Mocha Cake

Thanks for all your comments yesterday for Hannah’s birthday!  We started out the day with fresh coffee and I got her chocolate chip muffins.  A couple weeks ago we were talking about what kind of birthday cake she wanted, and she wanted another mocha cake.  This is the cake I made her last year.

Since I was talking a half day yesterday, I knew I’d have time to make her cake before she got home from school.  As she finished her muffin she said “you don’t have to worry about a cake, this muffin was good enough!”  Yeah right – how can you have a birthday without a cake?!  I found this recipe at blogchef.net – thanks for a great recipe!  One of the reasons I was drawn to it is because you throw everything in the pool and just use a stand mixer – no separating wet ingredients and dry ingredients.

Mocha Cake with Mocha Frosting

Ingredients:
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups white sugar
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
½ cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
1 cup buttermilk
2 teaspoons baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon instant coffee powder
1 cup hot water
Mocha Frosting-
1 cup shortening
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
4 ½ cups confectioners’ sugar
4 tablespoons milk
¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tablespoon instant coffee powder
1 cup hot water

Step 1: Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees and grease 2 (9 inch) round cake pans. In a large bowl add flour, sugar, cocoa powder, oil, eggs, buttermilk, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Dissolve instant coffee in hot water and add it to the mixing bowl. Beat on medium speed for 2 minutes until smooth. The batter will be thin. Pour into prepared cake pans.

Step 2: Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Remove from the oven and cool for 10 minutes. Remove the cake from the baking pans and finish cooling on wire racks.
Step 3: While the cake is cooling, to make mocha frosting- in a large bowl combine shortening and vanilla extract. Beat in half of the confectioners’ sugar. Blend in 2 tablespoons of milk. Repeat with the other half of the confectioners’ sugar and 2 tablespoons of milk. Mix in half of the cocoa powder. Dissolve 1 tablespoon of instant coffee into 1 cup of hot water. Pour 2 tablespoons of the coffee mixture into the frosting. Mix in the remaining cocoa powder. Add coffee mixture a tablespoon at a time until the frosting has achieved your desired consistency.
Step 4: Fill and frost the cake with mocha frosting.

I am not much of a baker, but this recipe was super easy to follow.   At first I was a tad worried that the batter was too thin, but it worked out great.  And the frosting was so light and airy (um, but not light in airy in calories – the frosting alone had 1 cup of shortening!)

It was delicious!  I ended up having a slice about half that size – definitely insulin worthy!

Knowing I was going out to dinner and having a small piece of cake later, I started out my day with another breakfast parfait – 6 WW points.

I had planned on making a quick stir fry for lunch since I was home, but Hannah’s class got let out early so we hit the ground running when she got home.  First stop – snacks at China House.  Here’s Hannah contemplating what its like not being a teenager anymore. 😀

We ended up getting a side order of fried rice (no onions – sorry Hannah, just couldn’t do it!) and some of the best steamed dumplings in a delicious soy ginger dipping sauce.  The rice is actually on a salad plate, not a dinner plate:

Then it was on to thrift stores!

We ended up going to four thrift stores – so fun!  I like to try on rediculously high heels, and Hannah is always on the search for the perfect purse.

I could barely walk down the aisle in these shoes!

But I did find a cute hat for $4.  You know when I feel like being klassy and not wearing a baseball cap to the grocery store.

And I found this that I really should have bought beause it describes My Bizzy Kitchen to a T!

We ended up switching restaurants when Hannah pointed out a restaurant that one of the Mom’s she babysits for recently went to and said was fantastic.

The lighting was so dim, but we got the fried tofu with a ginger dipping sauce, Hannah got chicken satay and a shrimp tempura roll.  I got an udon noodle soup with chicken, fake crab, tofu, beef with asparagus, red peppers, bean sprouts and an egg on top.  Couldn’t do the fried egg because the yolk was still runny – ew.  But Sophia I thought of you and would have gladly given it to you if you were with us!  The server also brought over some powdered chili to spice up the broth – which I did with not only that but about a teaspoon of sriracha.  Delicious – the picture sucks ass, but this was really good.

