Saturday, October 16, 2010

Texas Sheet Cake

Here is an easy cake to make for a crowd. I make this cake to take to work for birthdays. I started baking this when I was around 12 years old. Ingredients, preparation and cooking times are not difficult or time consuming.

Texas Sheet Cake


2 C. Flour
2 C. Sugar
1/4 t. Salt
2 Sticks Unsalted Butter
1 C. Water
2 Eggs, beaten
1/2 C. Buttermilk
3 T. Cocoa Powder
1 t. Baking Soda
1 t. Vanilla

Preheat oven to 350. Spray a sheet pan with non-stick cooking spray (I use an 11 x 16 size pan).

Sift flour, sugar and salt together in a large bowl. In a saucepan, melt butter. Add the water and cocoa and bring just to a boil. Pour the chocolate mixture over the flour mixture. In another bowl, mix eggs, baking soda, buttermilk and vanilla. Beat into the flour/chocolate mixture (by hand, no mixer required) until well incorporated.

Spread batter into prepared pan and bake at 350 for 20 minutes. Let the cake cool completely before frosting.


1 stick butter
3 T cocoa powder
6 T milk
1 pound box of confectioner's sugar
1 t vanilla
1.5 C walnuts, chopped

In a medium saucepan, melt butter with the cocoa powder and milk over low heat (do not boil). When the butter has completely melted and the ingredients are combined, remove from heat. Immediately add the sugar, vanilla and nuts. Mix well and pour over the cake. Smooth out carefully with a knife. Let the frosting harden up (about 30 minutes) before serving. Cake can be stored, covered until ready to serve.

Since there are no preservatives, this cake is best if consumed within 24 hours of making. You can also cover it and store in the refrigerator where it should last several days. Yields approximately 24 servings.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Tomato, Pepper & Mushroom Lasagna

I like to make big dinners on the weekends when I have a little extra time to spend in the kitchen. I bastardized a Weight Watchers recipe this past Sunday and ended up with a really good and healthy lasagna. The original recipe only called for roasted pepper strips tucked into layers of cheese and sauce. I added a layer of sauteed mushrooms and another layer of fresh wilted spinach tossed with lots of garlic. You need to have at least a couple of hours available to make this. You have to dirty up a few pans but when you smell it cooking, its totally worth it.
Jennifer's Bastardized Veggie Lasagna

24 oz store bought marina sauce
1 cup canned, diced fire roasted tomatoes, well drained
1 cup part-skim ricotta
1 1/2 cup part-skim mozzarella cheese
1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup egg substitute (Egg Beaters or use real eggs to measure 1/4 cup)
1/4 t. salt
1/4 t. pepper
1/4 t. dried oregano
6 lasagna noodles (I used whole wheat noodles)
1/2 cup jarred roasted red peppers, cut into narrow strips
8 0z container mushrooms, sliced
6 oz fresh baby spinach leaves
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 t. olive oil

Preheat oven to 375.

Bring a pot of water to boil and cook noodles according to package directions. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine the ricotta, mozzarella cheese, Parmesan cheese and eggs. Stir in salt, pepper and oregano. Set aside.

In a medium pot, combine the marinara sauce and fire roasted tomatoes. Simmer over low heat for about 15 minutes.

In a medium skillet, heat the olive oil and add the sliced mushrooms. Cook over medium heat until mushrooms begin to soften. Remove mushrooms from pan and set aside. To the pan add the fresh spinach and garlic, cover with a lid and cook on low heat for about 5 minutes or until the spinach wilts. Drain the spinach well and set aside.
Once the noodles have cooked, spray an 11 x 7 inch glass pan with nonstick cooking spray. Ladle about one cup of marinara sauce into the bottom of the pan. Add two lasagna noodles. Top the noodles with half of the cheese mixture. Next layer on all of the red pepper strips and the cooked mushrooms (avoid adding the mushroom cooking liquid, if possible). Ladle on another cup of sauce and top with two more lasagna noodles. Top with all of the remaining cheese mixture. Sprinkle spinach over the cheese and top with the final layer of noodles. Ladle on remaining marinara sauce. Sprinkle 1/2 cup of mozzarella cheese over the top and a little more Parmesan cheese. Cover loosely with aluminum foil and bake at 375 for 40 minutes. Remove foil and continue to bake for 20 more minutes. Remove lasagna from oven and let rest at least 15 minutes before cutting. Makes 8 servings.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Grilled Shrimp with Black Bean Salad

I made this for dinner tonight after Mike & I walked almost 5 miles around Lady Bird Lake. This is a super easy and quick meal to put together. I marinate the shrimp while I am chopping the salad ingredients, throw the shrimp on the grill and by the time you have half a glass of wine, the shrimp is ready. I buy the large frozen peeled, deveined shrimp from Costco to save time.

