Monday, September 26, 2016

Chocolate Volcano Cake

Don't worry. It doesn't blow up. It's not that kind of volcano cake. But "molten lava cake" was taken, so I couldn't use that name. And, frankly, this one is better. And you should all make it. It's easy. And perfect. And it oozes chocolate. So win. Win. And win.

(Gratuitous display or excessive chocolate)

The nice thing about tube and/or bundt cakes is that you don't have to mess with layering, yet they're still showy (especially when they ooze chocolate). You do need to grease your pan mighty well with cooking spray. I'm sorry if you're opposed to cooking spray on moral grounds and only use butter and/or coconut oil and/or the hair grease of virgins. I understand this snobbery, I do. But I don't know what it is about cooking spray (it probably has silicone in it or something dreadful), but it keeps bundt cakes from sticking in a way other greases won't. So, you can be a grease snob if you want, but your cake might stick.

While we're speaking of snobbery, this cake also calls for a partial package of instant chocolate pudding mix (1/2 C to be exact). How annoying, I thought. How cheaterly. And it kind of is. But it's worth it. Totally worth it.

Honestly, it looks pretty good naked too. 

Chocolate Volcano Cake
adapted from Through Her Looking Glass
Makes one large bundt cake
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour
Cost: $8.00 (much more than a usual cake in this house, but it's birthday season and I will splurge on those birthday cakes. Plus, as I sometimes point out, it's so much cheaper than buying a lousy cake make from lousy ingredients from the store. And it will feed a crowd. It's at least 16 servings making this only $.50/serving)
sugar: .30, butter: 1.25, eggs: .30, flour: .25, cocoa: .50, chocolate pudding mix: .50, chocolate chips: .90, more butter: .60, cocoa: .50, powdered sugar: .90, other stuff: .30


2 C sugar
1 C butter, somewhat softened
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
3 eggs
2 1/2 C flour
1 C cocoa
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 C instant chocolate pudding mix
2 1/4 C buttermilk
1 C semi-sweet chocolate chips

Chocolate Icing:

1/2 C water
1/2 C (1 stick) butter
1 tsp vanilla
1 C cocoa
3 1/2 C powdered sugar

To make the cake: 

Grease that bundt pan, baby. Grease it, or you will regret it.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Beat sugar, butter, and vanilla. Add eggs

Add flour, cocoa, baking soda, salt, instant chocolate pudding mix. Of course you're supposed to sift this, and if you're a person with grit, I suppose you will. I always just dump it in the bowl and then sort of fluff it around with a fork or, heck, the beaters. Because I'm lazy. My cakes turn out anyway.

Now add the buttermilk.

Then the chocolate chips.

Pour it into the bundt pan (or a tube pan).

Bake at 350 for 30 minutes. Then, without opening the oven, turn the temperature down to 325 and bake for another 30-ish minutes (mine was about 35 minutes). Insert a knife or other long cake testing device. It should come out with moist crumbs, but not batter.

Let it cool for 10 minutes. Then turn it out onto a cake platter. Here I must issue another warning. Don't leave this thing in the pan for an hour or few and then expect it to come out. The longer cakes sit in pans, they less they want to leave them. So give it just a brief cooling period and then turn it out.

When it is completely cool, you'll add the frosting.

For the frosting:

Heat water and butter. Melt butter. Then remove from heat and whisk in cocoa and vanilla. Add the powdered sugar and beat (I always have to move it to a bowl for this step because my pan isn't big enough and is non stick and I like to beat icings so the ingredients incorporate fully).

When the cake is cool, pour this into the center. It will overflow down the sides. I should tell you that I also like to spoon it up onto all the sides so that it is on all sides. In fact, I do this a few times (every couple hours or so) to get a chocolate glaze coating on the cake. Because I like it like that, okay.

Afterwards, my daughter sprinkled it with powdered sugar for beauty's sake. Then my husband took a picture of it with flowers. Because, apparently, that's what he thinks food bloggers do.


