Happy Valentine’s Day

Hope you’re spending it with someone fun.

I know I’ve sucked at blogging lately…just so much going on I barely  have time to find my kitchen, much less cook. Had an interesting interaction the other day that gave me some ideas of things I might like to blog about – food related – that aren’t necessarily recipes. More on that as I have time. It could be fun.

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Friday Recipe Exchange: Valentine’s Sweets

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I am not anti-Valentine’s Day, just don’t like all the expectations around it. In my mind, the best thing you can do is spend time in the kitchen together, followed by a movie or favorite show marathon. I’ve been wooed with the whole restaurant (crowded, rushed staff), flowers (overpriced), and chocolates (oh, who am I kidding, chocolate is never bad) and it was never as much fun as staying home and cooking something delicious.

Now don’t get me wrong – take me out for a hot air balloon ride, helicopter over the beach, or an impromptu night away, and I’m not going to complain and say, hey, let’s stay home instead. But most of the time, I’m good with some chocolate covered strawberries and a good grilled steak.

With that in mind, I’ve picked out some favorite sweet treats you can make and share:

JeffreyW and Mrs. J made an awesome batch of Chocolate Éclairs (pictured above), complete with slideshow (here) and video (here).

I love a good Molten Chocolate Cake, recipe here.

Quick, easy and cute, Peanut Butter Kiss Cookies are always a hit, recipe here.

I have a complete Valentine’s Dinner here, if you need ideas.

What’s on your plate for the weekend? How about Valentine’s Day, it’s a week off, but got any plans?

Tonight’s featured recipe is a foolproof and yummy cake that’s quick and easy – the perfect way to end a nice Valentine’s dinner:

Mocha Cake

This is a pudding cake – which is basically an extra-large lava cake.  And to make it even tastier, I substitute coffee for the boiling water.   It doesn’t get any simpler than this.

  • 1 cup flour
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ½ cup milk
  • 3 tbsp oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla

====

  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 cup very hot coffee**
  • 8×8 inch baking dish, lightly oiled

Preheat oven to 350°

This is a pudding style cake, so you don’t want to over bake it. You’ll serve it warm and directly from the pan. When you cut into it, a thick, gooey chocolate center will be revealed.

From the top list: combine flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder & salt. Combine milk, oil, & vanilla, mix well and add to flour mixture. Stir well. Pour batter into baking dish.

From the bottom list: combine sugar & cocoa and sprinkle over batter. Pour hot coffee over batter – DO NOT stir. Bake for 30 minutes or until center springs back when touched, do not over bake.

** for a stronger coffee flavor, double the ground coffee to water ratio when brewing, or use espresso.

That’s it for this week. I won’t be around next weekend, so no recipe exchange, so have a Happy Valentine’s Day. I’ll try and get a Bixby update over the weekend, he’s a little pill, really coming into his own strong personality. Did I mention, strong?  – TaMara

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Dinner Menu: Valentine’s Day Dishes

Since Valentine’s Day falls on a Friday this year, I thought it was a good time to repeat my annual holiday menu. I prefer this to going out to a crowded restaurant. Easy to fix, but looks and tastes quite elegant. From 2010:

JeffreyW shoots a cornish game hen, served with broccoli and rice

JeffreyW shoots a cornish game hen, served with broccoli and rice

Every year around this time, one of my local grocers offers Cornish Game Hens in packages where they are cut in half. I decided I needed to do something with this idea, so the Valentine’s menu was born. When they are cut in half, it reduced cooking time enough for the recipe to be workable on a week night. Since Valentine’s falls on a Sunday this year, using whole game hens seems reasonable, too. Longer cooking time, but worth it. In case you’re feeling really ambitious, click here for JeffreyW’s wonderful stuffing recipe.  And if you’re looking for a more elegant dessert for Valentine’s Day try this recipe for Raspberry-Chocolate Cupcakes in Raspberry Sauce.

