Chocolate Caramel Cake

This is my go-to cake for special occasions, as every always loves it. But you do have to love chocolate ~ Caramel ~ English Toffee!  It is a simple recipe, but the add-ins make it rich and delicious.

Chocolate Cake with Caramel .jpg

The Best Chocolate Cake Recipe

Ingredients

Chocolate Cake

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • ¾ cup unsweetened Dutch cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1½ teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon espresso powder (King Arthur available at Amazon)
  • 1 cup milk
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • One jar of the best caramel topping you can find, kept in the refrigerator to make it harder.
  • English Toffee
  • Big Malted Milk Balls

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350º F.   Prepare two 9-inch cake pans by spraying with baking spray or buttering and lightly flouring. Then line with 9″ round parchment paper and spray again.  (I buy the pre-cut rounds by Wilton – available at Walmart)
  • For the cake:
  • Add flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, salt and espresso powder to a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer. Whisk through to combine or, using your paddle attachment, stir through flour mixture until combined well.
  • Add milk, vegetable oil, eggs, and vanilla to flour mixture and mix together on medium speed until well combined. Reduce speed and carefully add boiling water to the cake batter. Beat on high speed for about 1 minute to add air to the batter.
  • Distribute cake batter evenly between the two prepared cake pans. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until a toothpick or cake tester inserted in the center, comes out clean.
  • Remove from the oven and allow to cool for about 10 minutes, remove from the pan and cool completely.
  • Using a serrated bread knife, cut each layer in half so you have four layers.
Putting it together:
  • Make the Chocolate Buttercream recipe shown below.  Pipe or spoon a ridge of the buttercream all around the outside of the first layer.
  • Fill the center with the now hardened caramel
  • Put on the second & third layer and repeat
  • Frost the cake with rest of the frosting (there always seems to be a bit too much)
  • Put the English Toffee in a ziplock bag and crush with your rolling pin or meat pounder.
  • Decorate how you like with the Malted Milk Balls

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

INGREDIENTS

  • 1½ cups butter (3 sticks), softened
  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 5 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • ½ cup milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon espresso powder

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Add cocoa to a large bowl or bowl of stand mixer. Whisk through to remove any lumps.
  2. Cream together butter and cocoa powder until well-combined.
  3. Add sugar and milk to cocoa mixture by adding 1 cup of sugar followed by about a tablespoon of milk. After each addition has been combined, turn mixer onto a high speed for about a minute. Repeat until all sugar and milk have been added.
  4. Add vanilla extract and espresso powder and combine well.
  5. If frosting appears too dry, add more milk, a tablespoon at a time until it reaches the right consistency. If it appears to wet and does not hold its form, add more confectioner’s sugar, a tablespoon at a time until it reaches the right consistency.

Serve with Champagne and have a wonderful time.

Chocolate Caramel Cake

15 Rules for Great Wine & Food Pairings

15 Rules for Great Wine & Food Pairings

Choose the Right Wine:

Ray Isle

Overwhelmed. Baffled. Bewildered. That’s how most people feel when shopping for wine. Our executive wine editor went undercover as a wine salesman and uncorked seven solutions.

Suppose you walk into a grocery store looking for chicken soup. But instead of a few well-known brands, you find an entire wall of chicken soup—hundreds and hundreds of brands. Plus, the chicken soup ranges all over the place in price, from 50 cents to 50 bucks a can. And in case that isn’t enough, every year, every single chicken soup is slightly different. Some years are better (sun is shining; chickens are happy; great taste); some years are worse (chickens get hailed on and feel like hell; taste like it, too). So if you buy the wrong brand of chicken soup from the wrong year, you’re going to have a way less pleasurable soup experience than if you’d bought a different can. Anyone sane, walking up to a wall like that, would have to think to themselves, “Man, what is with all this ding-damn soup?”

Now, instead of chicken soup, think Chardonnay.

Recently I spent a few weeks working in wine stores around the country. I wanted to get an on-the-ground read on wine in America today. Way back when, in the antediluvian 1990s, I worked for a wine importer and spent a lot of time hanging out in stores. These days, the number of wines on the market is vastly larger, but at the same time, there’s far more information about wine available to anyone with an internet connection. I wondered: Were people more baffled by all those choices? Less? Did consumers stick to the tried and true, or had we become a nation of wine adventurers, lighting out for the territories with nary a look backward? I figured the best way to find out was to don an apron and start selling wine.

