Thursday, March 29, 2012

Chocolate Coconut Cream Cake (aka Dos Leches)

Months ago I went to a meet and greet for church, and at this little shindig was a cake that when I bit into it was so moist and dense and delicately flavored that I had to ask for the recipe.  Fast forward, cake forgotten, I ran into the maker of this cake at the grocery store last weekend.  I see her at least once a week, but that day I was "power shopping" because I had a cake in the oven, which spawned a conversation about her delicious cake from last summer, right there in the produce aisle.  She told me how insanely easy it was and then we talked about different variations, and now I've been waiting all week for the treats in the house to run out so I could make this. 

This recipe has been heavily altered from how I was told, but the method is the same.  The original cake was a boxed white cake mix, baked according to the directions, covered in sweetened condensed milk and coconut milk while hot, then frosted with cool whip and topped with shredded coconut.  I made a from-scratch chocolate cake, used a homemade whipped cream, and topped it with chocolate shavings and toasted coconut. 

Recipe adapted from allrecipes, method adapted from Machelle Kelly

2 cups sugar
2 cups flour
1/2 cup butter
1 cup water
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 cup buttermilk
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 eggs
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla extract

14 oz can coconut milk
14 oz can sweetened condensed milk

1 cup very cold heavy cream
2 tbsp powdered sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
shaved chocolate
2/3 cup shredded coconut, toasted*

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Butter and flour a 9x13 inch pan.  In a sauce pan over medium heat, melt butter, water, and cocoa powder together.  Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together flour and sugar.  Dissolve the baking soda into the buttermilk.  When the butter mixture is melted, add it to the flour and sugar, and whisk to combine.  Add buttermilk, eggs, salt, cinnamon and vanilla.  Whisk.  Add mayonnaise and whisk again.  Pour into your baking dish and bake for 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.

About 5 minutes before your cake should be coming out of the oven, combine the sweetened condensed milk and coconut milk.  While the cake is still hot, use a drinking straw to make several small holes (about every inch and a half or so) in the cake.  Evenly drizzle the milk mixture over the hot cake.  Cool the cake for a minimum of 4 hours in the refrigerator.

After the cake has been cooling for a couple of hours, beat the cream on high speed until stiff peaks form, approximately 2-3 minutes. Add powdered sugar and vanilla, and beat another 15-30 seconds.  Spread the whipped cream over the cooled cake.  Sprinkle with chocolate shavings and coconut.

*To toast coconut, place a nonstick skillet over medium heat and add coconut.  When you can smell the coconut, gently stir it.  Keep the coconut moving every 30 to 60 seconds until it is golden and lightly toasted.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies

I'm one of those people who can never EVER get a cookie to turn out the same twice in a row.  I'll make them and they're chewy and delicious, then the next time they'll be flat and crispy.  In doing some market research (aka google), I discovered that adding corn starch to cookie dough may help them turn out a little chewier and more consistent.  So I started with a basic cookie recipe and added a little of this and a little of that and came up with this lovely, and they turn out great every single time!

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs, beaten
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour*
3/4 cup cocoa powder
3 tbsp corn starch
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips
nuts, if you're into bastardizing your desserts like that

*If you're at high altitude, which I am, add another 1/3 cup flour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Combine flour, cocoa powder, corn starch, salt, and baking soda and combine.  Set aside.  Cream the butter and sugars for 3-5 minutes, until it is light and fluffy.  Add eggs and vanilla and beat to combine.  Add the dry ingredients and mix until well incorporated, scraping the sides of the bowl as necessary.  Add the chocolate chips and combine. Scoop golf ball-sized balls of dough onto a cookie sheet and bake 10-12 minutes.  The cookies will still be fairly thick when you take them out of the oven.  Move immediately to a cooling rack in order to stop the cooking process.  Yield 24 cookies.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Barbecue Hamburgers (aka Sloppy Joes)

Don't you love it when a sound or smell or taste takes you back to a specific place and time?  This is one of those recipes.  When I was a kid, my grandmother used to participate in the Utah Shakespeare Festival and I loved the end of the season because she would always make and bottle her own yeast-fermented root beer a few weeks before, and on the last day she would make a huge batch of her "barbecue hamburgers". 
(Everything with my grandma sounded a lot more glamorous than it really was.  Kind of like when I'd stay at her house and she would wake me up at 5:30 to go to the church house and "stretch" with her and her friends.  "Stretching" was this super intense old lady aerobics.  As a fat kid, I didn't appreciate her trying to trick me like that.  Back to these burgers though). 
Barbecue hamburgers was her fancy way of saying "sloppy joes".  Either way, these are a crowd pleaser and every time I make them I'm transported to Cedar City in the mid-'80s, helping my grandma load all those bottles of homemade root beer into the back of her Caddy.

