Tuesday, August 30, 2011

I love you baby....

Happy Anniversary... you are sweeter than all my cakes and chocolates combined....xoxoxo ~ megs

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Old Fashioned Chocolate Cake.. and a winner

Old Fashioned Chocolate Cake, a giveaway winner and.... banana trees in Wisconsin...

Congratulations Rachel from Tramplingrose! You are the lucky winner of the awesome organic dried fruit from Peeled Snacks and super tasty nut confections from Nutorious. Seven bags of delicious are heading your way. Thank you to all who entered. Not sure when the next giveaway will be, however I am thinking that it will be a box of my chocolates and turtles. Only time can tell. (smile)

This week I had the wonderful opportunity to make a cake for a dear friend. We have worked together for four years and have had the opportunity to grow together, cry together and support each other. Judy was to be bringing the dessert to a family party where the guest of honor was the new little grand baby.... a real charmer and flirt I might add! The little baby boy was to be introduced to his great grandparents who are  94 years of age. She first requested one of my caramel chocolate ganache cakes.... and then after having a longer conversation, we decided that the old fashioned chocolate cake was the best option. At ninety four years of age.... ice cream with the cake is still important. Some of my cakes are stand alone cakes, and I wouldn't think of adding ice cream, for it would just be too much sweet. But this wonderful cake is dreamy and perfect for a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Four layers of dark chocolate cake, sandwiched in between delicious butter cream cheese chocolate frosting.  Nothing could have made me happier to make a cake for such a joyful occasion. Family is so very important. Never take that for granted. Old fashioned chocolate cake, enjoy ~

Old Fashioned Chocolate Cake

2 cups sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (Valrohna preferred)
1 and 3/4 cup flour
1.5 tsp baking powder
1.5 tsp baking soda
1 stick of melted butter
2 eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup hot (not boiling) water with 1 TBS instant espresso powder dissolved. I prefer Megdalia D'oro Espresso Powder.

Butter two, 9" round pans. Cover with parchment, butter and flour again. Oven at 30 degrees. In large mixing bowl whisk together your dry ingredients except your cocoa powder. Sift your cocoa powder into the other ingredients and whisk again. Attach mixing bowl to mixer with paddle attachment. Add butter and eggs and mix slowly until moistened. Add buttermilk and mix for a minute. Add hot water and mix again for about 1.5 minutes. Measure the batter and pour, cup by cup into prepared 9" round pans. Measuring the batter will help keep the cakes even.  Bake at 350 for 30 minutes. Test for doneness. Let cool. Slide knife around edge of pan after 10 minutes and tap out cake onto cooling rack. Let cool completely.

Chocolate Butter Cream Cheese Frosting- 
enough frosting to frost a four 9" layer cake

4 packs 8 oz. cream cheese, room temp
2 sticks organic butter- no salt - room temp
2/3 cup Valrohna cocoa powder
hot milk - about 1/3 cup
powdered sugar -at least 2 cups..... more depending on your preferences.

Cream butter and cream cheese until fully creamed using mixer with paddle attachment. When this is nice and fluffy, add sifted cocoa powder to the mix. Please sift... I beg you. This will get all the lumps out. Mix until smooth. Add in sifted powdered sugar... I can't stress the importance of sifting. When adding in powdered sugar, do so in intervals and add a bit of hot milk to keep the sugars moving. Keep mixing and tasting along the way. You may want to play with sugar and or cocoa powder, depending on your fancy! Refrigerate if not using right away.

Assemble cake: Frosting should be mayonnaise consistency when applying to the cake. Cut layers in half. Scoop 1 cup of frosting onto first layer. Spread evenly onto layer. Top with next cake layer. Repeat with frosting and cake two times. Give your cake a nice crumb coat, refrigerate for thirty minutes. Take out and refrost again with final layer of frosting. Let chill under cake dome, until 40 minutes before you are ready to serve. Serve with vanilla ice cream... of course.

On a side note..... we have bananas on our banana trees in our front yard.... Bananas in Wisconsin.... yes we do! Here is a peek at our banana tree -I am hoping they ripen so I can make chocolate bourbon banana bread with chocolate bourbon sauce....

