Classic Chocolate Cake with Buttercream Frosting

Christmas 2015 has come and gone, and it was a weird one, weather wise. Everyone has been so excited about the warm days we’ve been having and I’m over here half excited I’m in a t-shirt, and half worried about the fact that it’s Christmas Eve, and we have the windows open.

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I made this cake yesterday because I was in a baking mood, I had red currants in my fridge that I bought on a whim and still hadn’t done anything with, and also had some cheap flowers on hand.

I will say that I’m not normally a fan of dishes that are decorated with inedible items. It doesn’t make a ton of sense, and I understand why some people are put off by it.

So why did I cover a normal chocolate cake with inedible flowers and super sour red currants? Because they’re beautiful, and it was a situation where I  wanted a classic cake, I wanted to decorate said cake, but I didn’t want to have to decorate with more icing. Enter inedible decorations.

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I know I’ve talked about my lack of passion for baking in the past, but lately I have been dreaming of making fresh bagels, loaves of crusty bread and cakes stacked a mile high. It’s strange for me to have a baking urge because normally I’m turned off by the exactness of baking. It’s a beautiful science, but it’s one I’m not super familiar with. I’m eager to keep experimenting and see what turns out.

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Classic Chocolate Cake

2 c. AP flour

1 c. cocoa powder

2 c. granulated sugar

1tsp baking soda

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp sea salt

2 tsp vanilla extract

1 c. sour cream

2 large eggs

1/2 c. canola oil

1 tsp. white vinegar

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Sift flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a mixing bowl. Set aside.

In a separate bowl, lightly mix eggs, sour cream, canola oil, vanilla and vinegar until combined. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, plus one cup of hot water. Stir the batter until combined, being careful not to over mix.

Grease two 9-inch round cake pans and evenly distribute the batter into both pans. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.

Let the cakes cool for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Buttercream Frosting:

2 sticks butter, room temperature

5 cups powdered sugar

1/2 c. heavy cream

2 tsp vanilla extract

Cream butter in a stand up mixer until smooth. Add the powdered sugar, one cup at a time until the frosting is light and fluffy. Turn mixer on low, add cream and vanilla and mix until just combined.

Once your cake is frosted, put it in the refrigerator to set up. It will be easier to slice if you let it chill for a bit.

To store your cake, use a cake stand with a lid, or wrap tightly in plastic wrap. The cake will keep up to 3 days.

Roasted Grapes with Lemon Ricotta Toast

It’s officially 13 days until Christmas. It will be our first Christmas in our new place, and my niece Madeleine’s first Christmas EVER.

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I have been testing recipes the past few days, hoping to come up with something I can bring to share with everyone at Christmas dinner. Enter roasted grapes with lemon ricotta toast.

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I have roasted grapes for other dishes before, and there are tons of other variations online. I kept it simple this time, and tossed the grapes with a little olive oil, sea salt, pepper and fresh rosemary. I also threw in a couple of whole rosemary sprigs underneath the grapes to add additional flavor.

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After reminding myself how amazing grapes can be when you roast them, it makes me want to try other fruits and see how they turn out. Strawberries, raspberries, maybe even citrus fruit?

Has anyone ever tried roasting other fruits? If you have, spill your guts! I want to hear all about it.

Roasted Grapes with Lemon Ricotta Toast

serves 2 as an appetizer

6 slices of baguette

bunch of grapes (however many you want to roast)

1/2 cup walnuts

4 tbsp olive oil

1/2 cup ricotta cheese

1 lemon

3 sprigs of fresh rosemary

salt and pepper, to taste

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Take the 2 sprigs of rosemary and pull off the leaves. Discard the stem and roughly chop.
  3. Rinse and dry the bunch of grapes, then lightly toss in 2 tbsp of olive oil, salt, pepper and chopped rosemary.
  4. Line a baking sheet with foil and on one side lay out the baguette slices and on the other half, lay out the grapes. Drizzle the remaining 2 tbsp of olive oil on both sides of the baguette. Tuck the last whole piece of rosemary underneath the grapes before placing in the oven.
  5. Bake in the oven for 8-10 minutes, turning the baguette once. The grapes are ready when the skin has wrinkled a bit and a few of the grapes pop open.
  6. Toast the walnuts in a dry pan over medium heat for 3-5 minutes, until they’re fragrant and slightly brown. Set aside.
  7. While the baguette and grapes are in the oven, make your ricotta mixture. Mix the ricotta, salt and pepper to taste, the juice of 1/2 a lemon and the zest of 1/2 a lemon. Set aside.
  8. Once the grapes and baguette are ready, it’s time to assemble.
  9. Spread a bit of the ricotta mixture on each piece of baguette, topped with crushed walnuts, salt, pepper and bit more lemon zest. Serve the grapes on the side.
  10. Serve immediately.

