Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Chocolate Loaf Cake

I don't know if it's because Valentine's Day just passed by, but I've been craving chocolate like whoa. I even bought one of those small chocolate samplers (half-price of course...I love post-Valentine's Day candy sales!). And I may or may not have devoured it in two days. Still, this didn't really put a dent in my chocolate craving.

This weekend, I woke up and decided that I would finally do something about this. I navigated my way to Julia's Fat Girl Trapped in a Skinny Body blog. Julia recently had a beautiful baby girl, but somehow she's still blogging. I'm not exactly sure how she's doing this, but I don't ask questions. Especially since she blogged about a gorgeous Chocolate Loaf Cake that I had to have.

I immediately ran into an issue: I hadn't gone to the grocery store recently. I usually stop by the store prior to doing any baking or cooking because I typically don't have all the ingredients on hand. Welcome to the life of a traveling consultant. I can't have fresh food in my refrigerator because at least 50% of it will go bad before I get a chance to use it. I realized that I had most of the ingredients that were called for though. The problem was the sour cream that the recipe required. I only had a 1/4 cup of sour cream left over in the fridge, but the recipe called for 1 cup of sour cream.

Enter the internet. Yup. The world wide web reached out and saved me on this one. Did you know that, when baking, you can substitute sour cream with buttermilk and melted butter? Seriously. 3/4 cup buttermilk and 1/3 cup of melted butter will replace 1 cup of sour cream in a recipe. I was excited to put this new information to good use.

Well. Little did I know this was going to be a test of my mathematical skills.

I first had to create buttermilk because I don't keep it around. So I made it (pretty easily, I might add) by adding 1 tablespoon lemon juice to a 1 cup measuring cup, then filling it the rest of the way with milk (I use 2% milk but you can use whatever you have). Let it sit for 5 minutes and you have a cup of buttermilk at the ready.

Melted butter? No problem. Melt some butter in the microwave. Ta-dah!

The problem started when I had to combine the sour cream, buttermilk, and melted butter. Because I wanted to use 1/4 cup of sour cream, I only needed 3/4 cup of the sour cream substitute. So of course I should add 3/4 cup of the buttermilk and 3/4 of the melted butter, right? Well, wrong. Because I totally forgot that I only needed 3/4 cup of the buttermilk in the first place. So I should have added 3/4 of 3/4 cup of buttermilk...

OK. I see that I've lost you. Suffice it to say that since I had already added too much buttermilk to the wet ingredients, I compensated by adding a few more teaspoons of flour to the dry ingredients. I then removed a few teaspoons of the wet mixture before combining the wet and dry to finish the batter. Heck, I can't even follow what went on with this thing.

So what did I learn from this experience? Get off your lazy butt and run to the corner store for a container of sour cream. It will take less time in the end.

This has turned into a really long blog post. All I really want to tell you is that, even with my measurement snafus, the chocolate loaf cake was phe-nom-e-nal. It was moist, super chocolate-y and pleasantly gooey when it was still warm. This was a great quick fix recipe to stave off those chocolate cravings.

Chocolate Loaf Cake
slightly adapted from Fat Girl In A Skinny Body's Chocolate Loaf Cake

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup sour cream (or 3/4 cup buttermilk + 1/3 cup melted butter)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9in x 5in loaf pan. Or you can use a non-stick spray. It's easier.

2) In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

3) In a separate bowl, combine the eggs, oil, sour cream, and vanilla. If you're using the sour cream substitute, then add the buttermilk and melted butter instead. Whisk.

4) Add the liquid ingredients into the bowl of dry ingredients.

5) Mix until just combined. Don't go crazy and overmix the ingredients.

6) Add the chocolate chips and give the batter a stir to distribute them throughout.

7) Pour the batter into the loaf pan and bake for 60-70 minutes.

8) Cool the cake for at least 15 minutes in the pan before removing and slicing.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Vegetable Meatloaf

I've been scoping out that Bobby Flay for a while.

But not like that.

A while ago, I saw a Food Network Magazine* recipe from Bobby Flay for a Vegetable Meatloaf with Balsamic Glaze. I like meatloaf. I like vegetables. I like balsamic vinegar. This was a no-brainer.

* Hereafter known as "FNM" because I'm lazy and can't type 3 whole words each time I want to refer to the magazine.

Well, apparently I closed that particular magazine and set it aside.

For 2 years.

No joke. This vegetable meatloaf recipe came out in the Feb/Mar 2009 issue. So I guess I need to step up my game and make more of these FNM recipes. I've actually started going through all my old FNM issues, so you'll start seeing a few more of them pretty soon.

With that being said, I must confess that I also decided to make this dish because I had an extra half of an onion that I had to find something to do with. This is the way recipes are chosen at TBK, people. They're randomly based on my culinary needs at the time. Never mind that I had to go out and buy all the other vegetables...

I'm blowing your mind. I know.

