it".  But that blasted rabbit always wins.  I'm starting to feel like I'm in a Bugs Bunny episode and I'm Elmer Fudd. *Sigh* 

On a brighter note, my cucumber plants are really thriving.  Last year I harvested 4 stumpy, lumpy cucumbers.  This year I've already harvested 5 perfectly tubular and delicious cukes and there are many more flowers on the vine.  So today's recipe is brought to you by our bountiful cucumber crop.  This salad is quick to throw together if you plan ahead.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Rosemary Bread

I love bread.  I really do.  There's something comforting about a slice of bread from a freshly baked loaf that warms the soul.  I have to admit I don't really understand the low/no carb thing and the people that strictly abide by it.  I don't mean to alienate any of my readers, and I know it works for some people, but in my opinion it's all about moderation.  I tried a low/no carb diet a few times before our wedding in a last ditch attempt to drop a few pounds before the big day, and you know what happened?  I started the diet on a Monday and made it all the way until Friday at which point, when I got home from work I feverishly searched the pantry for a chip, a cracker, a piece of bread, etc. and had myself a nice carb binge.  I'm pretty sure that negated my entire week of carb consciousness.  Lesson learned.  

Soap box aside ;-) homemade bread is tasty on its own, but it can also be the perfect (and simple!) compliment to your dinner.  I usually try to make 4 baguettes every other week.  It's a time investment up front, but the benefits are reaped for the next few weeks since I cut each in half and place them in a resealable freezer bag for defrosting with dinners.  Lately I've been looking to deviate from my normal production.  I've been wanting to try to make a beer bread or herbed bread of some sort, but the right opportunity had not yet presented itself.  Low and behold during a visit from my parents my mom presented me with a beautiful bouquet of fresh rosemary from her herb garden.  Ding!  That was my answer.  Rosemary bread!   The recipe below is adapted from one I found on AllRecipes.  Don't be intimidated by the amount of time it takes.  With bread, there's minimal prep and cook time, but a lot of waiting for it to rise.  Usually I pick a day when I'll be home doing some other projects or errands. I'll prep the dough, then run out grocery shopping, do laundry, or write a blog entry, etc. and return when the dough requires attention.  Ultimately the end product completely justifies the time investment :)

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Goat Cheese Crostini with Strawberry Bruschetta

Strawberries are still around here on the East Coast.  Before they' re gone, I wanted to share our favorite strawberry dish recipe from this year with you.  It's a great little seasonal appetizer if you're having company or even just for the heck of it.  I made it for us the other night just because.  The strawberry, balsamic and basil all balance well, and their taste is emphasized when combined with a slightly tangy goat cheese.  The key to this app is good bread and balsamic.


Thursday, May 31, 2012

Strawberry Basil Lemonade

Remember that Basil Infused Strawberry Sauce?  Want to know what happens when you add it to lemonade?  I could answer that for you, but I'll let you find out on your own with the recipe below.  In this heat a glass of lemonade is a refreshing respite.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Basil Infused Strawberry Sauce

If you're wondering where I've been for the past few weeks (okay, more like a month, eek!) I promise, I have a very good reason.  That fiance I've mentioned several times in posts is now my husband!  We were married May 5th in Napa, CA and then ran off to Kauai for a couple of weeks for our honeymoon.  Now we're back on the East Coast, and we're entering my favorite time of the year.  No, I am not referring to summer because, as my fellow Philadelphians will probably tell you, summer can be pretty unpleasant around here.  As a matter of fact, a quick glance at my weather app tells me the mercury is hovering around 92 degrees with 59% humidity.  It's still May, right? 

Back to why this is my favorite time of year.  For the past 7 months I've been at the mercy of the grocery store's produce offerings, but now we begin to embark on harvest season where fresh fruits and vegetables abound.  Seedlings I planted months ago are flourishing, and local farms are boasting the news of fresh fruits and vegetables for sale.  Up first is a personal favorite of mine, strawberries!  The recipe below is for a very versatile sauce and will be the foundation of the next two posts so stay tuned....