If you drive down Cotner between Pico and Olympic in Los Angeles and take a left just before the 405 on-ramps, you’ll find The Wine House. Big and warehouse-y, crammed full of wine (over 7,000 selections), it’s a destination for bargain hunters and Burgundy collectors alike. Jim and Glen Knight, whose family owns the place, thought it totally reasonable to let an itinerant wine writer parachute into their store and pretend to be a salesperson. (Possibly this was lunacy on their part, but who was I to argue?)

Ray Isle

But back to Chardonnay. The Wine House sells about 600 different Chardonnays. At Western Market in Birmingham, Alabama, where I also worked a stint, there are more than 300. Super Buy-Rite, outside the Holland Tunnel that separates New York City from New Jersey, sells 400, from nine different countries. And as Dwight Shaw, the manager of Total Wine & More in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, told me, “People come in and say, ‘Where’s your Chardonnay?’ and I tell them, ‘It’s this entire aisle.’ And they just freeze.” That’s because the Chardonnay aisle at that particular Total Wine is about 50 feet long.

When I asked customers to describe what they found the experience of buying wine to be like (once I ditched my disguise and revealed what I was actually up to), they used words like “daunting,” “overwhelming,” “confusing,” and “total crapshoot.” Even with all the easy-to-access wine knowledge out there on the internet and in magazines at their fingertips, people still feel like they’re drowning in an ocean of wine. (In case it’s any comfort to everyday wine shoppers, people in the wine business often feel that way, too.)

But here’s the other thing I learned from my time selling wine at these stores: There are some simple ways to get your bearings and become a more empowered wine buyer—starting right now. Wine shoppers of America, take heart! Here’s what to do.

How to Buy Wine at Any Store

1. Buy your wines from a store with employees who actually can help you. Skip the usual unstaffed supermarket aisles, and avoid places like a store I stopped into recently, which had all the soul-draining fluorescent charm of a methadone clinic and seemed to be staffed by the undead. And if anyone ever makes you feel dumb, walk right out and find another store.

The truth is, the best wine stores are the ones that are staffed by people who love wine. One reason I could sell some guy I’d never met before an entire case of German Riesling when I was in L.A. is because I really love Riesling, and he was getting into Riesling, and we got to talking—and when it comes to wine­, passion is infectious.

2. Ask for help. It is the first, best thing you can do. During a stint on the sales floor, I was surprised and amused by how gender roles shaped how people did their wine shopping. Men, when I asked whether they could use help, typically said no. Then they’d go off and look at random wine bottles, in case their lack-of-needing-help hadn’t been made fully clear, and then five minutes later circle back and say something like, “Actually, I was looking for…” Women, more often, simply said thank you and told me what they were trying to find, a far more effective strategy that I’d say everyone should learn from.

3. Be sign-savvy. Those little signs that hang on wine shelves (“shelf talkers”) typically are placed there by the wholesale rep who sells that wine. Their basic purpose is to convince you to buy this wine rather than that wine. (And handwritten ones work better—i.e. move more wine—than preprinted ones, something wholesale reps know.) But that doesn’t mean they can’t be helpful. Shelf talkers that say something like “staff selection” with a particular person’s name are most often there because some actual human being on the store’s staff really likes that wine.

4. Take a picture. If you ever have a new wine you like at a restaurant, or anywhere really, take a picture of it with your phone. Otherwise, you’ll forget what it was, and even die-hard wine geeks like me have a hard time narrowing down requests like, “I’m looking for this wine … I think the label maybe has elephants on it?” (Though I actually did know that one: Michael David Winery’s Petite Petit. Unfortunately, we didn’t have it in stock.) Consider using a free app like Vivino or Delectable to help keep track of the wines you try.

5. Be as specific as you can. If you say, “I’m looking for a medium-priced Chardonnay,” which I heard more than once, that’s hard to parse. Most good stores will have wines ranging from $5 a bottle to $500 or more, and your idea of “medium-priced” is probably not the same as a billionaire’s (unless, of course, you are a billionaire). By “medium,” one customer I spoke to meant $15; the next person who used exactly the same word meant $50.