Vegetable Meatloaf with Balsamic Glaze
slightly adapted from Bobby Flay's recipe for Food Network Magazine
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small zucchini, finely diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, finely diced
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, finely diced
  • 1/2 onion, finely diced
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 tablespoon dried thyme (you can use fresh if you have it on hand)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 20.8 oz ground turkey (90 percent lean) (the original recipe calls for 1 1/2lbs of ground turkey but I bought mine already portioned out)
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs (Italian style)
  • 3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (can also use Romano cheese)
  • 3/4 cup ketchup
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1) Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

2) Heat the oil in a large saute pan over high heat. Add in the zucchini, bell peppers, garlic, and 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes.

3) Season the vegetables with salt and pepper and stir to combine.

4) Saute the vegetables for about 5 minutes, or until they are soft. Remove them from the heat and allow to cool.

5) Whisk the egg, parsley, and thyme together in a large bowl.

6) Add the ground turkey, breadcrumbs, cheese, 1/2 cup ketchup, 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar and the cooled vegetables.

7) Combine the ingredients and gently press the mixture into a (9x5 inch) loaf pan.

8) For the glaze: Whisk together the remaining 1/4 cup ketchup, 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar and 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes in a bowl.

9) Brush the glaze over the entire loaf.

10) Bake for 1 to 1 1/4 hours.

11) Let rest for 10 minutes before slicing.

This meatloaf may not win awards for purtiness anytime soon, but the taste more than makes up for this minor flaw. The meatloaf is pretty moist from the vegetables and the vegetables themselves provide a sweet element in each bite. The balsamic glaze on top of the meatloaf is a mixture of sweet, salty, and smoky flavors. During the baking process, the glaze formed a nice crunchy crust over some areas of the meatloaf, which I loved. I was a little disappointed that I couldn't really detect the heat from the red pepper flakes, so when I make this again I'll probably amp up the amount of red pepper I use.
This recipe was a strong showing by Bobby Flay. I've never had a bad experience with any recipe of his and I can't wait to get through the rest of my magazines to see what else he and the FNM family have in store for me!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Sauteed Kale

I have a new love affair.

It's with kale.

Not just any version of kale, but with sauteed kale.

A few weeks ago I churned out some Kale Chips, but unfortunately, I wasn't a huge fan. I ended up trying sauteed kale at the suggestion of my roommate. She said I should try sauteing the kale with some onions and garlic. At first I wasn't really on board with the idea, but I still had some leftover kale and I hate throwing away food, so why not?

Besides, who doesn't love onions and garlic? (I know.... I'm disgusting!)

And the rest was history, as they say.

Sauteed Kale
slightly adapted from Kalyn's Kitchen's Sauteed Kale with Garlic and Onion recipe
makes 6-8 servings
  • ~1 lb kale, washed and chopped roughly
  • 2 large onions, halved and sliced (you can use less, but I like onions)
  • 2-3 tsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 - 1 1/2 cups water
  • salt to taste
  • 1 - 1 1/2 teaspoons red wine vinegar (you can use whichever kind of vinegar you like)
1) In a large pan, saute the onions over medium heat in the olive oil until they are softened, ~10 minutes. You can saute the onions for a longer time period if you want them to be softer.

2) Stir in the garlic. Allow the garlic to simmer with the onions for 2-3 minutes.

3) Add the kale and stir to incorporate as best as possible. Cover the kale until it turns bright green, ~3-5 minutes.

4) Stir the kale, add 1/2 cup water to the pan, and re-cover. Let the kale steam for ~ 5 minutes.

5) Uncover the pan and let the water evaporate. This may take a few minutes.

6) Repeat Steps 4 & 5. The kale should be wilted by now. If not, repeat Steps 4 & 5 once again.

7) Stir in the salt and vinegar. Serve hot or warm.

The kale is a hearty, but slightly bitter green, which is counterbalanced by the sweetness of the onions. And the last minute addition of salt and vinegar gives this side dish just a little kick. This is my new go-to, quick and easy addition to lunch or dinner. Or maybe even a snack in between.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Boilermaker Cupcakes (aka Steelers Superbowl XV Cupcakes)


Every Pittsburgh Steeler fan knows that this a song to be played every year, with the hope that the Pittsburgh Steelers will actually make it to the Superbowl. And this year, we've made it happen once again! On Sunday we'll be in Dallas for Superbowl XV against the Green Bay Packers.

So what better way to get pumped up and ready to celebrate than by making Steelers cupcakes again! I've already made one set of Steelers cupcakes this season. Apparently that was enough to single-handedly bring us to the Superbowl, so hopefully another set of cupcakes will help us get that 7th ring.

And of course these are not just regular cupcakes. They're Boilermaker Cupcakes.

First of all, I have a confession to make. I totally stole this idea from Sweetness Bake Shop & Cafe. I don't know anything about this place, unfortunately, but I do know that they are making Pittsburgh Steelers Boilermaker cupcakes for the Superbowl. And some other garbage cupcakes for those Packer cheeseheads. Anyway..., I decided I needed to make my own version of the Boilermaker cupcakes in honor of the Superbowl.