The recipe says this makes enough for 12-15 people, but that's a lie. This is the exact amout that feeds my family of 7, with no left overs.

Recipe altered slightly from my grandma, LaVeve Whetten

2 lbs ground beef
1 cup diced onion
1 1/2 cups ketchup
1 tbsp vinegar (I've used both white and cider vinegar in this and both are just fine)
1 tbsp worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp chili powder

Heat about 1 tbsp oil in a heavy pot over medium heat. Add onions and ground beef and cook until the meat is browned.  Mix remaining ingredients and pour over the meat and onions.  Simmer for 2 hours, stirring occasionally.  Served over warmed hamburger buns (we do some condiments like cheese, lettuce, pickles tomato, etc).  This could easily be made ahead, stored in the fridge in an airtight container, then heated in a stock pot before serving.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Oreo Cheesecake Brownies

Once upon a time my sister-in-law threw me a baby shower, and another sister-in-law brought these delectable cheesecake brownie squares that I couldn't get enough of.   When I asked for the recipe I was floored when she told me it was just a boxed German Chocolate Cake swirled with a 3-ingredient cheesecake mixture. 

Fast forward a couple of years. When I received last month's Food Network Magazine, there was an entire insert devoted to 50 (yes, FIFTY) brownie recipes.  Well, they had a recipe for a cheesecake brownie that brought back happy thoughts of those brownies served at my baby shower.  Of course, I had to make them.  Lately, however, I like chunky things in my desserts.  I keep lacing my desserts and baked goods with things like toasted coconut, chocolate chips, toffee bits, toasted nuts, etc.  This led to a frantic searching of my cupboards for something to put into these brownies.  Girl Scout Cookies?  I can't justify rationing any part of my limited supply of these delights for anything other than straight consumption.  Reese's eggs?  Same thing.  These seasonal sweets are best when eaten straight up.  Then I saw a half-eaten package of Oreos.  They're available year-round.  They're a delicious way to fancy up a dessert.  Done and done.  Some days my genius astounds even me.  These brownies are rich and decadent, but not overly sweet.  They. Are. Perfection.

Oreo Cheesecake Brownies
Recipe adapted from Food Network Magazine, February 2012

For the brownie:
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 stick butter
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
4 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup flour

For the Oreo cheesecake swirl
8 oz cream cheese (room temperature)
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg
10 double-stuf Oreos, crushed

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Line a 9x13 inch baking dish with either parchment paper or foil, and spray with cooking spray.  In a large saucepan, melt the butter and chocolate chips over low heat. 

While the chocolate mixture is melting, whip the cream cheese, sugar, and egg.  When it is well combined, fold in the crushed Oreos.  Set aside.

When the chocolate mixture is melted, remove it from the heat and add the sugars.  Whisk to combine.  Add eggs, one at a time, stirring well after each addition.  Stir in vanilla.  Add salt and flour, and mix until combined.  Pour the batter into your prepared pan.  Drop large spoonfuls of the cream cheese mixture on top of the batter and swirl.  Bake at 325 degrees for 55 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the brownies comes out clean or with a few moist crumbs.  Cool completely before cutting. 

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Southwest Pasta Salad

Lately I'm the queen of looking at a recipe, saying, "This would be awesome in that" then making it happen. There's this dressing in the Our Best Bites cookbook that I make probably once every 3 weeks.  This dressing is like the nectar of the Gods.  You could put it on a shoe and it would be good.  I was browsing their site today and ran across a corn salad that uses the blessed dressing, and I thought it would be so great to switch it up a little and add some pasta.  I was right.