This recipe makes a generous amount of black bean salad for two.


1 lb large shrimp, peeled & deveined
1 t olive oil
1/2 t garlic powder
1/2 t lemon pepper
pinch of red pepper flakes
salt (to taste)

Place the shrimp in a medium sized bowl. Add all other ingredients, stir well to coat the shrimp and set aside for 15 minutes. When ready to grill, place on skewers and grill until done (about 3 -5 minutes per side).

Black Bean Salad

15 oz can of black beans, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup red or yellow pepper, diced
1 large garlic clove, minced
small cucumber, peeled and cut into large dice
1/4 cup red onion, diced
1 avocado, diced
1/2 cup chopped tomatoes
1 T cilantro, chopped fine
1 T olive oil
3/4 t cumin
juice of one lime
salt & pepper to taste

Into a medium bowl, whisk olive, cumin, lime juice and salt and pepper. Add other ingredients, stir gently to combine. Serve immediately .

**Note - I sometimes add diced mango or a handful of corn to the recipe. It would also be nice with minced jalapeno mixed into it.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Skyline Chili Lentils

A while back, I bookmarked this recipe to try. I finally got around to it when the Bengals season started. You may think chopping and preparing a long list of ingredients is insane, but when you live 1200 miles away from the nearest Skyline chili parlor, well lets just say desperate times call for desperate measures. I'm calling this recipe Skyline Chili Lentils because as any good Cincinnatian knows, if you have "Cincinnati style" chili - it is Skyline. Preferrably followed by a trip to Graeters... but I digress.

This is wonderful served over whole wheat spaghetti, topped with cheese and onions ("three way" style as they say in the 'nati). My husband says it is the best Cincinnati style recipe I've tried. The bonus is the lentils are high in fiber, low in fat, inexpensive and good for you.

Cincinnati Chili Lentils

1 C. dry lentils (any variety, I used French green lentils)
2.5 C. chicken broth
1 can of mild Rotel tomatoes
1 garlic clove, minced
1 onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
1 bay leaf
1 t. cocoa
1/4 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. allspice
1 t. cumin
1 t. chili powder
1 t. paprika
1/2 t. cayenne (or to taste)
1 t. sugar
1 t. vinegar
1 T. Worcestershire sauce
salt and pepper to taste

Add lentils and chicken broth to medium sauce pan, bring to a boil and then reduce heat and let simmer for 15 minutes.

Add all other ingredients and simmer for 45 minutes. Serve over whole wheat pasta, with chopped onions and sharp cheddar cheese.

Makes 6 servings.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Corn, Tomato & Bacon Tart

Corn, Tomato & Bacon Tart

The latest issue of Eating Well has a corn and tomato tart recipe listed that looks pretty darn good. Except they didn't use any bacon and bacon is pretty much essential if you ask me.

So I tried their recipe and I added bacon, shallots and made a few other changes. This is a keeper, especially in the summer when you can get (or grow) really good tomatoes and fresh corn. You could easily serve this with a big salad (I grilled salmon to go with).

Here is the original recipe from Eating Well and listed below is my twist on it:

3/4 C whole wheat pastry flour
3/4 C all purpose flour
1/2 t salt
1/2 t pepper
1/3 C olive oil
5 T cold water

2 slices of bacon
1 shallot, minced
1/2 C Parmesan cheese, grated
3 large eggs
1 C low-fat milk
1/2 C shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
2 -3 tomatoes, sliced
2 ears of fresh corn
1 T fresh chopped basil
1/2 t salt
1/4 t pepper

To prepare crust: Combine whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper in a large bowl. Make a well in the center and add the oil and water gradually, stirring until a soft dough is formed. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for 15 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400. Roll the dough out into a circle and place in a 9" deep pie plate. Line the pie plate with aluminum foil or parchment paper and weight down with beans or pie weights (I used metal measuring cups). Bake for 20 minutes, remove the pie weights and aluminum foil and let the crust cool down for at least 10-15 minutes.

