Tuesday, March 27, 2012

One Bowl Chocolate Cake

This is the King (or Queen) of chocolate cakes and the one that DSO requests every year for his birthday. I've never posted about it before because he brings it to work and I don't have a chance to get a photo of a delicious slice. Understand that as pedestrian as the photo of the whole cake looks, it's in the tasting that the magic happens. That this cake is so easy to make doesn't hurt either.

2 cups sugar
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup boiling water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two nine-inch round pans. In a large bowl, stir together the sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add the eggs, milk, oil, and vanilla and mix for 2 minutes on medium speed. Stir in the boiling water--batter will be thin. Pour into prepared pans. Bake 30-35 minutes in the preheated oven. Cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then remove to a wire rack and cool completely.


(3 tbs raspberry preserves, microwaved 25 seconds--used to seal cakes)

1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup shortening
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 cups confectioners' sugar
2 tbs milk
1 (11.75 oz) jar hot fudge sauce
1 tsp vanilla extract

Cream together the butter and shortening. Sift the cocoa with the confectioners' sugar and add to the creamed mixture. Mix together, adding a little milk at a time to keep the mixture smooth. Add the hot fudge topping and the vanilla and beat until smooth.

Place one layer on a baker's circle. Brush all over with the warmed preserves. Frost. Place second layer on top, brush with warmed preserves and frost.

16 incredibly delicious servings
The first time I made this cake I was skeptical because the batter is so thin. The cakes are incredibly moist and chocolatey. The raspberry preserves seals the crumbs and adds a delicious counterpart to all that wonderful chocolate. I'm betting if you try this, it will become the most-requested cake you bake.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Tomato Basil Soup

A local bakery serves a wonderful tomato basil soup on Mondays. The problem is the bakery is a landmine for a weight watcher, so I was delighted to find a recipe for tomato basil soup in Cooking Light magazine. I hoped the soup would be similar in taste to the bakery's version, but it surpassed it in taste. That it takes no time at all to put together is an added bonus.

Serves 4 (10 points plus; 312 cal.; 13.9 g fat; 13.2 g prot; 33.8 g carb ;3.4 g fiber)
1 tbs olive oil
1 1/2 cups chopped onion (1 medium onion)
3 cloves garlic, chopped
3/4 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
28 oz can fire-roasted, diced tomatoes, undrained
1/2 cup (4 oz) Neufchatel cheese (or 1/3 less fat cream cheese)
2 cups 1% low fat milk
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
12 (1/2 inch) slices French bread
cooking spray
1 garlic clove, halved
1 oz shredded Asiago cheese

Preheat broiler to high
Heat olive oil in a pot over medium high heat. Add onion and saute for 3 minutes. Add garlic and saute for 1 minute. Add basil and tomatoes and bring to a boil. Stir in cream cheese until melted. Use an immersion blender or place mixture in a blender and blend until smooth. Return to pot, stir in milk, and slowly heat to desired temperature. Do not boil.

Place bread slices on baking sheet. Lightly coat with spray and rub garlic over bread. Divide cheese among slices and broil until bubbly. Serve with the soup.
Thick and creamy, sweet and savory in every sip, this may be the perfect tomato soup. While I could have eaten an entire loaf of French bread with melted Asiago on top, the 3 slices and bowl of soup along with a salad was the perfect dinner. This will become a go-to recipe for sure. Next time I'll make it with a cheese panini.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Not Your Mama's Chicken Cacciatore

My mother was an incredible cook, but nothing could get me to eat her chicken cacciatore--or anyone else's, for that matter. Just looking at a piece of chicken with skin on and tomato sauce on top of it made me weak in the knees. Add to that the fact that mom put peas in her cacciatore and there was no way in hell that it was ever going to pass my lips.

In more recent years, I have eaten a version of chicken cacciatore made with boneless, skinless breasts, but it was only because I was watching my weight and this enabled me to eat at an Italian restaurant without using my week's worth of calories. But I am a thigh girl, and so when I saw a recipe in this month's Cooking Light for a cacciatore using skinless, on the bone thighs, I had to give it a try. Here is the recipe I used, adapted somewhat for my taste.

Serves 4
8 bone in chicken thighs, skinned (about 2 1/2 lbs)
salt and pepper
2 tbs olive oil, divided
1 medium red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 medium green pepper, chopped
1/2 cup celery, chopped (2-3 stalks)
1 cup onion, chopped
2 tsp chopped fresh rosemary
4 garlic cloves, minced
8 oz sliced mushrooms
1 1/3 cups lower-sodium marinara sauce
1 oz Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Heat a large, nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Sprinkle thighs with salt and pepper. Add 2 tsp oil to pan and swirl to coat. Add 4 chicken thighs to pan and cook for 4 minutes on each side or until browned. Remove chicken from pan, add 2 more teaspoons of oil and repeat.