Monday, September 19, 2016

Sweet and Sour Meatballs

I never knew how many ways there were to prepare meatballs until adulthood. I love these basil meatballs and we've made meatballs wrapped in croissants and wrapped around mozzarella balls. These give meatballs an Asian twist (even though it's probably totally fake Americanized Asian--it's still delicious). You can serve it with brown rice if you want to healthy it up, or quinoa if you want to drop all pretense that this is some variety of Asian food. Also, try to add a vegetable unless you don't care about dying and stuff. But if you do care about dying, then try to eat a vegetable. Because, despite what my son and husband try to tell me, I really don't think barbecue sauce counts as a vegetable.

Also, this is one of those meat meals that cheapskates can really get behind. Most of the other ingredients are dirt cheap (as is white rice if that's how you serve this). Even when you remember to add your broccoli, you're only adding a buck or so to this meal. Six normal, non-teenage people can eat for about $1.00-$1.50 each.

Sweet and Sour Meatballs
adapted from Mel's Kitchen
Serves 4-6 (depending on how delicate your eaters are)
Cook time: 20-30 minutes
Cost: $3.90
beef: 3.00, oats: .05, eggs: .20, onion: .05, milk: .05, other stuff: .10, sugar: .20, BBQ sauce: .15, other stuff: .10

For the Meatballs: 

1 lb ground beef
1/2 C quick oats that you pulse in the blender (a course oat flour will also work)
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1/4 C grated onion
3 Tbsp milk
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
3/4 tsp Worcestershire sauce

For the Sauce (you can half this if you're not into sauce and just want enough to glaze the meatballs, but we're into sauce around here): 

1/2 C brown sugar
1/2 C apple cider vinegar
1 tsp yellow mustard
1/2 C barbecue sauce
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce


Mush together all the ingredients and form into balls that are 1- 1 1/2 inches big. 

Cook on a skillet, browning on all sides. (They don't have to be cooked through because soon we'll be simmering them in the sauce. 

Now whisk all the sauce ingredients together and pour over the meatballs. Let it simmer for 15 minutes or so. It will thicken a bit and be lovely and sweet and amazing. 

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Secret Recipe Club--Pretzel Bites

If I've learned anything from Pinterest, it's that the moment September hits, I'm supposed to start craving pumpkin. Now, with all due respect to pumpkin, it's not my true fall craving. The thing I really start craving when autumn hits is BREAD. Bread bread bread. Clearly I'm bracing for a hard winter by padding my body with those carbalicious calories or something. Like this week, how I went to the store to pick up a loaf of Italian bread to go with our pizza dip (recipe coming soon), and then was compelled to purchase several bagels as well. And then, because I clearly hadn't had enough, I sought out bread on the blog I had for this month's Secret Recipe Club.

And I was richly rewarded. My blog this month was I am a Honey Bee, which has delicious food lurking on every page. It's created by Nicole (you can call her Nic)--a mom/wife/architect/crafter/builder/creator. I chose to make these pretzel bites due to my autumnal bread addiction and they were FANTASTIC. Delicious texture and flavor, and they kind of burst open like some pretzels do, creating a seam of awesome. Delicious.

We made several bites and several pretzels and my kids went nuts making all kinds of crazy stuff and adding all kinds of crazy toppings. I think my favorite were the sesame seed. (Mmmm, and I'm already dreaming of bread for breakfast; I have a problem.). 

Pretzel Bites
adapted from I Am a Honey Bee
Makes: a whole lot
Prep time: 15 minutes
Rise time: 1-2 hours
Cook time: 30 minutes (about 8 minutes a batch, and we had several batches)

4 tsp active dry yeast
1 tsp white sugar
1 1/4 C warm water
1 C white whole wheat flour
3 1/2 C all purpose flour
1/2 C sugar
1/4 C light brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt

For the bath before baking (Note; I used 1/2 C baking soda; I think you could go less for a less salty-ish pretzel)
1/2 C baking soda
4 C water

Your choice of toppings. We tried cinnamon sugar, sugar, salt, poppy seed, and sesame seed (my favorite). 

To Make:

In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast and 1 tsp sugar in warm water. 

Let it stand while you mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl: flours, sugars, and salt. 

Make a well in the center of your dry ingredients and add the wet. Then use a stand mixer with the hook to mix. If it's too wet, add a bit more flour up to 1/2 C (but don't go over that). (Note: If you don't have a mixer or like to make bread by hand, I would add the dry ingredients cup by cup to the wet ingredients--so you'll need the wet ingredients in the big bowl. Then mix until you have to turn it out to knead it. Then knead it, adding more flour mixture as necessary.) 