But being specific doesn’t have to mean talking like a master sommelier. You don’t have to whip out your Burgundian terroir skills and say, “Ah yes, do you happen to have any Corton-Charlemagne’s from the Aloxe side of the hill, perhaps from the 2013 vintage?” Instead, try describing what you plan to cook that evening, and ask for a wine to go with it, or mention a specific bottle you had recently that you loved, and ask for something like it; or even mention a bottle you had that you didn’t like, and ask for something different. Think of the clerk you’re speaking to as a walking, talking Google search (though maybe don’t tell them that). The more specific your query is, the more useful the output will be. Katherine’s letter “C” wine is a good case in point. The price range she mentioned and the fact that the wine had been a gift were enough for me to suss out that she was probably talking about Caymus Special Selection Cabernet.

6. Be a wine buyer, not a beverage buyer. A lot of people shop for wine the way they do any other drink, they want a six-pack of beer, or a carton of orange juice, or a bottle of Merlot, and their hand moves to whatever brand name is most familiar. That’s beverage buying, not wine buying (at least that’s how I think of it). Being a wine buyer simply means being curious: about something new, about something different, about why the clerk talking to you thinks a certain wine is good or why it’s a great value, about what “Valpolicella” or “Assyrtiko” or “premier cru” means. Wine rewards as much interest as you put into it.

For instance, here are some of the subjects that wine professionals I know  are obsessing about right now: Corsican wines; offbeat Loire Valley subregions like Anjou and Saumur; “natural” wines; grower Champagnes; lesser-known and more affordable Bordeaux appellations; Ribeira Sacra and Gredos in Spain; cru Beaujolais; volcanic soils (and any wine on earth that comes from them); Chenin Blanc; Portuguese wines; winemakers exploring alternative California varietals—the list goes on. But aside from that orange wine request I got in L.A., the number of times anyone asked me about any of those things was exactly zero. Now, admittedly, that’s partly because people in the wine business are obsessed with esoterica. It’s because customers don’t know what to ask for, so they default to the usual suspects: California Cabernet and Chardonnay; New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc; Argentine Malbec; Pinot Noir, particularly $20 or under; Champagne (by which most people mean “any wine with bubbles”); and rosé, which is now a year-round phenomenon. Nothing wrong with that, if that’s what you like, but truly there is so much more to discover.

7. My final takeaway is for people who sell wine. After talking to a few hundred customers in several different states, I was blown away by how into wine people are these days. Sure, left on his or her own in an ocean of 7,000 bottles, someone may grab for the nearest name-brand Cabernet. It’s like reaching for a life preserver. But most of the time if I simply asked, “What kind of wine do you like?” that might lead us anywhere—to a small-production Valpolicella Ripasso from Italy like Tommaso Bussola’s Ca’ del Laito, or a Riesling from Germany’s great Helmut Dönnhoff, or a quirky Oregon Gamay from an up-and-coming young winemaker. Share your passion for wine with your customers—ask them what they’re making for dinner, or share your favorite varieties or regions (though maybe go light on wine-biz buzzwords like “soil character” and “minerality,” as most humans won’t have the slightest clue what you’re talking about). As Jim Knight of The Wine House said to me, “What I see this year more than ever is people being more willing to take advice, to be open to new things.”

Which gets me to the other word I heard customers use all the time: excited. We really are living in a golden age of wine in the U.S. today, with more great wines from more different varieties and places than ever before.

Let’s all go buy a bottle and drink to that, together.

Choose the Right Wine:

White Chocolate Raspberry Brownies

One of my dear friends is turning 70 tomorrow and a lot of people are giving her a party on a Tuesday.  Since I work I had to come up with an “appetizer” to share that could sit in my car and be made with what I had in the pantry.  So Brownies are not exactly an appetizer, but I don’t think anyone will complain.  These should be yummy.  Screen Shot 2018-03-05 at 7.49.46 PM

People think that box mixes produce the perfect combination of chewy and moist brownies. Results should be at least as good as a mix without all the processing and questionable ingredients without dirtying many dishes. For one-bowl brownies with the proper level of chewiness both butter and oil is used. Using both cocoa and unsweetened chocolate add to the intense chocolaty richness and create a platform of flavor for any add-ins. By being strategic with the addition of ingredients, saved dishes and combined the batter all in one large bowl. Baked on the lowest rack in the oven, the brownies cooked nicely on the bottom and edges without overcooking and drying out. Folding white chocolate chips into the batter and swirling in raspberry jam gave the brownies colorful character and a fruitiness to offset their deep chocolate flavor.