 

 

Bits & Bobs

Where to begin? My fingers are twitching anxiously, staring at this blank space and wondering where to start. Not that I have anything insane to say, but it’s been such a long time.

The basics: we moved to Kentucky, I quit my job, life has never been better.

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Back in the spring we started to feel restless. Too comfortable would be a better way to describe things. Happy, but we could be happier. We knew we weren’t reaching our full potential and it was eating away at us. I use the term ‘we’ because both Sean and I felt the same way.

DSC_4848Knowing we wanted to make a change, we started spending more time down in Cincinnati and northern Kentucky. We would drive down after work in the evenings and spend most of our weekends soaking up the city and seeking out available apartments.

We found a dreamy one bedroom in Covington, KY on the second floor of a brownstone, at the end of a quiet street. The only problem? We have cats. The rules at this apartment? No pets allowed. I was CRUSHED. We were crushed.

After another month of searching, a loft fell into our lap. We were looking at another apartment nearby and the property manager mentioned a space that has just become available. She asked if we wanted to take a look and we agreed, only because we were desperate at this point. Walking in, we knew it was meant to be. High ceilings, exposed brick, city views, wood floors and across the street from the best coffee shop in town. My heart literally skipped a beat and we signed on the spot.

Fast forward to this fall. I felt settled into our new life in Kentucky, but my job situation was not great. I was constantly struggling with feeling grateful that I even had a job, and feeling fucking miserable 40 hours a week, wishing I was somewhere else, working on a project that I was passionate about.

So, I quit. I took time to plan, realize what really makes me happy, and was able to find a job working from home that will give me some flexibility to support myself and work on creative projects I never had time for in the past.

I want to re-define this space. I have always posted sporadically, vaguely and not on a schedule. I love writing and sharing here. I always thought I would mainly post food and drink recipes, but I also want to incorporate lifestyle posts as well. It will be trial and error for a while until I find my footing, but I hope you (anyone reading) will stick around for the future.

Tell me what you all have been up to! Would love to hear from some old Internet buddies.:)

 

 

 

Pot De Creme with Mint Cream

Pot de creme has always reminded me of my dad. He typically serves this dessert when he has a dinner party, or people at his house he wants to impress. Everyone gets their own ramekin filled with smooth, chocolate creme with a dollop of homemade whipped cream and a small mint leaf to garnish.

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If you’ve never had pot de creme, imagine an adult chocolate pudding cup. It’s rich, creamy and the perfect dish to serve at a dinner party. If you like to party. If you don’t, you should still make 6 servings and just eat them all yourself.

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There’s a part in this recipe where it calls for simmering water. Make sure you’re super careful when you’re pouring the  water into the pan. I was a little too eager and spilled a bit of water into one of the ramekins. If that happens to you, just take a spoon and gently skim the water off the top. It should be relatively easy to remove.

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I hope you enjoy, friends!

Chocolate Pot De Creme

serves 6

2 cups heavy cream

6 oz. semisweet chocolate

4 large egg yolks – at room temperature

1/2 cup white sugar

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.

In a medium sized saucepan, bring the heavy cream to a simmer. Once the cream is slightly bubbling, remove from the heat and add the chocolate in thirds, continually whisking as you go. Once all of the chocolate is melted, set the pan aside.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk the egg yolks and sugar together until they turn a pale yellow color. It shouldn’t take longer than a minute or two. Once the yolks and sugar are properly mixed, start to slowly add the chocolate and cream mixture into the bowl. Mix thoroughly, but don’t whisk too hard or you’ll add too much air to the mix.

Take six small ramekins and fill them evenly with the chocolate mix. Gently tap the bottom of each ramekin on a hard surface, to make sure no bubbles form. Place each ramekin inside a cake pan with tall enough sides for the water. I used a 9X13″pan.

Fill a tea kettle with water and let it sit on high heat until the water is simmering. Once the water is simmering, pour it into the cake pan, up to one inch on the side of each ramekin.

Wrap the pan in aluminum foil and poke several small holes in the top to let steam escape. Bake for 22 minutes.

Carefully remove ramekins to a cooling rack and let them sit for a few minutes, until they’re cool enough to touch. Transfer the ramekins to the fridge for 2 hours, or until they’re completely chilled.