Kisses, hugs, chocolate cake and bananas...xoxo ~ megan

Monday, August 22, 2011

Vanilla Bourbon Peach Crisp - Lucky in Kentucky

Bourbon does not grow on trees.... but the black angel's share does....especially when you are distilling the grains to make bourbon.

Earlier this summer we took a mini-vacation to Mammoth Cave Kentucky. They say you get lucky in Kentucky, I would say my stroke of luck was finally convincing my two tired kids, my husband and my father in-law that we MUST stop at the Jim Beam Distillery on our way home. I tried without success to stop on the way to Mammoth Cave.... I thought that  having a bottle of bourbon would mix well with underground forays into the dark cracks in the earth and camping by the light of the moon. That's what you do in Kentucky right? Drink bourbon? After all, moonshine cures all ails...doesn't it?

angel's share. the black mold that grows on everything around the distillery.
Turns out, even tears didn't work on my family. No... they wouldn't have their food-blogging mama, hijack their trip and turn it into some kind of bourbon-fancy. I stayed true to our course, pushed back the tears and the curse words and headed down the road to the Cave City exit. If you have never been to Cave City, just know that the tiny little grocery store called "Houchens" pronounced "Halgens" is not the friendliest to outsiders, be prepared for stares. I was the fourth one in slow moving line.  The cashier seemed did know everybody and their mother and father... and all of their names. She struck up conversations with them all, except me. Luckily the young bagger boy was amused with my northern foreignness and carried all of my groceries out to the car, loaded my car and even put the bag of ice into the cooler...I thanked him with a proper tip and drove back through the hills to our campsite at Mammoth Cave.

Wish I had that bourbon. Our mini-vacation was supposed to be relaxing, dreamy and full of wondrous hikes into the nether regions of Kentucky's dark hills. Somehow, Kentucky's luck ran out as I had a 4 day migraine that wouldn't budge with the help of  Ibuprofen, coffee, or CocaCola. Wish I had that bourbon. Modern medicine killed the moonshine business. Moonshine was the medicine of the hills. Then along came aspirin, iboprofen and anbesol and soon it was cheaper to buy a bottle of aspirin that it was to purchase your weekly supply of moonshine. I really wished I had that bourbon. My headache was sticking to me like the angel's share sticks to everything around it.

the general store. i think this is the general.
I hung back on one of our last hikes into the caves, for the previous trip my heachace was so bad I had asked one of the sweet guides if he would take me back. After all, we were in the underground lunch room which happened to have an access elevator to the surface. Couldn't they just pack me in the elevator their with the food supplies. Beam me up.... anything, something....Please? The kind guide offered to walk me the mile back to the entrance of the cave. I declined as that would have held the entire group up at least forty minutes. Instead, I marched the next 3 miles, up and down underground valleys and hills with a headache that pounded with each footstep until we finally emerged to the surface. Can you blame me for finking out on the last hike?

Ahh... mama time. While the rest of the family were hiking with lanterns underground, I drove back into Cave City to see what life was like when you weren't at the grocery store. It was delicious. I spent an hour at the General Store which had more junk than you could shake a stick at. Some junk, some antiques, but the mix of it all was some how beautiful. I drove around and stopped here and there. I had a young blue jean wearing, brass belt buckle donning, white t-shirt, cigarettes in the back pocket Kentucky gentleman try to convince me to try out the ziplines through the hills. I gently declined. I purchased two handmade fairytale wooden birdhouses from a sweet little place on the side of the road and finally took a wrong turn and found myself on a gravel road face to face with a confederate flag and a tumbledown house. That was my cue to turn around....I finally watched Deliverance for the first time this year....and the memories of that were too fresh in my mind to investigate the hills any further!

salvaged bourbon barrels. pricey.
I finally did get my bourbon, just not in the bottle, but a can. Our stop to the Jim Beam Distillery was smack dab in the middle of my driving shift home. Hence no tasting, just the tour. They happened to sell all things bourbon at the gift shop and I walked away with Kentucky Bourbon Vanilla Sorghum. mmmmm. I have had it in my cupboard since the end of June. Everytime I opened my cupboard, I would see the little can, staring at me. Finally, I cracked open the sweet jar of sorghum as if it was a new can of paint. Instead of painting my walls, I painted my sweet peaches and tucked them into a warm peach crisp. Still waiting for my bottle of bourbon. Next time.

