Monday, September 8, 2014

Chocolate Pumpkin Delight Cake - SRC



It's time for the explosion of pumpkin recipes again!  I couldn't be left out of the fun, especially since pumpkin baked goods are some of my very favorites. So when I saw this cake on the blog of my Secret Recipe Club assignment this month, it was a no-brainer.

Deb blogs over at Cooking on the Front Burner, and let me tell you, she takes some of the most beautiful food photos!  I just couldn't stop looking at everything and admiring how tempting everything looks.
Raspberry Peach Cobbler,  Strawberry Bruschetta, and Grilled Pork with Chile Lime Sauce were just a few of the options that caught my eye, but I just kept coming back to that cake. I mean, chocolate and pumpkin, with a caramel cream cheese frosting???? How could I resist that??

Now Deb's cake is absolutely fabulous with chopped nuts pressed into the sides and garnished with pecan halves on the top. But seeing as I'm the only person in my family who likes nuts with baked goods (boo), that was really out of the question.  Also, she made hers in 8" pans and had leftover batter - I just used 9" pans and used it all. I ended up modifying her recipe a little to increase the frosting so I would be sure to have enough and used less ganache inside the cake. I didn't want it to overpower the salted caramel frosting.

Oh, and I made my own caramel sauce - using this recipe. It's a fantastic sauce and very simple - and one batch of it makes exactly enough for the frosting.  (And if you happen to make a batch that ended up not cooking quite long enough to get that perfect color, you can always save it in the fridge and add it to your coffee. YUM.)

This cake is really big, so be sure you have a crowd to feed!  But it lasts well in the fridge for several days as well, so don't sweat it if you have leftovers.  They're just as delicious!

Chocolate Pumpkin Delight Cake
from Rebekah's Family, Food, and Fun

For the Cake:

2 1/4 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups dark brown sugar, packed
1 1/2 cups sugar
5 large eggs
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree
1 tsp. vanilla
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup cocoa powder
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg

For the Frosting

3 (8 oz) packages cream cheese, softened
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
8 oz. caramel sauce (homemade or store-bought)
5 cups powdered sugar, sifted

For the Ganache
4 oz dark chocolate bar 
4 oz (1/2 cup) heavy cream

Preheat oven to 350°. Lightly butter (3) 9" cake pans and line each with parchment paper. Set aside.

In a large bowl or mixer, beat the butter and sugars until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs one at a time and beat well after each addition.  

In a separate bowl, combine the buttermilk, pumpkin, and vanilla. In another bowl, sift the dry ingredients (flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and nutmeg). Alternating adding the dry ingredients and the pumpkin mixture to the large mixing bowl, blending well after each addition. 

Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans.  Bake until a toothpick comes out clean, about 25-30 minutes. Cool in pans 10 minutes, then remove and cool on racks.

To make the frosting, beat the cream cheese and butter together until smooth, then add the caramel sauce.  Mix well and add the powdered sugar a cup at a time and mix until fluffy.  

To make the ganache, chop the chocolate bar into small bits and place in a bowl.  Heat the cream  in a small saucepan until bubbles form around the edges, then remove from heat and pour over the chocolate.  Let sit for a few minutes, then stir until smooth. 

To assemble the cake, place one cake layer on a serving dish or cake stand (I prefer to put it on a small board so I can put it in the fridge easier). Place pieces of wax paper tucked around the cake to help with the mess factor.  Put about a cup of frosting on top of the cake and spread within a half inch of the edges.  Drizzle some ganache on top and spread thinly. 


Repeat layers until you get to the last one.  Spread frosting around the top and sides of the cake, smoothing as desired. Drizzle or spread the remaining ganache over the top and allow to drip down the sides.  Use an offset spatula to blend the edges in with the frosting if desired.

Remove wax paper from the bottom of the cake.  Store covered in the refrigerator. 


