Monday, April 11, 2011

Flourless Chocolate Almond Cake

For the past week or so, the paperboy has been delivering the national newspaper to our doorstep. The kicker? We don't subscribe. Either it's some gimmick to get me to subscribe and I'll be billed handsomely or one of my neighbors is thoroughly ticked off that they haven't been getting their paper. 

So, I do what anyone would do. Put on a pot of tea on and sat down to read the news. I know, I know. Cheeky. After skimming for a few minutes, I was immediately reminded why I don't like the news. It's too depressing and sad.

To lighten the situation, I searched for the lifestyle and entertainment section. I read over the movie reviews, checked out the latest fashion off the runway of Milan, read my horoscope *eye roll*, and attempted to do the sudoku puzzle, but failed. Miserably.

A recipe for Flourless Chocolate Almond Cake made with olive oil jumped out at me. Chocolate. You bet. Chocolate and olive oil? Hmmm....

As I pondered if it's something I would make, I came to the realization....if it's flourless AND made with olive oil, it must be healthy, so I made it.

I was impressed. It was a bit more work than I anticipated, but the outcome (or my outcome) was a cake that reminds me of a frosted chocolate brownie. I'm not sure if it's supposed to, but it did....and there is nothing wrong with anything tasting like a frosted chocolate brownie!

Mazel Tov to Bonnie Stern. You made a believer outta me!

Recipe adapted from National Post columnist of The Appetizer Bonnie Stern

 6 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
¾ cup sugar, divided
4 eggs, separated
¾ cup + 2 tablespoons ground almonds or almond flour - I used ground almonds.

Chocolate Glaze:
¼ cup sugar
⅓ cup dry red wine, water, coffee or tea
4 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup sliced almonds, toasted

Preheat oven at 350ºF.

In a bowl set over gently simmering water, melt chocolate and stir until smooth. Stir in olive oil.

In a large bowl beat egg yolks with ½ cup sugar until light pale in color. 

Stir in melted chocolate mixture and then almonds. Be SURE to slowly incorporate melted chocolate into eggs or you will end up with scrambled chocolate eggs!

In a large clean bowl beat egg whites until light. Slowly beat in remaining sugar. Continue beating until stiff.

Stir about ¼ egg whites into the chocolate batter and then fold in remaining whites. The batter will be tough to work with, so try to be gentle when folding in the first bit. Once all the egg whites have been incorporated, it's much easier to manipulate.

It will look like this....

Spoon batter into an 8-inch or 9-inch deep cake pan that has been lined with parchment paper. I used a springform pan.

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean when inverted into the middle. Cool cake in the pan.

When cold, press down any uneven edges and invert onto a serving platter and peel off parchment paper.

For glaze, bring sugar and wine/tea/coffee/water (I used tea) to a boil in a saucepan. Cook 2 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in chocolate. Add vanilla. Cool until spreadable.

Brush any crumbs off surface of cake.  Spread a thin layer of glaze over the top (originally the bottom) and sides of cake to “crumb coat.” Pour remaining glaze on top and swirl to cover the top and sides. Press almonds into the sides. I also applied to top.

Yields: 12 servings

Happy Baking!

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Friday, April 8, 2011

Beer Bread

I have never been a fan of beer. In fact, it makes me gag.

I will never understand how someone prefers a beer in the dead of summer over a glass of ice cold lemonade, sweet tea or even water. On the flip side, I'm sure that many people would say the same about me.

However, I'm not a teetotaler by any means. I'm a walking cliché because I enjoy a fruity little cocktail every now and then. I'm super envious of wine drinkers. Wine is something I could definitely get into if I could only, again, get past the taste.

Whenever my husband and I have a party, we are usually left with a couple cans of beer hanging around. Short of dumping it down the sink to create room in the fridge - which would be a sin, even if I don't drink it - I'm usually left finding ways to use it up.

The first recipe I have that requires beer is a killer chili that calls for a can of beer, cup of coffee, chocolate and brown sugar. It sounds weird and slightly unorthodox, but it's smashing delicious.

