Chocolate Stout Cake

Seattle has seen one of the most dreary winters since I moved here, but Spring is coming – slowly but surely. In the mean time, gotta keep our spirits up with some sweet, rich chocolate cake. 33775845846_fb0dedf912_k

I have not baked since the Holidays last year, trying to be “healthier”, but for St. Patty’s Day – I wanted to flex my baking muscles again and get to some new recipes. I reviewed a bunch of chocolate stout recipes and decided to use Smitten Kitchen’s Chocolate Stout Cake as a guide. 33686952111_0d09917646_kI could have used good ol’ Guinness, but living in Seattle means having a lot of unique beers at hand. Because I’m such a coffee addict, I was super excited to use this Elysian Espresso Stout.  33775851426_4ddace117c_kWhisked the butter (sooooooo much butteerrrrrrrr!) with the stout and cocoa powder. This makes your kitchen smell amazaballs. 33686951321_0bc727cae5_kSeparately mix the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt) into the mixed liquids (egg and sour cream). 33660272562_e34de53fc5_kThen lastly, mix the stout mixture (after cooling a bit) into the batter. Fold gently with a spatula. For my recipe, I poured it into a 9 in. springform pan. Smitten Kitchen uses a bundt cake pan, but mine was too small and I wanted to make more of a simple round cake. 33431605210_696783f270_k

I’ve made the recipe twice now and for some reason 35 minutes from the original blog is not enough, I would recommend an additional 10-15 minutes. It came out super dense, rich, and deeply chocolatey. The stout gives it a nutty and creamy taste, unlike the traditional sweet light chocolate cake.
33003329843_39dd54025a_kPart 2! As the cake cools on the rack, it’s time to make the ganache! I’m excited, but nervous because I don’t have a lot of experience making this. 33003330723_ca280103c0_kI had to carefully improvise since I do not have a double boiler, I used a heatproof bowl over a pot of boiling water….eekkks! I stirred everything very carefully until it became a smooth chocolate sauce. 33686947831_44244c1b77_k

33686944441_10aeaba0d1_kWith the cake on a cooling rack, place a sheet or large plate underneath to catch the excess ganache. Take the ganache and pour it on to the middle of the cake, using a flat knife/spatula – spread the ganache over the sides and let it drip off the sides.

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The ganache cools and starts to solidify pretty quickly, so work without hesitation (even if you’ve never done this before). Smooth out the sides and the top with your knife while the ganache is still malleable, this will ensure a lovely smooth finish on the cake.

As you can see, I still need some practice and I found out there were still some chocolate chunks in the ganache. Hey, this just means I need to make more chocolate cakes huh?  33003326613_09bf4b7a06_k

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Chocolate Peppermint Cookies

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Downtown Seattle looking festive

Another Christmas has come and gone. I survived another year of relatives, parents, parents’ friends probing me about when I will reach certain life milestones like my peers. Yikes.

The Holidays can be wonderful…and stressful. Thank goodness for these Chocolate Peppermint Cookies I adapted from Two Peas & Their Pod blog to make things better. I carried a huge box in my backpack on my Seattle to Bay Area flight and went straight to a Christmas Eve party from the airport and they were a big hit!

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What you’ll need (This recipe makes about 3 dozen cookies!):

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup Dutch processed cocoa
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup crushed peppermint candies

Prep work (TIP: do this hours before baking!):

  • leave butter out at room temp
  • leave eggs out at room temp

I took left over candy canes from my office holiday party (I knew no one would miss them, so I put them to good use!)

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The funnest part of the recipe

  1. Crush the candies!
  2. Pre-heat the oven to 350°F and line your cookie sheet with parchment paper.
  3. Take the flour, baking soda, sea salt, cocoa – blend well, until it’s a light brown color.
  4. With a stand mixer, pour in your sugars and then add in butter – cream together.
  5. Add one egg, mix, add the second egg, mix until just blended.
  6. Add in peppermint and vanilla extracts.
  7. Little by little, pour in the dry flour mix. Starting and stopping the mixer to scrap the sides if needed. I did this about 6 times before it was all in. Do not over mix.
  8. Lastly mix in the chocolate chips.
  9. If the cookie dough feel a little too sticky or thin to easily hand roll into balls, then stick the dough in the fridge for 1 hour, should help firm it up.
  10. Scoop out about 1 tablespoon of dough and roll into little balls.
  11. “Dip” them into the crushed peppermint candy and place them on your sheet with about 2 inch spacing.
  12. Bake for 10-11 minutes, until centers are still soft, but candy has not melted.
  13. Remove from oven and let cool for about 3-5 minutes.
  14. Transfer to cool completely on a wire rack.
  15. Taste test and enjoy!