Lucky in Ketucky Bourbon Peach Crisp - Recipe

8 organic peaches blanched for 1 minute, peeled and cut into moons.
3 TBS Kentucky Bourbon Vanilla Sorghum 
6 TBS butter
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup rolled oats
2 TBS flour
dash of salt

Oven to 350 degrees. 8x8 pan. Place cut peaches in pan. Drizzle 3 TBS of bourbon vanilla sorghum over peaches. (more if you enjoy a sweeter crisp) Place oats, cinnamon, flour, brown sugar, dash of salt and butter in food processor. Blend until you have a nice crumby topping. Place topping on peaches. Bake for 45 minutes - an hour. Make sure it is bubbly and brown before you take it out. Serve with organic cream.

lucky in Kentucky....xoxoxo Megan

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Giveaway! Delicious Candied Nuts & Organic Dried Fruits

Thank you to Nutorious Nut Confections and Peeled Snacks for sending me these amazing and good for you delicious treats to sample and offer to my readers. I was psyched to receive both packages and waited for the right time to taste them both. Both companies package their product in a bag that you can pop right into your purse, diaper bag, gift bag, gold bag, backpack, suitcase or even in your care package to your daughter off at college, you name it, it will fit! These snacks are highly portable without the mess and provide delicious mouth entertainment to both kids and adults alike.

I brought a bag of Nutorious Nuts on my mini vacation this week. I of course opened them right up in front of my mother and had her take a smell of the Cherry Vanilla Va-Voom nut mix. And then I had her quickly pop one, two, three into her mouth. Her response -"These could be habit forming!" I agree as the Nutorious nut snacks provide the crunch satisfaction of a chip with just the right amount of sweet and salty, not to mention the delicious dried cherries that give a tart and tangy chew to the mix. Their snacks are highly addictive and made me want to hide them from my children. Yes, I can be a mean mother. They are a really great, low sugar alternative to a cookie, or even a granola bar which can be unnecessarily loaded with added sugars and fillers.

Organic dried fruit snacks from Peeled Snacks. Open up and say YUM! I am sure there are many moms out there who are quite conscious about what their kiddos put past their lips and into their bellies. All organic, no added sugar, and no sulfites... that is what I like! Peeled snacks packages their products in perfect lunch sized packaging. Their pineapple was out of this world and the apricots were tangy and sweet. They also have larger quantities for the family outing, hike, long drive to grandmothers, or if everyone is lucky...a canoe trip. The dried fruit is the perfect answer to the whiny child who needs a pick me up after a nap or a "hold over" until supper is actually on the table.

Follow the rules below and enter to win for this great giveaway of healthy, tasty, habit forming treats! Giveaway ends August 27th at midnight. Open to residents of US only. All items will be mailed USPS. If you win, you will receive the following by mail; Nutourious Cherry Vanilla Va-Voom, Nutorious Blueberry Lemon Merengue, Nutorious Cranberry Orango Tango, Nutorious Ooo La La Original, Peeled Snacks Apricot-a-lot, Peeled Snacks Much-ado-about-Mango and Peeled Snacks farmer's market trio (apples, raisins and cherries.) All of this deliciousness! Satisfy your families hunger and your insatiable quest for healthy snacks with these great treats!

Giveaway Rules
1) You must be a follower of Foodalution
2) Leave a comment about healthy snacks for the family and or whiny hungry children.
3) Hug someone you love.

xoxo - best of luck Megan

Friday, August 12, 2011

Summer Caprese Quinoa Salad and First Kisses

Thank god for other food bloggers who inspire me to try new things or put ingredients together that I may have forgotten about. I somehow wandered over to Food Blog and the Dog this week and was really inspired by all of the fantastic vegetarian dishes they have put up. They are cooking up some seriously delicious food over there in Spain. After spending about a half hour on their site, I quickly wished I was 16 again, wandering the beaches of Calafell.

Spain was where I had my first kiss from a boy who rode 10 miles on his bike to see me. My first salty taste of jamon serrano was in Spain as well the tasting of a myriad of other cured cheeses and meats.  Spain was where I had way too much fun, and did little learning (from books that is) and lots of dreaming.  Or maybe please just let me return to being a young woman of 20 years of age, eating morel and rabbit stew while visiting my friends outside Barcelona. Just leave me at 20, living in an old flat in the heart of Madrid, no heat....bad windows and an electric socket in the bathroom that would guarantee you a stinger of a shock at least once during the week. 