On the board tonight:

  1. Cornish Game Hens w/Stuffing
  2. Buttered Peas and Carrots
  3. Tossed Salad
  4. Peanut Butter Kiss Cookies

Cornish game hen

Cornish Game Hens

  • 2 pkgs. stuffing mix
  • 2 tbsp butter, melted
  • ½ cup boiling water or chicken broth
  • 4 Cornish game hens, cut in half *
  • ¼ cup butter
  • 1 tsp crushed rosemary
  • 2 tsp sage
  • 1 tsp crushed garlic
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp pepper

9×13 glass baking dish

Add stuffing mix, 2 tbsp melted butter and boiling water to baking dish, stir & spread evenly over bottom of baking dish. Lay hens cut side down over stuffing (it’s a tight fit, but you should be able to get all 8 halves in the 13×9 pan). Melt remaining butter, add spices and mix well. Brush some over hens and continue to baste every 10-15 minutes while baking. Bake at 350 to 375° until internal temperature is 175 ° about 45 minutes. Remove, cover loosely with foil and let sit for 10 minutes before serving.  Serves 4

*Hens will have to thawed completely and you’ll need a sharp knife to cut them in half. You can check with your butcher to see if they’ll cut them for you. If you don’t want to cut them in half, cook them whole and allow 1 hour 10 minutes cooking time.

Peanut Butter Kiss Cookies

Preheat oven to 375°

  • ¾ cup chunky peanut butter
  • ½ cup butter (1 stick)
  • 1 ¼ cup packed brown sugar
  • 3 tbsp milk
  • 1 tbsp vanilla
  • 1 egg
  • 1 ¾ cup flour
  • ¾ tsp salt
  • ¾ tsp baking soda
  • 13-16 oz bag Hershey’s Kisses

2 bowls and baking sheet

Combine peanut butter, butter, sugar, milk and vanilla in bowl. Beat with mixer on medium speed until well blended. Add egg, beat until blended. In small bowl, combine flour, salt & soda. Add to creamed mixture at low-speed until just blended (don’t over mix). Scrape sides and bottom and make sure all flour is mixed. Drop by heaping teaspoon full onto baking sheet, unwrap kisses and press 1 into each cookie. Bake for 7-8 minutes. Remove to racks and cool.

Shopping List:

  • 2 pkgs. stuffing mix
  • 2 sticks butter
  • 4 Cornish game hens, cut in half if possible
  • chunky peanut butter
  • 1 ¼ cup packed brown sugar
  • 13-16 oz bag Hershey’s Kisses
  • 1 egg
  • 16 oz bag frozen peas and carrots
  • Tossed salad ingredients

Also: rosemary, sage, crushed garlic, salt, pepper, milk, flour, baking soda, chicken broth

Friday Night Recipe Exchange: Sweet Treats

Coconut Lemon Cake c2011 W4DS

Coconut Lemon Cake

Something about frigid temps makes me crave sweets. So when I was thinking about tonight’s recipes, that is what I was drawn to and lemon themed recipes rose to the top. I suppose because it brings with it a reminder of warmer climates. Which is where I am headed later in the month. Beach weather. I’ll be the pale, wind swept one by the eucalyptus tree.

One of my favorite tangy, sweet desserts is Sour Cream Lemon Poppyseeed Cake, yum, recipe here.

Sliced Lemon Poppy Seed

Since next week bring with it the ultimate date night, I thought it would be a good idea to include some special sweets: Valentine’s Day Peanut Butter Kiss Cookies, recipe here and Valentine’s Chocolates, recipes here.

Which is a good time to let you know there will be no recipe exchange next Friday. Do you have Valentine’s plans? Do you go out or stay home and cook? Or do you ignore it all together? (You should probably make sure your romantic partner is on board with that, if that’s your plan. Right?) And during these cold, cold days, what do you like to cook?

