Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Very Chocolate Ice Cream

We just got an ice cream maker last week!!! It's a Cuisinart 2-quart capacity countertop variety, which is the largest size I could find that didn't require ice and rock salt for making the ice cream. 
So far I've made the vanilla recipe from their included booklet, as well as the vanilla yogurt.  The ice cream was wonderful, the yogurt tasty but not nearly as good as the ice cream (go figure, must be the 17 less grams of fat per serving).  For having guests this weekend, I decided to make some chocolate ice cream as well.

This recipe caught my eye off of Allrecipes and with all the positive reviews, I knew I had to make it. 

In all seriousness, it is one of the best things I have ever eaten.  I'm not even kidding.   Even Grant agrees, and he's pretty picky about homemade ice cream, texturewise.  It's the perfect amount of chocolaty goodness, creamy and smooth melt-in-your mouth delectableness.  Everyone loved it.

Note:  This amount filled up my 2-quart ice cream maker to full capacity.  If you have a smaller machine, please decrease the ingredients!  The link below to Allrecipes takes you to the recipe itself, and they have an awesome feature on their site that calculates different amount of servings for you. The original recipe was for 8 servings - I changed it to 12 for our machine, which was perfect. 

Recipe (from Allrecipes)

  • 1 cup and 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1-1/2 cups milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 5 egg yolks, lightly beaten
  • 3 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped finely (I used Bakers Semi-sweet Chocolate)
  • 3 cups heavy cream
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

  • Combine sugar, milk, salt, and cocoa powder in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly. Heat to about 150°, very hot but not bubbling yet.  Place the egg yolks into a small bowl. Gradually stir in about 1/2 cup of the hot liquid. and return to the saucepan. Heat until thickened (175-180°), but do not boil. Remove from the heat, and stir in the chopped chocolate until chocolate is melted. Pour into a chilled bowl, and refrigerate for about two hours until cold, stirring occasionally.
  • When chocolate mixture has completely cooled, stir in the cream, and vanilla. Pour into an ice cream maker, and freeze according to manufacturer's directions.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Graduation Cake

 I consider this cake my crowning achievement in cake decorating thusfar.  I actually made it in June of last year; I have no idea why it's taken me so long to get it on the blog. 

My neighbor Jenny had a daughter graduating from high school, and they were a part of a homeschool co-op that had several graduates.  They were having a ceremony and reception and Jenny requested that I make the cake for them.  I was extremely honored that I would be asked for such an occasion, as I had only made cakes for my own children up to that point, and I'm completely self-taught.  I browsed through some cake decorating websites to get some inspiration and asked Jenny for input on what she had in mind before I committed.  It was a little nerve-wracking to be making a cake for 60+ people, and for such a special event as well!  (I mean, my kids sure don't care or even notice if I mess up something on their birthday cakes).

This was what we came up with for the idea.  There was only one problem.  I had no idea how to pipe roses.  I ended up buying a Wilton Cake decorating book, which is lovely and very informational on lots of things....but ultimately it was watching tons of youtube videos that helped me catch on.  That and the hours of practicing.  :)
I ended up making the roses a few days in advance and saving them in the fridge (carefully stored on wax paper in plastic containers) so that when the cake was ready, I could just slide them on wherever I wanted them. 

So the bottom of the cake was a half-sheet chocolate cake, the top layer was a 13 x 9" vanilla cake.  All the frosting was regular Wilton recipe buttercream, except the fondant scroll on top.  That was homemade marshmallow fondant

I had quite a time with the writing.  I originally intended to paint on the names, so I bought this gold glittery stuff that you add a little clear vanilla extract to for making it like paint....only even with the tiniest paintbrush I could find, it wouldn't paint the letters clearly enough.  So back to Michael's I went to get edible markers.  Supposedly they're good for writing on fondant.  For my purposes, that didn't work either.  The tips were too big for fine print and the yellow color just didn't show up.
My final solution was to just tint some buttercream yellow and pipe on the letters.  I have terrible handwriting, so I found a font I liked and typed out the list of names, then printed it in the exact size I would need for the scroll.  I copied a faint outline of all the words on the fondant with a toothpick, then wrote over it with the frosting.  I was so nervous about that part!  It turned out really nice, though, leaving me wondering why I hadn't chosen to go that route in the first place. 