When we got home we had cake and watched American Idol – wow, there are a lot of great singers this season!  I think the tall 16 year old needs to go – she was definitely the worst.  My bet is on Jessica Sanchez. 😀

So it was a great day – I think Hannah had a great time.  She’s working double shifts this weekend since one of the managers is going to be gone on spring break, so it was nice to hang out with Hannah.

Alright, gotta get going – but can I just say it would be nice to have every Wednesday afternoon off?  Make it a great day!

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Bananas Foster Bread Pudding and Applebees

This will be the last of my breakfast parfaits for a while – it was my last Chobani!  But I think I saved the best for last.

The flavor was apple cinnamon, so I decided to carmelize a Fuji apple in 1 teaspoon of butter and 1 teaspoon of brown sugar for my fruit layer – Fuji apples are my favorite apple – they never are pithy, they are always sweet, and for the record, also make the most amazing apple pie.  I had to share with you this picture from our Thanksgiving 2009, if nothing but to show you Tony’s history of shenanigans. 😀

I had set my ready to be baked apple pie on the counter to remove a pecan pie.  As I took the pecan pie into the dining room to cool, I came back to find this:

Um, my actual apple pie turned out like this:

And speaking of apple pie – do not eat this.  I threw the package away it was so disgusting.  Um, it’s not like chewing dessert!

It was partly sunny and around 40 degrees for my run.  I ended up doing a 5k in 34:30!  My first 1.5 mile split??  Fifteen minutes!  I obviously started out too fast, but I am happy with my final time.  It gets a bit better every run. 😀

I had mini beef tacos for lunch:

  • 4 mini corn tortillas (4)
  • 3 ounces ground sirloin (3)
  • 3/4 ounce mozzarella cheese (2)
  • red pepper, cilantro, hot sauce, cucumber and salsa (0)

This was a big old plate of food people – totally filling!

I had to share this bananas foster bread pudding I made over the weekend.  At least that’s what I am calling it.  I bought a loaf of crunchy bread that Tony likes – it comes in a paper bag, and at the check out, they put the “open” part of the bag and tie a grocery bag around it.  I brought it home, stuck it in my pantry – the next day the half that wasn’t in the grocery bag was rock hard. 😦

I walked into the living room and asked Tony “do you think you would like banana bread pudding?”  He thought I was going to bake banana bread, and use that for the bread pudding.  But I had other ideas, because you know I had to visit my $1 rack!  And look at all these bananas.

Bananas Foster Bread Pudding – makes six 3/4 cup servings, 7 WW points each

  • 3 large bananas, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar, divided
  • 7 ounces of dry bread
  • 1 tablespoon slivered almonds
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 4 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 cups fat free milk
  • 2 large eggs

In a non-stick skillet add the bananas and 1 tablespoon of brown sugar.  Over medium low heat, cook the bananas until the brown sugar melts and they get carmelized – about 10 minutes.  Let cool slightly.

In a large bowl, add milk, eggs, cinnamon, sugar, vanilla and mix until the eggs are combined.  Toss in the bread and carmelized bananas, and let the bread soak for 15 minutes – I put a plate on top to keep the bread submerged.  Heat oven to 350.  Bake for 40 minutes.  Cool at least 15 minutes before cutting into it.

The verdict?  Tony said it was awful.  Awfully delicious!  This would be a nice splurge for a Sunday brunch too. 😀

For dinner I ended up making Nicole’s Chicken Marsala Pasta.  Her version comes in at 13 WW points, so I tweaked mine a bit – I used half the amount of evaporated milk, and used half and half, reduced the butter and oil by half – so my plate had a bed of baby spinach, 4 ounces cooked pasta, 3 ounces of chicken (sorry, I don’t like mushrooms – but Tony does!) and some mozzarella cheese – so my plate comes in at 9 points.  It was delicious Nicole!

