Chocolate Espresso Scones

chocolate-espresso-scones

Just looking at this picture makes my mouth begin to water and I’m tempted to pour myself a tall glass of cold milk to go with this scone even though they are long gone. A few weeks ago, a good friend of mine was scheduled for knee surgery. All she knew prior to the appointment was that she would either have a *simple* Meniscus repair or a full fledged knee replacement, but the doctor wouldn’t know for sure until he was in there. Gee, toss a coin, I’d opt for the repair vs. the total knee. As luck would have it, that’s all she needed. I gave her a few days of recovery time before I made her these tasty treats.

Ingredients:

for the scones:

  •  2 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup Cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tbsp. espresso powder
  • 8 tbsp. cold butter, cut in chunks
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk, plus more if needed
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup dark chocolate chunks

for the espresso chocolate glaze:

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 tbsp. cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp. espresso powder
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • milk or cream to thin

Preparation: 

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside.

Add the dry ingredients of the scones to the bowl of a processor and pulse to combine. Add in the chunks of cold butter and pulse several times until the mixture is crumbly. Pour the buttermilk into a measuring cup and then add the egg and vanilla and blend it together with a fork or whisk. While the machine is running, pour the liquid in a steady stream until the dough comes together.  If the dough seems too crumbly and dry, add a little more buttermilk. Stir in the dark chocolate chunks, distributing evenly. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead a few times. Shape into an 8 or 9 inch round and then cut into 6 or 8 triangles and add to the already prepared baking sheet. Bake for 12 -14 minutes.

Transfer to a rack to cool completely before drizzling with the glaze.

For the glaze, whisk together the powdered sugar, cocoa powder, and espresso powder. Add the vanilla extract and just a tablespoon or two of milk or cream to the sugar mixture and stir well to fully incorporate ingredients. Add more milk a teaspoon at a time until you have a thick glaze.

Adapted from: http://theviewfromgreatisland.com/chocolate-espresso-scones/

Note: These were great the day of. The following day; however, they were a bit more dry than I like my scones so in the future, I might swap out the buttermilk for sour cream or greek yogurt to see if that helps maintain the moisture content.

 

 

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Chicken & Chorizo Stuffed Poblano Peppers

Chicken & Chorizo Stuffed Poblano Peppers

No commentary necessary. Just good food.

Ingredients:

  • 6 Poblano peppers
  • 1/2 lb. cubed chicken
  • 1/2 lb. chorizo
  • 2 tbsps. oil
  • 1 15oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese (reserve 1/2 cup for the top)
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp. chili powder

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 375°. In a large skillet, over medium high heat, heat the oil and add the chicken and chorizo. Crumble the chorizo and cook until chorizo is browned and the chicken has cooked all the way through. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels to absorb the extra oil.

Rinse and dry the poblanos and cut in half, lengthwise. Remove the seeds and membrane.

In a large mixing bowl, add the meat, black beans, 1 1/2 cups of Monterey Jack cheese, and spices and mix well until fully incorporated. Lightly spray a baking dish with non-stick spray and add in the peppers. Poblanos can be a bit wonky and not necessarily flat, but once nestled into the baking dish alongside the other peppers, it works just fine. Stuff the peppers full with the mixture and bake for 25-30 minutes. Remove from the oven and sprinkle remaining cheese over the tops and return to the oven until cheese is melted.

Source: http://oblogoff.com/stuffed-Poblanos/

 

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Loaded Cauliflower Mash

Loaded Cauliflower Mash

I don’t have anything against potatoes. I really don’t. I like them and eat them regularly whether that be baked, roasted, mashed, fried, or sliced and diced. However, say you’re watching your carb intake or trying different vegetables or you’re out of potatoes, but the main course would really be complemented by a potato, you can improvise with a head of cauliflower. If done right, you can be ninja sneaky and prepare said cauliflower, add it to the dinner table and no one would be the wiser that what they were enjoying wasn’t really potatoes after all.