INGREDIENTS

½ cup plus 2 tablespoons boiling water
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped fine
cup (1 ounce) Dutch-processed cocoa powder
2 ½ cups (17 1/2 ounces) sugar
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 large eggs plus 2 large yolks
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 ¾ cups (8 3/4 ounces) all-purpose flour
¾ teaspoon salt
1 cup (6 ounces) white chocolate chips

I used a combination of milk and semi-sweet as that is what I had on hand. 

cup raspberry jam
White Chocolate Raspberry Brownies

Drinking Wine might be good for you!

basic-glass-shapesI do love my glass of red wine with dinner in the winter and a little white in the summer.  This article just came out talking about the benefits of drinking a couple glasses of wine or beer everyday.  Since most of my friends enjoy a glass of wine (more than on occasion) I thought it might be good to share.

New research presented at the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s annual conference found that moderate drinking is linked to a longer life. Drinking about two glasses of wine or beer a day was linked to an 18% drop in a person’s risk of early death, an even stronger effect than the life-preserving practice of exercise. The results came from the 90+ Study, a research project out of the University of California Irvine’s Institute for Memory Impairments and Neurological Disorders that examines the habits of people who live to at least 90.

Though the study has not yet been published in a scientific journal, it triggered a spate of booze-praising headlines. But can alcohol actually help you live longer? Researchers have gone back and forth on that question for years. Here’s what the research really says about alcohol and health.

Alcohol may be linked with longevity

The new study isn’t the first to link alcohol with a long life. A 2015 study of people with mild Alzheimer’s, for example, found that moderate drinkers were less likely to die during the study’s follow-up period than teetotalers. A large 2017 study also found that light and moderate drinkers were less likely to die from cardiovascular disease than those who never sipped. Red wine, in particular, is often singled out for its anti-aging benefits, usually because of a compound called resveratrol,  though that explanation may be a little oversimplified, and more research is needed.

Many of these papers come with caveats. Most of them are observational, meaning they can detect patterns in a dataset, but not cause and effect. That means it’s hard to tell whether the beverages themselves are imparting longevity benefits, or if the health effects come from other lifestyle factors common among moderate drinkers, such as a strong social network. Plus, most research focuses specifically on moderate drinking, which is typically defined as no more than a drink a day for women or two drinks a day for men. Research has generally not found health benefits for people with heavier drinking habits and, in fact, a recent report says that alcohol abuse is contributing to a decline in U.S. life expectancy.

Alcohol may or may not be good for your heart

The relationship between alcohol and cardiovascular health is perhaps the most contentious of all. Quite a few studies have linked moderate drinking with better heart health, but some researchers have questioned these findings based on something called the abstainer bias: the idea that many non-drinkers teetotal because they have other health issues, or because they’re recovering from addiction. Including these folks in studies could skew the data to make people who don’t drink look unfairly unhealthy, and to falsely equate booze with health benefits.

A large 2017 study looking at alcohol and heart health, however, was designed to eliminate the possibility of abstainer bias. It still found that moderate drinking may protect against heart attacks, strokes, chest pain and fatal heart disease.

Alcohol may be associated with cancer

The link between alcohol and cancer is strong enough that the American Society of Clinical Oncology came out with a new warning in November underscoring associations between drinking and at least seven types of cancer. The relationship between alcohol and breast cancer has been particularly well-studied, with scientists theorizing that alcohol may increase estrogen levels and therefore feed breast cancer. Other research suggests that alcohol may disrupt DNA activity, potentially leading to cancers of the breast, colon, liver, mouth and esophagus. These risks may be even more severe if you have certain other habits, such as smoking and drinking hot tea.

Alcohol may contribute to weight gain

It’s easy to forget, but alcoholic beverages are often quite high in calories. Regularly imbibing, then, can sneakily contribute to weight gain and obesity. Those can come with their own set of health problems, ranging from heart disease to type 2 diabetes.

The bottom line

There’s still a lot scientists don’t know about drinking, but the research clearly suggest that moderation is key. While it’s smart to cut back if your drinking veers into bingeing territory, there’s likely no reason to stop drinking if you do so in small amounts — just as you probably shouldn’t feel compelled to start sipping if you don’t already.

Drinking Wine might be good for you!