Yesterday I got an email from the PR department of Applebees.  They have teamed up with WW to provide WW friendly dinners:

“Weight Watchers is excited to continue working with Applebee’s to provide these three new endorsed menu items,” said Dave Burwick, President, North America of Weight Watchers International. “These flavorful and satisfying items are a great way for Weight Watchers members, or anyone seeking better for you options, to easily make healthier decisions while dining out.”

Grilled Jalapeno-Lime Shrimp (Weight Watchers PointsPlus value: 8): A hearty portion of grilled chipotle lime shrimp and black bean corn salsa tossed with lime juice and chopped cilantro, served on a mix of grilled zucchini, marinated tomatoes, onions & red peppers with steamed white rice.

Cabernet Mushroom Sirloin (Weight Watchers PointsPlus value: 12): Applebee’s 7 oz. grilled House Sirloin with sauteed Portobello mushrooms & onions in a Napa Valley Cabernet sauce with steamed herbed potatoes and garlic broccoli.

Creamy Parmesan Chicken (Weight Watchers PointsPlus value: 12): Applebee’s juicy grilled chicken breast with creamy au gratin Parmesan sauce, served with steamed spinach and mushroom rice pilaf.

Don’t those look amazing?  Sadly, the nearest Applebee’s to us closed down.  I’ll have to see if there is one near my work – you know I’d be all over the spicy shrimp!  When is the last time you’ve been to Applebees?

I am having lunch today with Hannah and two of her friends she’s known since 4th grade – should be fun!  Make it a great day!

Black Friday

My Mom and I once, and only once, got up at like 3:30 in the morning about 15 years ago to get to Best Buy to buy me my first computer.  If I remember correctly the sale price was around $500, which was cheap back then, and each store only guaranteed 10 computers per store.

We waited in line for probably three hours before the doors opened.  And then we see a guy park his car and walk right in the front door without even questioning the long line of people to his left!  We knew where the computer department was and I remember running, not because I was that excited about possibly getting my own computer, but everyone around me was running so it was run or get run over.

In the end, we did get the computer, but we both vowed we would never do it again.  Even after telling Hannah this story, this did not deter her.  We have a 24 hour Wal-Mart, but they had great sales starting at 10:00 p.m.  So Hannah get her shopping face on and left around 9:45.

I guess she got back home around midnight – she said people were pretty crazy, and they changed the location of things, so DVD’s that she wanted were in the garden dept.  One of the things she was trying to get for me was a small electric chopper – sometimes there are times when I don’t need to drag out my heavy food processor.  Just as she was about to reach for one, a woman takes her arm and scoops all 20 into her basket.  So crazy!  In the end she said it was worth it, she got some other things. 😀

We had a wonderful, laid back Thanksgiving yesterday.  Usually I try to make really complicated dishes that take days to prepare in advance.  This year not only did I not have time, but my energy was tapped out.  I didn’t even start to cook anything for thanksgiving dinner until 10:00 a.m. yesterday!

On our menu?

  • smoked turkey breast with a spicy rub
  • pork loin with lemons
  • tater tot casserole (Hannah makes it every year – its amazing!)
  • mashed potatoes
  • sausage stuffing
  • gravy
  • cheddar drop biscuits
  • pecan pie
  • pumpkin pie

For the turkey I made this dry rub:

  • 1 tablespoon dry mustard
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
  • 1.5 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1.5 teaspoons onion powder (left out because we hate onions!)
  • 1.5 teaspoons celery salt
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

I only used about 1/4 of the dry rub because our turkey breast was only 4 1/2 pounds.  We smoked it with hickory wood chips – and we also used the water pan so it steamed and cooked the turkey at the same time.  The smoker is low and slow – it took about 3 hours to cook, the last half hour I removed the water pan.  It was so tender and juicy!

Then we did a ham/pork on the gas grill with lemons, salt and pepper.  I threw out the wrapper, not exactly what cut this is, but it really tasted more like a pork roast then a traditional ham – still very tasty – and only $8 for this whole thing!