Ingredients:

  • 1 head of cauliflower, cut into florets
  • 2-3 green onions, chopped
  • 1/2 block of cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup of sour cream
  • cheddar cheese, shredded
  • S&P
  • 4-5 slices of bacon, cooked & diced

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place the florets into a microwave safe covered baking dish and steam on high for 4 minutes. Transfer the florets to a bowl and using a mixer (or masher), combine the florets, cream cheese, and sour cream and blend on high until smooth. Season with S&P, per taste. Stir in some shredded cheese, half of the green onions, and half of the bacon and transfer back to the baking dish, cover, and cook for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and sprinkle the top with additional cheese and bacon. Return to the oven, without the lid, and back for another 5-10 minutes until top is golden and bubbly. Remove from the oven and top with additional green onions. Serve and enjoy.

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Lemon Curd Mousse Cake

Lemon Curd Mousse Cake

Admittedly, this is not a good picture for a variety of reasons: the partial lighting, the shadow, the disheveled surface of the lemon curd on top (I’ll explain later), the scratches on the plate etc., etc., but you know what? Like I used to tell the girls when they were little: “You get what you get and you don’t throw a fit.” The sole purpose of this blog is for me to house my recipes (both trials and tribulations), my girls (for the day they eventually move out and into their own homes), my friends and family (who better to swap recipes with and cook for?), and lastly, for the random person scrolling through who happens to see something they might like and want to try. I’m not in this little corner of the web for the likes (nope!), money (ha!), or fame (I cringe!). I’m a social worker for God’s sake! While I usually try to get the best picture available with my trusty iPhone, I’m not going to let it interfere with the occasion. And this occasion was to celebrate my dad’s 76th birthday in July. He’s the youngest 76 year old I know!

I’ve likely mentioned before that my dad HEARTS lemon big time so when I came across this recipe months ago, I knew he was the sole reason for which I would make it. It looked a bit daunting at first with homemade lemon curd and all, which I’d never made, but I acknowledged my fear and then tossed it aside. Isn’t that what we do when we love someone? For the right reasons, anyhow. Plus, you never know until you try it, and try it I did, and it was a success. In the event I make it again, I will forgo reserving some of the mousse to decorate the top with rosettes. Decorating is not my forte even with the easy peasy Wilton tips. So, while I did it, I removed it from the top of the cake before taking the picture because it simply was not aesthetic, and hey, this girl knows her strengths, and that is not one of them. That is why the lemon curd is dented a bit. Not only did I remove it, I then tried to smooth it out and well, you know what happened there. Nevertheless, it tasted great and my dad was happy. What more can a daughter ask for?

Recipe source & notes: https://frugalhausfrau.com/2016/03/10/lemon-curd-mousse-cake/

*I found the notes to be incredibly valuable and efficient. I read them several times before starting (and even during) the process. They were very useful so that’s why I included them after the recipe.

Ingredients:

for the curd:

  • 2 1/3 cups sugar
  • 4 tsps. cornstarch
  • 1 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 4 large eggs
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

for the crust:

  • nonstick cooking spray
  • 2 cups shortbread cookie crumbs (I used Keebler’s Simply Made Butter cookies)
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted

for the mousse:

  • 5 tablespoons water
  • 4 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
  • 6 large egg whites
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups chilled heavy whipping cream

Preparation:

for the curd:

Mix sugar and cornstarch in heavy medium sized saucepan. Gradually add lemon juice, whisking until all cornstarch dissolves. Whisk in eggs and yolks. Add butter.

Stir over medium heat until curd thickens and boils, about 12 to 15 minutes. You’ll want to make this on the thick side – make sure it coats the back of the spoon well and leaves a very distinct line.

Transfer to medium bowl, press plastic wrap onto the surface of the curd and chill until cold. The chilling time will vary, usually four to six hours. This can be made a week ahead.

for the crust:

Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray bottom of 8 or 9 inch diameter spring form pan with nonstick spray.

Blend cookie crumbs and butter in small bowl. Press onto bottom of pan. Bake until golden, about 15 minutes. Cool.

for the mousse:

Pour 5 tablespoons water into small saucepan. Sprinkle gelatin evenly over, If necessary, gently press down on the gelatin to submerge. Let stand until gelatin softens, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, stir 3/4 cup curd in another small saucepan over medium-low heat until very warm.

Place an additional 1 3/4 cups lemon curd in large bowl.

As soon as the gelatin has softened, stir over low heat until dissolved and liquid is clear (do not boil).

Whisk warm gelatin mixture into the 3/4 cup warm curd. Gradually whisk gelatin-curd mixture into the 1 3/4 cups of curd in large bowl.