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Let’s not leave JeffreyW out of the mix, he and Mrs. J spent the cold week giving their kitchen a work out and this is one of the recipes that fortified them. Peanut Butter Granola Bars, click here.

And finally, tonight’s featured recipe (pictured at top):

Lemon Coconut Layer Cake

I have a friend who loves coconut cream pie.  I’m not a big fan, so I’ve never made one.  But when I saw a photo of a coconut-lemon cake, I thought she might like it, so I gave it a whirl.  The original cake was 6-layers, I just couldn’t fathom that, so I reduced it to a 4-layer cake.  Layering is easier to do if you use pie pans instead of cake pans.  This eliminates the need to cut each cake in half to achieve thin, even layers.  This cake works best if made the night before.  Refrigerate so the lemon filling stays firm. And shredded coconut covers any number of baking sins.

Coconut Cake:

  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • ½ cup butter
  • 1 ½ cup sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 1/2 cups sifted flour
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 13 oz coconut milk
  • 3 eggs, separated

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour 9-inch pie pans

Cream the butter in a mixer until light and fluffy. Gradually add the sugar and beat until very light, 2 to 3 minutes. Beat in the egg yolks, blending well.

Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt and add to the creamed mixture in 3 parts, alternating with the coconut milk, and beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Add the vanilla and beat to thoroughly combine.

In a clean bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff, and then gently fold into the cake batter. Divide evenly and pour into the pans, spreading to the edges. Bake until a toothpick inserted into one of the cakes comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Cool 15 minutes. Loosen and invert onto racks to cool completely.

Lemon cream filling:

  • 2 egg yolks, beaten
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon butter

Combine the egg yolks, sugar, cornstarch, water, lemon juice, lemon zest and butter in the top of a double boiler set over, but not touching, boiling water. Cook, stirring, until thick and creamy, about 5 or 6 minutes.  Cool thoroughly before spreading on the cake layers.

Okay, so all the recipes for lemon filling wanted a double-boiler.  I started with one, but after 5 minutes of stirring and not thickening, I changed over to a saucepan and whisked it for 5 minutes while it boiled and thickened and had no issues with it burning or sticking.  High altitude may have been the reason for my original troubles.  Water boils at a lower temperature here, so the double boiler may not have offered enough heat to thicken the sauce.

Butter Cream Frosting:

  • 3 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 6 tbsp butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  •  ¼ cup coconut milk
  • 2 cups shredded coconut

With a mixer, mix together sugar and butter. Mix on low speed until well blended and then increase speed to medium and beat for another 3 minutes.

Add vanilla and milk and continue to beat on medium speed for 1 minute more, adding more cream if needed for spreading consistency.

To assemble: Place first layer on cake plate, bottom side up, spread with a third of the lemon filling, sprinkle with coconut, place next layer, bottom side up, repeat and again with the third layer.  Place fourth layer, top side up.  Frost and garnish with more shredded coconut.

That’s it for this week. On Monday the full dinner menu and shopping list will post and it will be a Valentine’s dinner if you need ideas. Happy Valentine’s Day! – TaMara

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Friday Recipe Exchange: En Papillote


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Let’s start with a few housekeeping tasks: First, stay safe today if you’re in the snow path (SNOWMYGAWD!) and second, the latest Katie-on-the-run update is here.  In the shadow of the Rockies we are expecting about 4 inches of the white suff Saturday.

So Valentine’s Day. I’m not a fan. I’m not anti-Valentine’s Day anymore than I’m anti-New Year’s Eve. But I am of the opinion that going out to a restaurant on Valentine’s day is a recipe for disaster: so-so food and rushed service, even at the best restaurants.  Instead, I like to cook – ok, I guess that’s nothing new.  One of my favorite menus for the big day is here. This year I was looking for something new. I’d been thinking for a while about testing out a recipe “en papillote”, quite literally, in parchment. I thought this would make for a special dinner.

I tested out two types of parchment – the first was a parchment bag and the second was parchment lined foil. Below you’ll find detailed instructions and a couple of simple recipes.