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Hope you all enjoyed a wonderful holiday, whether you were with friends, family, or just hiking alone in the mountains – be thankful for the gift of the present and not just the presents under the tree!

Chocolate Chip Zucchini Bread

IMG_2227I love chocolate. I love zucchini. But chocolate AND zucchini sounds like a weird disastrous combo like marshmallows with celery or white chocolate with tomatoes. At least that’s what I thought years ago before I had my first slice of zucchini bread.

Zucchini bread is amazingly moist and lightly sweet, plus, it’s getting you to eat your veggies right?!

They are lovely versatile summer veggies that I absolutely love all year-round, I’ve even made them into pancakes and chips!

For my first attempt at zucchini bread, I followed Chelsea’s Messy Apron blog’s Healthy Greek Yogurt Zucchini Bread. There are many ways to “healthify” your zucchini bread and this recipe does it in every way – from using coconut oil (instead of butter or vegetable oil), dark chocolate chips (instead of milk chocolate), and sneaking in some oats (instead of all white flour).

You will need:

  • 1 bread loaf pan, greased and floured or lined with parchment paper
  • grater
  • blender (if you do not have oat flour)

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup low fat greek vanilla yogurt (you can use plain to reduce sugar)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup of melted coconut oil
  • 2 tablespoons of honey
  • 3 tablespoons of mashed banana
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed (I think I even used less to cut down sugar)
  • 1/2 cup oat flour, measured after blending
  • 1 cup white or whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 cup grated zucchini
  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips or nuts (optional)

IMG_2208First some of your ingredients require some extra prep work: zucchini needs grating, banana needs mashing, and oats need blending. But the results are well worth the effort.

As you start grating the zucchini, wrap handfuls in a paper towel and squeeze out all the water. You don’t want soggy zucchini bread. Do this until you have about 1 cup of grated zucchini. IMG_2210Pre-heat your oven to 325°F.

If you don’t have oat flour at home, that’s ok! I always have some old-fashion oats at home (mostly for baking purposes, secondly for breakfast!) and I just pulse it in my food processor for a few seconds and I’ll have finely ground oat flour that will give the bread some subtle chewiness. IMG_2215In a large bowl mix all your wet ingredients: yogurt, vanilla extract, egg, melted coconut oil, and honey. Add in mashed banana and light brown sugar.

In a small bowl mix all dry ingredients: oat flour, white flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Mix well.

(I know I accidentally switched around the bowl sizes, I always do this!) IMG_2216Add the dry flour mixture into the wet mixture and stir until just enough to blend everything together. Don’t keep mixing unless you like very dense bread. IMG_2217Lastly, gently stir in the zucchini and optional nuts/chocolate chips. IMG_2218Pour into your greased or lined bread loaf pan. IMG_2219 Set your timer for 40-50 minutes. It’s a big time range but you just have to see if the bread looks “done”- when the sides pull alway from the pan and the top gets a golden brown color. I took mine out at about 46 minutes. IMG_2222I was suppose to wait 10-15 minutes for the bread to cool, but I think I waited 5 and couldn’t help but taste test the softest, perfectly sweetened, and most delicious zucchini bread! IMG_2224

Mushroom Goat Cheese Tart

I’m excited to share an original recipe! Well I’m sure a savory vegetable and chicken tart is not really that original, but I did create this without following any recipes and had fun in the kitchen! IMG_2202I went a little overboard at the grocery store when mushrooms were on sale and I needed to figure out what to do with 16 oz of white mushrooms… if you don’t like mushrooms, that’s totally okay- this recipe is versatile and you can put almost any of your favorite combination of toppings on a puff pastry sheet and you’ll get a delicious savory tart!  IMG_2199For this tart I used…

  • about 10 oz mushrooms, roughly chopped
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2-3 teaspoons of crumbled goat cheese (my fridge is constantly stocked with Trader Joe’s)
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, cut into thin strips
  • 1/2 yellow bell pepper, cut into thin strips
  • 1 cup of diced grilled chicken breast
  • 1 sheet of frozen puff pastry, prepare as directed on package
  • 1 egg, beaten (for egg wash)

Tools you will need:

  • pastry brush
  • measuring cup
  • measuring spoons
  • small pan
  • fork
  • cookie sheet
  • parchment paper or a silicone mat

IMG_2180Pre-heat your oven to 400ºF.