Let’s have a Chocolate & Wine Party

chThe famous cheese tray for a party appetizer always shows up and we enjoy it.  I don’t eat any milk products, so always have goat and sheep cheese as there is now a wonderful assortment of them.  But why let cheese hold court one more time.  Why not have a chocolate tasting party, along with your wine tasting.  What chocolate goes best with each wine.  It is such an easy and fun idea!

You could put together a selection of chocolate desserts as done in many elegant restaurants, but since chocolate bars  have gotten a lot more intriguing lately ,why not just offer several of the wonderful ones now available.

Last year we took my granddaughter on a tour of Theo Chocolate, made locally in Seattle.  the diversity of what they offer was remarkable.  I personally like the Scotch Chocolate.  I brought it home and my sweet husband ate every last one.  I laughingly told my son that accompanied me on the tour and brought me a gift of it next time he came to visit.   Cocoa beans like wine grapes taste different depending on where they’re grown, with soil, weather and other elements playing a factor as some beans and the resulting single-origin chocolate may taste bright and fruity, while others might be deep and smoky, .

Here is one suggested way to have the tasting:

  1. Choose four or five chocolates. Much more and  you will overwhelm your guests and their palate.
  2. To keep it more interesting Pick different styles of chocolates . I might suggest that you have one dark, one milk, one white, one 100 percent and one infused.
  3.  It does not take much and this is not a contest to see how much chocolate you can eat. Break up the bars before serving and keep the plates small and simple.
  4. Choose traditional accompaniments like fresh and dried fruit, but maybe add a little cheese & crusty bread.
  5. it is good to include palate cleansers like green apple and lemon water. You can decorated each plate with scatter coco nubs, curled or grated  chocolate.

chocolate-curls-2

You can taste and compare any way you think might work. You can taste it like wine with out the swirl.  Smell a piece, take a small bite, chew it a couple of times, then let it melt on your tongue.

As you let the chocolate melt in your mouth, add the cheese, bread or other food, and chew slowly. See which one works best ( for you) with which chocolate. Take a sip of lemon water or a bite of green apple between chocolates to clear your palate.

This is not serious stuff!  This is meant to be fun.  Now add a little wine and you have a party.  Since I personally like wine I would have as many types of wine as I have chocolate to see what works together best.  It is always interesting, because no two people taste everything the same.

wine_chocolate_pairing3

Have fun and happy tasting!  Bet you’ll like it!  Cheese-and-Chocolate-Pairings

Let’s have a Chocolate & Wine Party

Yes! Drink Wine

Ah, the joy of that glass of wine at dinner or out with friends.  Succulent to the lips, sensual to the tongue, not so great for the figure, but help for your brain.  Figure or brain? To have a glass of wine or not?

red-white-wine-120111

Yes! Drink Wine

Michael Symon’s Mom’s Lasagna

Total:  2 hr 50 min
Prep:  20 min
Inactive:  20 min
Cook:  2 hr 10 min
Yield:  6 servings
Level:  Intermediate

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • Pinch kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound pork neck bones
  • 1 pound ground veal
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 pound spicy Italian sausage, loose or removed from casings
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 (28-ounce) can San Marzano tomatoes, with their juice
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 pound dried lasagna noodles
  • 2 pounds whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh oregano leaves
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan, plus more for final topping
  • 1 pound fresh mozzarella cheese, grated

Directions

In a large Dutch oven or heavy pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, and a three-finger pinch of salt and sweat them until they’re translucent, about 2 minutes. Add the neck bones and let them brown, about 5 minutes. Add the ground veal, beef and sausage, and season with another healthy pinch of salt. Cook until the meat is browned, about 10 minutes. Stir in the white wine, tomatoes and their juice, and the bay leaves. Scrape the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon, making sure to get all of the browned bits into the sauce. Season the sauce with salt, to taste, and simmer for 2 hours over medium heat. Remove the bay leaves and neck bones and let cool. Skim any fat that rises to the surface.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil over medium heat. Add enough salt so that it tastes seasoned and allow the water to return to a boil. Add the noodles and cook until al dente. Drain well and set aside.

In a medium bowl mix together the ricotta, parsley, basil, oregano, eggs, and Parmesan with a pinch of salt.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Ladle about 1 cup of sauce on the bottom of a lasagna pan. Arrange a layer of noodles followed by a layer of sauce and then some of the ricotta mixture. Top with a layer of mozzarella, smoothing it with a spatula to the edges. Repeat the process until the pan is full. Finish with a final layer of noodles, sauce, the mozzarella, and Parmesan.