I was very pleased with the final product and I think it was well received by everyone.  I sure learned a lot in the process and had a great time seeing it all come together.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Chocolate Zucchini Bread

Got a zucchini surplus from your garden?  This is the perfect way to use some of it up.  We didn't plant zucchini this year because of the poor results we had last year (that is to say, 0 zucchini and diseased plants) but there are pretty good deals at most of the grocery stores on it now so we're eating it pretty frequently.

One day I remembered I had this recipe tucked away in a folder, not having been used in several years.  That is a crying shame, I tell you.  This recipe deserves to be made all throughout the year, especially during zucchini season.

Now, I have two daughters who don't like zucchini at all, and a son who thought that zucchini in a bread would be gross.  He almost didn't even want to taste it.
One bite later, they were all converted.

"This is like CAKE!"
"You don't even need frosting!"
"I want this for my birthday cake!"
"I want this for my birthday BREAKFAST!"
"This is the best chocolate bread EVER!"

Yeah, those are the comments I heard from my kids.
And they are right.  It is like cake, it definitely doesn't need frosting, and it is certainly birthday meal worthy, although probably we'll make something else for the actual "cake".

It really is one of my favorite recipes, all the way around.  And one of the best parts - you get two loaves, which becomes seriously necessary once people taste it and can't stop eating it.

Recipe (adapted from Allrecipes)

2 (1 oz) squares unsweetened chocolate
3 eggs
1-1/2 c. white sugar
2/3 c. applesauce
1/3 c. oil  (I used expeller-pressed coconut oil)
2 c. grated zucchini (about 1-1/2 medium)
1 t. vanilla extract
2 c. white whole wheat flour (you can use all purpose if you want)
1 t. baking soda
1 t. salt
1 t. ground cinnamon
3/4 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350°.
Lightly grease two 9x5 inch loaf pans.
In a microwave safe bowl, microwave unsweetened chocolate until melted. Stir occasionally until chocolate is smooth.
In a large bowl, combine eggs, sugar, applesauce, oil, grated zucchini, vanilla and melted chocolate; beat well.
Stir in the flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.  Fold in the chocolate chips.  Pour batter into prepared loaf pans.
Bake in preheated oven for 45-50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a loaf comes out clean.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Black Bean Burgers

We're trying something new around here.  I've been reading a lot about meats and the products you injest when you eat conventional meats (the growth hormones, antibiotics, affects of genetically modified organisms that are in the feed of most meat animals, all that stuff), and needless to say, it's grossing me out.

Now I'm not about to turn vegetarian - but I figure that since organic meat is crazy expensive and local farmers are extremely uncommon around here, it wouldn't hurt us to consume less meat products and obtain protein from other sources for a few meals a week.  
I've even convinced my carnivore husband of it, and he's agreed to have at least one or two dinners a week that don't include meat. 
However, since he is doing P90X and needs lots of protein for all that muscle building he's doing, just veggie-based meals won't cut it.  We're trying to incorporate more beans and brown rice into our diet, so black bean burgers seemed a natural choice.

This was a first for everyone in my family.  Not only had I never made black bean burgers, I had never eaten one either.  I don't think Grant had either.  So I have no point of reference with which to compare this recipe, I can only comment on whether we liked it or not. 

The general consensus - we did.

Corban (7) wasn't a huge fan, he liked the taste of the burger but just didn't enjoy it on a bun.  I have to admit, it was a bit strange to be looking at something like a burger but experiencing a texture completely different.  I did really like the flavor of the burgers, although I think I might enjoy it more wrapped up in a tortilla or maybe a pita bread. Just so I'm not expecting a real burger sort of meal. 