So what's a boilermaker? According to the City Dictionary, a boilermaker is a drink cocktail which requires a shot of whiskey and a pint of beer. Apparently there is some leeway with regards to the combination in which the whiskey and beer can be consumed. Look, I'm just telling you what I read. Don't shoot the messenger. I'd never heard of this drink before last week, since I don't usually drink whiskey.

My version of the Boilermaker Cupcake requires a Guinness cupcake and whiskey buttercream frosting. I actually tried to use Yuengling Black and Tan stout for the cupcake so that I could keep even more in line with the spirit of Pittsburgh. However, I was thwarted by the liquor store's inability to sell just 1 bottle of Yuengling Black and Tan. I never drink stouts, so I refused to buy a 6-pack just to use a cup of the beer in a cupcake recipe. Sorry, Pittsburgh.

Boilermaker Cupcakes

To make the cake portion of this recipe, start off with this Guinness Cupcake recipe.

While you're at that link, you may also get the urge to make Irish Car Bomb Cupcakes. Nothing wrong with that. St. Patty's Day isn't very far away!
Whiskey Frosting
doubled and adapted from Smitten Kitchen's Bailey's Frosting

  • 2 stick (1/2 cup or 4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 4 to 5 cups confections sugar
  • 1/2 cup and 1 tablespoon whiskey (such as Jameson) (You can add more or less whiskey according to your taste. This is just what I did.)
  • Red food coloring (or no-taste paste)
  • Yellow food coloring (or paste)
  • Blue food coloring (or paste)
  • Black food coloring (or paste)
1) Whip the butter using an electric or hand mixer for several minutes. You want the butter to look almost white and be very light and fluffy.

2) Slowly add the powdered sugar, a few tablespoons at a time.
3) When the frosting is thick, drizzle in the whiskey. Whip until combined. If the frosting is too thin at this point, add another spoonful or two of powdered sugar.
Note: At this point, you can pipe or spread the frosting on the cupcakes as-is. If you're a Steelers fan, please read on:
To make the Steelers decoration:
a) Spread a thin layer of the white frosting over all the cupcakes.
Do you like my black and gold cupcake liners?
b) Separate the remainder of the frosting into 4 separate bowls. (You might want to keep a dollop or two of the white frosting in case you need to touch up your handiwork later.)
c) Add red food coloring/paste to 1 bowl to achieve a bright red. Repeat this step with the yellow, blue, and black food colorings.
i) I didn't actually get the bright red, blue or black colors that I was looking for, although I got pretty close. I spoke to Deirdre, one of my coworkers who's an expert on dying frosting, and she recommended that I use paste next time to achieve a brighter color.
ii) If you're going to use red paste, Deirdre recommends using "no taste" red paste. Otherwise you might end up with inedible frosting. And that is not a good time.
iii) If you don't have any paste and you're going to use food coloring, you can add a few drops of black frosting to the red or blue frostings to make the color a little deeper. I actually didn't do this with the red food coloring because I didn't think of it until I got to the blue. But it should work with the red color as well. Use the black frosting sparingly. You can always add more but you can't take it away!
...and now, back to decorating...
d) Using either a stencil or your own steady hand, create the Steelers symbols using the red, yellow, and blue frostings. You can use a metal writing/piping tip to help with this, or you can use a pastry bag or Ziploc bag with the corner snipped off (which is what I did). A toothpick can help guide the frosting in the right direction.
e) Using the black frosting and a writing tip (I like the #2 piping tip) , write "Steelers" on the cupcake. I do recommend using a writing/piping tip for this step, because the surface of the cupcake is smaller than you think.
I really liked this cupcake, and not just because it's boozy and represents the Steelers. First of all, the Guinness cupcake was moist and almost fudge-y. And I love me some chocolate. Second of all, the whiskey frosting was really tasty! I'm definitely not a whiskey girl, unless the name of the drink is "Whiskey Sour" or "Irish Car Bomb". Other than that, don't talk to me about whiskey. But once the whiskey comes into contact with the frosting, it kind of becomes a mellow aftertaste. I can still smell the essence of whiskey in the frosting, but I personally think the aroma of the chocolate in the cupcake overpowered it. I am not complaining.
Funny enough, when I brought the cupcakes to work, cleverly disguised as "Steelers Cupcakes", people told me they could immediately smell the whiskey. In my defense, (1) As I already said, I don't drink whiskey very often so I guess this is why I can overlook the smell. Maybe? (2) I spent a lot of quality time with those cupcakes on Monday morning as I sat in my car and waited for a random guy to show up and jump-start my dead battery. It's kinda like when you wear a perfume and you stop smelling it after an hour, but everyone else can still smell it...
Wait, does this mean I smelled like chocolate and whiskey all day long? Someone would have told me, right?
Superbowl XV