Source: Adapted slightly from Cooking on the Front Burner

Friday, September 5, 2014

Cream Biscuits


I've tried my hand at all sorts of biscuits over the years.  Ones with just butter, ones with buttermilk, even ones with sour cream.  And don't get me wrong; Carb-a-holic that I am, I like all biscuits pretty darn well.  (Confession: when I was 16-18, I spent my summers working at McDonalds. I would rarely eat the food - mainly because I didn't want to spend the money - but I loved their biscuits. I would crave them. When I was working the breakfast shift and we would have leftover biscuits that were headed for the garbage, I'd sometimes grab a couple and stuff them in my purse for later.)  

When I came across these cream biscuits, I was won over in a heartbeat.  They're ridiculously easy, so fast to throw together, and practically melt in your mouth.  My kids could eat a whole pan of these without a second thought.  We love them with homemade sausage gravy, with jelly or apple butter, or just plain with a little dollop of butter.

I thought I'd mention them today because my sweet Annika is turning seven tomorrow (!!!) and these, with sausage gravy, is what she requested for her birthday breakfast. I'm making it today because tomorrow will be filled with cake decorating and party prep. That being said, I'm off to make my favorite middle child her breakfast.

Happy Birthday, Annika!! 

Notes: I usually make 1 1/2 times this recipe to feed my family.   

Cream Biscuits
adapted from Smitten Kitchen 
Yields 10-12 two inch biscuits

2 cups all purpose flour, plus more for dusting the surface
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. sugar (optional; I use it)
1 1/2 cups heavy cream (I have used 1 cup cream, 1/2 cup whole milk successfully)
3 Tbsp. melted butter  (optional; I don't use it)

Preheat oven to 425°F.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking sheet.
Sift 2 cups flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar (if using) into a large bowl.  Fold in 1 1/2 cups cream. If the dough is not soft or easily handled, fold in the remaining 1/4 cup cream, little by little.
Turn dough onto a floured surface, mound it into a ball, and use your hands to press it to a thickness of about 3/4". Cut into rounds with biscuit cutters.  I like to use the miniature ones for the kids.
Gather the dough scraps and continue to make rounds. If desired, dip the top of each round in melted butter and arrange on the baking sheet.  I find I prefer them without being dipped in butter, but it's up to you. 
Bake about 12-15 minutes, or until golden. Serve immediately.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Cream Cheese Banana Bread with Sweet Cinnamon Topping


I'm a sucker for banana bread recipes. I couldn't even tell you how many variations I've tried. 
Kind of drives Grant crazy. Pick a recipe and stick with it, he thinks. 

So when he tasted this one several months ago, he said, 
"This is it. If I ever ask you to make banana bread, THIS IS THE ONE I WANT. Not any others."

I think he made that pretty clear. :) 
And I can't say that I blame him.

It's lightly spiced, wonderfully moist and tender, and the crumb topping adds that extra delightful, sweet crunch. I love having the cream cheese in there - I feel like it makes the bread extra rich and flavorful without being over powering. And with two loaves, you can freeze one for later or share with a friend or neighbor. 

And for the record, I haven't make any other banana breads since then.  But I've made this one at least four times. It's a huge hit with the family every time. 

Cream Cheese Banana Bread with Sweet Cinnamon Topping
Yield: 2 loaves
From: Rebekah's Family, Food, and Fun

12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) butter, softened to room temperature
8 ounces cream cheese, light or regular, softened to room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 1/4 cups mashed ripe bananas (about 4 large bananas)
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg


Topping:
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon flour
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease 2 loaf pans (8 1/4" x 4 1/4") with cooking spray or butter and set aside.

In a large bowl, cream together the butter, cream cheese and sugar until very light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes. Beat in the eggs, vanilla and bananas.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until combined.

In a small bowl, mash together the topping ingredients until combined and crumbly.

Divide the batter evenly among the prepared loaf pans. Sprinkle with the topping.

Bake for 50-60 minutes until the bread is nicely domed and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Remove from the oven and let rest in the pans for 5-10 minutes before turning out on a cooling rack to cool completely.




