Pina Colada Cake

This cake is one of my favorite desserts.  Pouring a syrup onto the cake while it’s still hot ensures that it’s super moist and oh-so-good.

Pina Colada Cake

Cake

1 8oz can crushed pineapple, drained

1/2 cup maraschino cherries, cut in half

1 box yellow cake mix

½ cup cream of coconut

½ cup sour cream

4eggs

1/3 cup canola oil

1/3 cup water

 

Syrup

1/4 cup sugar

¼ cup water

¼ cup light rum

Glaze

3 oz pkg cream cheese, softened

¼ cup cream of coconut

 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour a 12-cup Bundt pan.

Cake:  Spoon drained pineapple evenly into the bottom of the prepared Bundt pan. Lay the cherries evenly spaced on top of the pineapple.  In large mixer bowl, combine remaining cake ingredients.  Blend on low speed until mixed, then beat on medium for 3 minutes.  Pour into pan and bake approximately 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean.

 

Syrup:  While cake is baking, combine water and sugar in a small saucepan and boil for 2 minutes.  Stir in the rum and boil one minute longer.  Remove from heat and allow to cool.

Remove cake from oven when done and, using a fork, immediately prick deep holes into the cake at 1 inch intervals.  Slowly pour on rum syrup.  Let cool on wire rack for 30 mins.

Turn out onto wire rack to cool completely.

 

Glaze:  In a small bowl, gradually beat cream of coconut into softened cream cheese until smooth.  Spoon over cooled cake.

 

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The Ultimate Chocolate Cake

I love chocolate cake.  It may be my all time favorite dessert, and I LOVE dessert.  I made many a cake until I was happy with this recipe.  It’s consistently moist and ultra chocolately (is that a word??).  Anyway, it’s a great cake and the reason rarely make cake from a box anymore.  It’s really not difficult at all, perhaps a little more time consuming but well worth it.  Try it and see if you don’t agree.

 The Ultimate Chocolate Cake

1 cup butter, plus extra to grease the pan

2 cups all purpose flour

2 cups sugar

1 ½ teaspoons baking soda

1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

½ cup buttermilk

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

 Lightly grease a 9×13 inch pan with butter.  Combine butter, cocoa, and 1 cup water in small saucepan and stirring over medium heat, turn it off as soon as it comes to a boil. Make sure all the cocoa is dissolved.  Allow to cool for at least 10 minutes.  Combine the flour, sugar, and baking soda in the bowl of a stand mixer (or large bowl if using a hand mixer).

Pour the cocoa mixture into the flour mixture, along with the buttermilk, eggs, and vanilla and beat for 3 minutes.  Pour into prepared pan and bake until firm and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, approximately 30-40 minutes.  Let cool on a rack for 10 minutes before turning out of pan onto the rack. Allow to cool completely before frosting. 

 

THE Chili

chili

2 pounds ground beef

1 pound breakfast sausage (in a large roll)

2 pounds bacon, cut into ½ inch pieces

1 onion, diced

¼ cup brown sugar

½ cup tequila

2 cloves garlic, minced

3 Tablespoons chili powder

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 Tablespoon cumin

1 Tablespoon seasoned salt

1 15 oz can tomato sauce

1 cup tomato paste

1 28 oz can kidney beans, drained and rinsed

2 cups water

In a large dutch oven or pot, brown bacon until almost crisp and remove.  Saute the onion in the grease until soft, then remove from pot. Drain all but a few tablespoons of the fat and brown the ground beef and sausage in the remaining bacon grease, breaking up as it cooks.  Sprinkle the brown sugar in and cook the meat over medium high until it’s very brown, almost caramelized; then add tequila and cook for 3-4 minutes, allowing alcohol to cook out.  Add onions and garlic back to pot along with the remaining ingredients, stirring well.  Bring to boil, reduce to simmer and cover.  Simmer for at least an hour if not two.  This is one dish that will taste even better the next day.

Top with sour cream, cheddar cheese, corn chips, chopped green onions, sliced jalapenos, or whatever else sounds good to you!

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Chicken Fajitas

 

 

chicken fajitas

 

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, sliced thin

1 each green and red bell pepper, cored and sliced thin

1 brown onion,  sliced thin

1 tbls chili powder

1 tsp cumin

salt and pepper to taste

canola or vegetable oil

Juice of one lemon

Corn tortillas

 

Put the chicken slices in a ziploc bag and pour a small amount of oil into the bag.  Add the lemon juice and spices, including the salt and pepper.  Close bag and mix together. Let marinate for at least 15 minutes, or up to 2 hours.