Grant loved the leftovers - he just ate them plain without buns for his lunch the next day.

Note:  The original recipe called for 1/4 c. fresh cilantro, which I omitted because of certain people I love who despise it.  It also called for a minced shallot - I just used some onion powder, because I don't normally ever keep shallots on hand. 

Recipe: (adapted from Annie's Eats)

3/4 cup panko
3 T. plus 2 tsp. olive oil, divided
2 (15 oz) cans black beans, drained and rinsed, divided
2 large eggs
1 t. cumin
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. cayenne pepper
1 red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and finely diced
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped (optional)
1/2 t. onion powder

Place a medium skillet over medium-high heat.  Combine the panko with 2 tsp. of the olive oil and mix with a fork to blend. Add the mixture to the skillet and toast the panko, stirring frequently, until light golden brown.   Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.

Place 2-1/2 cups of the beans in a large bowl and mash with a potato masher or a fork until mostly smooth.  In a separate bowl, combine the eggs, 1 T. of the oil, cumin, salt, and cayenne.  Whisk to blend.  Add the egg mixture, toasted panko, remaining 1/2 c. beans, bell pepper, cilantro (if using), and onion powder to the bowl with the mashed beans.  Stir together until evenly combined.  

Divide the mixture into 6 equal portions (I made about 8), about 1/2 c. each.  Lightly pack into 1-inch patties.  (At this point, the patties can be covered tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerated for up to 24 hours before cooking.)  Heat 1 T. of the oil in a large skillet over medium heat until shimmering.

Carefully lay half of the patties in the skillet and cook until well browned on both sides, about 8-10 minutes total. Transfer the cooked burgers to a plate, tent with foil, and repeat with the remaining oil and bean patties. Serve warm.  I melted some cheddar cheese on half, and pepper jack on the other half.  

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Visit from the Grandparents - Summer 2011 Part 2

A few more photos of our fun time with Grant's parents are in order......somehow we failed to get downloaded the fishing photos that Grandpa took, so hopefully he can email those to us and I can add those....some pretty cool shots of the guys catching small sharks!  

Beach time!  Ellia was obviously having a good time.

Marissa - loves the pool!

Annika - our little fish.

Slightly chilly Ellia with Grandpa

Getting a lesson from Grandpa on different aircraft at a local park.
Annika was just unhappy about mosquitoes.

Swinging time!

Visit to our Yankee Candle Factory Flagship store - the kids' first time there.

The kids all dipped candles - lots of fun.

Corban got to make a wax mold of his hand....he loved it!

Grandma and Ellia.

Annika and Grandpa

Grant's brother Eric came down for one of the fishing trips and the guys came back with a few crabs - he cooked them and taught us all how to properly eat a crab.  

A little surprisingly, Annika was the hugest fan of crab meat - she's our little seafood fanatic!

Last day of the visit- all the kids with grandparents.  

Friday, July 15, 2011

Gooey Cookies and Cream Chocolate Cake Bars

Can you EVEN.
I mean, really.
These take ridiculous to a whole new level.
Nothing nutritious about them, not one single crumb.
Chocolate to the hilt.  A chocoholic's dream come true, if you want to know the truth.
Can you see the gooeyness?  (spell check says that isn't a word.  I don't care.)

Thankfully, I made these for Grant's work potluck, not for us at home, because otherwise I could be guilty of consuming a day's worth of calories in about 5 minutes.

The recipe comes from Jenny at Picky Palate, who has some of the craziest ideas for new recipes.  I would never have thought of something like this.  I guess that's the reason she's been to the Pillsbury Bake-Off and other national cooking contests and I haven't.