Source: Adapted slightly from Mel's Kitchen Cafe

Monday, August 11, 2014

Chicken Enchiladas Suiza (SRC)



I already have a couple of chicken enchilada recipes, both very different and both very tasty.  But with a husband that adores spicy and Tex-Mex sort of food, I figured you can never have too many enchilada variations.  So when I saw one featuring green sauce (instead of the typical red) on my Secret Recipe Club assignment for the month, Little Bit of Everything, I knew I had to try it.

Of course, I found several other recipes to try.  Julie blogs from Nebraska and has a beautiful collection of dishes, like Pumpkin Cream Cheese Bread, Pot Roast Carbonnade, and Salted Caramel Ice Cream  (which I did make and it was to.die.for delicious - but I did encounter a few difficulties with making it so I didn't feel comfortable posting it until I make it successfully a few more times.  Ahem.)

So most of y'all know that I really don't like buying pre-made stuff, and that includes enchilada sauce.  I already have a homemade red sauce that my family really likes, but I didn't have a green one.  So I searched for one and found an intriguing recipe which involved roasting poblano chiles.  I'll be posting it soon, so stay tuned.

These enchiladas were simple and amazingly delicious.  While a couple of  the girls complained that they were too spicy (that's because of the sauce), Grant couldn't stop raving about them. He would eat them every week if I'd make them.  I loved them too and was bummed that I missed out on the leftovers.  Grant took them for his lunch the next day. Guess that's a sign of true love - you let the hubby take the awesome leftovers.

Chicken Enchiladas Suiza
from Rebekah's Family, Food, and Fun

2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken (breasts or thighs)
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup sour cream
1 (4 oz) can chipped green chiles, drained
1/3 cup chopped green onions
1 can Rotel mild diced tomatoes with green chiles, drained
1 (14 oz) can mild green enchilada sauce (or use homemade)
2 cups finely shredded cheese - cheddar or colby jack
10-12 Fajita size tortillas 

Cook chicken as desired.  You can boil it, bake it, or cook in a slow cooker. You could even use leftover cooked chicken or rotisserie if you wanted.  I like to sprinkle the chicken breasts with kosher salt and pepper on both sides, place on a baking sheet, and bake at 350°F for 20 minutes or until done.  Cool chicken slightly and then dice finely or shred it.

Combine chicken, sour cream, green chiles, green onions, Rotel, and 1 cup of cheese in a large bowl. Mix to combine well. Add salt and pepper to taste if desired.

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Spread a thin layer of enchilada sauce on the bottom of a 13 x 9" baking dish.
Divide the chicken mixture between the tortillas and roll up securely.  Place in the baking dish and pour remaining enchilada sauce over the top. Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes.  Remove from the oven, top with remaining 1 cup of cheese, and return uncovered to the oven until cheese is melted.


Source: Adapted slightly from Little Bit of Everything


Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Slow Cooker Barbecue Pork


It's no secret that I love using my slow cooker in the summer. And winter. Okay, basically anytime. 
So convenient and easy. 

While we don't eat pork very often, this has become one of our very favorite ways to eat it. The entire family gets excited when I make this, and that's saying something. Very few recipes in my arsenal illicit such enthusiasm from 7 people. 

So what makes it special?

Apparently not the bourbon.  Ha.  See, this recipe is originally entitled Bourbon Pork - but we never have bourbon in the house and I just used water (through rinsing out the ketchup bottle) instead. It tastes so fabulous, I can't imagine bourbon making it any better. But if that's up your alley, give it a shot. 

But really, it's so simple to throw together. The longest part of it is trimming the fat from the pork. If you get a pork loin, even that is pretty fast.  However, I will say, as much as I love the easier trimming of a pork loin, the pork shoulder roasts are a little more flavorful and less likely to dry out.  You can't go wrong with either one, though. 

The sauce is slightly sweet with a little tang and complements the tender pork perfectly. 
I do recommend toasting your buns a little; otherwise, the bottom bun gets soggy pretty quickly from all the dripping sauce.  Or just eat it as soon as you make it.  No letting it sit around!! 

The leftovers are equally good and some people might have even been caught sneaking some bites straight from the bowl right in the refrigerator.  