But first, what are your plans for Valentine’s? Do you go out, do you cook and most importantly, is there chocolate?

1Parchments styles

In any of these recipes you can use plain parchment, as well. With the parchment paper – plain or foil lined, you start by cutting it into a heart shape. I cut it at 16″ long, but it probably would have been ok at 12 inches.

I focused on chicken, but the technique is often used for fish. Kirk Spencer has a lovely stuffed fish recipe here.  You can adapt any of these recipes to fish or chicken. The key is to make sure you have enough liquid and you make a tight seal in order to poach/steam the ingredients.

The recipes were pretty simple. In the parchment bag, I placed carrot and zucchini sticks, a chicken breast and drizzled with lemon butter, garlic, rosemary and sage. I added a bit of butter and lemon slices on top.

1Parchment Bag

On the parchment I put cooked rice, vegetable curls (using the vegetable peeler), chicken breast and drizzled with soy sauce and rice vinegar.

Foil Parchment

Then fold up the edges and seal tightly. I really like the foil for this, it was easy to roll up and seal.

Foil Parchment closed

While you’re putting everything together, preheat the oven to 400 degrees and heat a baking sheet. Place the sealed packets on the heated baking sheet. Bake for about 15-18 minutes, until chicken is cooked through.

Cooked Packets

You can serve it on the plates in the packets or plate it up. I like having the packets.

All in all, I think I  preferred the parchment with the foil back. It was as easy to deal with as the parchment bag, a bit easier to arrange the ingredients, it sealed better and I think the presentation is prettier.

Final 2

The best part of this cooking method is that it was easy, quick, no clean-up and made a fun plate.  Leaves plenty of time to make the fancy chocolate dessert.  Have a happy Valentine’s Day!

Valentine’s Chocolates

Photo from FoodNetwork.com

I’ve never done a Molten Lava Cake.  I’ve always wanted to, just haven’t gotten around to it.  I hear they are very easy.  I googled around to find one that had good ratings.  The recipes vary greatly, so I decided to go to a reliable source:  The Pioneer Woman.  She liked this recipe from Tasty Kitchen.

Molten Chocolate Cake – by Brandielle

  • 4 pieces (squares) Semi-sweet Baking Chocolate
  • ½ cups Butter
  • 1 cup Powdered Sugar
  • 2 whole Eggs
  • 2 whole Egg Yolks
  • 6 Tablespoons Flour
  • 2 cups Real Whipping Cream (seriously It’s So Much Better!)
  • 2 Tablespoons Sugar

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Spray 4 custard cups with Pam and place on cookie sheet.

Microwave chocolate and butter in large bowl on high for about 1 minute, until butter is melted. whisk until chocolate is also melted.

Stir in sugar until well blended. Whisk in eggs and egg yolks. Stir in flour.

Divide between cups.

Bake 13-14 minutes until sides are firm and center is soft. Let stand 1 minute.

Combine sugar and heavy cream and whip until stiff.

Invert cakes on dishes and top with whipped cream.

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I do make a mean pudding cake – which is basically an extra-large lava cake.  And to make it even tastier, I substitute coffee for the boiling water.   It doesn’t get any simpler than this:

Mocha Cake

  • 1 cup flour
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ½ cup milk
  • 3 tbsp oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla

====

  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 cup very hot coffee**
  • 8×8 inch baking dish, lightly oiled

Preheat oven to 350°

This is a pudding style cake, so you don’t want to over bake it. You’ll serve it warm and directly from the pan. When you cut into it a thick, gooey chocolate center will be revealed.

From the top list: combine flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder & salt. Combine milk, oil, & vanilla, mix well and add to flour mixture. Stir well. Pour batter into baking dish. From the bottom list: combine sugar & cocoa and sprinkle over batter. Pour hot coffee over batter – DO NOT stir. Bake for 30 minutes or until center springs back when touched, do not over bake.