I'm not speaking of the flat that I was kicked out of. Yes.... I was kicked out. (that is so unlike me now) I threw a party at a flat I was renting and a 'few' to many people arrived. Do you know any Spaniards? They love to party, especially if you fall in between the ages of 19 and 26.  The real kicker was the fact that my boyfriend at the time,  handsome Javier, had a bit of a panic attack in the tiny little elevator (you Europeans know what I mean by tiny) as the elevator stopped between floors. This was poor timing for the elevator to stop as it was at least 1 o'clock in the morning. Handsome Javier broke out in a cold sweat, began swearing up a storm and went into a full blown panic pressing the alarm button incessantly. The maddening alarm woke one of the neighbors, who was not pleased to find two punch drunk kids stuck in their elevator. At that moment, Javier then turned to me and said...I have a terrible fear of elevators! Next time.... take the stairs! I really couldn't fault him as he did come over and make me crepes with gruyere and jamon quite often.

I moved on to another flat, located on Calle Raimundo Fernandez Villaverde. I grew accustomed to bomb threats on the subway, taxi strikes that would shut down the city, and starting my night out by drinking 'some' wine....to loosen up my Spanish of course. I ended up living with an Italian named Alberto, a Spaniard named Miaram, and an odd chimney smoking gentleman who wrote for Hola magazine. I'm not sure 'odd' sums it up as he swore off sleeping at night, for fear of bad spirits and would occasionally show Miriam and I the lingerie he would purchase for his girlfriend...weird... eh? I am still wondering if his "girlfriend" was just not a figment of his imagination as we never saw her once.... all year.  Alberto was the fun one in the house. He was such a sweetheart and had adorable friends. I went out with them as much as possible as they always seemed to know where the best party was. It was hard not to crush on all of his friends...as each one was cuter than the next. Unfortunately Alberto was smitten with a woman twice his age and carried on a torrent affair through plentiful phone calls and lusty letters.

I have never had run ins with the police here in the states, yet in Spain..I was caught in tear gas, threatened several times, told I was too loud...(who me?) and even filed a report with the police against some young boys who decided to attack our group while camping in the Pyranees. I guess with all the fun and drama I had while in Spain, a little danger went with it. If my mother is reading this, I probably shouldn't mention the older, traveling, Colombian business man (30 years plus) who through a bumpy flight from Paris and a wait-out at the airport during a 10 hour taxi strike gave him permission to invite a much younger woman to his hotel room....At that moment I could hear my mother's voice in my head calling out.....warning, danger, warning, danger..... I just let him pay for my cab and then hoped I would never run into him again!

I call this post... pure writing for purely personal pleasure.  It is fun to remember those first kisses and everything else that comes with young love..... Where where you when you first kissed your adorable crush and had that rush of tingles up and down your spine?

Back to the salad at hand. Thank you Food Blog and the Dog for stirring my creative veggie urge!

Summer Caprese Salad with Fresh Mozzerlla

2 cups quinoa
1 red onion - chopped small
2 TBS olive oil, extra for dressing the salad
2 TBS balsamic vinegar
4 cups veggie broth
2 large balls of fresh mozz.
loads of fresh basil
1/2 cup raw fresh pine nuts
salt and pepper to taste
6-8 roma tomatoes if roasting (optional) or 3 medium heirloom tomatoes fresh.

1) Bring quinoa and vegetable broth to a boil. Let simmer on low for 20 minutes. It takes about as long as white rice. Turn off, keep cover on.
2) While quinoa is cooking, caramelize the onions in 2 TBS olive oil and salt.
3) In cast iron pan or other heavy pan, toast the pine nuts. These can burn very quickly, so keep an eye on them and keep them moving in the pan. Set aside.
3)  Place quinoa in large bowl and fluff with fork. Add onions to the mix, toss again. Add balsamic vinegar to taste and about two TBS olive oil. Add salt and fresh black pepper to taste. Toss again.
4) Take a large handful of fresh basil, chop very fine and toss into quinoa.
5) Tear apart the mozzarella into bite size pieces and toss into the salad.
6) If using roasted tomatoes, arrange on platter and place quinoa salad on top. Top entire salad with fresh basil and pine nuts. If using fresh tomatoes, sliced thinly and layer on platter, top with quinoa and sprinkle with pine nuts and basil. 

