Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Bachelor Layer Cake

This is hands down my favorite cake EVER! My Grandma Jeanette and my Mom have both been making it since I was little and whenever it's around I can never get enough! It's creamy and delicious... honestly it's hard to stop eating it.

6 Eggs well beaten
2 Cups white sugar
6 Tbsp. hot strong coffee
2 Tsp. vanilla
6 Tbsp. cocoa powder
2 Cups shortening (softened)
Large box of graham cracker cookies

Beat all the ingredients (aside from the graham cookies) until smooth and well combined.

Lay graham crackers on the bottom of a 9 x 9 inch baking pan so that they completely cover the bottom (you may have to break some of the end crackers to fit). 1/3 of the cake mixer over top. Top that with another layer of graham crackers just the same as you did on the bottom. Top that with another 1/3 of the cake mixture, top that with one more layer of graham crackers and the remaining 1/3 of the cake mixture.

Crumble graham cookies over the top.

Refridgerate for TWO days.. that is the hardest part!! But the anticipation will make it that much better! I promise! :)


Monday, 28 March 2011

7 Layer Taco Dip

Everyone loves a good dip, and I happen to make a delish 7 layer taco dip. I learned this recipe from my Mom who's been making it for years. It's a great dip for a party, BBQ, or even if you're just having a few people over and need to throw something together quickly.

It's really easy to make and it's always been popular whenever I've made it in the past.

1 (8 oz.) pkg cream cheese
2 tbsp taco seasoning
1 1/2 cups guacamole (homemade or store bought)
1 1/2 cups sour cream
1 1/2 cups salsa
1 can refried beans (I use Ole El Paso with mild green chilis)
1 cup tex mex grated cheese
1 small can of black pre-sliced olives

You'll want a medium sized casserole dish for this, I personally like to use a clear one.

Start by softening the cream cheese a little bit in the microwave in a small bowl, add the taco seasoning and mix until well combined. Smooth the cream cheese down on the bottom of the pan as the first layer.

Spread the refried beans as the 2nd layer, guacamole as the 3rd, sour cream as the 4th and salsa as the 5th.

Spread the tex mex cheese over the top of the dip evenly and then drop the olives evenly across the top as well. And you're done! It's that easy!


Saturday, 26 March 2011

Chicken Parmigiana

Me and my husband both love Chicken Parmigiana... Crispy baked chicken with tomato sauce and cheese... what's not to love?! I'd like to share my recipe with you - my husband has told me numerous times that I make the best chicken parm he's ever had, so I hope you guys enjoy it just as much.

4 chicken breasts
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
a couple shakes of salt
1/2 cup mozza cheese (grated)
1/2 box of your favorite pasta (I like to use angel hair noodles)
2 to 3 cups Tomato or marinara sauce (either homemade or store bought)
2 eggs (well beaten)
Pam cooking spray

Preheat the oven to 425 F and spray a baking sheet with pam.

Begin by mixing the panko crumbs, parmesan cheese and salt into a medium sized dish.

Dip the chicken into the eggs and make sure they're well coated, and then roll them one at a time in the panko mixture until very well coated. Lay them onto the baking sheet spaced evenly.

While the chicken is in the oven make or prepare your tomato/marinara sauce. Simmer while chicken is cooking.

Bake the chicken in the oven for approximately 30 minutes (check the chicken after 25 minutes - especially if using half breasts, the thinner the meat the less time it will take to cook). When the chicken is about 5 minutes away from being done, add about a 1/4 cup of tomato sauce onto the top of each of the breasts and about a tbsp (I just eyeball this, I don't actually measure) of mozza cheese. Bake the chicken for 5 more minutes until cheese is melted.

Serve the chicken over your favorite pasta and tomato/marinara sauce.


Thursday, 24 March 2011

Cream Layered Pastries

So this recipe was adapted from a recipe I found in one of my "Company's Coming" cookbooks and it reminded me of those little boxed pastries you can buy in the store that are puff pastry filled with raspberry and cream with sugar on the.. so I figured these would be worth a try and they turned out pretty darn good! I made a couple changes here and there, but hey - that's what cooking is all about, taking a recipe, adding a little something here and there and making it your own. :)

Package of frozen puff pastry (14 oz. / 397 g.) thawed according to pkg directions
1/2 cup - 1 cup Whipping cream (depending on how much whipped cream you'd like)
1-2 tbsp. vanilla
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup Strawberry jam warmed (or any flavor you like)
Icing sugar for dusting

Pre-heat oven to 400 F.

Roll out the thawed puff pastry on a lightly floured surface to about 9 x 9 inches square. Place on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake at 400 F. for 15-20 minutes or until golden and puffed. Let the baking sheet stand on a wire rack to cool. Split the pastry in half horizontally into 2 layers. Cut each half into 6 rectangles.

Beat the whipping cream in a small bowl until soft peaks form. Add about 1 or 2 tbsp. of vanilla and the 1/4 cup of sugar. Beat vanilla and sugar into the whipped cream.

Spread jam onto one side of one pastry rectangle, spread whipped cream over the jam, top with second rectangle of pastry and repeat. Top with the another rectangle of pastry and dust with icing sugar. Repeat with the remaining pastry rectangles, jam and whipped cream so that you wind up with 4 of these delicious little treats!


Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Macadamia Nut Pesto

We had my cousin and his girlfriend over for dinner on Sunday, and I asked what they're favorite meal was and they said they loved pesto. I had never made (or even had) pesto before, but my Auntie Sheila had sent me a recipe for pesto previously (she spends a lot of time in Maui and always buys fresh macadamia nut pesto which I never got the chance to try when we were there) So I decided to give it a whirl and it turned out great!!

I don't have a food processor so I just used a blender. If you're using a blender, you need to make this in 2 batches.

2 cups fresh basil
6 medium cloves of garlic chopped
pinch of salt
2 1/2 cups macadamia nuts
1 1/2 cups extra virgin olive oil
1 1/4 cup parmesan and romano cheese (grated)

Start by chopping the garlic. Then you'll process the basil, garlic, and macadamia nuts together in a food processor (or blender) until finely chopped.

With the machine running, pour in the oil in a thin, steady stream.

Add the cheese and salt and process briefly to combine.

Remove to a bowl and cover until you're ready to use it. Refridgerate if you're not using it right away.

Toss with your favorite pasta (I used fettucini)


Coconut Chicken

I made some macadamia nut pesto on Sunday night, and was brainstorming on what I should make for a side, and I thought! Coconut chicken!!

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts (I like to cut mine in half to make them thinner, but you can pound them out thinner instead if you prefer)
Coconut milk
1 cup of panko breadcrumbs
1/2 cup flaked coconut
3 eggs (beaten)

The night before you intend to make this dish put the chicken into a long casseroll dish and lay them side by side. Pour the can of coconut milk overtop evenly and be sure to spread the thick part of the milk evenly overtop as well. Let them sit in the fridge overnight.

When you're ready to make these, pre-heat the oven to 400 F.

Fill a long dish with the panko breadcrumbs, coconut and salt. Mix together well.

Dip the chicken in the egg and coat it well. Then coat the chicken in the panko/coco mixture and lay on a baking sheet. You can spray it with a bit of Pam before baking to make it crisp up a bit more if you'd like.

Bake for approximately 30 minutes (you can check it after 25 mins).


Sunday, 20 March 2011

German Chocolate Cake

This recipe is courtesy of my Mom... she used to make this when I was younger and it was always one of my faves!

We always double up the icing recipe since it's a two layer cake and we like A LOT of icing on ours! :)

This time I also made a small batch of german chocolate icing to icing the outside of the bottom layer (to make it kind of a two tone cake)

4 squares of Bakers sweet chocolate
1/3 cup of water
3/4 cup butter softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 egg yolks
3/4 tsp vanilla
1 3/4 cup cake and pastry flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup buttermilk
3 egg whites

Icing (remember if you want you can double this up)
2/3 cup evaporated milk
2/3 cup sugar
2 egg yolks
1/3 cup butter
3/4 tsp vanilla
1 cup flaked coconut
2/3 cup chopped pecans

For the cake - melt the chocolate with water in a microwaveable bowl and cool. Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, then add the egg yolks one at a time, beating after each addition. Blend in the vanilla and chocolate.

Sift the flour, baking soda and salt together in a seperate bowl and alternately add this into the other mixture along with the buttermilk 1/3 at a time on low speed. Once the mixtures are combined, blend on medium speed for 1 minute.

Beat the egg whites in a small bowl until stiff peaks form and fold into the cake batter.

Pour the batter into 2 greased pans and bake at 350 F for 40 - 50 minutes (or until toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean). Cook cakes completely before frosting.

For the icing - Combined the evaporated milk, sugar, egg yolks, butter and vanilla in a saucepan and cook over medium heat stirring constantly until the mixture comes to a boil (about 5 mins). Continue boiling, stirring constantly about 2 more minutes or until the mixture turns caramel colored. Add the coconut and pecans and then cool.

Turn the bottom layer of the cake upside and frost the top with the icing, add the top layer and frost the top of that.

If you want you can leave the sides unfrosted, or you can put less frosting in the middle and on top and do the whole cake... OR you can make some german chocolate icing like I did.

I didn't measure, but I used approximately 1 cup of icing sugar and about a 1/2 a cup of butter, I creamed it together and then added 2 (melted) squares of Bakers sweet chocolate and blended it until the icing was completely mixed with the chocolate. I used this to ice the bottome outer layer of the cake (refer to photo).


Saturday, 19 March 2011

Mushroom Risotto

I love mushrooms, and I love risotto so why not combine the best of both worlds and make a mushroom risotto.

This recipe makes about 4 half cup servings, so if you're cooking for more than 4 I'd double it up.

Again, this photo was taken with my iPhone... when I make it again I'll put a better quality photo.

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 small onion minced
1 cup of rice
3.5 - 4 cups of chicken broth
1 cup of chopped mushrooms
1 tbsp butter
generous handful of mozza cheese (shredded)

Start by pouring the olive oil into a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the minced onion and cook until translucent. Add the rice and stir conitnuously unil the rice slightly changes color and is coated well with the oil. Do not let the rice burn.

