Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Chocolate Mousse Cake

 There are few things that can bring me out of blogging hibernation like a rich, chocolaty dessert can.  So here I am!  Back with a bang!  This dessert is worth it.  I made this for my brothers birthday a few weeks ago and it was so incredibly decadent.  It is an awesome celebration cake because you build the layers while it is in the spring-form pan and when you take it out it is effortlessly beautiful.  I made the mistake of making 2 of these babies thinking that with just one layer of cake, a mousse and whipped cream that surely we would all want huge slices.  Obviously I was thinking with pregnancy brain because man this stuff is rich!  
I hope you don't assume I am using decadent and rich in a bad connotation here.  Who on earth wants a light chocolate dessert?  Not I.  Just be sure to cut yourself a modest slice and pour yourself a glass of milk and you will be so glad you are eating something described as decadent and rich.  

Chocolate Mousse Cake

For the cake:
2 cups sugar
1 3/4 cup flour
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup boiling water

Preheat oven to 350.  Grease and flour a 10-11 inch spring form pan.

In a large bowl, stir together the dry ingredients.  Add the eggs, milk, oil and vanilla and beat on medium speed for 2 minutes.  Add the boiling water and beat on low, just until combined.  Pour the batter into your prepared pan until it is about half full.  You may have some batter leftover- use it to make cupcakes or another small cake.  Bake until the a toothpick inserted comes out clean, about 25-30 minutes.  Allow to cool completely.

For the mousse:

1/2 cup butter, cut into pieces
4 eggs, separated
1/4 cup cream
1 Tbsp vanilla
8 oz bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped (I used chips)
1/2 cup sugar

Melt the butter in a medium metal or glass bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water.  Whisk yolks, cream and vanilla in a small bowl.  Gradually whisk the yolk mixture into the bowl with melted butter.  Whisk constantly over the simmering water until a candy thermometer reads 150 degrees.  Remove from the water and add chocolate.  Stir until chocolate is melted and set aside.

In a large, clean mixing bowl beat the egg whites and 1/2 cup sugar to medium-stiff peaks.  Whisk about 1/4 of the beaten egg white mixture into the warm chocolate mixture.  Gently fold in the remaining egg white mixture until there are no more white streaks.  Pour the mousse over the cake while it is still in the spring form pan.  Chill until the mousse is set, at least 6 hours.

For garnish:
1 cup heavy cream
2 Tbsp sugar
1 cup fresh raspberries

Allow for the mousse to set before starting the garnish.  

Pour the heavy cream and sugar into a large mixing bowl and beat on medium-high until the cream is stiff.  Spread the whipped cream in an even layer over the cake while still in the spring form pan.  Arrange the raspberries on top of the whipped cream.  

Slide a sharp knife around the edge of the spring form pan and carefully unlatch the ring.  Carefully lift the ring off the cake.  Chill until you are ready to serve.

We served this with a quick raspberry sauce which is completely optional.  That recipe can be found here, listed as raspberry filling.

Cake- Hershey's Perfectly Chocolate Cake
Mousse- Smitten Kitchen

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Chicken and Mushroom Fettuccine

Photo Credits to my friend, Atrin Assa.
I love to look through cooking magazines.  Elegantly prepared dishes placed right in front of you waiting for you to drool all over the pages, always makes my stomach rumble hungrily.  While I love to read these magazines and look at pictures, I rarely actually make a recipe from them.  While flipping through a Martha Stewart magazine at my moms house a few months back a recipe caught my eye–something that looked delicious, totally doable and just up my alley.  Martha's chicken and mushroom tagliatelle really is fantastic.  

The dish is all about building on flavors.  First, you cook the chicken to a nice golden brown and after it's cooked you add mushrooms and shallots to the same pan and let them slowly render their juices off to deglaze the pan and work a bit of magic.  Then you add cream, parmesan, pasta (you know all the good things in life), some celery and parsley to add a little fresh crunch to all this richness and finish it off with the golden chicken.  When we tasted this dish the first time, we thought we had died and gone to heaven.  The second time I learned that you really do need to eat this as soon as you make it.  It was still fantastic but it did lack that choir of angels we had experienced the first time around.  I used boneless, skinless chicken thighs in my dish as I really like dark meat but I know there are many people who do not like dark meat.  You can easily use thin chicken breasts in this.