1 devils food cake mix
1 stick of butter (1/2 cup), room temperature
1 egg
14 chocolate sandwich cookies (like Oreos)
1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk
1-1/2 cups chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350°.
Line a 13 x 9" pan with foil and spray with cooking spray.
In a mixing bowl, combine cake mix, butter, and egg.  Use your hands and just mash it all together until it's well mixed.  Press evenly into prepared pan.
Break cookies into pieces and sprinkle evenly over cake.
Drizzle the sweetened condensed milk over the cookies.
Sprinkle chocolate chips over the top of it all.
Bake for 23-25 minutes.
Allow to cool for 5 minutes, then run a knife around the edges to loosen from foil.  Allow to cool completely.  Use foil to remove from pan and cut into pieces.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Fruit Pizza

It was my turn to make food for our small group from church last week, and I decided to do a pizza night.  I made 2 large pizzas in cookie sheets, one half cheese, half veggie (with zucchini, tomatoes, and green peppers) and the other barbecue chicken bacon.  For dessert - pizza again.  Yum!

I realize there are lots of variations on fruit pizza out there, so I won't make any claims that this is the best one, but it sure was delicious and popular with kids and adults alike.  I made two, so I doubled this recipe.  I think the ratio of topping, fruit, and cookie were balanced very nicely - nothing was overpowering or dominating and it was just plain good.  The cookie was nice and soft, but never got soggy.  Fresh fruit can get iffy in quality if left in the fridge for too long, so I recommend eating the leftovers by the next day.  That wasn't a problem for my family.

My kids are already begging me to make it again.

Recipe (adapted from Allrecipes, decorating idea from Finding Joy in my Kitchen)

1/2 c. butter, room temperature
2/3 c. white sugar
1 egg
1 t. vanilla extract
1-1/4 c. all purpose flour
1/2 t. cream of tartar
1/2 t. baking soda
1/4 t. salt

4 oz  cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 c. powdered sugar
1 t. vanilla extract
2 oz frozen whipped topping, thawed

Fresh fruit - I used strawberries and kiwi (peaches, blueberries, mandarin oranges, raspberries, blackberries, pineapple, mango, or most other fruits are possibilities as well!)

Preheat oven to 350°.  Lightly grease a pizza pan.

In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar until smooth.  Add egg and vanilla and mix well.  In a separate bowl, combine flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt.  Add to butter mixture and stir well.

Gently press into the prepared pizza pan.  Don't worry about getting all the way to the edges - as the cookie bakes, it will expand.  I left at least 1 to 1-1/2 inches space around the edge.

Bake for 8-12 minutes, or until cookie is lightly browned around the edges and set in the middle.  Cool completely.

Beat the cream cheese, powdered sugar, and vanilla until smooth and creamy.  Fold in the whipped topping until well combined.  Spread over the cooled crust.  Arrange sliced fruit on top as desired.  Chill until serving. Refrigerate leftovers.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Iny's Prune Cake

When I first read the Pioneer Woman's post about this prune cake, I was dubious.  I mean, really.  Who in the world has ever heard of a prune cake?  ((her, apparently))
What could it possibly taste like? 
Not that I think prunes are gross or anything, I actually kind of like them (but not pure prune juice, blech), but I just would never have thought of making a cake out of them. 

Then I got her cookbook and saw the cake was in there too.  Okay, it had to be seriously good or she wouldn't have featured it in a cookbook. 

I finally buckled down and made it when my in-laws were here. 
Obviously not a fancy or beautiful cake, I was very excited to take that first bite and see if it was worth all the hype. 
And I have to say, I loved it. 
It's incredibly moist, sweet, gooey even.....
just delicious.  And you feel healthy because you're eating dried plums in every bite.  :)

Note:  I think this cake would be just fine with substituting some applesauce for part of the oil.  At least half of it, maybe even all of it.  That would make it a LOT lower in fat.