Reduce the heat to low and add in about a half a cup of chicken broth at a time and stir continuously until chicken broth has reduced. Continue to do this until the risotto is cooked to al dente (approx. 25 - 30 mins). After about 15 - 20 minutes into the cooking (while still adding chicken broth) add your mushrooms into the mixture. Season with salt as desired during this process.

Once the rice is creamy and al dente, remove it from heat, stir in the butter and a handful of shredded mozza cheese and serve.


Friday, 18 March 2011

Simple Banana Bread Pudding

This is a really super easy recipe to follow and it comes out delicious!

I make this as "banana" bread pudding, but really you could substitute the bananas for any type of fruit, so if prefer peaches, or blueberries, etc. you could do that instead.

I personally love banana bread pudding, it's one of my absolute favorite desserts in the world!

This recipe makes 8 individual ramekin servings, or 1 med-large casseroll/baking pan full. 

4 to 5 cups of day old bread (I like to use cinnamon bread) 
4 eggs
3/4 cups brown sugar (tightly packed) 
4 cups of buttermilk
2 1/2 tbsp. vanilla 
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cinnamon
2 bananas (mashed) 

Preheat the oven to 350 F - grease the ramekins (or baking dish) with butter

Tear the bread into 1 inch pieces and set aside

In a medium mixing bowl, combine the remaining ingredients making sure the sugar does not lump. Add the bread to the mixture, make sure it's completely covered and let it soak for about 5 minutes

Pour the mixture into the prepared pan (or ramekins) and bake for 45 minutes (or until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean)

Top with caramel sauce, whipped cream or ice cream and enjoy! (*Caramel sauce recipe below)

** Rum Caramel Sauce**

I thought I'd do a little update to this post and include the rum caramel sauce I serve with mine.

1/2 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tbsp rum extract

Melt the butter and brown sugar in a saucepan over medium heat until smooth, whisking constantly. This should only take a couple minutes.

Whisk in the cream and rum extract, bring to a bit of a light boil and cook until it thickens (about 3 - 5 mins). Remove from heat.

Serve warm over the bread pudding.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Chicken and Gnocchi Soup

So I LOVE the Chicken and Gnocchi soup at the Olive Garden (I pretty much love gnocchi prepared any old way... and this copycat recipe is dead on!! This is hands down my favorite soup, and it's kid approved! My picky little eater will have 2 helpings of this soup, which is unheard of (most of the time.. haha)!! 

2 Cups Gnocchi
4 tbsp butter
1 cup of onion, diced
1/2 cup celery (about 2 stalks), diced
2 cloves of minced garlic
1/4 cup flour
4 cups half and half
3 1/2 cups fat free chicken broth
1 cup carrot matchsticks
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, diced and cooked
1 cup fresh spinach, coarsely chopped
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp dried parsley
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

In a large soup pot over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the onion, celery and garlic and saute until the onion becomes translucent, about 7 minutes. Whisk in the flour, coating the onions and celery then cook for about 1 minute.

Pour in the half and half and add the carrots and chicken. Simmer until the mixture begins to thicken - about 5 minutes. Add the chicken broth and allow mixture to thicken again, stirring often, about 5 minutes or until the consistency desired is reached.

After adding the chicken stock while you're waiting for it to thicken, pop the gnocchi into a pot of boiling water until they float (they don't take long too cook, only about 2 mins or so). Once they are done, drain them.

Stir in the gnocchi, spinach and seasonings then simmer over low heat for another 15 minutes or so to let the flavors permeate and mingle and become deeeelicious!!!

Serve up hot with breadsticks and you'll feel like you're at the Olive Garden ;)


Banana Spice Cake

Hey everyone! It's my first post so I am very excited!

I'll start off with one of my very favorite cake recipes... it's a recipe I got from my Grandma Jeanette (who is an incredible cook) and it's honestly one of THE best cakes I've ever eaten.

The pictures I have are from my iPhone, but now that I am doing this blog I'll be sure to replace them with better photos from my actual camera the next time I make it.

2 1/3 cups all purpose flour
2 1/4 tsp caking powder
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground ginger
3/4 tsp baking soda
2/3 cup butter or margarine
1 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
3 eggs
2/3 cup buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups mashed banana

2 pkgs (8 oz. each) cream cheese (or light cream cheese) at room temp.
3/4 cups butter or margarine
1 tsp vanilla
3 cups icing sugar
1 banana (mashed)
cinnamon sticks (for garnish)

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Mix dry ingredients into one bowl and sift together.

In another bowl, cream the margarine, add the brown sugar and cream together. Add eggs, buttermilk, vanilla and bananas, mix together well.

Slowly add the dry mixture into the wet mixture and blend together well.

Pour the mixture (split evenly) into 2 round cake pans and even out by smoothing the tops fo the batter once they've been poured.

Bake for approximately 40 - 45 mins, or until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Cool cakes completely before frosting.

For the frosting - Mix together all the ingredients and cream together well.

Lay the bottom layer of the cake upside down and spread icing across the top. Add the top layer (right side up) and ice cake completely. Add cinnamon sticks for garnish if desired.