Hershey's "Perfectly Chocolate" Chocolate Cake

>> Sunday, February 20, 2011

The name sums up this recipe pretty well! Andrew and I were craving something sweet but we didn't want to have to make a trip to the store. I was looking through my baking cabinet and glanced at the back of the Hershey's cocoa tub and saw this recipe. I had everything needed to make it so we whipped it up. The cake is unbelievably moist (and it still is three days later as I'm eating the last of it!) and the frosting is so wonderfully sweet - the perfect of companions. I think this may very well end up being my go-to chocolate cake recipe!

Hershey's "Perfectly Chocolate" Chocolate Cake and Frosting
recipe courtesy of Hershey's

for the cake:
2 c sugar
1 3/4 c all-purpose flour
3/4 c Hershey's cocoa
1 1/2 t baking powder
1 1/2 t baking soda
1 t salt
2 eggs
1 c milk
1/2 c vegetable oil
2 t vanilla extract
1 c boiling water

for the frosting:
1 stick butter
2/3 c Hershey's cocoa
3 c powdered sugar
1/3 c milk
1 t vanilla extract

For the cake: Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two 9-in round baking pans. Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl. Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla; beat on medium speed for 2 minutes. Stir in boiling water (batter will be thin). Pour into pans. Bake 30-35 minutes, or until wooden stick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely.

For the frosting: Melt butter. Stir in cocoa. Alternately add powdered sugar and milk, beating on medium speed until reaching spreading consistency. Add more milk, if needed. Stir in vanilla. Frost cake once it has completely cooled.


North African Meatballs with Dried Date Cous Cous

>> Saturday, February 19, 2011

I was browsing Food Network's site and decided to look at some Melissa D'Arabian's recipes. She is the host of the TV show $10 Dinners, and after our Valentine's splurge, we needed some cheaper recipes! While I'm not sure how authentic this recipe (I know virtually nothing about African cuisine despite the fact that my parents lived in Nigeria for several years), but it sure was tasty! I loved, loved, loved the ginger in the meatballs and the sauce married beautifully with the slightly sweet cous cous. Even my 19 month old liked it!

I adapted the recipe only slightly but I loved it as I made it so I wanted to write it down so I didn't forget my changes.

North African Meatballs
adapted slightly from Melissa D'Arabian

for the meatballs:
1 egg
2 T tomato paste
4 T cilantro leaves, minced
1 T fresh ginger, finely grated
1 t cumin
pinch of cinnamon
1 lb ground beef
1/3 c breadcrumbs (I used Italian breadcrumbs b/c that's all I had on hand)
3-4 T vegetable oil, for cooking

for the sauce:
1 T olive oil
1/2 small white onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 lemon, zested
1/2 to 3/4 c good quality green olives, chopped
1/2 c white wine
1/2 c chicken broth
1 14-oz can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
pinch of cayenne pepper
pinch of cinnamon
salt and freshly ground black pepper

for the cous cous:
2 c chicken broth
1 T butter (or vegan butter)
1/3 c dried dates, finely chopped
1/3 white onion, diced
1 c quick cooking cous cous
salt and pepper

For the meatballs: Combine the egg and tomato paste in a large bowl and mix until well blended. Add cilantro, ginger, cumin, cinnamon and bread crumbs. Stir in the beef and combine gently. Wrap bowl with plastic wrap and set in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. Roll meat mixture into 1-inch balls.

Heat vegetable oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Brown the meatballs in batches until golden brown on all sides. (If they aren't completely cooked at this stage that's okay since they'll be simmering in the sauce.) Transfer meatballs to plate and cover with foil to keep warm.

For the sauce: In the same pan that you made the meatballs, add olive oil and saute onion, making sure to scrape up the browned bits on the pan from the meatballs. Cook for about 3 minutes and add the garlic. Cook an additional minute before adding the lemon zest and olives. Stir to combine and cook 1 minute. Add the wine and chicken stock and let the sauce reduce for about 2 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, cayenne and cinnamon. Season with salt and pepper. Turn down heat to medium-low. Add meatballs back into the pan, cover and let simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

For the cous cous: After adding the meatballs into the sauce, bring chicken stock, butter, dates and onions to a boil in a small sauce pan. Once it comes to a boil, stir in cous cous, remove from heat and cover with a lid. Let it sit for 5-7 minutes, fluff with a fork and serve with the meatballs and sauce.