Knead until smooth and then put in a bowl and cover with a clean dishtowel. Let rise 1-2 hours. 

When you're ready to make the pretzel bites, cut the dough into long pieces, then roll them (like you're rolling playdough snakes). Then cut the snakes into bite sized pieces, unless you're making traditional pretzels (though I really do recommend the bites because they were delicious--perfect texture and so easy to cook, so easy to dip). 

Boil your four cups of water and add 1/4-1/2 C baking soda (as water dissolves, add more or the pretzels start tasting too salty). Drop the bites into this liquid. Give them 30 seconds or so and they'll float to the top. Put them on a pan, covered with parchment paper (yeah, you want it; otherwise, these can stick). Sprinkle with desired toppings. Bake at 450 degrees for 6-8 minutes. 

Snarf them down. Prepare body for hibernation. 

Monday, September 5, 2016

Chocolate Chunk Chocolate Pie

On Sunday night I wanted pie. And chocolate. So I adapted this recipe I found on Pinterest. It said I could eat it warm or cold. I ate it warm. Because I have the patience of not-Job. I probably have more the patience of Nebuchadnezzar or the King Xerxes or someone who was like interpret my dream or bring me a new wife (or bring me chocolate pie) or I'll kill you all. Yeah, that's more my speed of biblical patience. Anyway, so I ate my pie warm. And it was delicious. Just like any chocolate pie or chocolate chess pie you might have whipped up for yourself.

(See this crust. It's another example of having the patience of not-Job. I had a pie crust in the freezer, so I got it out, let it "thaw" for, like, 10 minutes, then nuked it for a few seconds, then just tried to bully the thing down into pie crust form. It mostly worked, though it was a bit thick, but still honestly completely amazing with this pie.)

And then today I had a bit of pie after lunch--just a bite (or three). And it was amazing. The chocolate chips I'd added to the batter, which I'd assumed had just assimilated when warm were there and bite-able when cold. So you got this intensely chocolate pie with delicious bursts of cold, hard chocolate within. Amazing.

Even better is the fact that this is easy (as pie, ha!) to throw together (15 minutes, tops for the filling). And that you can make it the level of darkness that you want (though I wouldn't admit going anything sweet/milkier than semi-sweet). I made mine on the darker side while still sweet (55%-60%). You can do whatever you want.

Chocolate Chunk Chocolate Pie
makes 1 9-inch pie
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
Cost: $2.75 (that's .35/slice for something decadent and amazing)
butter: .35, 1.10, flour: .05, sugar: .10, brown sugar: .20, eggs: .20, crust: .75

Note: There may be a small chance that I forgot to add the flour to this when I made it. Whoopsie. It still turned out. In fact, it was great. I'll try it again soon with flour and see if it's any different than the thing I actually made. You know what they say--there's nothing better than a competent food blogger. I think our takeaway from this is that this pie can be messed up and still be awesome.

1/2 C melted butter, hot
3/4 C chocolate chips (whatever level of dark you prefer)
1/2 C flour
1/2 C brown sugar
1/2 C white sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 C chocolate chips
1 premade pie crust (store bought or recipe here)

Preheat oven to 350.

Put your crust in a 9-inch pie pan.

Melt butter in microwave (in a large-ish bowl, so you can add other ingredients later). Add chocolate chips, and stir. Let them sit and stir. They'll melt and you can mix them with the butter. If they don't, throw it all in the microwave for another 15-20 seconds. Stir until smooth.

Add in flour and sugars. Stir. It will be grainy.

In a separate bowl, combine eggs and vanilla and whisk. Now whisk that mixture into the chocolate mixture.

Add the 1/2 C of chocolate chips.

Bake at 350 for 30-40 minutes, or until the temperature reaches 180 degrees or so at the center. It will still be wet and you'll be like, "Should I take this out? Will it hold it's shape? Yes, and yes.)

Let cool somewhat; you can eat it warm, but not hot (it won't hold it's shape is you straight up cut it out of the oven, so take a lesson from Job and let it cool just a little, okay?).

You can eat it warm. Or put it in the fridge and eat it with those amazing chocolate chunks. (I want to go eat some more out of my fridge right now. I want to, but I shouldn't, but I want to...)



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