To prepare filling: Chop bacon into cubes and cook over medium heat until crisp. Remove from the skillet and add the shallots. Cook for 1-2 minutes or until the shallots are soft. Set aside.
Shuck the corn and cut the kernels off. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs and milk together and mix in the bacon and shallots. Sprinkle half of the Cheddar cheese over the crust and place half the tomatoes over the cheese. Sprinkle the corn over the tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper. Add the remaining Cheddar cheese and top with the remaining tomatoes. Pour the egg mixture over the tomatoes. Season with more salt and pepper. Sprinkle the basil and Parmesan cheese all over the top of the pie.

Bake for 40 -50 minutes or until a knife comes out clean. Let rest for 20 minutes before serving.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Slow Cooked Pork Tingas

This is a Rick Bayless recipe from his superb cookbook Mexican Everyday. This is so easy and the flavors are amazing for so little work. I am lazy and I don't prepare the optional last step Rick suggests (draining off the pan drippings, boiling those down, frying chorizo and mixing it all together yada yada). I take the lazy cook's route and eat this after the pork has cooked down to tender deliciousness. Pork tingas make excellent tacos. After I cook the tingas, I serve them on warm corn tortillas with goat cheese, avocado and cilantro.

Slow Cooked Pork Tingas

2 lbs boneless pork shoulder (I used Boston butt) trimmed of fat and cut into cubes
2 cans of diced fire roasted tomatoes (use one 28 oz can or two 15 oz cans)
1-2 chipotle chiles en adobo - cut into strips
1 T chipotle chiles adobo sauce
1 T Worcestershire sauce
1 t dried oregano (I used Mexican oregano)
3 garlic cloves minced
1-2 yellow onions, diced
4 Yukon gold or red potatoes, cut into chunks
Salt & pepper

Into the bottom of a slow cooker, spread out the potatoes and cover them with the chunks of pork. In a medium bowl, mix together the canned tomatoes, chipotle peppers, the adobo sauce, garlic, oregano, Worcestershire, salt and pepper. Pour the mixture over the pork.
Cook on low for about 8 hours or until the meat is falling apart tender.
Drain the pan drippings off and discard. Gently shred the pork. Serve the pork/potato mixture on warmed corn tortillas topped with goat cheese, avocado, cilantro and red onions. You could substitute Mexican queso fresco or feta cheese in place of the goat cheese.

Makes several servings (about 10?). Leftovers are great.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Watermelon Margaritas

This is an easy summer drink to whip up when watermelons are plentiful. It is sweet and fruity with a nice kick of tequila. My husband (who doesn't especially like watermelon) sucked down four of these the first time I made them.

Watermelon Margaritas

1/2 C. sugar
1/2 C. water
2 C. seedless watermelon, chopped into chunks
1/4 C. lime juice (about 2, juiced)
1/4 C. triple sec
2/3 C. tequila

Place sugar and water into a small pan and bring the pan up to a boil, let the water/sugar mixture boil for 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat and cool.

Place the watermelon chunks, lime, triple sec and tequila into a blender and whirl it up. Add the cooled sugar syrup and a handful of ice, blend well. Serve on the rocks, makes about 4 large or 6 average sized servings.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Apricot & Peach Cream Tart

Well, it has been awhile. I can't believe two months have passed since I posted anything. I've been busy. The weather has been so nice in Austin, so when I haven't been working I've tried to get outside as much as possible. Plus I have a crappy camera, so I'm also using that as an excuse for the lack of recipes.

A couple of weeks ago at the farmers market, several farmers offered Texas peaches. Peaches in May are unheard of for this Ohio girl. I found one stand with peaches and apricots. Oh my, I love apricots. I bought enough to make a tart. The key to this tart is the incredible butter crust. It reminds me of shortbread cookies, crumbly, buttery and sweet. This has been my go to tart crust for years, it is nice baked and stuffed with fruit or lemon curd. You can do many things with this crust. So if you don't like apricots and peaches (and really who doesn't?), at least try the crust.

