Friday, May 18, 2012

Mexican Chocolate Cake.

In honor of the Cinco de Mayo party I attended and the rare rise of the "super moon" , I baked a cake (well, actually two). I originally was going to use a recipe I cut from the Los Angeles Times, eons ago, but decided to do a quick search for Mexican chocolate cake recipes online.  This one popped up first from Baked Bree, who I met at Camp Blogaway, a year and a half ago.

Initially, what intrigued me about Bree's recipe was that she did not use the mexican chocolate tablets and she used balsamic vinegar in her cake batter. The cake is complex in flavor, but not over-powering.  The frosting is perfection, creamy, light and slightly sweet.  If you're looking for something special and unique, I'd definitely recommend giving this cake a try!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Perfect Marriage.

What's the perfect marriage? When it comes to pairing foods, I think the victory belongs to Mr. Salty and Mrs. Sweet. Bake shops, food trucks and restaurants are taking a gamble on this perfect pairing with the likes of chocolate covered bacon, sea salted caramels, bacon brittle and more.

Like many of you, I have a little problem with a website called Pinterest and I recently tried a cookie recipe that was pinned - a chocolate chip and pretzel inspired cookie. I tweaked the recipe slightly, the original recipe included peanut butter chips and I'm not a huge fan of those baking chips.  Instead I added more broken pretzel chips and the results left friends happy and reaching for more.  Soft, chewy, sweet, salty, it satisfies all those inner kid cravings.

Chocolate Chip and Pretzel Cookies (adapted from recipe found on Pinterest)
1 ½ c. all purpose flour
½ tsp. kosher or sea salt
¼ tsp. baking soda
½ c. unsalted butter, room temperature
½ c. light brown sugar
1/3 c. sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 c. chocolate chips
1 c. broken pretzel pieces
Sea salt
In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda and salt.

In a large bowl or stand-up mixer, beat the butter and sugars together on medium speed until light and fluffy (2-3 minutes).  On low speed, slowly add the beaten egg and vanilla extract.  Beat to combine, scrape down the sides of the bowl.

Add the flour mixture and beat until there are no more streaks of flour.  Stir in the chocolate chips and pretzel pieces.  Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour, if not longer. The longer, the better. 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or a silpat mat.  Scoop out well rounded tablespoonfuls of the dough and sprinkle each cookie with sea salt. Leave about 2 inches between each cookie and bake for 10 minutes.  If you like a crisper cookie, leave in the oven for an additional 1-2 minutes.  Allow the cookies to cool on the baking sheet for a few minutes before removing to a cooling rack.

Monday, May 14, 2012

I'm so excited and I just can't hide it!

I'm about to lose control and I think I like it! I'm so excited! Sing it with me, all you Pointer-Sister-big-hair-wearing foodies! :) I'm posting my very own creation this week here on Madame Munchies, but I am also pinning my recipe to Pinterest - Red Quinoa and Roasted Vegetable Salad. What I love about this salad is how versatile it is! If you don't care for certain vegetables or are related to picky eaters, you can easily chuck it out for something you love or that appeals to your family's preferences. Even if you adore the vegetables I suggest, the farmer's markets will inspire you to change it up with vegetables at their peak.

Quinoa (pronounced KEEN-WAH) is increasing in popularity among foodies and health nuts. Not only is it recognized as a grain that is a high in protein, but I recently found out it's a complete protein too. This ancient grain (the Incas ate it!) is related to spinach and swiss chard. Enough facts, go out and buy some quinoa!

Red Quinoa & Roasted Vegetable Salad (serves 6-8 as a side dish)

1 c. quinoa, uncooked 
2 c. water 
2 zucchini, chopped
1 small eggplant, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1 c. small tomatoes, halved
1 yellow, red or orange bell pepper, chopped
2 c. arugula, washed and dried

Herb and Shallot Vinaigrette

1 shallot, finely chopped 
1 lemon, juiced 
White wine vinegar, splash 
2 tablespoons fresh herbs, chopped (I used thyme and oregano)
Salt and Pepper
Scant ¼ c. of good quality extra virgin olive oil

Making the Quinoa: 
Besides, being a powerhouse grain, quinoa is an easy grain to cook successfully. Mark Bittman’s, How to Cook Everything, includes a user-friendly recipe for cooking quinoa. In a small saucepan, add 1 c. quinoa and 2 c. water. Do yourself a favor, add a good pinch of sea salt to the mix and bring to a boil. Once it reaches a boil, turn down the heat to a low simmer and cover the pot slightly. It should take about 15 minutes for the water to absorb and then the quinoa is ready.

Roasting the Vegetables: 
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Spread your zucchini, onions, eggplant, bell peppers and tomatoes onto sheet pans in a single layer. Drizzle olive oil over the vegetables and toss together with your hands. Sprinkle sea salt and freshly ground black pepper over the vegetables. Roasting time may depend on what vegetables you choose for this salad, but mine took about 30 minutes or so.

Making the Dressing: 
In a small bowl, add the shallots. Sprinkle sea salt and freshly ground black pepper over the shallots, add the lemon juice and a splash of white wine vinegar. I allow the shallots to swim in the lemon juice for a while to mellow out. Then add the herbs and the olive oil. Whisk together, taste for seasoning and adjust to your liking.

When you are ready to serve the salad, choose a pretty big bowl, add the quinoa, cooked vegetables and arugula. Drizzle the dressing over the salad, toss together and serve.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Back to Baking.

Hello blogsters! It's been WAY too long since my lil' fingers have danced on the keyboard and written you a foodie love letter. For that, please accept my sincerest apologies. I didn't stop eating or cooking, but I did take some time to shift gears and re-focus on some health stuff. I haven't baked in a really long time and sincerely have missed it.  I missed the sweet sounds of my stand-up mixer beating butter and sugar together in a harmonious song. I missed the whisking of dry ingredients and I missed the sound of my jazzy turquoise timer going off, "it's ready, it's really ready"!

During this time de-blogging status, I bookmarked several recipes to try and when I read Luisa Weiss' post about donut cake, I just knew it would be the first thing I would bake. I rarely bake the same thing twice in one week, but this donut cake recipe is without a shadow of a doubt, worth baking more than once a week. Your friends, family and co-workers will forever be grateful, I promise. It's such a simple recipe (eggs, butter, sugar, flour, vanilla, salt, buttermilk, cornmeal, baking powder and nutmeg) and it delivers grand results.  Yes, your kitchen will smell like a donut factory, but who is going to complain about that? I wish I could've bottled up that smell into a fragrant candle. 

P.S. - If you don't have a springform pan in your cupboards (mine sadly passed away when I made the cake for a second time), a 9" round cake pan will do just fine.