Basil Infused Strawberry Sauce (Yields approximately 1 cup)

2 cups quartered fresh strawberries
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup water

1.  Rinse basil leaves squeeze excess water from them.  This will "bruise" them which will allow the flavors to release when combined with the berries.
2.  Combine berries, lemon juice, sugar, basil leaves and water in a medium saucepan on medium-high heat.  Once the mixture begins to boil, stir frequently and reduce heat to medium-low.  Simmer for 5 minutes, remove from heat and place the pan in an icebath.
3.  Store in a glass container for use with icecream, sponge or pound cake or to liven up your lemonade.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Healthy Turkey Tacos

Sometimes I don't know what else to do with ground turkey except make chili or burgers, and right now it's not really the season for either.  So last week I went on a recipe inspiration hunt in search of something seasonal involving ground turkey.  I came up with this Turkey Tacos recipe inspired by Food Network's Turkey Tacos Picadillo.  As a note to those of you who might attempt this recipe yourself, we like these with a little kick.  If you don't like things spicy simply cut the jalapeno and chili powder amounts below in half.  Also, although the recipe yields approximately 12-14 tacos we each eat about 3-4 in a sitting, and then eat the leftovers for lunch on the weekend.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Fresh Coconut Macaroons

"I've got a lovely bunch of coconuts deedle-leee deeee..." Okay so I just had one coconut, but that song [from The Lion King, for those of you wondering] has been stuck in my head ever since I bought the darn thing (almost two weeks!).  Anyway, I was at the produce store, and in the middle of the fruit display was a box of coconuts with a sign "$0.99 each" hanging over it.  I bypassed it by on a mission to get lettuce, tomatoes, carrots and garlic thinking "That's interesting; I don't think I've ever seen coconuts for sale here before."  On my way to check out I walked by the box again, and I couldn't help myself.  I reached my right hand out and snatched one up.  It felt like a hollowed tree branch yet slightly imbalanced so I shook it and heard liquid sloshing around inside.  "Oh I'm definitely buying this now", I thought.  "I have to see what this is about."  So I headed home with my coconut.  I proudly showed Ryan my new find when he arrived home from work.  He mentioned that it wasn't going to taste like the store-bought coconut flakes.  "What do you mean?" I naively said seemingly forgetting that mother nature doesn't infuse insane amounts of sugar in her produce.  "What are you going to do with it?", he asked.  "I have no idea."...and so the search for a recipe began.  There are very few recipes using fresh coconut aside from those that suggest it be used as a vessel for fruity drinks.  I think I have a pretty good idea why, but I digress.  Back to the matter at hand, I settled on a recipe for macaroons thinking they would be a perfect spring dessert.  Naturally, I could just make the recipe as is; I had to tweak it.  So here's my version.  While I don't recommend this recipe for those in a rush or those with little patience I will say that I had fun with the project and I've received numerous compliments on these delicious treats.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Spinach and Cheddar Strata

We hadn't seen Ryan's parents in a while so I suggested he invite them over for a Sunday brunch.  I've always loved brunch.  In college, Saturday and Sunday brunch were the most tolerable of all the meals the dining commons had to offer.  In fact, I'd even venture as far as to say it was good, and that is a high compliment.  Over the years brunch has been relegated to a weekend affair, and occasionally I feel inspired to make a production out of it.  For this brunch I modified Martha Stewart's Spinach and Cheddar Strata and served a Lemon Yogurt Cake with blueberry sauce for dessert.  Ryan's mom brought a lovely fruit salad to round out the menu, and we enjoyed a delicious Prosecco which was a refreshing compliment to everything.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Lemon Yogurt Cake with Blueberry Sauce

I would like you to know that as I sit here typing this my salivary glands have gone in to overdrive, and it's all I can do to maintain composure and avoid drooling on my keyboard in anticipation of when I might be able to make this cake again.  By nature I'm a very calculated and prepared person, but when it comes to cooking sometimes an idea pops in to my head and I just run with it even if it means making something for the first time for company.  Such was the case with this Lemon Yogurt Cake and Blueberry Sauce.  The source of my inspiration this time was Foodbuzz's flavor of the month:  yogurt.  Somehow I read that and thought "I wonder if there's a cake I can make where I can substitute fat free or low-fat yogurt for some or all of the milk and butter".  Next stop, Google. I typed "yogurt cake" and clicked enter.  Google returned a wide variety of results.  After reading numerous recipes I noticed a lime yogurt cake with blackberry sauce recipe by Smitten Kitchen.  I didn't have limes or blackberries, but I had a bunch of fresh lemons and frozen blueberries from last season's harvest. Sounded like a good combination to me.  I printed out the recipe and quickly began scribbling down my adaptations.  About an hour later the cake was ready for serving, and, conveniently, Ryan's parents had arrived for brunch.  It made for a delightful dessert with a glass of Prosecco, shown below.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Pistachio Cupcakes for St. Patrick's Day