The next standby is beer battered fish and chips. Enough said.

Then I found this recipe for beer bread. Oh, you delightful little carb. This bread is so versatile you can throw virtually anything into it. You could probably even say it's foolproof. It's the perfect partner for my infamous chili or fabulous with dippy eggs and bacon in the morning.

Thankfully this bread doesn't get you drunk. Otherwise, I would seriously be considered the town lush and wouldn't care one bit.

Recipe adapted and slightly modified from Farm Girl Fare

3 cups all purpose flour, sifted
3 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1 teaspoon salt
12 ounce can of beer - any brand is good, but honey lager is my favorite in this recipe

This recipe is also super fabulous on it's own, but I opted to make the Italian version for the blog. For more variations, please see below.

To continue on with the Italian version, add to the basic batter:

1 teaspoon basil
1 teaspoon oregano
2 minced garlic cloves
½ cup grated parmesan or romano cheese

Preheat oven to 375°. Grease an 8-inch loaf pan.

Combine the flour (it's very, very, very important to sift the flour in this recipe), sugar, baking powder, salt in a large mixing bowl.

Add melted butter. 

Just a note: If you want your crust to be hard and crunchy, apply melted butter over top the bread just before baking. Otherwise, just add it to the mixture. You'll still get a nice crust to it, just not as crispy.

Slowly stir in the beer and mix just until combined. The batter will be thick and lumpy.
Spread batter into prepared loaf pan. Brush with the egg glaze if desired. I don't but you certainly can. This step adds shine.

Bake until golden brown and a toothpick stuck in the center comes out clean, about 40-45 minutes.

Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove from the pan and cool 10 more minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Other variations:

Garlic & Herb: Add 1 teaspoon dried rosemary, 1 teaspoon dried oregano, 1 teaspoon dried thyme, and 2 minced garlic cloves (or 1 teaspoon garlic flakes) to the basic mix. For fresh herbs, use 1 chopped tablespoon of each.

Dill & Chive: Add 2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill (or 2 teaspoons dried dill) and ¼ cup chopped fresh chives to the basic mix.

Rosemary & Feta
Add 2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary and ¾ cup crumbled feta cheese to the basic mix.

Other Additions: Any dried or fresh herbs; ½ cup freshly grated asiago (or other hard cheese); ½ cup finely chopped onion, ½ cup chopped scallions; ½ cup chopped fresh parsley, ½ cup whole wheat flour or ½ cup oats in place of ½ cup of the all-purpose flour.

Yield: One 8-inch loaf.

Happy Baking!

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Wednesday, April 6, 2011


Every now and then, I get a hankering for something different. Every blue moon, I will crave something I've never had before.

My blue moon has risen.

Since my husband is British, I am American, and we live in Canada, I decided to skip what I know, ignore my cookbooks on the shelf and hit the internet for inspriation. The first stop on the information superhighway? Martha Stewart. She has made every sweet and savory menu item known to man; she's the best place to start.

After searching her site, I came across Lamingtons. I never heard of them, but they sounded interesting. As I did some more digging, I discovered Lamingtons are native of Australia. Bingo. (Or should I say Dingo!?) Because it would only be appropriate to do as they do in Rome, I wanted to delve further for an authentic Australian Lamingtons recipe. No offense Martha.

Unfortunately, all the Australian websites I visited required the use of day old/ready made/box cake. This only increased my determination to find a genuine recipe. After about 15 minutes of even more searching, I finally found this recipe that seemed to tick all the boxes on my checklist. With a few Aussies raving about how incredible they are and how this recipe took them back to their childhood, I couldn't go wrong. 

Wrong was the last place I went. These are AMAZING. After eating a few, I'm not surprised the Aussies have a national Lambingtons Day. These little cakes are definitely something to be celebrated.