Recipe: from the Pioneer Woman (Iny was her great-grandmother)

1 cup prunes
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 cup canola oil (substitute applesauce if desired)
1-1/2 cups flour
1 t. baking soda
1 t. nutmeg
1 t. allspice
1 t. cinnamon
1 cup buttermilk
1 t. vanilla extract

1 cup sugar
1/2 c. buttermilk
1/2 t. baking soda
1 T. white corn syrup
1/4 c. butter
1/2 t. vanilla

Preheat oven to 300°.
Cover prunes with water.  Bring to a boil and cook until soft and mashable, about eight minutes.  Remove from heat, drain water, and mash on a plate with a fork.  Set aside.
Mix together oil, sugar, and eggs.  In a separate bowl, sift together dry ingredients.  Combine wet and dry
ingredients, add buttermilk and vanilla and stir gently until just combined.  Add the mashed prunes and stir gently again. DO NOT OVERMIX!
Pour batter into a buttered baking dish (13 x 9") and bake for 35-40 minutes.  Do NOT overbake!
While cake has 5 minutes remaining, make the icing:
Combine all icing ingredients in a medium saucepan over medium heat and bring to a slow boil. Boil without stirring for 5-7 minutes or until icing starts to turn dark.  Do NOT allow icing to reach soft ball stage; icing should be caramel in color, but not sticky like caramel.  Icing should be easily pourable.
Pour icing on hot cake.  Allow to rest on the counter.  Serve warm.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Visit from the Grandparents - Summer 2011

We had a visit from Grant's parents this spring, from the end of May until the middle of June.  We had lots of fun activities, not the least of which was Grant and I getting our first night away alone (since having children) to  have an early celebration of our 10th anniversary (coming up tomorrow!).  We also got another weekend away to attend the VA homeschool convention, which was truly amazing and a lovely thing to experience without worrying about the kids.  

Here are some pictures of other things that happened:

 Marissa learned to ride a bike without training wheels.....awesome!
(I love the blur of Annika, running fast)

We went to the Living Museum and explored their new Butterfly Exhibit - here the kids are working together to move along like a caterpillar.

 Annika the Spider is about to devour her prey (Marissa).

 Flying like a butterfly on a zipline.

 We loved the live butterfly garden outside.  

 Corban got to participate in a demonstration during a little workshop. 

 We also made a trip to the beach on a gorgeous day - Ellia here with her shades on (didn't stay on for long).

 Grandpa and Ellia.

 Grandma and Marissa

 Annika digging.

 Ellia wasn't crazy about the water but sure liked carrying around a shovel.

 Grandma and Ellia

 Marissa learning to use a boogy board.
She loved it!

 My three girls.

Ellia was so funny about not wanting her hands to get dirty....she would do whatever she could to stand up without touching the ground.  

More pictures coming up soon!  

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Sweet and Sour Chicken

When Grant came home and smelled this cooking, he immediately declared, "I bet this will become a new family favorite."  After he tasted it, he confirmed his suspicion.  He absolutely loved it!  I thought it was excellent as well, and all of the kids gobbled it up but my lone green pepper hater.  It was even good as leftovers, although it's best the first day. 
The chicken is lightly breaded and fried before being smothered with sauce and baked to delicious completion to be served over rice, extra sauce optional.  I think this is a great dinner to take to someone in need, serve to company, or just to have for a weeknight meal.  It's bound to be a crowd-pleaser.

I added a green pepper because I thought it would be good - it was.  We determined that chunks of pineapple would be delicious baked with it also.  Haven't tried it yet, but I'm sure it would be good. 

Recipe: adapted slightly from Mel's Kitchen Cafe

*Note: if you like extra sauce (we did), double the sauce ingredients – pour half over the chicken and follow the baking directions in the recipe and pour the other half in a small saucepan. Cook the sauce on the stovetop at a simmer for 8-10 minutes until it reduces and thickens. Serve it on the side of the chicken.

3-4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Salt and pepper
1 cup cornstarch (
I used arrowroot powder, and needed an extra 1/4 cup)
2 eggs, beaten  (
I ended up needing 3 eggs - maybe I had larger chicken breasts)
1/4 cup canola oil

1 green pepper, cut into pieces (optional)
Chunks of pineapple (optional)

Cut boneless chicken breasts into chunks. Season with salt and pepper. Dip chicken in cornstarch and then in egg. Fry in a little oil until brown but not cooked through. Place in a single layer in a baking dish. Add pepper and pineapple if desired. Mix sauce ingredients (below) together and pour over chicken.

