Sunday, June 15, 2014

Individual Chocolate Lava Cakes

We've had a very busy life lately with our wedding on May 31 and honeymoon immediately following in Hawaii; therefore, I didn't really plan an amazing Father's Day dinner for Pete this year. I made what I knew he would love - tacos with rice, black beans and all the fixins! 

But, I did finish the night off with something special (a very easy and not time consuming recipe) ... individual chocolate lava cakes. I am not sure who to credit this recipe too; I had a personal cooking lesson with a chef about a decade ago in Washington, DC and I made this with her. I can't remember the chef's name, but I've never forgotten this dessert! 

Please note: there can be a level of frustration that comes along with making lava cakes (also known as molten cakes) because sometimes you overcook them and sometimes you undercook them. Either way, don't get too frustrated if they are not the way you want them; the cakes will still taste amazing even if they're cooked all the way through :) 

Also note: this is not a recipe that you make in advance. Wait to make this until you're ready to serve it. You can make the batter ahead of time (even going as far as pouring the batter into each ramekin), just cover them with Saran Wrap. Remove the ramekins from the fridge about 45 minutes before baking to bring them to room temperature.

Chocolate Lava Cake (serves 4)

- 1 stick unsalted butter
- 4 oz./squares of bittersweet or semisweet chocolate
- 2 large eggs
- 2 large egg yolks
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 2 tsp flour, plus more for dusting

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees. 

Butter and lightly flour four ramekins twice, tapping out the extra flour after each dusting. (This will help your cake slide out of the ramekin when it's cooked.)

Melt the butter and chocolate on the stovetop in a double boiler (or place a glass bowl over a pot of boiling water. Make sure the glass bowl doesn't touch the water.) You can also melt them in the microwave; just make sure to stir frequently. 

In a bowl, beat the eggs, egg yolks and sugar together with an electric mixer (or whisk) for 2-3 minutes.

When the chocolate butter mixture is melted, take a small amount and add it to the egg mixture WHILE blending (this will ensure that your eggs don't scramble from the hot mixture). Beat in the rest of the chocolate butter mixture and the 2 tsp of flour until just combined.

Place the four prepared ramekins on a baking sheet and pour the cake batter into (use all mixture between) the four ramekins. Bake for 7-9 minutes. The sides will set but the center will be moist. There really is no way to test this (as you would a regular cake with a toothpick) but as long as the sides are set, there is no harm in eating a very gooey chocolate center.

Wearing gloves, invert each ramekin onto a plate and let sit for 15-30 seconds. Still wearing gloves, gently lift the ramekin slowly and the cake should remain on the plate. If there is an issue with the cake coming out of the ramekin, simply run a knife around the edges and shake out. Pete recommends the lava cakes with ice cream. Enjoy!

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Oatmeal, Chocolate, Dried Cranberry Cookies

Who doesn't love some fresh baked cookies full of yummy treats? We do in the Barber-Christensen house!!

Adapted from Food & Wine magazine, but with Lindsay's changes of chocolate chips and dried cranberries.

- 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
- 1 large egg
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 3/4 cup oats (quick cooking)
- 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
- 1/4 cup dried cranberries (I will use a little bit more next time)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer (or in a stand up mixer) beat the butter with both sugars at high speed until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes. beat in the egg and vanilla. At a low speed, gradually add the flour mixture until just incorporated, then mix in the oats, chocolate chips and dried cranberries.

Spread one inch sized cookie balls about 2 inches apart on large cookie sheets. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes. EAT!!!

Monday, March 3, 2014

Chicken, Andouille Sausage and Kale Stew

My cousin recently asked me, "So, what's going on with your blog?" I responded that I just hadn't had the time to post anything as life has been busy with work, travel, the kids and wedding planning. But I haven't stopped cooking and trying new recipes. I am going to try and keep an updated blog in the hopes that someone will read it! 

I was in Washington, DC a few weeks ago for work and my boss and his wife had me over for dinner. Kristen is a great cook and always seems to have new recipes on hand. I also don't know anyone who loves kale as much as she does and she is a wealth of Kale knowledge and recipes. I made this recipe recently and Pete said it's the best soup I've ever made. I studied the original and adapted recipes below and developed my own. Next time I will add more thyme and either less chicken or more stock to make it more of a soup.

Chicken, Andouille Sausage and Kale Stew 
Adapted from How To - and The Kitchen Faerie 

- 3 parsnips, chopped
- 3 TBS olive oil
- Salt and pepper
- 1 Andouille sausage (we use Johnsonville brand)
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 1 large shallot, chopped 
- 3 large carrots, chopped
- 4 cups chicken stock
- 5 sprigs fresh thyme, thyme removed from stems
- 1 rotisserie chicken, skin removed and meat shredded
- One handful chopped kale, optional (ribs removed and torn into pieces)
- 1 cup frozen butternut squash, optional

Preheat oven to 375°F. Toss chopped parnsips in a bowl with salt, pepper and 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Arrange in one layer on a baking sheet and bake for 25 minutes or until the parsnips are browned and softened. 

In a dutch oven, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil and add chopped onion and shallot, cooking until just tender, about 5 minutes. Add the sausage pieces and saute until completely cooked through. Add carrots and cook until softened. 

Add chicken stock, thyme, shredded chicken, butternut squash and parsnips. Bring to a simmer. Add kale and simmer 20 minutes longer. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve topped with parmesan cheese.