At least the recipe doesn't require Vegemite. *shudder*

Recipe adapted from Aussie chef Syrie Wongkaew 

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
½ cup butter, room temperature
¾ cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ cup milk

2 cups confectioners sugar
1/3 cup cocoa powder
3 tablespoons butter
½ cup milk

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Lightly butter an 8 inch square cake pan; set aside.

In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking powder and salt; set aside. In a separate bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after adding each egg. Add vanilla to the mixture and mix well to combine.

Use a spatula to alternately add the flour mixture and milk, in three additions, starting and finishing with the flour.

Spread the batter into the cake pan, making sure it's evenly spread.

Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes. Test the center of the cake with a toothpick and make sure it comes out clean. Cool the cake in pan for about 5 minutes and  invert onto a wire rack to cool.

Once the cake has cooled cut it into squares of a desired size. I opted for the two-bite size.

Place them in an airtight container. Pop the container in the fridge for at least 2 hours or even overnight. This is a crucial part as it helps the cake from crumbling once it comes in contact with the chocolate icing.

For an extra special treat, you can also fill the Lamingtons. To do so, cut a cake square in half and generously spread strawberry jam, finishing off by sandwiching together. This must be done before applying the icing.

Now for the icing.

Place icing sugar, cocoa powder, butter and milk in a heat proof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water.

Stir the mixture until it is smooth, but still a bit thick. You don't want the liquid to get too thin otherwise the sponge cake won't absorb the coating.
Working quickly, dip cake into chocolate and coat on all sides. 

Shake off excess chocolate and gently roll coated cake in coconut.

Lamingtons can be stored in an airtight container for 5 days.

Yield: 25 two-bite pieces.

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Friday, April 1, 2011

Georgia Cookie Candy

After two glorious weeks basking in the Florida sunshine, we arrived home a few days ago to bone chilling temperatures. Mind you, 26ºF really isn’t that cold when one has been used to it for a few months now, but coming from 88º weather, one can forget what cold is like really quick. If there is an upside to dealing with the less than favorable weather, it would be the excuse to stretch the comfort foods out a little longer. 

My inspiration for making these cookies was a layover we had in Atlanta on the way to Orlando. My husband has a very soft spot for the city of Atlanta for a few reasons, so the Hartsfield Airport shops for him are like watching a kid in a candy store. As he was browsing and slightly salivating, I did as well - minus the salivating part - and came across a cookbook, A Taste of Georgia. As I skimmed the cookbook, I knew I had to have it in my arsenal of cookbooks.

As we were leaving the shop, I passed an issue of Paula Deen's magazine. She is the queen of southern cooking - and my kind of lady. Butter smothered on everything, full fat ingredients, Oh yeah. As I flipped through it, 18 of those annoying subscription cards floated out. As I picked them up, (yes, I pick them up) I noticed these cookies on one of them. They looked very interesting and right up my alley. I took one of those cards and decided to use it for a bookmark during my holiday reading, only so I could remember to make these cookies in the near future.

Welcome to the future. I thought today was as good as any to give these a whirl. They are incredibly simple to make and have the all important moan factor.

Don't worry if the words, 'Oh my ya'll!' fly out of your mouth while eating them.

I got used to it after the 3rd piece.

Recipe adapted and slightly modified from Paula Deen's original recipe

Just a note: With this recipe, I recommend using the best chocolate and peanut butter ingredients you can afford. You can and will really taste the difference!

1 cup butter, softened
1 cup crunchy peanut butter - If you don't have crunchy peanut butter, add ¼ cup chopped peanuts to the mix. The crunchy helps awesomeize these!
3 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
1½ cups graham cracker crumbs
1½ cups semisweet chocolate chips
1½ cups crispy rice cereal

Line a 13 x 9 x 2-inch pan with foil.

Combine the butter, peanut butter, and and graham cracker crumbs in a food processor. I used a hand mixer to see if a food processor was really necessary. It isn't and worked just as well. I also didn't have crunchy peanut butter on hand, so I added ¼ cup chopped peanuts to the mix.

Add sugar and mix well. This is what it will look like using a hand mixer.