But I have to tell you, even though we had all this delicious food on the table, what I really wanted was . . . PIE!  I found these little non-stick pie pans at a thrift store.  I only had 3 so I had to make two batches, but they came right out of the pans.

Wanna know the secret to my pie crust??  BUTTER!

Best Pie Crust – enough for two 9 inch pies or 8 mini pies

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons half and half
  • 3/4 cups butter (1 1/2 sticks!)
  • 1/4 cup ice cold water (plus up to 4 tablespoons depending on how it feels)

I put the flour and salt on a big mat.  Make a well in the center and then add the cream.

Then using my bench scraper, I bring the flour into the middle and run the sharp edge of the bench scraper back and forth breaking up the pieces of butter – then slowly add the water and keep cutting the water and flour together – this process takes about 10 minutes, but its worth it.  Then I dump the mixture into a bowl – you know its the right consistency when the dough holds together and isn’t crumbly or too wet.

I made the traditional Libby’s pumpkin pie recipe.  I should have halved the recipe because now I have a huge jar of pumpkin pie filling!  I’ll have to be creative with that leftover! 😀

Fill the pies and for the pumpkin, I baked at 425 for 15 minutes, reduced the heat to 350 and cooked another 20 minutes, or until the middle is set.

Doesn’t that look so cute??  For the pecan pies, I baked at 350 for 30 minutes.

Tony said that I should never buy refrigerated dough again – this one is the best!  So we had six people at our Thanksgiving table, each person got half a pumpkin and half a pecan pie.  The best part though?  No leftover pie!  We had our indulgence and are moving on.

I would say our theme for the day yesterday was simple and low key – and it was wonderful!  Just missed having my Momma at our table. 😦

Hannah is going to be spending the day with my Mom today – I will go tomorrow in the hopes that’s the day she gets to go home.  I have a few projects I want to do this weekend – first is going through the 1,000s of pictures on my computer that I need to delete, and laundry needs to get done.

I think we are going out to lunch today and going to see the Muppets – is anyone else going to see that movie?  My Dad loved that show and we watched it every Sunday night growing up.

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving!  I plan on going to WW tomorrow since I missed last week.  My goal is that I maintained since exercise was not in the picture this week!

Grilled Balsamic Strawberries with Goat Cheese on Toasted Italian Bread

I love all the inspiration I find from all the food blogs I read.  There are some recipes I see and instantly know I want to make them.  Not in a pile of “someday” but in my pile that is “soon!”

That’s what happened when I saw Jacky’s roasted strawberries with maple syrup and balsamic vinegar.  And the fact that she put the strawberries on a baguette with goat cheese??  Holla – I was sold!

I did switch it up though, for two reasons.  One is that I grilled the strawberries – it was 88 degrees in my house when I got home from work, which I instantly shut down all the windows and put on the air – stat!  So I knew I wasn’t turning on the oven.  And I didn’t have any maple syrup so I subbed in Smucker’s sugar free pancake syrup.

Grilled Balsamic Strawberries inspired by Jacky of JaxHouse

  • makes 4 servings, 2 PointsPlus each (a heaping 1/4 cup)

Ingredients:

  • 1 pint strawberries, hulled and quartered
  • 2 tablespoons sugar free pancake syrup
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon seal salt
  • 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

I mixed everything in a bowl.  I used our flat cast iron skillet spayed with Pam.  My grill was already at about 350 degrees after I grilled our dinner last night – these cooked over medium flame for about 25 minutes – it was all nice and bubbly!

For some reason while the strawberries were bright red in the pan, they really darkened once I put them in a container – maybe it was the pan I used?  Either way, this was a stunning combination – the sweetness of the strawberries against the acidity of the vinegar and the salty tang of the goat cheese – heaven!

My strawberry goat cheese sammie is 6 points plus, next to a 2 point egg beater spinach omelet.   8 PointsPlus total.

