Sunday, January 31, 2010

Chocolate Sheet Cake

I needed to bring a dessert to my parents this weekend - and by 'needed to' I mean I said I was going to bring a dessert, even though we didn't need one - and I wanted to make something new with ingredients I had on hand. I picked up my Pioneer Woman Cookbook and decided to give her chocolate sheet cake a try.

It came together really easily and was delicious. I made it without nuts because I didn't have any, but the husband said it would have been better with nuts. So I might try that next time.

This cake will feed an army.

Chocolate Sheet Cake


2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
¼ teaspoons salt
4 heaping tablespoons cocoa
2 sticks butter
1 cup water
½ cups buttermilk
2 whole beaten eggs
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla

½ cups finely chopped pecans (optional)
1-¾ stick butter
4 heaping tablespoons cocoa
6 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 pound (minus 1/2 Cup) Powdered Sugar

Preheat oven to 350
In a mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, and salt.
In a saucepan, melt butter then add cocoa and stir together. Bring 1 cup of water to a boil and add to chocolate mixture. Allow to boil for 30 seconds then turn off heat. Pour over flour mixture, and stir lightly to cool.

In a measuring cup or bowl, beat the eggs and add buttermilk, baking soda and vanilla. Stir buttermilk mixture into butter/chocolate mixture. Pour into sheet cake pan and bake at 350-degrees for 20 minutes.

While cake is baking, make the icing. Chop pecans finely. In a saucepan, melt butter then add cocoa and stir together and turn off heat. Add the milk, vanilla, and powdered sugar. Stir together. Add the pecans, stir together, and pour over warm cake.


Sunday, January 24, 2010

French Onion Soup

Another PW success! I wanted a warm dinner without a lot of work and french onion soup came to mind. The worst part was crying while slicing onions. After that it was pretty easy. I did splurge and buy the Gruyere cheese and we were both happy about that. It really is a delicious cheese. I only bought a half a pound and had a lot leftover.

This recipe makes a TON of soup, so if you're just cooking for a few then you may want to halve it. I wish I would have because we threw a lot away.

French Onion Soup
from: The Pioneer Woman Cooks

1 stick butter
4 whole large (or 6 medium) yellow onions, halved root to tip, and sliced thin
1 cup (generous) dry white wine
4 cups low sodium chicken broth
4 cups beef broth
2 cloves minced garlic
Worcestershire Sauce
Several thick slices of french bread
5 ounces, weight (to 7 Ounces) Gruyere cheese, grated

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Melt butter in a heavy soup pot or Dutch oven over medium-low heat. Add onions and cook, covered, for 20 minutes. Place soup pot into the oven with the lid slightly ajar to ensure the onions will brown. Allow onions to cook in the oven for 1 hour, stirring at least once during the cooking process so onions won’t stick and burn.

Remove pot from oven and place back on stovetop over medium heat. Stir, scraping off all the brown, flavorful bits. Turn off heat and pour in wine. Turn heat back to medium. Cook wine for five minutes, allowing it to reduce. Add broths, Worcestershire Sauce and minced garlic and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 30 to 45 minutes.

Butter one side of the bread slices and broil over low heat, allowing bread to brown and become crispy. When soup is ready, ladle into bowl or ramekin. Place crispy bread on top, and then sprinkle generously with grated cheese. Broil until cheese is melted and bubbly.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Sugar Cookies

I finally found a good recipe for un-iced sugar cookies. I was never a huge fan of sugar cookies – especially the iced ones. The catering we had at work always included these amazing, soft sugar cookies. I haven’t stopped thinking about them.

So I’ve been testing recipes and sending them to work with my husband. His co-workers have liked them all, but I still wasn’t satisfied. Until I came across this recipe for Soft Sugar Cookies.
They turned out so good. The only change I made to her original recipe is that I chilled the dough for an hour and between batches because the first batch (of unchilled dough) came out flat and crispy.

Sugar Cookies
From Delish

2 cups granulated sugar
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
14 Tbsp (1 3/4 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350°F. Spread 1/2 cup of the sugar in a shallow dish for coating and set aside. In a separate bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together and set aside.

Beat the butter and remaining 1 1/2 cups sugar together in a large bowl using an electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy, 3-6 minutes. Beat in the vanilla, then the eggs, one at a time, until combined, about 30 seconds, scraping down the bowl & beaters as needed.
Reduce the mixer speed to low and slowly mix in the flour mixture until combined, about 30 seconds. Give the dough a final stir with a rubber spatula to make sure dough is combined.

Chill dough for 1 hour

Line large baking sheets with parchment paper. Using wet palms, roll 2 tablespoons of dough at a time into balls, then roll in sugar to coat. Place balls on parchment-lined baking sheets, spaced 2 inches apart. Flatten cookies with the buttered bottom of a drinking glass, then sprinkle with more sugar.