Cover the lasagna with aluminum foil and bake for 1 hour. Uncover and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and let it rest, 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

The chef was raised on his mother’s next-level, thirty-layer lasagna, which he serves at his new Atlantic city restaurant.

REGAN STEPHENS

September 05, 2017

Every Italian dutifully swears his mom’s cooking is the best, but in Michael Symon’s case, it may actually be true. The Iron Chef recently opened Angeline in Atlantic City’s Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa as an homage to his mom, Angel. The menu, inspired by family recipes, is a roundup of the classic, red-sauce-style Italian dishes Symon grew up eating: handmade linguini with clams, arancini, eggplant parm and a daily “Sunday Supper” that includes a feast of prosciutto, ricotta and red peppers, cavatelli, garlic bread, meatballs and more. But one dish evokes a particularly strong sense of nostalgia for Symon: lasagna.

“Every Wednesday at my parents’ house was lasagna night—the night all my friends begged to eat over,” he says. “You could smell the lasagna baking houses away, and Wednesday was the only night of the week I was more than happy to be early for dinner. I’ve eaten lasagna from every corner of the earth, and I have yet to find one as good as Mom’s.”

Symon recreates Angel’s recipe in the thirty-layered dish he named “Mom’s Lasagna.” In a glossy dining room designed with little touches to recall his mom’s home (floral wallpaper, lace curtains and a built-in hutch displaying cake plates and other nonna-approved knick-knacks) servers present towering rectangles of pasta and cheese that sit atop pools of meaty red sauce. If you aren’t getting an invite to Mrs. Symon’s house on lasagna night, this is the next best thing.

To start your own Wednesday night tradition, use the chef’s best tips for building an architecturally-impressive, nostalgia-inducing lasagna.

The Noodles

According to Symon, cutting corners sacrifices taste. “Don’t bother with those no-boil noodles—they compromise the texture,” he says. “Go the extra mile and use the real thing.” He also quotes his co-host on The Chew: “When boiling the noodles, salt your water until, in the words of Mario Batali, it’s ‘as salty as the sea.’ This is your chance to season your pasta.”

The Cheese

To help keep layers smooth and mess-free, use Angel’s trick. “One of the things my mom always did is put the ricotta mixture in a plastic zip bag or piping bag,” he shares. “That way it goes right where you want it to go, and you don’t have to fight with it. It spreads quickly and evenly.”

The Pan

The chef says a 9 x 13-inch pan is the optimal size and shape for baking lasagna. “It keeps the ingredients condensed so the final product is nice and thick, versus each layer being spread thinly in a larger pan,” he says.

The Finish

There’s really no such thing as too much cheese, so Symon likes to grate fresh mozzarella and fresh parmesan on top to make it extra cheesy. “Another tip from my mom: always cover it with foil at the beginning of the cooking process, then remove it for the last 10 minutes to let the cheese on top get brown and crispy.”

Michael Symon’s Mom’s Lasagna

Chorizo Corn Cakes

Chorizo Corn Cakes

Looking through Eating Light Magazine and thinking it is time to cut back on calories I found this interestingly different recipe and thought I would give a try.  Luckily my local Albertsons had fresh and “soft” Chorizo, so it turned out perfect!

Photo: Caitlin Bensel
Serves 8 (serving size: 2 cakes, 1 egg, and about 1/2 tsp. syrup mixture)

How to Make It

Step 1

Place chorizo, corn, and jalapeño in a medium nonstick skillet over medium-high. Cook, stirring often, until corn is crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat.

Step 2

Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and baking soda in a bowl, stirring with a whisk. In a separate bowl, whisk together buttermilk and 1 egg. Add buttermilk mixture and chorizo mixture to flour mixture, mixing until just incorporated. Gently stir in butter. Let stand 5 minutes.

Step 3

Preheat an electric griddle to 350°F, or heat a nonstick skillet over medium-high. Lightly grease griddle or skillet with cooking spray. Spoon about 2 1/2 tablespoons batter for each of 16 cakes onto griddle; gently spread into 3-inch rounds using back of spoon. Cook until golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes on each side. Remove from pan and keep warm, or follow freezing instructions.

Step 4

Crack remaining 8 eggs on lightly greased griddle; cover, and cook 3 minutes or until whites are set and yolks are cooked to desired degree of doneness.