Slow cooker Barbecue Pork
from Rebekah's Family, Food, and Fun

1 3/4 cups ketchup
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
3 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup water (or bourbon, if you prefer)
1/2 tsp. salt
pepper to taste
4 lbs boneless pork roast, trimmed of as much fat as possible

Place all sauce ingredients in slow cooker and mix.  Add pork and turn to coat.  Cook on high for 4-5 hours or on low for 7-8 hours.  Remove pork and shred with two forks.  Return shredded pork to slow cooker and cook an additional 30 - 60 minutes.


Source: adapted slightly from Lemons for Lulu

Monday, July 14, 2014

Strawberry Monkey Bread - SRC


What's your favorite part of summer?

The longer, sunny days?
Time at the pool or lake or beach?
No school/vacations?
Outdoor concerts, farmers' markets, or grilling out?

All of those things are pretty great and all, but my absolute favorite part about summer in Arkansas is the fresh, juicy, sweet fruit that we pick at local farms (or buy at local markets, if you're so inclined).  We picked strawberries in late May, blueberries several times through June and early July, and now blackberries and peaches are in season.   I LOVE supporting local farmers!! 

There is just nothing as good as summer fruit, fresh from the vine/tree/bush - I just want to eat it all plain and not even bother cooking with it.  However, for this month's Secret Recipe Club assignment, I simply couldn't resist using some (store-bought) strawberries to make this luscious monkey bread.

If you're not familiar with monkey bread, it's basically a lightly sweet dough that's rolled into small balls, covered with cinnamon sugar, layered in a bundt pan,and doused with a large serving of a buttery, cinnamon syrup to bake.  This variation uses a homemade strawberry syrup instead of the cinnamon syrup, plus there are chunks of freshly diced strawberries sprinkled throughout the dough.  YUM!

I got the recipe from C Mom Cook, where Shelley doesn't let the busyness of being a stay-at-home mom of 2 stop her from making amazing recipes like Tiramisu, where she made each component from scratch. Including the marscapone, lady fingers, custard, everything. In fact, she has her youngsters helping her out. It's so awesome. I'm totally motivated to get my kids in the kitchen more, even though they usually slow me down and make three times the mess. :)
I also made her Skillet Arroz con Pollo, which was is a great and simple weeknight meal, but I didn't get a decent photo of it. We really liked it, though!
Oh, and these Apple Buns look perfect for fall - definitely have those on the list to make!
So needless to say, I loved perusing Shelley's blog and finding all sorts of amazing things to make.  She is one talented lady!

This delightful bread was a huge success with my family and we could have probably eaten the entire pan of it in one sitting if I hadn't made the kiddos stop. :)  Leftovers can be reheated in the microwave very nicely - but the bread is BEST served on the first day.  So make it when you have a crowd to help you eat it!

Strawberry Monkey Bread
from Rebekah's Family, Food, and Fun

Dough
1 cup milk
1/3 cup white sugar
5 Tbsp. butter (I used salted)
1 Tbsp. active dry yeast
2 eggs
4 to 4 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt

Syrup
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
1 cup diced strawberries

To prepare dough:

In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the milk, sugar, and butter. Heat until sugar dissolves, then remove from heat and pour into your mixing bowl to let it cool until just warm (about 110°F). Stir in the yeast and let stand until foamy.

Add in eggs, 4 cups of flour, and salt.  Mix until dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Continue mixing with a dough hook or knead by hand on a floured surface until the dough is smooth and elastic. Add additional 1/4 cup flour if dough is too sticky. Grease a large bowl with oil or cooking spray.  Place the dough in the bowl and turn once to coat. Cover and let stand in a warm place until double in size, about 1 hour.

Meanwhile, prepare sauce. Combine 1 cup sugar, butter, and strawberries in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally.  Remove from heat.