Heat a large skillet and pour a small amount of oil into it, then add peppers and onions.  Stir frequently until the onions are slightly golden on the edges.  Remove vegetables from skillet to a plate.  Place the chicken into the hot skillet, trying not to get too much of the marinade as you don’t want it to “steam” the chicken.  As the chicken cooks, if there is too much liquid in the bottom of the skillet, drain some out with a large spoon.  Cook the chicken on high heat so that it cooks quickly;  it should take about 10 minutes.  Return the vegetables back to the skillet along with the chicken to reheat.  Keep warm.

 

In a much smaller skillet, and working two tortillas at a time with tongs, pour the tiniest amount of oil into the heated skillet.  Place one tortilla down, quickly turn it so the other side gets oil on it then put the other tortilla on the bottom of the skillet so that THAT tortilla soaks up oil (placing the first tortilla on top of the second one). The idea is to just barely heat the tortillas, softening them using as little oil as possible.  When the first two tortillas are pliable, remove them to a paper towel on a plate and repeat with 6 more tortillas.  Make tacos out of the chicken mixture and top with sour cream, cheese and pico de gallo.

 

 

 

 

Easy Chicken Noodle Soup

There are so many chicken noodle soup recipes out there but I’ve pretty much perfected the art of making one that’s quick yet still “homemade” tasting. I use cheesecloth to strain the soup as it catches all the little bits that you don’t really want in your broth. You can find it in the baking section of your grocery store.

chick-noodle-soup-pic

1 rotisserie chicken (from grocery store)

1 onion, peeled and halved

4 stalks celery, including leaves

3 carrots, cut in half

8 cups chicken broth

2 cups frozen peas and carrots

1-2 cups frozen pearl onions

1 package frozen Grandma’s Homestyle Noodles, thaw as directed

salt and pepper to taste

Put the chicken broth in a large stock pot and add the whole chicken, onion, celery, and carrots.  Add salt and pepper. Bring to boil, then lower heat to a simmer.  Simmer for at least an hour, or up to two hours.  Using a large piece of cheesecloth laid over a colander, strain the soup into another large stock pot. Discard vegetables.  Let the chicken cool while you add the peas and carrots, pearl onions and thawed noodles to the pot.  Cook until noodles are done.  Pick the chicken off the bone and add the meat to the soup.  Season with more salt and pepper if necessary.

 

 

 

Asparagus Puff Pastry Tart

aspargus puff pastry tart.jpg

1 frozen puff pastry, thawed

5 oz fontina cheese, shredded

1 to 1 1/2 pounds asparagus

olive oil to drizzle

salt and pepper

 

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  On a floured surface, roll the puff pastry into a 16×10 inch rectangle.  Trim uneven edges and place onto a baking sheet (I used parchment paper).  Take a knife and lightly score the dough 1 inch from the edges to mark a rectangle, then pierce the dough with a fork inside the markings at 1/2 intervals.  Bake until golden, about 15 minutes.  Do not worry if it is “puffed” up.

Remove the pastry from the oven and sprinkle with cheese. Trim the bottoms of the asparagus to fit crosswise inside the tart shell and lay them in a single layer over the cheese, alternating ends and tips.  Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Bake until asparagus is tender, about 20 minutes.  This tart would work well with a variety of other vegetables, including mushrooms or bell peppers.  Experiment with your favorite!

Chicken Cacciatore

chicken-cacciatore6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

1 cup flour, seasoned with 1 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper, for dredging

4 tbls extra virgin olive oil

2 brown onions, thinly sliced

2 bell peppers, thinly sliced

4 tbls butter

12 oz mushrooms, sliced

3/4 cup red wine

1/2 cup  fresh basil, chopped

1/4 cup chopped fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped

2 tsps fresh thyme, chopped

28 oz can crushed tomatoes

Dredge the chicken pieces in the flour.  Heat the olive oil in a deep dutch oven or heavy stock pot over med-high heat and brown the chicken, a few pieces at a time.  Transfer the browned pieces to a plate while you finish the others.  Do not cook the chicken through.