Filet Oscar

>> Thursday, February 17, 2011

I love going out to eat at a fancy-schmancy restaurant but I detest going out on holidays. I try to avoid crowds, long waits, fixed menus at all costs! So Andrew and I cooked at home and we chose this stellar recipe as our main course. Filet Oscar is basically a filet mignon topped with crab meat and drizzled in Bearnaise sauce. Be still my heart! What's not to love about all that goodness?!?

Since we were having surf and turf, I asked the butcher to cut smaller filets so we wouldn't just have gobs of food we couldn't finish. The Bearnaise sauce was a little tricky for me since I was trying to make it and calm a cranky toddler at the same time. Here are a couple of tips for a successful Bearnaise sauce: 1) check the white wine mixture often because it boils down to 2 tablespoons quickly, 2) when it comes time to put the sauce over the double-boiler, make sure the water is only simmering and not boiling, and 3) when the recipe says to whisk constantly, it means to whisk constantly! Literally, I stopped whisking for about 30 seconds and my sauce curdled. But I got a perfect Bearnaise sauce the second time around! And it was absolutely the most delicious compliment to the steak and crab meat.


Garlic Hasselback Potatoes with Herbed Sour Cream

This was one of our side dishes for our Valentine's Day celebratory dinner at home. I thought they were a chi-chi version of baked potatoes but they weren't difficult at all to make. I made the herbed sour cream ahead of time so that the flavors had more time to marry. As advised in some of the reviews I read, I added shallots to the olive oil-garlic mixture with which I basted the potatoes. This recipe is perfect for company since it's easy to make but has a great gourmet flair!


Caramelized Pancetta and Fennel Salad

Um yum! Andrew made this salad last weekend and it was delicious! We had guests over for dinner and everyone's salad plate was licked clean. I cannot wait to make this recipe again, but I think I may double the amount of fennel and pancetta. I am practically salivating just thinking about it...and that's definitely a sign of a great recipe!


Lobster Lasagna Roll-Ups

>> Tuesday, February 15, 2011

I'm sorry I didn't get a picture of this recipe! Even without a picture, it was too good not to share.

I was at the store and saw that they had lobster tails on sale - like a really good sale! - so I had to buy two of them even though I had no idea what to do with them. Since I was already planning to make lasagna, I decided to combine to two to make Lobster Lasagna Roll-ups!
They were wonderful and really elegant - they'd be perfect to make when you're having company. You can even prepare them ahead of time and just bake them right before dinner time.

Lobster Lasagna Roll-Ups
1 8-oz box of lasagna noodles, cooked according to pkg directions
1 15-oz tub of part-skim ricotta cheese
1/2 c grated parmesan
2 T chopped parsley
2 shallots, finely chopped
1 egg
2 lobster tails, meat removed and chopped
salt and pepper
1 T olive oil
3 slices pancetta or bacon, chopped
1/2 white onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 14-oz fire roasted diced tomatoes, pureed in food processor
salt and pepper
1/2 t dried basil
a pinch of red pepper flakes
1 c heavy cream
chopped parsley or chives, for garnish

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large pan over medium heat, add olive oil. Once the oil is heated, add diced pancetta and onion and cook for several minutes, or until onion is softened and diced is starting to crisp up. Add garlic and cook another 30 seconds. Stir in pureed tomatoes, salt, pepper, basil and red pepper flakes. Lower heat to medium-low and continue to cook as the noodles are cooking.

Meanwhile, prepare lasagna noodles according to package directions. Drain and rinse with cold water.

Combine ricotta, parmesan, parsley, egg and shallots together in a bowl.

Add cream to the red sauce and stir well. Remove from heat.

Spray a casserole dish with non-stick spray. Spread a little of the tomato cream sauce on the bottom of the pan. To assemble the roll-ups, lay the lasagna noodles out flat. Spread each noodle with several tablespoons of cheese mixture and top with raw lobster meat. Roll up and place seam side down in the pan. Repeat until you have used all the cheese mixture and lobster. (You may have a few noodles left over.) Gently pour or spoon the tomato-sauce over the rolls.

Bake in preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes, or until sauce is bubbly. Sprinkle with chopped herbs and serve.


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