Bake cookies, one sheet at a time, until the edges are set and just beginning to brown but the centers are still soft and puffy, 10-12 minutes, (13 minutes in my oven). Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet for 10 minutes.

Source: Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook, 2006.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Gooey Butter Cookies

St. Louis is the birthplace of a fantastic dessert/coffee cake called Gooey Butter Cake. If you have never had one, you need to look up a recipe and make it stat. One day I will steal my sister’s recipe and blog about it, but until then you’ll have to settle for gooey butter cookies. These are simple to make and really delicious.

Gooey Butter Cookies

1 box Butter Recipe Yellow Cake Mix
1 stick butter – softened
1 8oz block cream cheese – softened
1 large egg
powdered sugar for coating


Mix all ingredients together in a bowl – I use my hands, which can be real messy. Let dough chill for a few hours or overnight.

Preheat oven to 350. Roll dough into balls – about 2 tbsps each. Roll the ball in powdered sugar and place on parchment lined baking sheet. Bake for 16 minutes. Remove from oven and slide parchment paper with cookies still on it onto a cooling rack.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Turkey Pesto Panini

I got a Panini grill pan for Christmas and am so excited to make fantastic sandwiches at home. This recipe came from what I had on hand that day. Eventually, I'd like to replace the store-bought pesto and focaccia with homemade. Someday!

Turkey and Pesto Panini

focaccia bread - cut into two slices
basil pesto
sliced turkey breast
provel cheese (provolone will work too)
olive oil

Heat pan to medium high heat.
Spread pesto on inside of one slice of bread. Add desired amount of turkey and cheese. Brush outsides of sandwich with olive oil.

Once pan is good and hot, grill for about 3-5 minutes on each side. Keep an eye on it, because it will cook fast.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Easy Turtles

This recipe has been floating around the cooking message board I read. It looked simple and delicious, so I gave it a shot. Mine did not turn out as pretty as others, but they were very tasty.

Easy Pretzel Turtles

Waffle style Pretzels
1 bag Dove Candies with Caramel
Pecan Halves

Preheat oven to 350
Place a dove candy on each pretzel. Bake for 3-4 minutes or just until chocolate gets soft. Remove from oven. Place a pecan half on top of each chocolate. Let cool before serving.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Buttermilk Biscuits

One of our favorite breakfast foods is biscuits and gravy. Until recently I've been o.k. with using store bought canned biscuits. After reading a few recipes on blogs, I realized how easy biscuits could be. So I set out to find a great buttermilk biscuit recipe. I found Tyler Florence's recipe used ingredients that I always have on hand - except buttermilk which I now buy regularly.

My husband declared 'no more canned biscuits' after one taste of these. I have to admit they are so much better than the canned stuff, and not hard at all to make. I have adapted his recipe slightly because mine always seem to need a little more buttermilk than he calls for. I also use butter instead of shortening, and a little more than he called for.

Buttermilk Biscuits

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 stick plus 1tbsp butter, chilled, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
3/4 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 400

In a mixing bowl, combine dry ingredients together with a fork. Cut in the butter using a pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Make a well in the center and add buttermilk. Quickly fold dry ingredients into buttermilk with your hands until a sticky dough forms. If dough does not come together, add more buttermilk - 1tbsp at a time - until all flour is absorbed.

Turn dough out onto floured surface. Gently fold the dough over itself 3 or 4 times to create layers. Roll dough out to 3/4-inch thick. Cut with a 3-inch biscuit cutter. Transfer dough rounds to a sheet pan. Gather scraps and repeat.

Make a dimple in the center to help the top rise evenly. Brush with butter. Bake for 17 minutes until golden brown.

Top with Sausage Gravy and enjoy!

Friday, January 1, 2010

Sausage Gravy

I got this 'recipe' from my mom. We grew up having big breakfasts on the weekends and my mom usually made biscuits and gravy. Well, actually, most often it was hamburger gravy on toast. When we were really lucky, we got sausage gravy on biscuits.

So a few years ago I called her and asked for her recipe. It was rather vague, but really simple. My husband now requests biscuits and gravy almost every day.

I will post the biscuit recipe separately.

Sausage Gravy

1 lb pork sausage
salt and pepper to taste

Brown 1 lb pork sausage in a nonstick pot. Once meat is cooked through, begin adding flour 1 heaping tbsp at a time stirring continuously. Add flour until all the grease has been soaked up and the sausage is covered in flour. This is usually 3-4 heaping tbsp's for me.

Add milk until sausage is covered - Appx 4-5 cups. I told you it was vague. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Bring to a boil stirring somewhat constantly. Once the gravy begins to boil, reduce heat to low and continue stirring. Keep on low heat until gravy thickens to desired consistency.

Serve over warm buttermilk biscuits - or toast!

Sorry I do not have a picture of this one right now. I will try to get one ASAP.