Chicken and Mushroom Fettuccine

Serves: 4
Total cook time: 35 minutes

12 oz dried fettuccine
kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
3/4 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs or thin chicken breasts
2 Tbsp butter
2 shallots, halved, peeled and thinly sliced
8 oz cremini mushrooms, quartered
1/2 cup chicken stock (you can use white wine if you prefer)
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 oz parmesan, grated, plus more to serve
1 stalk celery, sliced very thin
1/3 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley

1. Cook pasta in a large pot of generously salted water until al dente.  Reserve 1 1/2 cups pasta water.  Drain.

2. Season chicken with salt and pepper.  Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Brown chicken, flipping once, until cooked through, 6-8 minutes; transfer to a place.  Reduce heat to medium; melt remaining 1 tablespoon butter.  Cook shallots and mushrooms, stirring, until golden brown, about 8 minutes (you may need to add a little pasta water if the skillet browns too quickly).  Add stock, bring to a boil, and reduce by half.  Slice chicken; add to pan with cream, parmesan, 1 cup pasta water and pasta.  Toss until sauce coats pasta, adding more pasta water if needed. Add celery and parsley; toss to combine.  Serve topped with parmesan.  

Recipe source- Martha Stewart

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Quinoa Salad

Just as I promised– today is all about this healthy, fresh, quinoa salad.  Just to be clear–I am not a person who eats something I don't like just because it's healthy.  I am all about eating healthy but I believe if you really want to eat healthy and you want your family to eat healthy– you have to enjoy eating healthy or it won't become a habit.  I just want you to know that when I post a healthy recipe–it's something I loved eating that just happens to be healthy.  

This quinoa salad is pretty darn fantastic.  It is crisp, light and the PERFECT lunch.  I had this last week at a church function and brought the recipe home after I went back for a second helping.   The next day I made a double batch for my family and enjoyed eating on it for a few days.  The flavors are very simple–lime is the prevalent flavor of the dressing which really helps to emphasize the natural flavors of the peppers, black beans and cilantro.  I hope this will be as much of a hit at your house as it was at mine.

Quinoa Salad

1 cup dried quinoa, cooked per package directions and cooled- should yield about 3 cups cooked
1 red pepper, diced
1 green pepper, diced
1 yellow pepper, diced
3 green onions, sliced thin
1/2 bunch cilantro, leaves plucked off and roughly chopped- about 1/2 cup packed
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 can yellow corn, rinsed and drained

1/2 cup lime juice
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tsp cumin
1-2 tsp salt

In a large bowl combine the salad ingredients and toss together slightly.  In a small bowl or liquid measuring cup, combine the dressing ingredients and whisk to combine thoroughly.  Pour about half the dressing over the salad and toss to coat, taste and add more dressing as needed until you get the desired taste.  You may need to add more salt while you are doing this.  Chill until serving.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Chicken Croissants

Cooking during January is always a little bit tricky– on one hand you want warm comfort foods to get you through all the cold days (hello chicken croissants!) and on the other hand you just stuffed yourself silly during the holidays and you made some wonderfully practical New Years goals about eating healthier or losing weight.  So which do you go with?  Luckily this year I can steer clear of that decision–one of the many wonderful things about pregnancy.
To make life a little easier on you I won't bombard you with only decadent comfort foods or only kale smoothies.  Today I will share with you a family favorite comfort dish–chicken croissants– and later in the week I will post a super delicious and also super New Years resolution friendly quinoa salad.  Sound fair?  I hope so.

These chicken croissants are absolutely wonderful.  No "chicken pockets" or whatever I have heard them called on the internet can touch them.  I may be a teensy bit biased but my moms are better and anyone who has tasted them will agree.  They are a frequently requested birthday dinner, coming home from a long trip dinner or just a "please mom I really want chicken croissants" dinner.  The filling is a simple mixture of cream cheese and cooked, shredded chicken.  This creamy mixture is rolled into a refrigerated croissant, rolled in butter and then bread crumbs (remember I said decadent) baked to golden brown perfection and smothered in lovely gravy.  And while all the bites you take of these babies are great the first bite is perfection.  I hope you enjoy this family favorite.  

(I should probably admit that I did none of the cooking on these so that I could take the pictures with clean fingers.  Rolling croissant dough in butter can get a little messy!  Thanks to my Mom for doing all the real work this time around!)

Chicken Croissants

4 oz cream cheese, slightly softened
2 large chicken breasts, boiled and shredded
2 Tbsp butter
1 cup bread crumbs
1/2 cup butter, melted
2 packages refrigerated croissant rolls

Preheat the oven to 350.  In a large bowl combine the cream cheese, shredded chicken and 2 Tbsp butter.  Stir with a wooden spoon until well combined.

Open the croissant rolls.  Gently separate the triangles of dough that come in the package.  Gently press them out with the palm of your hand– the goal here is to make them just slightly bigger and more flexible and not to smash them really thin.  Spoon about 1.5 Tbsp of the chicken mixture into the wide end of the croissant dough (as pictured).  Gently roll the dough up into a croissant shape, pinching a little on the sides as you go to keep the chicken contained.  Repeat with all the croissants.

Dip each croissant in butter and then roll in bread crumbs and line them up about 1.5-2 inches apart on a baking sheet.  Bake until golden brown, usually 8-12 minutes.  Serve with chicken gravy.