Press into the foil-lined pan using your hands or a spatula.

Melt the chocolate chips in a double boiler over simmering water.  You can microwave the chocolate as well, but I find that the chocolate can seize up on you really quick, so it's safer to use the double broiler method.

Pour the cereal over the peanut butter mixture. Using a spatula, spread chocolate over cereal, making sure to cover bars in it's entirety.

Chill for several hours. When ready to serve, allow the candy to come to room temperature before cutting into pieces.

Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Yield: 36-40 pieces.

Happy Baking!

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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Butterscotch Spice Cookies

I went to the grocery store a few weeks ago to pick up a few necessities - as I do.

As I walked down the baking aisle, I noticed that cake mix was on sale for 87¢. I don't make cake from a box often, but that's only because I love the bonding time I get with my little girl in the kitchen and will prolong it for as long as I can. She gets so excited when I ask if she wants to help Mama bake some goodies - especially when they're for Daddy. With that being said, there is nothing wrong with using a box cake mix and don't ever let anyone tell you otherwise!

I decided to buy a couple of boxes; German Chocolate and Spice Cake. 87¢ seemed like such a bargain and these are also the 2 flavors I probably wouldn't attempt to make from scratch anyway, so score for me! When I got home and unloaded my groceries, I noticed I already had 2 boxes of spice cake mix in the cupboard. Super.

Fast forward to a few days ago. I was going through my cookbooks, looking for a recipe my girlfriend asked about. To get to this specific cookbook, I had to pull out a folder I keep all the loose recipe clippings I cut from the back of food packages, in-store recipes, or steal from magazines. Yeah. I admit it. I steal pages from magazines.

Once I found what I was looking for, I flipped though the folder and came across this recipe for Butterscotch Spice Cookies. As I read through it, the words '1 package spice cake mix'  jumped out of the page and was immediately highlighted with a million beams of sunshine rays behind it. I think I may heard an angel or two singing during that moment as well, but I can't confirm.

While I know I would appreciate these cookies even more in the Fall, they were pretty good considering. After all, spice is the variety of life.

Or something like that.

Recipe adapted and slightly modified from Duncan Hines

1 box spice cake mix - I used Betty Crocker. Sorry Duncan.
2 large eggs
½ cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
½ cup butterscotch chips
½ cup chocolate chips
1 cup crispy rice cereal

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Combine cake mix, eggs, oil and vanilla extract in large bowl. Beat at low speed with electric mixer until blended.

Stir in butterscotch chips, chocolate chips, and crispy rice cereal.

Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls 2 inches apart onto ungreased baking sheets.

Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, or until set. Cool 2 minutes on baking sheets. Remove to cooling racks. Cool completely. Store in airtight container.

Yield: About 3 dozen cookies.

Happy Baking!

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Sunday, March 6, 2011

World Vision

Logo courtesy of

If you can read this, you are blessed. 

Seriously, you are. 

It's amazing how many people take basic things like water, food, and clothing - even reading and writing for granted.

When I was 20, I had the opportunity to travel to Peru for the Thanksgiving holiday to spend time with my aunt and uncle, who were missionaries there. My uncle was director of a bible school 500 miles north of the country’s capital in a town called Chiclayo. I had been so excited, collecting clothing, shoes, and the like to take with me on my journey, not thinking of too much else.

When I arrived, I was not prepared for what I was about to see. The country itself is absolutely breathtaking; the living conditions were anything but. I almost felt deflated. This is not what I had it built up in my mind. The poverty-like conditions were almost too unbearable. The hardest hit for me was little children living in filth, begging on the street, asking for food.

It was the first time I truly realized just how lucky and blessed I was. I also knew my life would never be the same.

6 months later, I was extremely fortunate to have the opportunity to go back, this time taking my Mom. It was so nice to see the same friendly faces I had gotten to know the first time I was there, but the nagging heartache soon returned. It seemed so unfair that I lived in a place with such abundance while these lovely people lived with just the clothing on their backs and a few scraps.

