Sunday, March 27, 2011

Recipe Snapshot: Best Ever Chocolate Layer Cake

Every year for his birthday, I offer to make my husband whatever cake he'd like.  Usually he flips through my recipes for inspiration, but this year, he searched online and told me he'd like me to make Ina Garten's chocolate layer cake. Every recipe of Ina's that I've tried has been delicious and pretty straightforward to follow, so I agreed. And wow, am I glad I did.  This is officially the best chocolate layer cake I've ever had.  And definitely the best cake I've ever made! My husband and his family (who shared the cake with us) loved the cake--even our two-and-a-half year-old nephew.

What makes this cake so special is the coffee.  If you're not a lover of coffee-flavored things, never fear.  For the most part, the coffee just amplifies the chocolate flavor.  It's a bit more noticeable in the frosting, but you can't even identify it in the cake itself.  The cake is light but firm, and not overly sweet.  The frosting was rich and smooth and totally delicious.  If there's a special occasion coming up and you need a great dessert, I totally suggest you try this cake.

Recipe below the cut!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Recipe Snapshot: Balsamic and Cherry Pork Chops

Some weeknights are tough for my husband and I, in terms of getting a decent homecooked meal.  I suppose that could have something to do with the fact that neither of us gets home from work until after 7 o'clock, but it's also because we both have jobs that are intellectual in nature, and some days I don't have the brain power to follow a recipe.  My husband sometimes wishes he could spell me from cooking duty, but cooking does not come naturally to him.  Every now and again, though, there's a recipe that is simple enough that either of these challenges can be overcome.  These balsamic and cherry pork chops fit the bill completely.  I can make it even when I feel braindead, and my husband can make it, as well, without too much coaching on my part.

A friend from work actually shared the original recipe with me a few years back, from Cooking Light.  I altered it slightly to suit our tastes (and what was available in my pantry), and it's become a regular in our weeknight dinner rotation. I usually serve these with couscous and a green vegetable (whatever I have on hand)--this last time it was simple sauteed spinach (a major upgrade from the boiled frozen spinach of childhood). It's because I'm midwestern by birth, I think--all meals need a protein, a starch, and a vegetable.  I can't help myself!

Recipe below the cut!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Recipe Snapshot: Dark Chocolate Mocha Brownies

In my house growing up, I don't remember my mom ever baking brownies.  My mom was far more likely to bake some fancy exotic sounding cookie.  Or homemade apple fritters.  Or a triple chocolate cheesecake.  So until recently, I didn't know one could bake brownies from scratch--I'd only ever made them from a boxed mix. Sometime last year I volunteered to make brownies for a baby shower at work--and decided to look for a recipe online.  I was so pleasantly surprised after I tried them--while from scratch brownies take more prep work than boxed brownies, they bake in less time.  And these were delicious.  I tweaked the recipe to suit my tastes, and I've been making them this way ever since, to delicious and well-received results.

My husband's birthday is tomorrow, so we celebrated this weekend.  We went to dinner with friends on Saturday, and my husband asked to have brownies and games at home after.  Blessedly, there are only a few leftover, as we don't really need the temptation!  The secret to these (other than the butter) is the little bit of instant coffee.  If you add just a little, the brownies don't taste like coffee, just really chocolatey.  But my husband likes coffee and chocolate together, so I added a little more than normal.  Result: yum!

Recipe below the cut!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Oscar Night Roundup

Whew.  This post will be a short one, as I am extremely busy with work these days, and still sort of worn out from Sunday night's festivities!  I made it through the workday on Monday mostly on adrenaline, and that's all gone now.  Oscar night was a great success.  I served two of the last three recipes I've shared here on the blog, and they were big hits with our guests! 

Here's a picture of the spread, minus a few things that were still in the oven.  I wish I could have gotten a picture of everything, but I was busy playing hostess and didn't get any pictures of the table when all the food went out.  Plus, certain items disappeared so quickly it was hard to get pictures. You can see my cute little gold stars that described all of the items.

The full menu, with links to recipes as appropriate:

  • Olives and cornichons
  • Crudités with sour cream dip (no recipe for the dip--just sour cream, a bit of mayo, some parsley, and some other herbs and seasonings depending on my mood)
  • Popcorn
  • Cheeses (manchego, fontina, sharp cheddar, and chevre with herbs), crackers
  • Sliced Spanish chorizo
  • Spinach dip (brought by a friend)
  • Ricotta and goat cheese crostini
  • Asian turkey meatballs with soy lime sauce (I made these about 1/3 the size as the regular recipe, and then baked at 400 degrees for 12 minutes.)
  • Cheddar puffs
  • Stuffed mushrooms
  • Chocolate covered strawberries
  • Dark chocolate mocha brownie bites (I baked for 28 minutes, so they were a bit firmer than I usually do, and then used a small round biscuit cutter to cut into small rounds)
The evening was a lot of fun, despite the fact that I had the poor taste to win my own Oscar pool.  Ha!  Until next year, friends!