Friday, October 29, 2010

A Tricky Treat: October Birthday Cake – Chocolate Cake De Luxe (For Roz)

Yesterday was National Chocolate Day, one of the greatest holidays ever invented (in my opinion) and the perfect day to unveil the October birthday cake of the month: Chocolate Cake De Luxe. I consider myself a pretty extreme chocoholic; it takes a lot for me to deem something “too chocolaty.” But I have to admit that this dessert truly lives up to its name and is one of the most decadent chocolate cakes I have ever tasted.

There are three different kinds of chocolate: the cake itself, the middle layer of frosting and the outside frosting. I completed the first two components with relative ease, but the outside frosting required a bit of patience and finesse. Of all the things I’ve attempted this year, surprisingly, frostings have given me the most trouble.

The cake and middle layer of frosting

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

All-In-One Thanksgiving Dinner: Chicken & Stuffing Casserole

As the days get shorter and colder, more and more signs that the holiday season is quickly approaching begin to pop up everywhere. Stores are already decorating for Christmas. Reminders to order your Thanksgiving turkey are in grocery stores and farmers markets. And when we were visiting friends last weekend, their 5-year old was already watching the Charlie Brown Christmas special on DVD (I had to applaud her for that one, it’s one of my favorites and always makes me happy, no matter what time of year I see it). 

But the cooler temperatures and leafless trees trigger more than the desire to bundle up, they also stir up cravings for comfort food. One of my favorite types of comfort food is casseroles (or hot dishes as they are typically called in Minnesota). So after I closed all the windows and flipped the switch for heat in the house, I dove into the casserole section of The Found Recipe Box to see what I could find. And I found just the recipe to get us all in the mood for the upcoming November holiday: Chicken & Stuffing Casserole.

This is yet another very simple recipe to prepare: throw some chicken breasts in a baking dish, cover them with Swiss cheese, stir the stuffing mixture, pour it over the top of the chicken, and then throw it in the oven. The hardest part is waiting the two hours for it to bake. But it was well worth the wait. Upon first bite, my husband and I both agreed that it tasted just like Thanksgiving dinner. The only thing missing was a side of cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie (or perhaps pumpkin chiffon pie – either version 1 or version 2 from The Found Recipe Box). The only change we’d make is to skip the Swiss cheese layer the next time. 

If you’re looking for a way to get into the spirit if the holidays without stepping foot into a store that is all lit up and that bombards you with the smell of cinnamon pine cones, pop this dish into the oven. Soon your home will be enveloped in the aroma of Thanksgiving and even the first bite will warm you up enough to ward off the winter cool down for just a little longer. It’s a great way to enjoy all the senses of the season without all the stress that comes along with preparing a full Thanksgiving meal. And if that doesn’t put you in the holiday mood, pop in the Charlie Brown Christmas DVD – it always fills my heart with that warm, loving light of the season. 

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

First Taste of the Season: Pumpkin Chiffon Pie

I am happy to announce that canned pumpkin is back on the shelves at the grocery store! Halloween decorations are popping up all over the neighborhood and to celebrate autumn, and the return of canned pumpkin, I decided to make the first pumpkin pie of the season.

When we bought our house, I was excited to be able to decorate the outside for all the holidays. Since fall is my favorite season, I took particular interest in jazzing up the house’s curb appeal with pumpkins, gourds and corn stalks. However, my excitement was short lived when I discovered what a ruckus the décor would cause among the local squirrel community. They began by scaling the corn stalks in search of leftover ears, which they then threw to the ground and began to fight over. But that was only the beginning of the commotion. Next, they set their sights on my pumpkins. They chewed a hole into the side of each pumpkin, large enough for their rotund little bodies to fit through, then sat inside the bulbous food pit and ate it from the inside out. 

Friday, October 15, 2010

Sucking the Last Juices From Summer: Individual Peach Dumplings

Technically, it may be fall, but in the Twin Cities the past week or so has felt like summer. Last week we even had temperatures in the 80s for a few days. If it wasn’t for all the bare trees and leaves piling up in the yard, you’d think we were still making our way through the summer months.

All of these warm, sunny afternoons have left me craving those delectable summer treats and when I dove into the box to find a recipe to satisfy my taste buds, I came out carrying a pamphlet for Colorado peaches. The pages contain several different peach recipes, but as soon as I made my way to the store and discovered how hard the fuzzy summer fruit would be to find, I decided to settle for just making one…if I could ever find fresh peaches.

One afternoon, Murphy and I began to make the rounds of all the local grocery stores in search of the main ingredient. Finally, at our last stop, we discovered a heaping pile of beautiful autumn-colored peaches. And they just happened to be from Colorado – how fitting! The smell floating up from the mound of ripe fruit was intoxicating and was the perfect match to the blue skies and rising mercury outside. 

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

A Chocolate Do-Over: Chocolate Cake

I apologize again for the delay in posting. My mom came to visit and we were busy running all over the Twin Cities in search of antique treasures (more on that to come). Then I got knocked out with a cold that kept me prisoner on the couch for several days and left my head in a near constant haze. But I am slowly on the mend and eager to get back into the kitchen!

The thing about being sick is that it leaves you with that feeling at the end of the day of being behind. I know I was sick and needed to rest, but I still felt like there were so many things that needed to be done and I didn’t accomplish any of them. Most importantly, I left another huge gap in posts on the blog. We’ve all had those days – the ones where you wish you could rewind and start over from the beginning and maybe, just maybe, things would go differently.

There are experiences in the kitchen that leave us with the same longing for a do-over. A few weeks ago when Ryan and I went down to visit friends and their new baby, I had planned on making a chocolate cake from the box. Only, when I began to pull ingredients from the cabinet, I realized that I was lacking one main ingredient – cocoa – and didn’t have time to run back to the store to pick more up so I had to switch to the Southern Fudge Cake (which proved to be a very delicious substitution). This taught me a valuable lesson: even when you think you have everything you need, double check before starting a recipe...just in case.

During a recent trip to the grocery store, I restocked my cocoa supply and decided it was time for a recipe do-over. This chocolate cake, when you have all the ingredients, is very simple to make. I chose to do cupcakes instead of a cake and I have to admit, I didn’t make the frosting on the card. I cheated and bought a can of pink frosting with funfetti (I love that stuff! It makes whatever you sprinkle it onto look “happy.”) Everyone who tasted these cupcakes agreed: this is possibly the most rich and moist cake anyone has tasted. And I suggest having a fork close by, even if you make the cupcakes. They can be quite crumbly, but in a very delicious way! 

It would be nice if every day had the opportunity for such a rich and tasty do-over. But at least now I have a recipe to pull out for those days when nothing seems to be going right. I guess the moral of the story is: when it all appears to be crumbling away, pull out your fork and enjoy all those delectable morsels. Because things are always a little better when chocolate is by your side.