Apricot & Peach Cream Tart

Crust Ingredients:

1 + 1/2 C. all purpose flour
1/4 C. sugar
1/2 C. butter, cut into cubes
1 egg yolk
1/2 t. vanilla
pinch salt

Place all ingredients into a food processor and whirl it up until the dough is a uniform, crumbly consistency. Press into the bottom and up the sides of a tart pan with a removable bottom. Par bake at 325 for 25 minutes or until golden brown in color. Remove from oven and prepare filling.

crust, prior to baking

Tart Filling:

3 - 4 peaches, peeled and sliced
10 apricots, pitted and sliced
1/2 C. sugar
1/4 C. brown sugar
3 large eggs
1 C. sour cream
1/4 t. cinnamon
1/4 t. nutmeg
1/4 C. chopped almonds

Combine eggs, sour cream and 1/4 cup of the sugar. Beat well and pour into the par baked tart crust. In another bowl gently combine the fruit, remaining sugars, cinnamon and nutmeg. Spread over the top of the tart and scatter the chopped almonds on top.

tart, prior to baking

tart, after baking

Bake at 325 for 45 - 50 minutes or until the custard looks done. Allow the tart to cool for at least an hour and remove the sides of the tart pan. Serve immediately.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Mocha Fudge Pots

I try to limit sweets to weekends, although from reading this blog you might think otherwise. I have a huge sweet tooth. This is the kind of thing you make on a Saturday night or if you are having company over. I pulled this recipe out of Food & Wine Magazine some years back and I never got around to making it. A couple of weeks ago when my husband was running around SxSW like a crazy fool, I took the opportunity to try this out.
Food & Wine call this a chocolate pudding, but it is very dense, thick and rich. More like a chocolate pot. It is very easy to make, you can use a food processor or even a blender to whip this up. Literally takes minutes (plus the chill time).

Mocha Fudge Pots

1/2 cup heavy cream
2 t instant espresso powder
6 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped (I used Ghirardelli bittersweet chocolate chips)
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 t vanilla
pinch of salt
fresh whipped cream (for serving).

In a small saucepan, bring the cream and espresso powder to a boil over medium high heat.

Espresso powder in heavy cream

Meanwhile in a food processor, grind the chocolate and sugar until fine. Add the egg, vanilla ans salt and pulse until it forms a paste. With the machine on, slowly pour in the hot cream in a steady stream. Blend until silky, thick and creamy (about 1 minute).

Transfer the pudding into small ramekins (6 oz size or smaller, demitasse cups would be cute for this also). Transfer to the fridge and let set until firm, about one hour or overnight.

Garnish with fresh whipped cream and serve.

Makes about 4 servings.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

The Easiest Lamb You'll Ever Make

I love lamb but it is a pain in the ass to cook. First of all, it is very expensive. Secondly, lamb has to be treated with care or you'll ruin the dish. And nothing sucks more than buying a nice piece of expensive meat and then it turns out badly. Also, you have to baby lamb by cooking it a long time or marinating it forever or both.
I really like this recipe because you just throw everything in the pot, stick it in the oven and walk away for three hours. Nothing to marinate, nothing to brown first. Super easy. And the lamb shanks are tender, falling off the bone good. The cooking liquid and veggies turn into a gravy which is just delicious spooned over the lamb.

Lamb Shanks

4 lamb shanks
2 cups red wine
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup olive oil
1 lemons, cut into wedges
2 15 oz cans of fire roasted, diced tomatoes
1 large bunch of fresh basil
1 t salt/pepper
5-6 carrots, cleaned and chopped into chunks
2 celery stalks, cleaned and chopped into chunks
1 large onion, chopped
4 large garlic cloves, peeled and left whole

Preheat oven to 350. Spray the bottom of a large Dutch oven with nonstick cooking spray. Put the carrots, onions and celery in the bottom of the pot. Place the lamb shanks on top of the veggies. Season with salt and pepper. Pour the wine, balsamic vinegar and olive oil over the meat. Place a whole garlic clove on top of each lamb shank, followed by a large wedge of lemon.

Lamb prior to going into oven

Open the canned tomatoes and pour them all over the meat (no need to drain the cans, pour the juice in also). Cut the basil into thin strips and sprinkle the basil all over the lamb and tomato mixture. Put the lid on and roast the lamb at 350 for 3 hours.
The meat should fall off the bones. It will be very tender and your house will smell amazing.

Lamb after cooking 3 hours

I served my lamb shanks on a pillow of two cheese polenta with oven roasted asparagus. Mashed potatoes would also work well.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Banana Pudding

This is my grandma's banana pudding recipe. She used to make this for major family gatherings, like Easter Sunday or a reunion. As you can see from the ingredients list, this is not for anyone counting calories as it uses a frightening amount of heavy whipping cream and an entire can of sweetened condensed milk. When I was newly married, my grandma mailed me the recipe so I could make it whenever I wanted.