I love holidays! They give me an excuse to come up with or try a festive recipe that I normally wouldn't attempt.  This usually translates in to a baked good of some sort because we don't eat a lot of sweets otherwise.  This year I zeroed in on some pistachio cupcakes and dressed the icing up with a little bit of green food coloring for St. Patrick's Day.  I really wanted to make an amaretto buttercream icing to top them, but since I knew most of them would end up at work for immediate consumption, I refrained.  If you're headed to a friend's this weekend for some St. Patty's fun I would definitely recommend the amaretto version of the icing (see notes below for how to make it).  Also, in the interest of full disclosure, I'd lke to say that I have even more respect and admiration for bakers and those in the cupcake biz after this experiment.  I tried to be fancy and ice my cupcakes using the whole frosting bag with a fancy tip set up...major fail.  Oh well, at least I tried. They might not look as pretty as they could, but they're absolutely delicious, and that's what really counts ;-)  Slainte!

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Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Quick Coffee Cake with a twist

Have you ever heard of mead?  I hadn't either until I was on a winery tour several years ago in the Finger Lakes (New York).  By definition mead is a fermented beverage made of water, honey, malt, and yeast.  At the winery I took a sip and immediately regretted it.  It was WAY too sweet and not in a good way.  That tasting experience had all but become a distant memory until Ryan brought home a bottle of mead one day.  He presented the pretty dark blue glass bottle to me with an excited look on his face "B Nektar's cider mead! They [the store] finally got it in!", he exclaimed as he went foraging in the cabinet for an appropriate tasting glass.  Excited, he quickly poured two glasses as a pre-dinner appertif.  With the once faint memory of my previous mead experience now looming vividly, I briefly hesitated before taking a sip. This time I was pleasantly surprised, it was delicious!  

A few weeks later he brought home another bottle, this time a vanilla mead, and we both were looking forward to trying it.  Alas, we were disappointed by the vanilla mead.  Even my honey loving fiance couldn't finish his glass.  Back in the bottle it went.  "Can you cook something with this?", he asked.  I'm not usually one to say no to a question like that especially when it involves figuring out a new way to use something so I said "Sure, put it in the fridge."  And the wheels in my brain began turning.  Of the two sips I managed to drink I immediately thought it could be incorporated in to a sweet bread of sorts...perhaps a coffee cake?  So I started digging through cookbooks and Googling like mad to find a recipe suitable for modification.  Finally, I found a "Quick Coffee Cake" recipe on AllRecipes.  The 30 minute total prep and cook time reeled me right in.

The recipe below is a product of making the mead coffee cake 4 times, twice with the vanilla mead and twice with a coffee mead.  In reality the mead is optional.  You can probably use any type of sweet wine or maybe rum or other liquer or substitute milk instead for a booze-free treat.  If you do use something in place of the mead, I'd love to hear about it!

For the cake:
1 1/2 c. flour
3 Tbsp. white sugar
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 egg
1/3 c. heavy cream
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 c. honey mead
1/4 c. unsalted butter, melted

For the crumbs:
1/4 c. brown sugar
1 Tbsp. flour
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1 tbsp. unsalted butter

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Grease a 9 x 9 inch square pan.
  2. Using an electric mixer combine the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt.
  3. In a separate small bowl, beat the egg well, then stir in the heavy cream, mead and vanilla. Add the liquid mixture to the flour mixture all at once. Mix carefully until just blended. 
  4. Add the melted butter to the mixture in #3 and mix thoroughly.
  5. Pour batter into prepared pan and spread evenly.
  6. In a small bowl mix together brown sugar, 1 tablespoon of flour and 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon. Cut the tablespoon of butter in to this mixture.  Combine with your hands until a coarse, crumb-like appearance is achieved.  Sprinkle on top of the batter and press the crumbs lightly in to the batter.  
  7. Bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. 
  8. Cut in to 9 square pieces, and serve warm.  To store leftovers, cover with foil or plastic wrap. Leftovers are best if consumed within three days.