¾ cup sugar
4 tablespoons ketchup
½ cup vinegar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon garlic salt

Bake for 30 minutes at 350°. Turn chicken every 15 minutes so it is evenly coated with the sauce. Serve over rice.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Chocolate Raspberry Cupcakes

A triumph.

That's the best way I can describe this cake.  Why?

Grant is typically not a huge fan of from-scratch cakes.  He nearly always prefers cakes from a mix, whether doctored up or not.  After tasting these cupcakes, he declared that not only is this his favorite cupcake ever, it is also his favorite chocolate cake, EVER.  I could hardly believe it, except I felt the same way about it.  It's so incredibly moist, tender, chocolaty, you just don't want to stop eating it. The cake recipe is actually very similar to the Raspberry Chocolate Cake I made at Christmas last year, except it has more chocolate and a bit more buttermilk.
So what makes these cupcakes even more special?  When you bite into them, you find a delightful surprise of a rich homemade raspberry filling adding a burst of flavor to every mouthful.  Add to that a fluffy raspberry buttercream frosting, and you have one of the best desserts I have ever eaten.

Notes: The recipe I followed said it yielded 24-28 cupcakes, yet I got 36 full-size cupcakes out of the batter.
The filling was enough for about 24 cupcakes.  The cupcakes without the filling were also amazing, and some of the children preferred them that way.
I had a small amount of frosting left over, which like all homemade frostings, was delicious on graham crackers! 

Recipe: (Cake and filling from Smitten Kitchen, frosting adapted from Annie's Eats)

3 oz semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
1-1/2 cups hot brewed coffee
3 cups sugar
2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1-1/2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder
2 t. baking soda
3/4 t. baking powder
1-1/4 t. salt
3 large eggs
3/4 cup oil (canola)
1-1/2 cups buttermilk
3/4 t. vanilla extract

1 (12 oz) bag frozen raspberries, thawed
1/4 cup sugar
1 T. cornstarch

2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup seedless raspberry jam
6 cups powdered sugar
1 T. raspberry liqueur (optional)

I recommend starting by making the filling.
Put the thawed berries in a blender or food processor and puree until smooth.  Press through a fine mesh strainer into a saucepan to remove seeds.  (This is time-consuming, took me close to half an hour).
Add sugar and cornstarch and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring frequently.  Once it has thickened, remove from heat.  Chill while making the cupcakes.

To make the cupcakes, preheat oven to 350°.  Line cupcake pans with paper liners.  Place the chopped chocolate in a medium bowl; add the hot coffee and let stand a minute or two, then whisk until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth. 
In a large mixing bowl, combine the sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the eggs on medium-high speed until slightly thickened and pale yellow.  Slowly add the oil, buttermilk, vanilla, and melted chocolate mixture to the eggs, mixing until well blended.  Add the dry ingredients and beat on medium-low speed  just until incorporated. 
Divide the batter evenly between the prepared cupcake liners, filling each about 3/4 of the way full.  Bake 15-20 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Allow to cool in the pan 5-10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the frosting, beat the butter and jam until smooth.  Add the powdered sugar, one cup at a time and beat after each addition.  Add the raspberry liqueur if desired.  Beat on high until light and fluffy.

To assemble the cupcakes, place the raspberry filling in a pastry bag.  (I used a plain round small tip).  Stick the tip into the top of each cupcake and squeeze to insert a couple of teaspoons of filling into each cupcake.  When you can see the top moving upwards and the filling just starting to ooze out, stop piping! 
Place the frosting in another pastry bag (I used a 2D large star tip).  Pipe frosting onto each cupcake in desired pattern. 

Cupcakes do not need to be refrigerated.

This post is linked to the Ultimate Recipe Swap: Chocolate, and Finding Joy in My Kitchen
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