Using an electric mixer, beat egg whites in medium bowl until soft peaks form. Gradually add sugar, beating until whites are thick and glossy. Fold whites into curd mixture in 3 additions.

Using same beaters and bowl, beat cream until stiff peaks form. Fold into egg white-curd mixture in 3 additions.

Spoon enough mousse over cooled crust to fill pan completely, but make sure to save at least a cup and a half into small bowl and reserve. Cover and chill mousse cake, reserved mousse, and remaining curd overnight.

Note: if there is a concern about the raw egg whites, use pasteurized eggs or heat the whites and the sugar over a double boiler, whisking constantly until temperature reaches 160 degrees. Remove from the heat immediately.

to serve:

Using a long thin knife, cut around cake to loosen. Remove pan sides. Gently spread 3/4 cup of remaining curd over cake. (I prefer to refrigerate the cake at this point and take the reserved mousse out to warm up to room temperature or close to it, about an hour.)

Transfer reserved mousse to pastry bag fitted with a star tip. Pipe rosettes of mousse around top edge of cake. Chill cake until ready to serve. (Can be made up to 8 hours ahead.)

NOTES:

  • First of all, the cake has to be refrigerated for quite a while for the mousse to properly set up so it’s a great make ahead recipe. You’ll need to allow for this; at least 8 hours, preferably overnight. That makes this a beautiful recipe to make ahead for a part or event. I like to start two days ahead with the lemon curd and crust.
  • The lemon curd needs to be made several hours ahead of the mousse (at least 4 to 6 hours) and the crust has to be baked and cooled before assembly. If you do both of these steps a day before you make the mousse you’ll make it much easier on yourself.
  • When I make the curd, I strain the eggs and egg yolks before adding them especially if I can see quite a bit of the white chalazae. It really just depends on the eggs, not the skill of the cook. I don’t worry about the whites going into the mousse. It’s much easier to strain the eggs than the finished curd.
  • Speaking of eggs, this recipe does contain raw egg white, so be aware of the safety aspects. You can use pasteurized eggs or do what I do and put the egg whites and sugar in a double boiler and gently heat, whisking, before whipping into stiff peaks.
  • You’ll use a lot of eggs! 4 yolks plus 4 whole eggs in the curd and 6 egg whites for the mousse. That’s 10 eggs. Do yourself a favor and separate the ones that need to be separated all at once. Set aside your four whole eggs for the mousse, then divide the 6 eggs and yolks. You’ll put all six whites aside in the fridge for the mousse the next day. For the yolks, you’ll be using four and have two extra.
  • Instructions say to make this in an 8 inch spring form pan; I did today, but usually make it in a 9″ pan. In my very standard spring forms, with an 8″ the crust is quite thick and I end up with about 4 cups of mousse left over. In a 9″ the measurements work out a bit better. Although, you’ll lose just a touch of drama in the width to height ration, it’s still plenty high. I like how a bite of this cake, when made in the 9″ pan, has a good ration of curd to mousse.
  • While the recipe says the filling should be even with the top of the pan, I try to very gently smooth so there is a very teensy rise, not even noticeable, about 1/4″ around the edge. That helps keep the curd in place. Also, don’t put the curd all the way to the outside edge. Leave a slight border; otherwise, when you pipe the rosettes, the curd will be pushed to the edge and drip down the side and may even take the rosettes with it.
  • The crust is good with shortbread or gingersnaps. I look for Lorna Doone or Walker shortbread cookies. Today I used Sandies and I used 21 of them.
  • When working with the gelatin and curd, make sure to follow the instructions closely. Heat the gelatin gently while stirring until it is no longer opaque. It won’t really be “clear” as the recipe states and there may be a little foaminess from the stirring. You can check it by running a bit of the liquid between your fingers. It if’s perfectly smooth and warm, it’s good to go.
  • Make sure to stir the gelatin into the warm curd, then whisk it into the large bowl that contains the 1 3/4 cups of curd. These steps prevent the gelatin from setting prematurely in the cold curd and causing lumps. I do not find this tastes of, or find the texture, to be at all gelatinous using the four teaspoons of gelatin.
  • When you add the curd to the top layer, DON’T STIR IT! It will very likely turn watery. Just gently spoon across the top and nudge it into place, smooth it a little and it will find it’s level. This isn’t a thick, thick curd, so don’t use it for other cake recipes and expect it to stand up.
  • I like to spread the curd on the Lemon Curd Mousse cake while it’s in the pan and then refrigerate again for at least an hour. I generally bring the remaining mousse up to room temperature during that time and pipe the rosettes on right before serving.
  • While this extra chilling step is really not strictly necessary, it will help keep the curd from getting too drippy.
  • Many people complain this dessert is too sweet. Feel free to cut back on the sugar, but served in fairly thin slices (it’s supposed to serve 12) and served well chilled, I think it’s perfect. If there’s any left over, I find people will literally bicker for any remaining slices.
  • Don’t expect this to travel well for long periods of time, and if you are, bring the well chilled cake in the spring form pan, along with the rest of the curd and mousse and your piping bag along with to assemble at the destination & keep it cold.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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French Onion Chicken