Once the chicken is all browned and on a plate to hold, add the butter to the pot, then add the  onions and peppers and cook over med-high until the onions are translucent (about 10 minutes).  Add the wine and deglaze the pan, scraping up any bits from the bottom.  Cook a few minutes to reduce the wine.  Stir in the tomatoes and add half a can of water. Stir the herbs and  in.  Return the chicken to the pot.  Cover and simmer for 40 minutes.  Add the mushrooms and simmer uncovered until they are tender and chicken is cooked all the way through, about 15 minutes more.  Season with salt and pepper if needed.

Pasta Fagioli with Red beans

I’m a soup gal.  I love soups of all kinds, but this one is great because not only does it have a great flavor but it’s hearty enough that if you add a hunk of bread and a glass of wine you can call it Dinner.  I like that in a soup.

pasta-fagioli-with-red-beans

4 sprigs fresh thyme

1 sprig fresh rosemary

2 tbls butter

1 cup chopped onion

2 cloves garlic, minced

4 ounces pancetta, chopped

6 cups chicken broth

2 (14 oz) cans red kidney beans, rinsed and drained

1 cup small macaroni, like elbow or orcchiette

salt and pepper to taste

parmesean cheese and olive oil to top dish

Cheesecloth or kitchen twine

Wrap the thyme and rosemary sprigs in a piece of cheesecloth and tie in a knot, or tie with kitchen twine.  Heat the butter in a large, heavy stockpot over a medium flame.  Add the onion, pancetta, and garlic and saute until the onion is tender (about 5 minutes).  Add the broth, beans and herbs.  Cover and bring to a boil over high heat, then decrease heat to medium and simmer for approximately 20 minutes.  At this point, remove the herb packet and discard it.  Measure out 1 cup of the mixture and either puree it in a blender or, if you have an immersion blender, put one cup in a larger (4 cup) glass measuring cup and puree it using the immersion blender.  Return the puree to the rest of the soup, cover and return to a boil over high heat.  Add the macaroni, cover again and boil approximately 8 minutes, so that the pasta is done “al dente.”  Season with salt and pepper.  Serve the soup sprinkled with parmesean cheese and drizzled with olive oil.

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Roasted Peppers

This just might be the simplest thing you’ll ever see on a food blog.  But they are so flavorful and you can use them in such a variety of ways that once you make them you may just always want to have them in your fridge. I add them to sandwiches, quesadillas and, just like my grandmother did, love to eat them piled on a fresh-cut slice of French bread with a piece of Provolone cheese. Add a glass of wine and call it “dinner.”

peppers-on-bread

Preheat oven to 250 degrees

6-8 Bell peppers, a variety of red, yellow and green works well

Extra virgin olive oil

Core and seed the peppers.  Slice the peppers fairly thin and arrange them on a baking sheet in a single layer.  Drizzle with olive oil and bake for a total of approximately 2 to 2 1/2 hours, stirring every 30 minutes or so.  Peppers will be slightly shriveled and darkened when done.  Salt and pepper to taste.  If you wash the peppers just before slicing, be sure to DRY them completely before putting them on the baking sheet or they will end up “steaming” in the oven.

 

Swedish Meatballs

Swedish Meatballs might just be the ultimate comfort food.  Growing up with an Italian grandparent I was used to meatballs as a staple, but I always loved when they were served with this creamy gravy as an alternative. Serve them over rice or egg noodles.

swedish-meatballs

Meatballs:

2 slices white bread, crusts removed and torn into tiny pieces

1/4 cup milk

1 pound ground beef

1 pound ground pork

1 small onion, grated

1 egg, beaten

1/4 tsp garlic powder

1/4 tsp onion powder

1/2 tsp dried parsley

1/4 tsp each salt and pepper
Sauce:

6 Tbls butter, divided

2 cups beef broth

2 Tbls flour

1 Tbls Worcestershire sauce

1/2 cup heavy cream

salt and pepper to taste

In a small bowl soak the bread in the milk until soft.  In a larger bowl, combine all the meatball ingredients, then add the soaked bread.  Mix well with your hands.  Shape into approximately 20-24 meatballs.

In a large skillet, melt 2 Tbls butter.  Add meatballs and turn continuously until brown on all sides and cooked through (about 10 minutes).  Remove to plate and cover with foil to keep warm.

Add 4 Tbls butter to the skillet and when melted whisk flour in, stirring until it turns brown.  Slowly stir in the beef broth and Worcestershire sauce and simmer a few minutes to thicken.  Stir in cream and season with salt and pepper to taste.  Add Meatballs back to the skillet and simmer another 3-5 minutes to make sure they are heated through.

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