** for a stronger coffee flavor, double the ground coffee to water ratio, or use espresso.

Also, for a fun read, head over to The Pioneer Woman.

Thursday Night Menu: Valentine’s Day Edition

I’m travelling this week, so there will not be a new Thursday Night Menu.  Since it is Valentine’s Weekend, I thought I would go ahead and repost the menu from last year.  Why eat a mediocre dinner at an over-crowded restaurant when you can make a delicious and easy dinner at home for Valentine’s?  And it really is easy.  From 2010:

JeffreyW shoots a cornish game hen, served with broccoli and rice

Every year around this time, one of my local grocers offers Cornish Game Hens in packages where they are cut in half. I decided I needed to do something with this idea, so the Valentine’s menu was born. When they are cut in half, it reduced cooking time enough for the recipe to be workable on a week night. Since Valentine’s falls on a Sunday this year, using whole game hens seems reasonable, too. Longer cooking time, but worth it. In case you’re feeling really ambitious, click here for JeffreyW’s wonderful stuffing recipe.  And if you’re looking for a more elegant dessert for Valentine’s Day try this recipe for Raspberry-Chocolate Cupcakes in Raspberry Sauce.

On the board tonight:

  1. Cornish Game Hens w/Stuffing
  2. Buttered Peas and Carrots
  3. Tossed Salad
  4. Peanut Butter Kiss Cookies

Cornish Game Hens

  • 2 pkgs. stuffing mix
  • 2 tbsp butter, melted
  • ½ cup boiling water or chicken broth
  • 4 Cornish game hens, cut in half *
  • ¼ cup butter
  • 1 tsp crushed rosemary
  • 2 tsp sage
  • 1 tsp crushed garlic
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp pepper

9×13 glass baking dish

Add stuffing mix, 2 tbsp melted butter and boiling water to baking dish, stir & spread evenly over bottom of baking dish. Lay hens cut side down over stuffing (it’s a tight fit, but you should be able to get all 8 halves in the 13×9 pan). Melt remaining butter, add spices and mix well. Brush some over hens and continue to baste every 10-15 minutes while baking. Bake at 350 to 375° until internal temperature is 175 ° about 45 minutes. Remove, cover loosely with foil and let sit for 10 minutes before serving.  Serves 4

*Hens will have to thawed completely and you’ll need a sharp knife to cut them in half. You can check with your butcher to see if they’ll cut them for you. If you don’t want to cut them in half, cook them whole and allow 1 hour 10 minutes cooking time.

Peanut Butter Kiss Cookies

Preheat oven to 375°

  • ¾ cup chunky peanut butter
  • ½ cup butter (1 stick)
  • 1 ¼ cup packed brown sugar
  • 3 tbsp milk
  • 1 tbsp vanilla
  • 1 egg
  • 1 ¾ cup flour
  • ¾ tsp salt
  • ¾ tsp baking soda
  • 13-16 oz bag Hershey’s Kisses

2 bowls and baking sheet

Combine peanut butter, butter, sugar, milk and vanilla in bowl. Beat with mixer on medium speed until well blended. Add egg, beat until blended. In small bowl, combine flour, salt & soda. Add to creamed mixture at low-speed until just blended (don’t over mix). Scrape sides and bottom and make sure all flour is mixed. Drop by heaping teaspoon full onto baking sheet, unwrap kisses and press 1 into each cookie. Bake for 7-8 minutes. Remove to racks and cool.

Shopping List:

  • 2 pkgs. stuffing mix
  • 2 sticks butter
  • 4 Cornish game hens, cut in half if possible
  • chunky peanut butter
  • 1 ¼ cup packed brown sugar
  • 13-16 oz bag Hershey’s Kisses
  • 1 egg
  • 16 oz bag frozen peas and carrots
  • Tossed salad ingredients

Also: rosemary, sage, crushed garlic, salt, pepper, milk, flour, baking soda, chicken broth