However, one thing remained etched in the back of my mind: Their outlook on life. MANY had nothing, but were happy to be alive. My heart went out to that country...and a piece still remains there.

In 2006, just before our daughter was born, my husband and I sponsored a child through World Vision. A three-year-old little Peruvian boy named Kevin. His information card had stated he lived in one of the poorest parts of the country. I had seen some shocking places while I visited, so I could only imagine his surroundings.

I collapsed into a pool of tears when we received a letter from little Kevin’s Mother, praising God and thanking us that we had chosen him. They were in dire straits and just didn’t know to do. She said that her prayers were heard and answered. Wow. How does one get over a statement that powerful? To know that we helped even just a little is a feeling I will never forget.

That was almost 5 years ago and Kevin and his family are doing very well. We get cards, letters, photos and a progress/health report from him and about him. He is now in first grade and loves math.

In 2008, we decided to sponsor another child, this time a little girl. We sifted through the children that needed the most help. Julissa, a gorgeous 9-year-old (almost 10) from El Salvador chose us. Sponsoring a girl was important to me because I wanted the chance to help educate her about her body and the changes she would inevitably go through. With HIV, Aids, and widespread disease, knowledge is power.

Julissa will be 13 in July and is doing incredibly well. She personally writes to us and sends drawings, and like Kevin, we get progress and health reports. She is such a lovely little girl, doing well in school and her family is very grateful for everything we have done.

We wanted to do more.

In 2009, my husband decided to throw his first annual charity soccer game. He recruited 40 people, rented a soccer pitch, and charged a small fee to play. All monies he earned went directly to World Vision. It was a huge success. Once word got out, he had so many people asking to be put on the list for the following year. Local companies soon got wind of it and donated amazing prizes. Umbro has donated all the shirts, balls and whistles for them to play in since the first tournament. It has gotten bigger every year with more involvement and amazing prizes. Twitter and facebook are a wonderful thing to spread the word!

He just completed his third annual charity soccer game, earning over $2,100 for World Vision. I am so proud of what he has accomplished for them thus far - and I know it will only get better. 

If you have $35 a month, I implore you to think about sponsoring a child. You will change the life a precious child forever.

It will also change you in ways you never thought possible.  

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Monday, February 28, 2011

Chocolate Covered Pretzel Cookies

Once a month, it's imperative that I go through my pantry. You see, I am an impulsive food shopper. I follow my shopping list to a tee, but when it comes to sale items, especially baking supplies or candy, all bets are off. I will buy them, throw them into the cupboard when I get home and forget all about it until I start the process all over again the following month. Ultimately what happens is the need to become creative and use up the items before they start growing worms or become a science experiment. It's not a sale if it ends up in the trash.

This month, I found a delicious bag of chocolate covered pretzels stashed in the dark corner of the pantry. I was surprised they were up there only because they are usually gone on the ride home from the grocery store. As I was debating whether to toss them or just eat them, I compromised and decided to use make cookies with them.

To make a long story short...putting them into the cookie batter was the best decision I made. From this moment on, these are my new go-to cookie when I'm hankering for something sweet, something salty, something crunchy or just craving a damn good cookie.

Chocolate Covered Pretzel Cookies.

A damn good cookie.


2¼ cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cocoa
1 cup butter
½ cup peanut butter
1 egg
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups coarsely chopped chocolate covered pretzels
1 cup chocolate chunks or chips

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Combine flour, baking soda, salt and cocoa in small bowl; set aside.

Beat butter, brown sugar until creamy. Add peanut butter and vanilla extract in until incorporated. Add egg and mix well.

Gradually beat in flour mixture and mix until everything had been well blended. With a spoon, stir in pretzels and chunks/chips.

Try not to eat the batter! 

Drop by rounded tablespoon onto baking sheets. Using an ice cream scoop is super helpful!

Bake 10-12 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove and cool completely.

Yield: 3½ dozen cookies.

Happy Baking!

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