I wish this picture turned out better, but this flavor combination was amazing!

I checked the weather before I went on my run, it said 83 degrees, but holy cow it felt a lot warmer.  I decided to do 50 minutes or walking/jogging/sprint and continued that – my sprints were only about 30 yards, then I would walk for about 20 yards, jog for 100 yards, and repeat.

When I got back to my office, as I was changing my clothes I had tiny dots all over my chest and arms – maybe a touch of heat rash?  Sorry, no pictures – too icky! 😀  It took me quite a bit to cool down too – even back at my desk I could still feel the sweat dripping down my neck – aren’t my co-workers lucky??!!

For lunch for me and my SIL, I made another zucchini lasagna, except this time I added some of Tony’s pasta sauce on top (although he calls it “our” sauce since we made it together!) adding another 2 points, but so worth it – look at all the food I got for 9 points! 

I love all the layers 😀

After work we dropped of Hannah’s car for some service while she is on vacation – new brake pads and stuff.  I decided to make dinner simple – reheated the ribs for the 4th and grilled up some corn on the cob.  11 Points for dinner. 😀

And I may have had a slice of strawberry rhubarb pie for dessert. 😀

Yep, I have definitely deemed that pie insulin worthy!!

I got some loot in the mail too!

You’ll have to wait to see what’s in the “Spread the Love” box, that will be a giveaway tomorrow, but in the lower box is a yoga mat!  I won Katie J.’s giveaway, and part of it was a $20 Amazon.com gift card.  A couple weeks ago I bought a Living Social deal for six, 70 minute yoga sessions all for $20 – I am going to call today to see if they have space in their 8:20 class on Saturday. 😀  Thanks again Katie!

Stats for Wednesday:

  • 38 points (including pretzels eaten at night)
  • 50 minute walk/jog/sprint
  • average blood sugar 122

I love short work weeks!  And I missed Hannah for hanging with Hannah last night – I’ve talked to her and she’s been boating, jet skiing and having lots of fun.  She even ate shredded pork tacos and declared them the best tacos she’s ever had!

Have a great day!

Breakfast/Lunch/Peppermint Marshmallows!

The commute into work today was horrible!  It took me an hour to get home in blowing snow last night, this morning was cold, but bright sunny skies and it took me 45 minutes to get in!  I expected to see an accident, but nothing!

I had planned to stop at the store to get chocolate milk, because I brought my secret ingredient recipe to work today: peppermint marshmallow!  I set up a “hot chocolate bar”  in our lunch room and heated up the chocolate milk in the crock pot, and put cups, the marshmallows, whip cream and extra peppermint candy canes on the side.  It was a big hit!  I’ll get to the recipe in a minute. . .(since a lot of people asked me today “how do you even make homemade marshmallows?”)

Breakfast:

  • 1/2 cup egg whites
  • 1 double yolk egg (I’m lovin these!)
  • 1/2 ounce herbed goat cheese
  • 1 ounce sliced deli ham
  • splashes of Tabasco
this was so filling!

this was so filling!

For lunch I had the last of the split pea soup, with carrots, cucumbers, 1/2 honeycrisp apple (my last one!) with ranch dip:

marshmallow-028

Now onto the BSI Recipe!  This weeks hostess is Ashley @ http://sweetandnatural.wordpress.com/2008/12/08/blogger-secret-ingredient-week-15/

Peppermint was the Secret Ingredient this week.  It dawned on me that Hannah has been asking for homemade marshmallows recently, so why not make them peppermint?   It seems like a long process, but the actual hands on portion is only about 10 minutes.  And the flavor combinations are endless!  Could you imagine vanilla/cinnamon, banana extract/semi sweet chocolate marshmallows!  I may have to try those!

Peppermint Marshmallows

  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/3 cornstarch
  • 2 (1/4 ounce) packages of unflavored gelatin
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 1 1/3 cups sugar
  • 2/3 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup crushed peppermint candy canes
  • 1/8 tsp. salt

Put water into stand mixing bowl.  Add gelatin and let sit for five minutes.