Top with whipped cream (mint whipped cream recipe below), and fruit and/or nuts of your choice.

Will keep in the refrigerator up to 4 days.

Mint Whipped Cream

2 cups heavy whipping cream

3 tbsp sugar

1/2 tsp mint extract

Combine all ingredients in a stand-up mixer, or use the whisk attachment on a hand mixer. Mix on high until the cream is light and fluffy.

Kale Salad with Warm Breadcrumbs and Parmesan

KALE.

It’s trendy, healthy and everywhere. Any hip restaurant offers their version of a kale salad and any health nut you encounter most likely blends it into their morning smoothie. When I first tried kale I wasn’t a huge fan. I thought it tasted like a banana does before it’s ripe. Then I went to Sotto, an amazing Italian restaurant not far from our apartment, and my opinion of kale changed forever.

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Sotto’s kale salad consists of black kale, homemade bread crumbs, homemade caesar dressing and giant parmesan shavings. I tweaked mine a bit and made a homemade balsamic dressing, and used grated parmigiano- reggiano instead. I sprinkled the breadcrumbs on top while they were still warm, so they wilted the kale a bit, which I loved.

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This dish isn’t groundbreaking, but it’s perfect for a light lunch and you could double (or triple) this recipe to serve as an appetizer at a party.

Kale Salad with Warm Breadcrumbs and Parmesan

serves 1-2

Balsamic Dressing:

one garlic clove, minced

1 tbsp mayonnaise

1 tsp dijon mustard

6 tbsp balsamic vinegar

1/2 c. olive oil

1 lemon

salt and pepper, to taste

Whisk all the ingredients together in a medium sized bowl except the lemon, salt and pepper. Squeeze a bit of the fresh lemon into the dressing, and whisk again. Season with salt and pepper to taste and set aside.

Salad:

3 leaves of kale, stalks removed (your preference on what kind of kale. I wanted to find black kale,but I couldn’t, so I ended up using dinosaur.)

1 dinner roll, preferably a day or two old

1 tbsp butter

1 tbsp olive oli

1/4 c. parmigiano-reggiano

salt and pepper

Roll the kale leaves up into a cigar shape and then slice into thin ribbons. Set aside.

Tear up the dinner roll into bite size pieces and pulse them in a food processor until they are the consistency of sand, but also have a few chunks left. Place a medium skillet on medium high heat and add the butter and olive oil. Once the oil and butter are melted together, pour in the breadcrumbs. Keep the breadcrumbs moving frequently, as they will burn quickly. Once they’re lightly browned, about 4-5 minutes, start assembling the salad.

Pile the kale ribbons high on a plate. Drizzle the balsamic dressing on top, followed by the parmigiano and the warm breadcrumbs. Season with salt and pepper, if needed.

Serve immediately.

*Note: you’ll probably have leftover dressing. It will keep in the fridge up to 3-5 days, if you do have leftovers.

Snackin’

Hi!

I miss posting here. I miss recipes, photos, even the writing, which is honestly my least favorite part. Not that I don’t enjoy writing, but 9 times out of 10 I sit here wondering what the hell I’m going to say, and I end up deleting 90% of my thoughts. Kind of like when you’re too embarrassed to write in your diary.

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Instead of continuing to miss this blog and feeling like it’s an old friend I’ve been avoiding, I decided to post a snack. A simple snack that is colorful and beautiful.

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I took smoked salmon, a 6-minute egg, radish, creme fraiche, baby dill and capers, and piled it all on top of a triscuit. Sean took one look and decided there was no way he was eating it, but I happily ate all 6 and decided it was good enough to share.

Six Minute Egg Stack

makes 6 crackers

6 crackers ( I used triscuits, but I’m sure Wasa crackers (or any kind you like) would be good too)

1.5 oz smoked salmon

3 tbsp creme fraiche

1 6-minute egg

ice bath (for the egg)

fresh baby dill

2 tbsp capers

1 radish (rinsed and thinly sliced)

salt and pepper, to taste

Take your egg and gently set it in a medium sized saucepan. Cover the egg with one inch of cold water, and place saucepan over high heat. Let the water come to a rolling boil, then immediately take the pan off the heat. Cover for 6 minutes, then remove the egg with a slotted spoon. Gently crack the egg, then immediately place in the ice bath for one minute. After a minute, remove the egg, dry the shell, then crack and peel. Slice the egg into 6 slices. Set aside.

Lay out your six crackers and evenly distribute the smoked salmon. Top with a spoonful of creme fraiche, followed by a slice of egg for each cracker. Add the radish, capers and a sprinkle of dill. Finish with salt and pepper.