Add remaining 2 tsp of oil to pan and swirl to coat. Add peppers, onions, celery, rosemary, garlic, and 1/4 tsp salt and cook about 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add mushrooms and cook 8 minutes more, stirring occasionally. Add marinara sauce and cook 1 more minute.

Spread vegetable mixture in bottom of a 9 X 13 inch glass or ceramic baking dish. Nestle thighs on top of mixture and bake for 30 minutes (until thermometer inserted into chicken registers 160 degrees). Sprinkle with cheese. To round out the meal, serve atop 1/2 cup of penne rigate.

This was a delicious dinner that came together very quickly. I did all the chopping earlier in the day which made it a cinch to put together and cook in under 45 minutes. The sauce was very abundant and sweet from the combination of peppers and onions (since I made just 4 thighs, I have sauce left over for another dinner). I will make this dinner again and soon. It was filling, healthy, and came in at 11 points plus (plus 2 more for 1/2 cup of pasta).
N.I.  (without pasta):  352 cal; 15.5 g fat; 32.9 g prot; 36.3 g carb; 3.2 g fiber

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Philly Cheesesteak

Who doesn't love a crusty roll filled with steak, peppers and onions and mushrooms, and topped off with a flavorful cheese sauce? If you think eating more healthfully means you can't have your Philly cheesesteak and eat it, too, you're wrong. March's issue of Cooking Light was a bonanza of Weight Watcher-friendly meals. I find the recipes in CL far tastier and "real" than those in WW's magazine, which I don't plan to renew my subscription to.

Serves 4
1 (12 oz) flank steak, trimmed
salt and pepper
2 (5 inch) portobello mushroom caps
2 tsp olive oil, divided
1 cup thinly sliced onion
1 1/2 cups thinly sliced green pepper
2 tsp minced garlic
1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp lower-sodium soy sauce
2 tsp all purpose flour
1/2 cup 1% lowfat milk
1 oz provolone cheese, torn into small pieces
2 tbs grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1/4 tsp dry mustard
4 (3 oz) hoagie rolls, toasted

Place beef in freezer for 15 minutes. Cut beef across the grain into thin slices. Sprinkle with 1/4 tsp each of salt and pepper. Remove and discard brown gills from underside of mushroom caps using a spoon. Remove stems and discard. Thinly slice mushroom caps, then cut slices in half crosswise.

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Add 1 tsp oil and swirl to coat. Add beef to pan and saute 2 minutes or until beef loses its pink color, stirring constantly. Remove beef from pan. Add remaining teaspoon of oil to pan. Add onions; saute 3 minutes. Add mushrooms, peppers, and garlic and saute 6 minutes. Return beef to pan and saute 1 minute. Remove from heat and stir in Worcestershire and soy sauce; keep warm.

Place flour in a small saucepan and gradually add milk, stirring with a whisk until well blended. Bring to a simmer over medium heat and cook 1 minute, until slightly thickened. Remove from heat and add cheeses and mustard, stirring until smooth. Keep warm.

Hollow out top and bottom halves of bread, leavaing a 1/2 inch shell. Divide the beef mixture evenly among bottom halves of hoagies. Drizzle sauce evenly over beef mixture and replace top halves.

N.I. 397 cal; 12.4 g fat; 30.8 g prot; 44.1 g carb; 3.7 g fiber
The last Philly cheesesteak I ate was loaded with grease and grizzle, which I discovered after I ate a few hundred calories worth of cheese. These sandwiches were perfect! As much as I love bread, it's the crust I crave, so hollowing out the hoagies didn't bother me at all. The cheese sauce made a small amount of cheese taste positively sinful. I had to set aside half the recipe since I made this for dinner along with a salad, but I'm looking forward to an "encore" tomorrow night. Another CL hit and for just 10 points plus.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

TAST Week 9: Couching

In embroidery couching is a technique in which yarn or other threads are laid across the surface of the ground fabric and fastened in place with straight or more complex stitches in either the same thread or a different thread. The thread may be the same color or a contrasting color. I've used couching before to attach lace, ribbons, and fancy threads, but have usually used just small stitches or the buttonhole stitch. Here are some examples of couching that I worked onto current projects.