French Onion Chicken

One of my all time favorite soups is French Onion Soup. For me, it’s the perfect soup with the broth, the onions, and of course, the bread and cheese. So good! It’s not for everyone, this I know and anticipated as much when I made this dish. Mostly, my husband is happy simply when I cook, but I knew ahead of time this would be my dish, not his. And the girls? Of course not, but when I made it, they were on vacation with their grandparents. Note to self: when I make this next time, halve the recipe because even with as much as I enjoyed it, I got burned out on it.

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs. Vidalia onions, peeled and sliced thin
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 2 tsps. balsamic vinegar
  • 2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed (I used chicken thighs)
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. dried thyme
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 2 tbsps. all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup shredded Swiss cheese
  • 1 baguette, sliced

Preparation:

Heat ¼ cup olive oil in a large oven safe skillet over medium heat. Add onions and stir to coat with oil. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt. Cook onions, stirring occasionally to avoid burning until onions are tender and slightly caramelized, about 20 minutes. Stir in balsamic vinegar and cook for another 1-2 minutes. Place cooked onions in a small dish and set aside.

Return skillet to stove over medium heat and add remaining olive oil. Season chicken with S&P and thyme. Add chicken and cook until all sides are brown and cooked thoroughly. Transfer chicken from skillet to a plate. Increase temperature to high. Add in beef broth and deglaze skillet. Reduce temperature back to medium. Gradually whisk in flour until broth is thickened. Season with a pinch of S&P and thyme.

Stir in cooked chicken and onions until combined with beef gravy. Sprinkle with Swiss cheese and place in a 350 degree oven for about 10 minutes until cheese in melted and bubbly. Sprinkle with a pinch of thyme if desired. To serve, place a few baguette slices in a shallow bowl. Top with chicken and gravy. Bake for 15-18 minutes.

Source: http://www.motherthyme.com/2015/08/french-onion-chicken.html

 

 

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Books of 2015

A few weeks ago, I posted about the book a week challenge I completed in 2014. As an avid reader, I’m never very far from a book, or two, or five – sometimes reading more than one at a time. In 2015, I didn’t have the same goal as 2014, but I still kept track of what I read and noted my favorites and have continued to do so. Below are the books of 2015:

  1. Grain Brain: The Surprising Truth About Wheat, Carbs, & Sugar – Your Brain’s Silent Killers, David Perlmutter, MD
  2. Wonder, R.J. Palacio
  3. Still Alice, Lisa Genova
  4. Women, Chloe Caldwell
  5. 10% Happier, Dan Harris
  6. I Regret Nothing: A Memoir, Jen Lancaster
  7. When I Found You, Catherine Ryan Hyde
  8. Rich Dad, Poor Dad, Robert Kiyossiki
  9. The Memory Keeper’s Daughter, Kim Edwards
  10. Better Than Before, Gretchen Rubin
  11. The Girl on The Train, Paula Hawkins
  12. Harvesting Heart, Jodi Picoult
  13. Paper Towns, John Green
  14. The Life We Bury, Allen Eskens
  15. Modern Romance, Aziz Ansari
  16. I Feel Bad About My Neck, Nora Ephron
  17. Plan B, Jonathan Tropper
  18. The Silent Wife, A.S.A Harrison
  19. The Memory Garden, Mary Rickert
  20. The Price of Salt, Patricia Highsmith
  21. Rising Strong, Brene Brown
  22. Room, Emma Donoghue

My top five, in no particular order:

Grain Brain

This book was eye opening on so many levels. At the time I read it, it challenged most of the concepts I held to be true about health and wellness of the physical kind. That’s the beauty of reading – you learn that not everything you were raised to know is in fact true, but quite the contrary. If you’re not familiar with the anti grain movement, you will, without question, be rocked to the core with the information. This book makes sense to me in a variety of ways, and while I’ve adopted some things, I’ve still got work to do.