Step 5

In a small bowl, whisk together maple syrup and adobo sauce. Place 2 cakes on each of 8 plates; top each serving with 1 egg. Drizzle syrup over eggs and corn cakes. Sprinkle evenly with black pepper and cilantro.

Step 6

FREEZE: Cool cooked corn cakes completely. Wrap corn cakes tightly in plastic wrap in stacks of 4 with parchment paper or plastic wrap between each cake. Place in a large ziplock plastic freezer bag; seal and freeze up to 2 months.

Step 7

REHEAT: Toast frozen corn cakes in a toaster or in a toaster oven on medium until heated through, 4 to 5 minutes.

 

According to the recipe it is only 249 calories per serving.  One serving is one egg and one cake!  I served them with a multi-lettuce salad with raspberries and a raspberry vinaigrette dressing.  YUMMY!  My husband loved it and he is a very picky meat and potato guy, but is trying to break out of that mold.

Chorizo Corn Cakes

Beef Wellington modified to Pork Loin Wellington

IMG_6853

Reading Fine Cooking magazine a couple of days ago, they had a wonderful recipe for Beef Wellington.  I had a nice Pork Loin in the freezer and thought I might try it, using the same idea.  This sounds quite complicated, but with a few changes it doesn’t take that long and really isn’t that much work.  The pork came out incredibly tender.

The Madeira sauce was delightful.  My lovely husband likes to help do the dishes and before I could grab it, the rest of the sauce went down the drain.  He didn’t know it was part of the dinner to save. I couldn’t really get mad, as he is definitely not a cook and did not realize the sauce had been cooking for over an hour, maybe two to get to the right consistency.

Classic Beef Wellington Recipe

Servings: 8

If Britain has a holiday culinary showstopper; it’s got to be beef Wellington. This triumphant marriage of beef tenderloin, sautéed mushrooms, and rich chicken liver pâté (or truffles and pâté de foie gras, if you want to break the bank), rolled first in tender crêpes and then in buttery puff pastry, makes a grand centerpiece. Carved at the table and paired with a classic Madeira sauce, it’s a delicious and decadent meal.

Ingredients

For the duxelles

  • 1 oz. (2 Tbs.) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 Tbs. vegetable or sunflower oil
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped shallots
  • 1-1/2 cups finely chopped portobello mushrooms (from 4 large caps; remove the stems and gills before chopping, preferably in a food processor)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 Tbs. finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

For the Madeira sauce

  • 6 cups beef stock,
  • 1 cup Madeira I prefer Sandeman
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 oz. (2 Tbs.) cold unsalted butter, diced

For the crêpes – I just used puff paste

  • 2-1/4 oz. (1/2 cup) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/8 tsp. kosher salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 1 oz. (2 Tbs.) unsalted butter

For assembly

  • 3 lb. center-cut beef tenderloin, trimmed, side muscle removed I just used my Pork Loin and it was so tender and delicious!
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp. vegetable or sunflower oil
  • 2/3 cup chicken liver pâté, home made or store-bought Recipe below
  • 1 lb. puff pastry,  thawed overnight in the refrigerator if frozen
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 tsp. unsalted butter, softened

Preparation

Make the duxelles

  • Heat the butter and oil in a 10-inch skillet over low heat. Add the shallots and cook, stirring often, until translucent, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the mushrooms, stir well, and raise the heat to medium. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms have cooked down to a thick, almost black mixture, about 15 minutes. Season with a pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper. Stir in the parsley; then transfer to a small bowl and cool completely. (The duxelles can be refrigerated for up to 2 days or frozen for up to 2 months.)

Begin the Madeira sauce

  • Bring 6 cups of the stock to a boil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat and boil until reduced to 2 cups, 20 to 25 minutes. Add the Madeira and continue boiling until the liquid is again reduced to 2 cups, about 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. (The sauce can be prepared to this point up to 1 day ahead. Finish the sauce just before serving the Wellington.)