To build the monkey bread: 
Prepared dough
about 1/3 cup of cinnamon sugar (1/3 cup sugar + 1 tsp. cinnamon, well combined)
1 cup diced strawberries
Prepared syrup

Preheat oven to 350°F. Generously spray a Bundt or tube pan with non-stick cooking spray with flour, or grease generously with butter and dust with flour. Gently deflate dough and take small portions and roll into balls.  Roll each ball in the cinnamon sugar, then place in prepared pan.  Interspersed through the balls, toss some of the diced strawberries so that they are evenly layered throughout the pan. Once all of the dough and berries have been added to the pan, pour the prepared syrup evenly over the top.

Place the Bundt pan on a cookie sheet and place the bread in the oven.

Bake for 35-45 minutes, depending on your oven. Mine was done at 40 minutes.  Check on bread periodically to make sure that the top is not over-browning. If it starts to get dark, cover it loosely with foil as it bakes.

Allow to cool at least 10 minutes before inverting onto a large plate and serving.

Source: adapted slightly C Mom Cook



Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Deep Dish Sloppy Joe Casserole


Question: What do you get when a 10 year old boy crashes his bike going over 20 mph downhill?  
Answer: A trip to the ER with 2 broken arms, an overnight stay, surgery (with thankfully no pins) and above the elbow casts for the next 2 weeks. 


Question: What do you get when you have two daughters taking ballet classes from their amazing Aunt Anna?
Answer: A beautiful program/recital on a big stage and flowers afterwards.


Question: What do you get when you talk grandparents into taking their first Selfie?
Answer: Cute!!


Question: What do you get when the other grandparents agree to watch your 5 kids so you can take a long-awaited get-away vacation (the first since your honeymoon 13 years ago!)?
Answer:  One of the best weeks ever. Pura Vida - Costa Rica!!!  Visiting with relatives, rappelling down waterfalls, white water rafting, viewing volcanoes, soaking in natural hot springs, ziplines over the rainforest, wildlife tours, horseback ride to a waterfall, we packed a lot into a week. 


Question: And what do you get when you combine sloppy joes with pizza?
Answer: A dinner that Grant says is one of his favorite things EVER.  No kidding. He couldn't stop talking about how much he loved this meal.  And really - we all agreed.  It's so delicious!! 



You have a super simple pizza dough, a flavorful and meaty filling, and lots of cheese on top.  
It's like a deep dish pizza that you can just dig right into and serve up hearty slabs.  Eat with a fork or your fingers, whatever you please. We don't mind! 

The only problem with this recipe?
  
One dish of it doesn't make enough for us to have two dinners of it.  Everyone liked it so much, they kept going back for more.  So my plans of having leftovers for dinner kind of went out the window. Guess I'll make another one. :) 

Deep Dish Sloppy Joe Casserole

Dough:
1 Tbsp. instant yeast
1 cup very warm water
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. olive oil
3 cups flour (I use white whole wheat)

Filling: 
1 pound lean ground turkey
1 Tbsp. dried minced onion
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. Montreal Steak seasoning
1 large carrot, grated
1/2 green bell pepper, finely chopped
1 (15 oz) can tomato sauce
1 tsp. dried mustard powder
2 Tbsp. ketchup
1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp. brown sugar
Salt and pepper to taste
4 ounces shredded cheddar cheese

Begin by preparing pizza dough. 
In a large mixing bowl, combine yeast with warm water and sugar.  Allow to foam for a few minutes. Add salt, oil, and flour.  Stir until a dough forms.  Knead by hand or with a dough hook on the mixer for 5-6 minutes.  Cover and set aside. 

In a large saucepan or skillet, brown ground turkey with minced onion, garlic, and steak seasoning. Drain grease if necessary.  Add the carrot and chopped bell pepper and saute a few minutes longer, until veggies are beginning to get tender.  Add tomato sauce, mustard powder, ketchup, vinegar, and brown sugar.  Simmer for 5-7 minutes.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  

Preheat oven to 420°F.  In a lightly greased 13 x 9" pan, spread out pizza dough, coming up the sides about an inch to create a little crust.  Pour filling over the dough and sprinkle with cheese.  Bake for 17-20 minutes, or until the crust is lightly browned. 

Source: adapted slightly from Finding Joy in my Kitchen 
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