Wonder

Yes, it’s a children’s book, but don’t let that sway or diminish the importance as a book for people of all ages to read and enjoy; especially one that emphasizes the value and necessity of kindness, compassion, and empathy – characteristics we can all use more of. Furthermore, the book excels at showing us how our respective view point shapes the responses/ reactions we have in life and that not everything is as it seems.

10-happier-ftr[1]

Mindfulness, a buzzword of sorts, I suppose, but in my line of work (social work) an exceptionally important one. We are very much a nation of go, go, go and relish in the glorification of busy, busy, busy that so much of life is lost in its simplicity and knowing who we are, reflecting on what is just in the moment, not 5 minutes from now, or what happened yesterday, but just now. Or, perhaps you’re the type of person who doesn’t pause or take consideration of what you’re doing or how it’s impacting your day to day world until all that you’ve swept under the rug is creeping out from every corner. Mindfulness teaches you how to deal in the moment to gain a greater understanding. I am a self-proclaimed lover of all things ‘based on a true story’ because nothing has the power to teach us more than true life experiences.

The Memory Garden

I can’t quite put my finger on why I enjoyed this book so much, but I did. It was different and focused on relationships, of which I’m a big fan. In my experience, both personally and professionally as a therapist, relationships are the foundation of everything and it’s not only the relationships we have with our friends and family, but also, and perhaps the most important, the relationship we have with ourselves. This book unfolds all of those things through mystery and magic, food, and secrets.

room-emma-donoghue[1]

Do yourself a favor, if you haven’t read the book or seen the movie, by all means, read the book. The description and language is exquisite and essential to the storyline. This is a book like none other and possesses the vast power of emotion, struggle, success, and acclimation of a new reality.

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Nutella Mug Cake

Nutella Mug Cake

Disclaimer: I’ve never been a fan of mug cakes or mug cookies. I’ve tried my fair share of the ones who claim “Best Ever” or “So Good” and while I’m always eager and hopeful ahead of time, I’m always left feeling a little let down afterwards. Even though in my head, I know it’s a shortcut version to something sweet in a snap and shouldn’t truly be compared to the results an entire cake or full batch of cookies warrants, but my taste buds always get me psyched up like it is. And, further truth be told, most of the time I’m not very good at portion control at some things like cake or cookies. I stand in awe and amazement at someone who can take 1 or 2 cookies and be completely satisfied. I’m definitely more like Cookie Monster minus all those wasted cookie crumbs!

Lately, the family and I have been watching the carb intake and while it’s been going well, I’m also about to welcome Aunt Flo for a visit and she sometimes has a sneaky way of hijacking my hormones and adjusting my dial for something sweet and something chocolate from manageable to WANT. Yesterday, while I was scrolling along, I came across this recipe and knew I’d try it out because it just so happened I had a small jar of Nutella in the cabinet that had been untouched for months.

I’m here to tell you, this little mug cake was good and sated my want for something chocolatey & sweet. It was so filling that I didn’t even finish it all, which, trust me when I say, is unheard of. I mean, really, how do you not finish something like chocolate cake? But it happened. The directions said to heat it in the microwave for 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 minutes. I opted for the 1 1/2 minutes and as I watched it rise, I thought it might come up and over, spilling down the sides of the mug, but it didn’t. After I removed it, the top had settled back down again. It’s safe to say this passed my “this is a good mug cake” test and I’ll happily make it again.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsps. all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 1/2 tbsp. sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tbsp. Nutella
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. melted butter
  • 3 tsp. chocolate chips

Preparation:

In a large mug, melt the butter and stir in the cream and Nutella. Fold in the egg and then add in the flour, unsweetened cocoa, and sugar. Blend until fully incorporated and smooth; stir in the chocolate chips. Microwave for 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 minutes.

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