Yields 9 servings

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Roasted Eggplant with Garlic and Lemon

I had an extra eggplant leftover from making eggplant parm.  "What am I going to do with this thing?", I thought.  "I don't know of any other recipes requiring eggplant.  Maybe I can roast it?  Or maybe I should just give it to my mom.  She'll know what to do with it."

Both of my parents have been pretty sick the past couple of weeks with some sort of endless virus.  I had planned to go to their house this past Saturday night and prepare dinner for them.  Then my mom called Saturday morning to report that my dad was feeling better, and although she still felt pretty weak they both had a pretty nasty case of cabin fever and needed to get out.  They offered to come to my house for dinner instead.  This was great news for three reasons:  First and foremost, they were feeling better!  Second, I'd be able to cook in my own kitchen.  I don't know about you, but I really love cooking in my own kitchen.  It's a bit cramped, but it's what I'm used to, and, as a creature of habit, what I'm comfortable with.  Cooking in someone else's kitchen is like shopping at a completely different grocery store.  You don't know where anything is or if they have the same tools.  Third, I was semi-relieved to not have to make the trip since I was over there once earlier in the week to make dinner after work, and I knew I'd be over again after work one night the following week.

For the menu I opted for an incredibly simple recipe of chicken marsala which was accompanied by that rogue eggplant roasted with garlic and lemon.  It was fabulous! And my dad just happened to bring a fantastic Italian white wine that paired perfectly.

1 large eggplant (approximately 1 lb.)
3 tbs. olive oil
1 large garlic clove (or two smaller ones), pressed
Salt and pepper, to taste

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Eggplant can be bitter and watery when baked.  To minimize this, cover each slice of eggplant in kosher salt and place in a colander with a bowl underneath it (to catch the drippings) in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to allow the eggplant to "sweat". 
  3. Rinse the salt off of the eggplant slices, and pat each slice dry with a paper towel.  Set aside.
  4. In a small bowl combine the olive oil and pressed garlic.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  I used a scant 1/4 tsp of salt and a few grinds of fresh black pepper.
  5. Place a piece of parchment paper on a baking sheet.  Place the eggplant slices on the parchment paper skin side down.
  6. Brush each eggplant slice with the olive oil mixture.
  7. Bake the eggplant slices for 15-20 minutes, just enough to get crisp on the outside but not burn.
  8. Serve as a side dish to your favorite meals.
Yields 4 servings

P.S.  Sorry there are no pictures of this one.  I can't seem to find my spare memory card, and all of my larger memory cards are currently in Idaho with the snowboarding fiance and his GoPro camera thus rendering my DSLR useless :-/

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Eggplant Parmesan

Every now and then a completely random, unprovoked meal idea will pop in to my head.  Such was the case for last Friday night's culinary extravaganza, although in retrospect I think my subconscious may have been at work.  Ryan's on vacation this week (without me!), and we wanted to have a nice dinner together before his departure.  I suggested going to an Italian restaurant in Manayunk.  He suggested a French place in Fishtown.  Ultimately we both decided we'd rather stay in than fight the Friday night I-76 city traffic.  Cue the brainstorming of dinner ideas!  Eggplant parmesan immediately came to my mind for no good reason at all other than I already had Italian food on the brain.

Friday, February 17, 2012

5 Cooking Tips to Make Your Work Week Easier

Usually I'm pretty good at staying on top of things, but with work heating up and our wedding drawing near lately I find myself saying "There are not enough hours in the day" a lot.  This thought typically crosses my mind on a weeknight at about 10:30PM after a full day of work, hitting the gym, running errands and getting the house in order (i.e. folding laundry, cleaning, preparing for the next day, etc.).  Pausing for just a moment I wonder if life was always this crazy or if I'm just overly aware of it at that moment.  I stop myself before starting to think too far ahead to what life with kids will be like (when we get there!).  I'm told that increases the craziness exponentially, albeit in a good way. 

One thing I refuse to compromise on as a result of our busy schedules is food.  I will not give in to the microwaveable meal, dining out or take out lifestyle on a regular weeknight.  For those of you out there that agree I thought I would share some some cooking tips that make my day/week a lot easier and might help you do the same.  In no particular order, here they are:

1.  Soup can be a savior - Make a big pot of soup on Sunday and package in to single serving plastic containers for a few days of lunches or a reheated dinner.

2.  Leftovers are like gold - I don't know about you, but food doesn't last long in my house.  If you're cooking for two adjust the recipe for four instead.  This way you can either have it for lunch or serve as dinner on "leftover night" later in the week.