This is a beautiful dish when plated up. Perfect for a pot luck or serve for supper with fresh crostini and a nice pinto grigio. 

Back to the kisses..... where where you for that first real kiss? 
loads of kisses and delicious food! Megan

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Coffee Chocolate Caramel Ice Cream Sodas

Thank you Godiva.... for sending me this lovely chocolate flavored coffee.... We indulged.....although fully clothed. And yes... Godiva makes more than chocolate. Get your buzz on!

The Lady Godiva Legend - from Godiva.com

Many hundreds of years ago, a woman of great generosity and beauty left an indelible impression upon the people she reigned over in Coventry. Known for her lustrous hair and bountiful nature, she dedicated her life to the impoverished and stricken.
Her husband, Lord Leofric, was a powerful ruler, unsympathetic to the citizens of his kingdom. When he imposed a heavy burden of taxation upon his subjects, Lady Godiva protested. Lord Leofric boomed forth a challenge: If Lady Godiva rode naked through the streets, and if the people of the city remained inside, the taxation would be lifted.

Lady Godiva agreed to this bargain. Although she was demure in spirit, she was always most generous in action. Then finally, it was the morning of the event. Dawn rose, and the clock struck seven, ringing through the cobbled streets. The people closed their shutters, as promised. Lady Godiva's velvet gown dropped to the ground, her luminous skin shimmering.

The ride began.

Throughout the streets echoed the foreign sound of hooves galloping, yet not a single glance flew her way.

Upon her finish, the thunderous cheers were heard throughout the town. Lady Godiva had braved modesty and convention to win the hearts of all who knew her. As promised, Leofric eased his taxation of the poor, and her place in history was immortalized.
The legend of Lady Godiva has not diminished, but instead has grown and deepened. Centuries later, Joseph Draps, a renowned Belgian chocolatier, created a line of chocolates with extraordinary richness and design, a collection of passion and purity. He sought a name that embodied the timeless qualities of passion, style, sensuality and modern boldness. His choice? Godiva.

As part of the Foodbuzz Tastemakers Program, I was given the opportunity to whip up something delicious with the Godiva coffee I received. And so... an old fashioned, coffee chocolate caramel ice cream soda was born. As a chocolatier... I am always ready to try new things and the buzz of chocolate and coffee are irresistible to me. The caramel was just an added bonus. I also spent some time on Godiva's website. They have lovely little chocolatey items that look delicious....looking forward to try more of the items, especially the Hazlenut Praline Biscuits....dipped in chocolate of course.

don't forget the straws.....

 Ingredients - Makes 4, Old Fashioned Coffee Chocolate Caramel Ice Cream Sodas

2 Cups Sparkling Water or Soda Water
8 TBS Heavy cream
2 cups cold Godiva Chocolate Truffle Coffee
Chocolate Ice cream
Caramel Ice Cream
1) Mix about 1/3-1/2 cup sparkling water with equal parts coffee. Depends how much coffee flavor you want versus how much bubbly you care for. If you have a charger at home for making instant "soda water", by all means please use it and do not add the water for a fuller coffee flavor. Pour into your soda glass.
2) Mix in 2 TBS heavy cream per glass. Stir.
3) Scoop as much ice cream as fits into your soda glass. Top with crushed sugar, cocoa nibs, and coffee beans. (Trader Jo's makes this topping in a grinder... a must have) Give a little stir, pop in your straws and enjoy!

Thank you Godiva Chocolates and Coffee and Foodbuzz Tastemakers Program. I enjoyed taking a hot afternoon off to try some of Godiva's Chocolate Truffle Flavored Coffee. It was delicious in the drink, but it was wonderful to sip cold.... even with out the cream or sugar. It was a well rounded flavored coffee that had a wonderful smooth chocolatey taste. I thoroughly enjoyed it and I am sure my guests will next time I serve them these drinks.

loads of choco-caffenation! xoxoxo megan