Banana Pudding

1 can of sweetened condensed milk (14 oz)
1 1/2 cups of cold water
small package of instant vanilla pudding (4 serving size)
1 pint heavy whipping cream (this measures 2 cups)
3-4 bananas
vanilla wafers
juice of half a lemon

In a large mixing bowl, combine water, sweetened condensed milk and the vanilla pudding. Mix until well combined. Place pudding mixture in the fridge to chill for five minutes.

Meanwhile, whip the heavy cream until stiff peaks form.

Peel and slice the bananas into uniform slices. Squeeze the lemon juice all over the banana slices.
Take several vanilla wafers and carefully place them along the sides and bottom of a large bowl.
place a layer of sliced bananas over the bottom of the bowl.

Remove the pudding mixture from the fridge, carefully fold in the heavy whipping cream. The mixture should feel light, almost like a mousse. Place about one-third of the pudding mixture over the bananas. Continue layering the vanilla wafers, bananas and pudding until you've made three or four layers. Save enough pudding to make a final layer and sprinkle some crumbled vanilla wafers on top.
Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for several hours. I like to make this the day before serving or at least 8 - 12 hours in advance. The pudding tastes better when the vanilla wafers have time to soak up the pudding and get soft.

This makes about 8 - 10 servings. It probably keeps 3-4 days but it never lasts that long at my house.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Salmon with Warm Potato, Artichoke and Pesto Salad

Salmon with Warm Potato, Artichokes and Pesto Salad

This was my creation for Friday night's dinner. I grilled salmon and served it over a salad comprised of new potatoes, artichokes, tomatoes, pesto and roasted garlic. This recipe makes enough for two large servings. My hubby is not much of a fish eater, but even he liked it.

3/4 lb. salmon (I used Atlantic salmon)
6 new potatoes
4 whole garlic cloves
2 T. olive oil
1/4 C. grape or cherry tomatoes, sliced
1 can of artichokes, drained
1/4 C pesto (homemade or store bought)
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 375. Place 4 garlic cloves on a large square of aluminum foil. Add the olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Fold up the aluminum foil into a pouch, place on a pie plate and roast in the oven for about 20 minutes, until the garlic is soft.

Meanwhile, boil the new potatoes in a pot of salted water until they are fork tender. Cut each red potato in half and place the potatoes in the bottom of a medium sized bowl. Add the roast garlic, pesto, sliced tomatoes and artichokes. Set aside.

Grill or broil the salmon until done. I grilled the fish with a pat of butter on top with, salt and pepper.
Plate the salad and rest the salmon on top. Drizzle with another small dab of pesto and serve.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Molten Chocolate Lava Cakes

I had a chunk of Valrhona in my pantry and I found a good use for it last night. Valrhona is a high grade French chocolate, I use it for cooking and baking. It is more expensive than regular baking chocolate, but not outrageously so and it is certainly worth the price as the quality is superb.

I kind of forgot about this recipe and haven't made it in a long time. I am not sure where I picked this recipe up, I scrawled the recipe down on a piece of notebook paper and I keep it in my 3-ring "sweets" binder. It does not require very many ingredients, but you should use good quality bittersweet chocolate. In a pinch, I have used semi sweet chocolate chips instead of bittersweet chocolate. The better the chocolate, the more rich the dessert will be.

I assembled the ingredients for this before I put steaks on the grill. I whipped it up after dinner and by the time we had the kitchen cleaned up, dessert was ready.

Molten Chocolate Lava Cakes

1 stick butter
1 T. flour + 1 t. flour
4 oz chopped bittersweet chocolate (semi sweet may be substituted)
2 large eggs
2 egg yolks
1/4 C. sugar
pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 450.
Line a muffin tin with 4 - 6 foil muffin liners. I like to use the big foil muffin liners, so I usually only make 4 large molten chocolate lava cakes. You could use smaller liners and make 6 small lava cakes (but that would be sad, go for the bigger size).

Spray the foil muffin liners (if using) generously with non-stick spray. Alternatively, you could butter several ramekins but I found the foil liners much easier to handle.

Over a low flame, melt the butter and chocolate together, set aside.

Meanwhile beat the eggs, egg yolks, sugar and salt until light and thick. You can use your mixer or do this by hand with a whisk. Add the melted chocolate and mix well to combine. Stir in the flour. Divide among the muffin tins or ramekins and bake at 450 for 6- 7 minutes. The centers should still look a bit jiggly when you get these out of the oven, that is OK.

Let the cakes sit for at least 5 minutes before plating and serving. Excellent with vanilla ice cream or coffee flavored gelato. Best served warm.