3.  Always keep a baguette (or more!) on hand - Every other week I make 4 baguettes.  Once they've cooled, I cut each one in half and package them in large freezer bags.  They heat up really well (crunchy outside, soft middle) in the toaster oven and make for an easy carb side with dinner.  We usually dip ours in olive oil mixed with various spices.

4.  Plan ahead - Make a list of your meals at the beginning of the week and shop accordingly.  Nothing stresses me out more than not having a plan for dinner and frantically rushing to the store after work to gather ingredients.  The latter approach can also be quite costly.

5.  Use your freezer!  A certain degree of hoarding is okay when it comes to food.  As an example, I usually buy the family sized package of chicken and put two chicken breast halves in separate freezer bags for use throughout the week.  Similarly last year we froze blueberries and fresh corn off the cob so I have that as an easy go-to fresh fruit or vegetable option.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Decadent Mocha Chocolate Mousse

Ryan's birthday was last weekend. The big 2-8!  I was a bit stumped when it came to an appropriate dessert for the birthday dinner. The obvious answer was to bake a cake, but since it's just the two of us, we're trying to eat less sweet stuff, and his grandmother had baked a wonderful cake the weekend before I wanted to do something different.  Importantly, something that wouldn't linger for a week and inevitably result in at least an extra pound because, seriously, who can throw leftover cake out?  A chocolate mousse of sorts seemed to be the right answer.  I spent a few minutes googling for recipes and ultimately went to my own recipe box in search of a recipe my mom had given me instead. The reason?  Uncooked or questionably cooked eggs freak me out and most mousse recipes out there call for eggs that fall in to those categories. Having witnessed Ryan's bout with food poisoning last year, I tend to be extra careful with eggs, chicken, other meats, etc. so those recipes weren't doing it for me.  The recipe I have uses unflavored gelatin to firm up a smooth mixture of cocoa, sugar and heavy cream. The best thing about this recipe is that it's totally modifiable.  I added coffee to this one, but you could add a liqueur, other flavoring or nothing at all and it will still be delicious.

1 tsp. unflavored gelatin
1 tbsp. cold water
1 c. heavy cream, very cold
1 tsp. vanilla extract
4 tbsp. white sugar
1/4 c. Hershey's cocoa powder
2 tbsp. boiling water
2 tbsp. dark brewed coffee
2 tbsp. shredded coconut for topping (optional)

1.  In a small bowl combine the tbsp. of cold water with the unflavored gelatin.  Mix and let sit while you complete step 2.
2. In a mixer using the whisk attachment beat the heavy cream, vanilla extract, white sugar and cocoa powder until stiff peaks form.
3.  Add the boiling water to the mixture in step 1 and stir until the gelatin has completely dissolved.  The mixture should be slightly yellow, but clear.
4.  Add the gelatin mixture from step 3 to the mixing bowl and combine thoroughly.
5.  Add the 2 tbsp. of coffee and combine thoroughly.
6.  Divide in to 4 serving dishes or cups.  I like to use stemless martini glasses.
7.  Top with coconut and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving.

Yields: 4 servings

Friday, January 27, 2012

Update on the Brussels Sprouts Entry - We Have a Winner!

A few weeks ago I published a recipe for Brussels Sprouts as part of a submission to a local cooking contest sponsored by Center City Cooks and  Well, the results are in, and the Brussels Sprouts have won! I can't even believe it! The finalists and winning entry are posted on  How exciting!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Restaurant-Style Pad Thai

I used to be intimidated by Thai food thinking that it was all explosively curried or insanely spicy. Then one night Ryan took me to a Thai restaurant in Manayunk (Philadelphia), and my entire view changed. Since then we've found what we consider to be the best Thai in the area a little farther up the Schuykill Expressway at a place called Chiang-mai. I highly recommend going there if you like Thai food. It's reasonably priced,  fantastically delicious, and it inspired me to come up with a Chicken Pad Thai recipe of my own. I don't think it will ever beat theirs, but we love it just the same. 

Monday, January 16, 2012

Chocolate Stout Cake

I realize that "Chocolate Stout Cake" is an obvious contradiction to my New Year's resolution of eating healthier, but this is so delicious that I couldn't resist writing about it now.  After all, even the best of healthy eaters deserve a treat once in a while.  