Meanwhile, add syrup, sugar, candy canes and salt and under medium heat, stir until everything is melted, even the candy canes.  It should look bubbly like this:

pretty in pink!

pretty in pink!

When its all melted, add this mixture to the water/gelatin and using my wisk on my KitchenAid, pour the melted sugar into the bowl and turn on high and walk away for 15 minutes, just let it roll.  When you come back, you’ll see this!

YUM!

YUM!

Because this is VERY sticky, I lined my 13×9 pan with foil, making sure to get a good corner.  Then spray REALLY WELL with Pam.  The next step is to sift the powdered/sugar cornstarch mixture into a separate bowl.  Sprinkle this mixture generously over the foil, about 4 tablespoons.  Next pour the mallow mixture into your pan and use a spatula (or your hands!) covered in Pam and press evenly.  Sprinkle 4 more tablespoons of the powdered sugar/cornstarch mixture over the top.  Reserve the rest.

Let it set overnight.  The next morning, invert on a cutting board.  Using a knife that has been run under hot water (I used my bread knife) slice into squares.  Then roll the cut pieces in the remaining powdered sugar mixture so they are evenly coated, shaking off the excess.

The great thing about this is that they take a long time to melt and float on top of a steaming cup of hot chocolate!  Good thing I am diabetic otherwise I don’t think I could eat just one!

The finished (messy!) product!

marshmallow-019

Tips:  Don’t use gelatin that has an expiration date of December 1997!  Luckily I had fresh ones in my pantry too!

marshmallow-001

Okay, got to run, my lunch break is almost over.  Tony and I plan on watching a William H. Macy movie I’ve never heard of, and he’s seen part of and thought it was interesting.  We are taping Top Chef to watch later.  See you at dinner!

Guest Post! My daughter Hannah!

I love cake. Scratch that. I love food. But lately (meaning all the time) I’ve been craving chocolate.  The craving had originated when my life would be changed forever…I would eat my first (and not last) piece of Portillo’s Chocolate Cake. It was my neighbor’s birthday and they just so happened to offer me a piece since they “didn’t want leftovers.” I like to think of it as fulfilling my duty as a good neighbor by taking that piece and cherishing it. I don’t know anyone who denies cake, especially not me.

Mouth watering and eyes wide open, I took that first chunk of moist, warm, chocolate-frosted cake and I savored it until there was nothing left to savor. I’m not going to lie, I strongly believe I was reborn that day. I’m sorry, but you haven’t honestly lived until you’ve had a piece of that amazing goodness. So, I made mention a while ago that I wanted to make a chocolate cake with pudding for extra moisture. Well, hearing me out, my Step Dad had taken the liberty of buying a box of chocolate cake mix and a box of instant chocolate pudding. They’ve been sitting in the pantry for a few weeks now, taunting me and crying for me every time I open the door. It’s not that I didn’t want them, but that little devil in the back of my head kept saying, “Hannah, don’t do it! You could spend your calories on things so much more worth it!”

Haha, tonight I had to teach that devil whose boss. You might be thinking to yourself, “It’s just a mix out of a box, it’s no big deal.” Oh no my friends, you’re terribly mistaken. That saying “Big things come in small packages” is definitely what this was. So this was what the batter looked like after just adding 3 eggs, 1 1/4 C water, and about a cup and a half of the instant pudding (no oil!):

Yes, I know what you're thinking. I want to eat that.

Yes, I know what you're thinking, I want it!

You haven’t seen anything yet. I originally cooked it for about 30 minutes, but clearly it wasn’t done. I would say it took about 45 minutes, but it was completely worth the wait. Being myself and adding something to the cake, of course, I just so happened to pull out our All Natural Bryers Vanilla and some caramel sauce to tie the whole thing together. And this is what my craving became:

)

It was even more delicious than it looks 🙂

 Thanks Mom for letting me guest post!  She’ll see you for breakfast!