Start by lightly cooking the chopped mushrooms in a pan with a little bit of olive oil at medium heat. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cook until mushrooms are soft, about 3-4 minutes.

Remove from heat and let it cool while you prep the pastry sheet. IMG_2182Gently roll out the thawed pastry sheet on a cookie sheet lined with a silicone mat or parchment paper.

Fold in each side about 1/2 inch in to give it a border. If you want to get fancy, you can press the tines into the edges to create a pattern. Totally optional! IMG_2184This next part is not optional, but really important for the puff pastry to not puff up in the middle. Take the fork and poke holes evenly through the center. IMG_2187Now take the cooked mushrooms and spread it evenly on the pastry sheet. IMG_2188For the next part, if you have ever built your own pizza this is not that different. Pile on other toppings in whatever pattern you want to create.

I laid down strips of bell pepper in alternating colors over the mushrooms and sprinkled spoons of crumbled goat cheese and spread the grill chicken pieces over the whole thing.IMG_2191For the final touch, dip a pastry brush into the egg and cover the edges with a light egg wash. IMG_2192IMG_2194The puff pastry box said to bake this for 20-22 minutes, but I needed to bake it for a total of 30 minutes until the edges looked golden brown and the goat cheese had a slightly toasted tinge to ensure that the whole tart was fully baked. IMG_2200Let the tart cool for about 10 minutes and cut with a knife or a pizza cutter. Serve warm with a nice side salad. IMG_2203The puff pastry was flaky and crispy along the edges and the creamy goat cheese balanced out the sweet bell peppers and the umami of the mushrooms. As a meal entree, the chicken definitely helped give it some more fullness.

I always have a pastry sheets stored in the freeze just in case I want to whip up another tart!

Please sir may I have S’more Bars?

What is the quintessential summer food for you? Watermelon wedges? ice cream cones? BBQ grilled corn?

Well for me it’s s’mores.

Rich melted chocolate with fluffy, ooey-gooey marshmallows sandwiched between two squares of crunchy, slightly sweet graham crackers. I never made my first s’more by a bonfire until I was in college, and now it always brings back memories of carefree, warm summer nights by the Pacific Ocean. IMG_2165I wanted to bring dessert to a casual potluck/board game night and I thought this S’more Bar recipe from Averie Cooks would be perfect: transportable, sweet and simple, and doesn’t take itself too seriously!

You will need:

  • 1 large mixing bowl
  • handmixer or standmixer
  • measuring cups
  • measuring spoons
  • cutting board
  • knife
  • foil and cooking spray or parchment paper
  • 8 x 8 inch square pan
  • 1 stick or 1/2 cup of unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 egg
  • 1 packed cup of light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 5 full sheets of graham crackers, chopped (makes about 2 cups)
  • 1 full cup of mini marshmallows
  • 1 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips

IMG_2143Start by pre-heating the oven to 350°F. I love that this is one of those throw-everything-in-1-bowl recipes, by the time the oven is done pre-heating, your batter will be ready to bake.

Best part: you don’t even need to soften the butter (which I always forget to do!).

Cut up the stick of butter into 4-5 slices and microwave in a small bowl for about 1-2 minutes. Pour into your mixing bowl and add in 1 cup of light brown sugar and 1 tablespoon of vanilla. Make sure the butter mixture is still not too hot, because you don’t want it to cook your egg.

Add in the egg and beat until well blended. IMG_2145Add in 3/4 cup of flour gradually and mix until smooth. The batter smells heavenly like caramel! IMG_2146Chopping up the graham crackers was not as bad as I expected. I thought cracker bits would be flying all over the kitchen.IMG_2147I left the crackers in fairly large chunks and saved the crumbs and added it into the batter. Now pour in 1 big cup of marshmallows + 1 big cup of chocolate chips. IMG_2149YYYYYYYAAAAAAAAAASSSSSSSSSSSS.IMG_2151Fold gently until all the ingredients are well mixed and spread evenly on to a 8×8 in. pan lined with foil or parchment paper for easy clean up. IMG_2152It’s ready to go into the oven! The original recipe said “20-22 minutes or until bars have firmed up in the center and edges have set”. All ovens are different and you may have to use some visual judgement on this. For my oven it was not thoroughly baked until 26-29 minutes and the edges had just started to firm up. IMG_2154Let it cool for about 30 minutes. To make it easier to cut into squares, about 15 minutes in, place it in the refrigerator for another 15 minutes.

