Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Min Halas Chocolate Ice Box Cake

I know that in my previous post I stated that I'm not a big dessert person. Many recipes are changing my mind these days; here is a new one!

I stayed with my cousin Angie in Chicago and we made a new cake, which was great. Well, she made the cake and I watched and bossed her around! I love this recipe because there is no baking, which is perfect for all the unexpected warm weather that we have in the Midwest. This cake recipe was courtesy of my Aunt Lyn (hi there – miss you and looking forward to seeing you at some point this year!) I’m not sure how long she’s had this recipe, but she is one of the best bakers I know, so I’m sure it’s been in her back pocket for quite awhile. Growing up, she was the one who made most desserts (if not all desserts) for all family gatherings and birthdays. What other great recipes do you have hiding Aunt Lyn? I remember a very good chocolate sheet-type cake!!!

I love cooking with other people because I learn what they don’t know. I have been taking cooking classes for several years and because of this, I forget to detail the basics. I know what to do in many cases, or I know things to substitute, and I forget what beginners don’t know. Angie is a great cook (even though she doesn’t think so) because she follows the directions, but the directions need to be very specific! Cooking with her made me realize that I probably need to be more specific in cooking directions on this blog. I am always looking for feedback, so drop me a line if you don’t understand how to make something. Also, contact me if there is a recipe that you’re looking for and I’ll try to help you out since I have more than I know what to do with.

Note for this recipe: Do NOT purchase hard ladyfingers, you need soft ladyfingers. If you try to make this with hard ladyfingers, they will float to the top when you pour in the first half of the chocolate. It really just destroys the cake, but the chocolate really would be good on anything!

Cake after it sat overnight and was removed from the springform pan.
I would have taken a better side profile photo, but I was in too big of a hurry to eat the cake!

Min Halas Chocolate Ice Box Cake

- 2 dozen ladyfingers (2 pkgs.) (soft ladyfingers, not hard)
- 1 bag (about 12 oz) chocolate chips
- 3 TBS water
- 4 eggs, separated
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 cup whipping cream
In a double-boiler melt chocolate chips, water and salt. If you do not have a double boiler, simple ingredients in a glass bowl over a small saucepan of boiling water. Make sure the boiling water does not touch the glass bowl. Cool for a few minutes.

Take a spoonful of the chocolate and stir it into the egg yolks. You do this step to ensure that you don’t dump the egg yolks into the hot chocolate and end up with scrambled eggs. Yes, this really does happen!

In a bowl, beat the egg whites with mixer until peaks form. Fold into chocolate mixture. In a bowl (can use the same one as egg whites) whip the whipping cream and vanilla. Fold into chocolate mixture.
In a springform pan, layer one package of ladyfingers onto bottom. (You want the ladyfingers to cover the entire bottom. Top with half of the chocolate mixture. Layer the other package of ladyfingers on the chocolate. Top with other half of chocolate mixture. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Fried Bananas with Homemade Chocolate Sauce

I am not a huge dessert person. This is odd because I grew up in a household where we ate a bowl of ice cream for dessert every evening. My mom loves sweets and my dad could eat a piece of pie every night. I guess I would rather have savory than sweet; so when I find a dessert recipe that intrigues me, I run out to grab the ingredients because it is rare.

I love watching The Food Network on Saturday mornings. Last Saturday, Giada made fried bananas with a homemade chocolate sauce. Please note that I never actually looked up the recipe before I made it (I was going off of memory), so this is my variation. This is seriously one of the easiest desserts!

You could simply use Hershey's Chocolate Syrup, but for a nice evening, make this easy chocolate sauce.

- 4 oz semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
- 1/4 cup water
- 2 bananas, peeled, cut in half and sliced lengthwise so you have four pieces of banana
- Light brown sugar
- 1 TBS butter (use more if needed)

In a double boiler (or in a glass bowl over a pot of boiling water - do not let boiling water touch the glass bowl) combine the 1/4 cup of water and all semi-sweet chocolate. Melt chocolate in water to create homemade chocolate sauce.

Place brown sugar on a plate. I don't have a specific amount listed because I just eyeballed how much I might need for bananas. Roll bananas in brown sugar. Melt butter in a saucepan, add the bananas, and cook for 30 seconds. Place bananas on a plate and top with chocolate sauce.

Tasty chocolate sauce and fried bananas.

Vegetable Soup for a Snowy Night

Wow! We've barely had any snow here in Green Bay this winter. The almost 30 inches we've had (down from 60 inches last year) have all been random 1-3 inch snowfalls, so no big storms. Last night we had about 4-6 inches of snow and I had a craving for some homemade soup. I always have a lot of veggies at home and I keep a stocked pantry, so I can throw something together any night. The great thing about vegetable soup is that you can put whatever veggies you have on hand in broth to make a soup. So easy!

Not a bad view outside of my apartment. It is a beautiful, snowy Saturday morning.

I can't believe I haven't put this vegetable soup on the blog because I make it at least once a month and I eat it for lunch at work for several days. It is a great addition next to a sandwich or a nice salad. I stepped it up last night and put fresh basil in the soup and it added fantastic flavor! This recipe is from America's Test Kitchen and I have never made a bad recipe from their Family Cookbook. I highly recommend that everyone have this book in their kitchen; I have learned so much!

Homemade Vegetable Soup is quick and easy for a snowy - or non-snowy - evening!

- 2 TBS Olive Oil
- 1 onion, chopped
- 2 ribs celery, chopped fine
- 2 large carrots, peeled and chopped fine
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- Salt
- 5 cups low sodium veggie or chicken broth
- 2 medium russet potatoes, peeled and chopped
- 1 - 14.5oz can of petite diced tomatoes, drained
- 1 cup frozen peas, thawed

Heat oil in dutch over over medium-low heat. Stir in garlic, onion, carrots, celery, and 3/4 tsp salt (if you don't have low sodium broth, just add a little bit of salt). Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are very soft, about 20 minutes.

Stir in the broth, potatoes, and tomatoes. Bring to a simmer and cook until potatoes are tender, about 15-20 minutes.

Off the heat, add in the peas. Season with salt and pepper. At this point, I also add some fresh (but frozen) basil. You can also top each bowl with Parmesan cheese to add even deeper flavors. So tasty with your favorite glass of wine!

My favorite wine is Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand. My current favorite is New Harbor.