Friday, February 27, 2009

I *Heart* Chocolate

This month, our hosts pulled out all the stops for a wonderfully decadent dessert--a flourless chocolate cake.

The February 2009 challenge is hosted by Wendy of WMPE's blog and Dharm of Dad ~ Baker & Chef. We have chosen a Chocolate Valentino cake by Chef Wan; a Vanilla Ice Cream recipe from Dharm and a Vanilla Ice Cream recipe from Wendy as the challenge.

This recipe came together very quickly, and was easy for me to put together while the Munchkin was napping. There are only three ingredients -- chocolate, eggs, and butter -- so getting top quality ingredients was key. Especially the chocolate. I've always read that Valrhona chocolate is the preferred chocolate for many pastry chefs.'s kind of pricey. However, given the prominence of the chocolate in this recipe, I decided that if there was ever a recipe that warranted the splurge, this was it. I'm glad I went for it. The chocolate was wonderfully smooth and decadent and everything chocolate should be.

Ideally, the Chocolate Valentino should be baked in a heart shaped pan, but when I poured the batter in, I realized the pan was way too big. Rather than risking a too-thin, unevenly cooked cake, I ended up using an 8" cake pan instead. It was just the right size. But, even though the heart-shaped pan didn't work out for me, I kept the valentine's theme going in my decorative elements.

In addition to the cake, Wendy and Dharm presented us with an optional (but very much encouraged) challenge -- ice cream. But even if we didn't make the ice cream, we were required to make some sort of topping (the original recipe called for the cake to be served with whipped cream). I opted not to make ice cream. An ice cream maker is on the top of my list of must-get kitchen gadgets, I don't have one yet. And while it is possible to make ice cream without a machine, I didn't really have the time to be tied to the house to regularly stir the ice cream. So I went ahead and made the whipped cream suggested with the recipe. But to mae it a little more fun, I froze some of the whipped cream in my "hugs and kisses" silicon cake mold. In addition to the frozen whipped cream, I made some raspberry sauce, some of which I also made into Xs and Os, which I served with the cake.

This cake was wonderful! The whipped cream and raspberry were perfect with it, and our dinner guests raved about it. And the frozen whipped cream was a perfect addition to my coffee.

Head on over to Wendy's or Dharm's blog for the recipe and give this a try. You won't be sorry!!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Parmesan Crusted Chicken

I hadn't yet figured out what to make for dinner, when I came across this post. I've only recently discovered the Pioneer Woman (yeah, I realize I'm a little late on this one), and have been drooling over some of the recipes she posts. Since I had everything on hand to make this, I decided to give it a try.

This was really good. Psycling (who doesn't even like mayonaise) thought it was really good. It was also quite quick and easy to put together. I prepped it earlier in the day while the Munchkin was napping, and was able to just stick it in the oven at dinner time. With a green salad and roasted CSA sweet potatoes, this was a great weeknight meal.

Southern Saute

One of the nice things about living in the south is the long growing season. Our CSA is able to deliver produce year-round. These days, we're getting lots of leafy greens and root vegetables. Recently, we got a nice big bunch of collards. Despite growing up in the South, I've never particularly liked collards. I think that's because all the collards I grew up with were boiled to the point of becoming mush. I figured there had to be another way to eat collards. I started playing around, and this is what I came up with.

Psycling and I both really liked this. It made for a nice one-dish meal, and was fairly quick and easy to pull together.

While it's actually more of a braise, I like the alliteration of "Southern Saute." This was really good. Turns out I like collards after all :-)

Southern Saute
(makes about 3 servings)

5-6 strips of bacon
1 Onion, vertically sliced
1 Bunch collards, coarsely chopped
~3/4 c. chicken broth
1 c. soaked black eyed peas
2 c. hot cooked rice (I used brown rice)
Hotlanta Hot Sauce (or Tobasco)

1. Cook bacon inlarge skillet. Set aside to drain on paper towels. Crumble into bacon bits.

2. Pour off all but about 2-3 tsp. of bacon grease. Add onion, and saute until getting tender. Add collards, and sautee for a copule of minutes, until leaves are coated in bacon grease and just starting to wilt. Add chicken broth; cover and cook until broth is absorbed, about 4-5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

3. Add black eyed peas, and cook, stirring, until beans are warmed through.

To serve, put about 2/3 c. of rice in a bowl. Top with about 1/3 of collard mixture. Sprinkle with bacon bits and drizzle with hot sauce to taste.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

LIVESTRONG: A Taste of Yellow -- The Book

To those of you who found your way here from Barbara's blog, Hi! As you can see, posting here is sparse these days, as I haven't quite figured out how to fit blogging back into my life since the arrival of the Munchkin. But, I'm hoping to get back to it soon.

Barbara launched the Taste of Yellow blog event as part of LIVESTRONG day in 2007. She is a cancer survivor, who was greatly inspired by the story of Lance Armstrong, and created this blog event to raise awareness for cancer, as well as promote the great work done by the Lance Armstrong Foundation.

I came up with the idea for this book a few months ago, after losing my mother-in-law to cancer. After surviving both melanoma and breast cancer, the melanoma returned, spreading to her lungs and brain. Despite their best efforts, it was too much, and she passed away in November. My mother-in-law was an amazing woman, and I feel very fortunate to have had her in my life, even if it was for just 7 short years.

To honor her memory, my husband and his brother decided to participate in the LIVESTRONG Challenge, and will be doing a 90 mile bike ride in Austin, TX this October. I will be doing the 5K run/walk with the Munckin. In brainstorming fundraising ideas for their team, I remembered reading the Taste of Yellow round up on Barbara's blog, and an idea was born. I thought that if we could publish a cookbook of the Taste of Yellow recipes, all proceeds from the sale of the book could go directly to the Lance Armstrong Foundation. While I'm not sure that this project will be completed in time to benefit Psycling's LIVESTRONG challenge ride, it is my hope that it will continue to bring in money for the work of the Lance Armstrong Foundation well into the future.

I honestly have no idea what the timeline for this project looks like. As of now, I am compiling the recipes, blogs, and contact information of all the Taste of Yellow submissions. Once I pull everything together, I'm not sure how long it will take to get the book put together and published. But Barbara and I will keep you posted on its progress. We really appreciate everyone who has already emailed or left comments giving us permission to use your recipes and photos. I'm realy looking forward to seeing this project come to fruition, and I hope that it will bring attention to and raise money for the amazing work being done by the Lance Armstrong Foundation. Until then, LIVESTRONG!