OR…serve it warm with vanilla ice cream – crazy idea…. I think so! IMG_2156Cut it up into bars for serving. IMG_2160The chunks of crunchy graham cracker, pillowy marshmallows and creamy chocolate give these bars great texture and taste. IMG_2158They will satisfy any sugar junky’s sweet tooth! IMG_2166These bars will make you understand why they are called “S’mores”! IMG_2161Oliver Twist wasn’t talking about gruel when he asked for more….he was taking about these S’more Bars!

Healthier Creamy Wild Rice Chicken Soup

IMG_2140 Has anyone ever made a whole recipe just because of one ingredient? I do that all the time, even when it seems impractical or counterproductive. I made this delicious, creamy hearty wild rice and chicken soup for two reasons:

  1. it’s freaking delicious
  2. because I had a container of sour cream

Seems silly just for sour cream, but I had all the other ingredients and a lot of free time. I loosely followed this Cream of Turkey & Wild Rice Soup from Eating WellIMG_2130Step 1. First things first, let’s cook the wild rice. This will take almost 40 minutes, so best to let it cook while we put everything else together. Prepare the rice as the package instructs. You will need about 1 – 1 1/2 cup cooked wild rice. I never realized how expensive wild rice was until I bought it for the first time I made this recipe. The bag I bought was about $12. Yikes! Definitely a grocery splurge. But so worth it if you consider that wild rice tastes great and has a nutty flavor but fills you up with lots of fiber and essential minerals like zinc and folate.

Step 2. You will need:

  • a small pot
  • measuring cup
  • measuring spoon
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 2 cups of sliced mushrooms
  • 3/4 cup chopped celery
  • 3/4 cup chopped carrots (I had to make due with baby carrots and extra shredded carrots)

IMG_2131Heat up the olive oil over medium heat in the pot. Add in all the vegetables and cook until softened, for about 5 minutes. IMG_2132Step 2. You will need:

  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • salt
  • pepper

Add in the flour and coat the cooked vegetables until browned. Sprinkle salt and pepper in for flavor. Cook everything for about 2 minutes. IMG_2133Step 3. Add in:

  • 32 oz of reduced sodium chicken broth (4 cups)

Bring the broth to boil and lower the heat to simmer. IMG_2134Step 4. Add in:

  • 3 cups of shredded chicken (or turkey if you’d like)
  • 1/2 cup reduced-fat or fat-free sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley or dried parsley

Add in the chicken and stir. IMG_2136Step 5. Add in the sour cream and parsley and stir until all ingredients are combined.       Once the soup is heated through, lower the heat enough to just keep the pot warm. Your wild rice should be done soon. Once the rice is ready, add 1 to 1 1/2 cups to the soup and mix well. IMG_2139

IMG_2141Just in time for a rainy day (on the third day of summer, of course, Seattle!)…that’s okay, I got my Netflix and a bowl of this yummy warm soup!

Vanilla Custard Cream Puffs

I whipped up these decadent little cream puffs for a fancy champagne birthday party a while ago, I love how impressive cream puffs look but how insanely easy they are to make! The whole process does take some time so to prevent me rushing around the kitchen before the party, I made the shells the day before and filled them with the sweet, rich “custard” filling right before the party.

I reused the Choux a la creme recipe from the first time I made cream puffs. To make the shells more uniform and neat, I actually filled a large ziplock bag with the batter and piped them in about 2.5 inches diameter filled circles.

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I’ll admit, I used the cheat-version of this because this cream puff filling calls for instant pudding mix. I couldn’t resist the short cut and the surprisingly delicious results. I followed this Cream Puffs recipe from All Recipes.

You will need:

  • a piping bag/ large zip lock bag
  • large mixing bowl
  • whisk
  • spoon
  • measuring cup for liquids
  • 2 (3.5 oz) boxes of instant vanilla pudding  (I got the French Vanilla flavor!)
  • 2 cups of heavy cream
  • 1 cup 1% milk

Add the 2 boxes of pudding to the large mixing bowl, slowly pour in the cream while whisking. Then add in the milk. You should already start feeling the pudding thicken. Leave in the fridge for 1-2 hours, it will have a thick, custard-like texture.

When you are ready to fill the shells, spoon the filling into a piping bag or large zip lock bag. Squeeze out all the air and make sure there’s no air bubbles and the filling has fallen all toward one corner of the bag.

You can slice off the tops of the shells completely and give them little “hats” or I actually like to only cut a slit near the top and fill it in that way. When you are ready to start filling, cut a small tip of the filling bag and start piping in the custard.

Dust lightly with powdered sugar if you’d like.

Voila!

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