Serve immediately.

Curried Eggplant Dip

I woke up this morning knowing I wanted to post a recipe today. I went to the store, walked around like a moron because I didn’t have a plan or list, then came home with an eggplant, one onion, fresh basil, a lemon and some naan.

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I decided to make a smoky curry dip with the eggplant and onion, and served it with some toasted naan. Now, this is not the most beautiful dip, but it is delicious. I caramelized the onions first, which made everything a bit sweet, then added in some curry & dijon mustard and let the onions cook down until they were soft and sticky.

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Curried Eggplant Dip

makes about 1 1/2 cups

1 eggplant

2 cloves of garlic, smashed

1 yellow onion, peeled and thinly sliced

2 tsp curry powder

salt and pepper

2 tbsp butter

1 tsp dijon mustard

2 tsp brown sugar

olive oil

fresh herbs (I used basil) for the top

Poke holes in the eggplant with a fork all the way around. Rub olive oil all over the skin, and season with salt and pepper. Place eggplant on a baking sheet and broil for 2 minutes on all sides, until charred, but not totally burnt.

Reduce oven down to 375 degrees, (keeping the eggplant in the oven), and continue cooking for 20 minutes, or until the eggplant is completely soft. Remove from oven and set aside.

In a medium saucepan, melt 2 tbsp of butter over medium-high heat. Add onions, brown sugar and smashed garlic cloves,and cook for 10-15 minutes, until the onions start to take on a light brown color. Add salt and pepper and curry powder, and cook for 3-4 minutes. Add dijon mustard and continue cooking for 5 minutes.

In a blender or food processor, add onions and garlic, and pulse until combined, but still a bit chunky. Just make sure there are no big pieces of garlic or onion. Discard the top of the eggplant, but add the rest, including the skin, to the food processor. Pulse again, until just combined. Taste for salt and pepper.

Serve immediately with fresh herbs on top, and hot naan or pita bread.

 

 

 

Internin’

I snapped some photos while I was working at my internship last night, and thought it could be fun (maybe?) if I posted some pictures from the kitchen.

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chili

chips

bread

Don’t bother using a toaster. Grill your bread.

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gary

Plucking fresh mint leaves. (Not my hands).

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meats

my list

 

 

Sips: A Drink Series

Lord help me. I want to start a drink series.

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I never make cocktails at home. I always envy people who have amazing bar carts filled with glass tumblers and perfectly square ice cubes. While I don’t have a bar cart, I do have a burning desire to make more of an effort to make restaurant style cocktails at home. Sometimes I feel guilty going out to eat and spending a chunk of money on dinner and drinks. Like, I want to be chef, so shouldn’t I just make all this at home? So with that in mind, I wanted to start Sips. A way to document my thoughts and experiments with mixology.

Over the weekend I was playing around with whiskey concoctions. I rarely drink whiskey, so this was definitely challenging for me. I didn’t want to make a drink that was too sweet, but I also knew I had to add something to cut through the bitter Maker’s Mark. With that criteria in mind, I decided to try my hand at making an herb infused simple syrup. I used thyme for my herb, but you can honestly use whatever kind you want. I just steeped 3-4 sprigs of thyme in the simple syrup for about 2-3 hours, and then strained the syrup in a sieve.

After all that, I came up with something that I thought was worthy of a Sips post. Maker’s Mark with fresh orange juice, bitters and thyme simple syrup. A bit of a warning: this drink is semi strong. If you aren’t a whiskey fan, I would probably sit this one out.

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I happened to be making pasta dough while I was mixing this drink. Hence the fucking flour thumbprint.😦

 

Maker’s with Fresh Orange Juice, Bitters and Thyme Simple Syrup

makes one drink

3 oz. Maker’s Mark (or whatever whiskey you prefer)

2 oz. fresh orange juice

2-3 dashes of Angostura Bitters

1.5 tbsp thyme simple syrup

4-5 ice cubes

cocktail shaker (with ice)

 

Combine ingredients in the cocktail shaker. Shake vigorously for 10-15 seconds, then pour over ice. Top with a sprig or two of thyme.

Serve immediately.

 

Thyme Simple Syrup

makes about 3/4 cup

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup water

3-4 sprigs of fresh thyme

Bring sugar and water to a boil over high heat. When the sugar has dissolved, remove from heat and add the thyme. Let the herbs steep in the syrup for 1-2 hours, then strain the syrup through a sieve. Keep syrup in a (tightly capped) jar in the refrigerator, up to two weeks.

Enjoy!

 

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