Last night while Ryan and I were watching an episode of our current TV series addiction, "Breaking Bad", I received a text message from my brother:  "Made a stout chocolate cake tonight!".  

"A what?", I thought, "That sounds amazing!".

So needless to say this idea and recipe comes via my brother whose main hobby for the past year and a half has been Battery Brewing, run by him and his buddy. Photos are courtesy of his girlfriend Alexa.  For a full description complete with photos click here.

Ingredients (Yields 1 9x13 inch cake)

1 c. stout (they used Dominion Oak Barrel Stout)
1 c. (2 sticks) unsalted butter
3/4 c. unsweetened Dark cocoa powder
2 c. all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. salt
2 large eggs
1/2 c. sour cream

1 c. whipping cream
1/2 lb. semisweet chocolate chips

For cake:
1.  Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter one 9x13 inch rectangular cake pan.  Line with parchment or waxed paper. Butter paper. 
2.  Bring the stout and butter to simmer in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add cocoa powder and whisk until mixture is smooth. Cool slightly. 

3.  Whisk flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt in large bowl to blend. 
4.  Using electric mixer, beat eggs and sour cream in another large bowl to blend. 
5.  Add stout-chocolate mixture to egg mixture and beat just to combine. 
6.  Add flour mixture and beat briefly on slow speed until completely combined. 
7.  Pour the batter in to the prepared cake pan.
8.  Bake cakes until tester inserted into center of cakes comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes.
9.  Remove cake from pan, peel off parchment and allow it to continue to cool.

For icing:
1. Bring cream to just before boiling in heavy medium saucepan. Remove from heat. 
2.  Add chopped chocolate and whisk until melted and smooth. 
3.  Refrigerate until icing is spreadable, stirring frequently, about 2 hours.

4.  Spread icing over cake.  To make a layer cake, cut the 9x13 cake in half and stack the layers, spreading the icing in between.

Note:  This recipe is an adaptation of one found on

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Brussels Sprouts

Brussels sprouts seem to be all the rage lately. Have you noticed this? They're something I rarely think of, but my mom served them with Thanksgiving dinner, and they've been on my mind ever since. The other day while perusing  for various ideas I came across the following link: "New cookbook and a contest". I immediately clicked. Who can resist a cooking contest!?  Not me. After all, it could be the gateway to increasing readership!  Or at least something really delicious I didn't know about before! So I read the details which went a little something like this:

"Center City Cooks is a compilation of recipes from Philadelphia's Restaurant Week chefs.  Choose your favorite recipe from the Fall or Winter edition, prepare the dish, take a photo and submit via email.  Beverage recipe submissions are not permitted." 

I was immediately drawn to the recipe for "Brussels Sprouts" from Square 1682 so I scurried off to my local produce store and snatched up some fresh sprouts (on sale!).  Back to the kitchen I went, overly aware and slightly frightened by two sentences in the recipe:  "Do not overcook!  Overcooked brussels sprouts are bitter and are the main reason why some people don't like them.".  No pressure...

They turned out extremely well, and I served them with a steak and some potato slices sauteed with Old Bay as shown below.  I would definitely recommend this recipe and certainly will be making them again.


Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Holiday Hangover

I'm not talking about the booze-induced kind. I'm talking about the post-Christmas haze devoid of anticipation of impending parties and celebrations, the dark empty space in my living room where my Christmas tree gleamed brightly a mere four days ago, and the fact that there are now 3 cold, gray months of winter ahead with no holidays in sight. And, please, don't tell me that the Superbowl is a holiday. 

What's a girl to do? I could live in denial and perpetuate the holiday season, but I think my fiance has that covered for both of us...he insisted that we listen to Vince Guaraldi's Charlie Brown Christmas album one last time during dinner last night. As much as I love it, it just didn't sound the same.

Instead, I think it's time to move on and kick off the New Year in an extremely stereotypical way:  by eating healthier. Before you stop reading allow me to clarify that I did not say that ugly four letter word "diet", I'm not about to do a juice cleanse and you won't find any recipes on here sans carbs, but let's face it eating around the holidays gets out of control. For the past month you've been at parties downing wine and beer and eating appetizers and desserts that put your daily caloric intake on overload. And don't tell me "Yeah but I work out so it's fine." or "I'll spend some extra time at the gym.".  There's not enough hours in a week to permit the gym time required to burn that excess. Now is the perfect time to get back on track and be a little more aware of our intake.