Make the crêpes This is where I used Puff Paste

  • In a large bowl, whisk the flour and salt. Make a well in the center, break in the eggs, and add 1/4 cup of the milk. Gently whisk the eggs and milk, gradually incorporating the flour. Slowly whisk in the remaining milk to make a smooth batter. (The batter can be covered and set aside for up to an hour at this point.)Melt the butter in a 10-inch skillet over medium-low heat. Swirl the pan to coat with the butter; pour the excess butter out into a small bowl. Whisk 1 Tbs. of the melted butter into the batter. Reserve the rest for greasing the pan between crêpes. Increase the heat to medium high and pour 1/4 cup of the batter into the skillet. Swirl so the batter thinly and evenly coats the base of the pan.Cook until the crêpe is spotted with brown on the underside, about 1 minute, then flip and cook the other side until lightly browned, 30 seconds to 1 minute more. Repeat with the remaining batter, greasing the pan off the heat as necessary. Transfer the crêpes to a plate, separating them with sheets of parchment, and cool. You’ll need 4 crêpes.

Assemble and bake the Wellington

  • Remove the beef from the refrigerator about an hour ahead so it has time to lose its chill. Pat the beef dry and season all over with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a 12-inch skillet over high heat until very hot. Sear the beef until it is evenly browned all over (don’t worry about the ends), 2 to 3 minutes per side. Transfer the beef to a baking sheet and cool.In a medium bowl, mash the pâté and the duxelles with a fork until they form a soft paste.Lay 4 crêpes on a clean work surface, overlapping them just enough to give you a 13×13-inch roughly square surface. Dot the pâté mixture over the crêpes, then use an offset spatula to spread it evenly across the crêpes’ surface.

    Place the tenderloin in the center of the crêpes and carefully wrap them around the filet, pressing and molding them into place. Trim off any excess crêpe at the ends.

    If using store-bought puff pastry that’s packaged as 2 sheets, fuse the sheets together by slightly overlapping them and lightly rolling over the seam until adhered.

    On a lightly floured surface, roll out the puff pastry to a 13×16-inch rectangle (for store-bought puff, roll in the direction of the seam).

    Transfer the wrapped beef to the center of the pastry and tuck any crêpes that have come loose back into place. Bring the pastry up around the beef, smoothing out any air pockets. Brush some of the beaten egg along the bottom edge of the seam and then press gently to seal; trim off any excess. Seal the pastry similarly at the ends.

    Lightly grease a large baking sheet with the butter. Lift the Wellington onto the sheet, seam side down. Refrigerate for at least 15 minutes and up to 3 hours. (If refrigerating longer than 1 hour, let the Wellington sit at room temperature for 1 hour before baking.)

    At least 20 minutes before baking, position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 475°F.

    Brush the Wellington with the remaining beaten egg. Using a sharp knife, score the surface of the pastry with diagonal lines, being careful not to cut all the way through the pastry. Put the Wellington in the oven and immediately reduce the temperature to 425°F. Roast for 10 minutes, then reduce the heat to 400°F and roast until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of the Wellington registers 135°F for medium rare, 20 to 25 minutes. Transfer to a carving board and let the Wellington rest for 10 minutes.

    Meanwhile, finish the sauce: Heat the sauce in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat. When it begins to simmer, reduce the heat to low and whisk in the butter a few pieces at a time. Do not allow it to boil. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

    Thickly slice the Wellington and serve it with the sauce.

Make Ahead Tips

There are several components to a Beef Wellington, but you don’t have to make them all in one day. Here’s how to spread out the work:

2 days (or up to 2 months) ahead: Make and chill (or freeze) the beef stock, duxelles, and puff pastry.

1 day ahead: Begin the Madeira sauce. Make the crêpes. Defrost the beef stock, duxelles, and puff pastry, if necessary.

Up to 5 hours ahead: Let the beef sit out at room temperature for 1 hour before searing.

Up to 4 hours ahead: Sear the beef; assemble and chill the Wellington.

Up to 1-1/2 hours ahead: Let the Wellington sit out at room temperature before baking.

Up to 1 hour ahead: Bake the Wellington and let it rest before carving.

Before serving: Finish the Madeira sauce.

BeefWellington-40011-main

Here is the photo of the Fine Cooking Beef Wellington

Chicken Liver Pate’

I just buy a container of chicken livers, throw them in some water and cook throughly. Put them in the cuisinart, add a lot of butter, garlic (4-5 cloves), salt and pepper and leave on everything is creamy.  Be sure to do this when the livers are still hot, so all the butter melts.  I use at least one whole stick!  Yummy on crackers with a bit of cheese too!

Served the pork with curly yams, just sautéed in butter and a simple salad.  Delish
IMG_6854
Beef Wellington modified to Pork Loin Wellington