Recipe adapted from Our Best Bites


(for the dressing)
4-5 cloves garlic, roughly minced
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup lime juice (from 2-3 juicy limes)
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp sugar
1/2 cup roughly chopped cilantro
1/2 cup vegetable oil (plus possibly 1/4 cup more)

(for the salad)
1/2 pound small, bite-sized pasta - cooked al dente
1 red bell pepper, diced
1/2 medium red onion, diced small
1 cucumber, seeded and diced
1 jalapeno, seeded and very finely diced
2 cups frozen (thawed) or fresh corn
5 oz cotija cheese, diced or crumbled

Cook pasta according to package directions, only to al dente.  While the pasta is cooking, Make the dressing.  To make the dressing, combine all ingredients except the oil into the bowl of your food processor.  Pulse a few times until the garlic is finely chopped.  Add cilantro.  Pulse again.  With the food processor on, slowly pour the oil into the food processor until the dressing is completely emulsified.  When the pasta is cooked, drain and pour into a large mixing bowl.  Add dressing while pasta is still hot.  Stir. After the salad has cooled, add the remaining salad ingredients and stir again.  Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.  When ready to serve, if the salad is too dry, add oil, 1 tbsp at a time, until it reaches the desired consistency.  (You may not need any additional oil; however, since you're putting the dressing into the hot pasta, the pasta will absorb some of the liquid). 

The salad can be made a day ahead.  Simply store the pasta mixed with the dressing in an airtight container, then add the rest of the ingredients about 30 minutes before serving.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Spinach Tortellini Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette

A few weeks ago I made a salad with tons of fresh veggies in it.  I've been making these fresh salads a couple times a week since then and I have to say, in the middle of these dreary winter months it has been a nice shift.  These have become my new "comfort food" lately. 

Tonight is panini night at the Bowden House.  I wanted to do something light and fresh to go along with our sandwiches.  I started picking things out of the cupboard and putting them together and this delightful concoction was born.  I wanted to do a pasta salad, but just pasta is a little heavy for what I was going for.  I started adding spinach to lighten it up, topped it off with some shredded parmesan and BAM!  Between me and my 12-year-old we're lucky any is going to make it to the dinner table.  When she took a bite she said, "I like how it smells, I like how it tastes, and I like that when you put it in your mouth your tastebuds just POP!"

Spinach Tortellini Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette
Recipe by me

1 package (9-10 oz) cheese tortellini
3 tbsp finely chopped onion (you want it to be small enough that you don't get a huge chunk but large enough that it's recognizable as onion)
1 tsp lemon zest
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/4 cup terragon vinegar (if you can't find terragon vinegar, use red wine vinegar...but if you can, the terragon vinegar is so worth the effort)
1/4 cup olive oil
1 large garlic clove, finely minced
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp honey
3 cups baby spinach
1/3 cup shredded parmesan (the good kind)

Cook pasta according to the package directions.  While the pasta is cooking, make the dressing.  Add onions, garlic, vinegar, oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, salt and honey to a large bowl.  Whisk until well combined.  Add some fresh ground black pepper if you're feeling a little spicy.  When the pasta is cooked, drain it and add it to the bowl while still hot and toss to coat in the dressing (this way all that goodness gets soaked up in the pasta as it cools down).  At this point, put the pasta in the fridge either for 10-15 minutes, or until a few minutes before serving (if you're making it in advance) to cool down.  A few minutes before serving (if serving immediately, wait long enough that the heat of the pasta won't wilt the spinach), add the spinach and toss it to coat in the dressing.  Top with parmesan cheese and toss again.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Chocolate Sour Cream Bundt Cake

Every week I listen to the Joy the Baker podcast (remember, I've mentioned her recipes a few times). She actually does the podcast with her friend Tracy.  I've visited her site a few times, but haven't ever made any of Tracy's recipes before seeing this post.  I immediately went through my fridge/cupboards and put this together. 

Things I love:
  1. When I find an easy to throw together baked good
  2. When that baked good is chocolate and moist and delicious
  3. When that recipe calls for simple ingredients that I *always* have at my house
Admittedly, when I made this I may have garnished it in bittersweet chocolate, knowing full well that my kids loathe bittersweet chocolate and wouldn't touch it.  On the down side, Casey and I ate an entire bundt cake in a 48-hour period.  Also admittedly, I've made this cake 3 times in as many weeks.  The last two times I made it, I did so in mini-bundt form (thanks, mom!).  The full-sized version of this cake is so easy to put together, but the mini ones are fun because everyone can decorate their own and you can keep them in the freezer for easy midnight snacking...not that Casey and I ever do that.  In whatever form you make them, just be sure it happens, because you won't be disappointed.

Chocolate Sour Cream Bundt Cake
Adapted from Tracy from


1 cup (2 sticks) butter
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp salt
1 cup water
2 cups flour
1 3/4 sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
2 large eggs
1/2 cup sour cream (I used mayonnaise the last time I made this recipe and it worked like a dream)
1 tsp vanilla extract

4 oz bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tbsp sweetened condensed milk

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Butter and flour your bundt pan (if using a mini bundt pan, this process is time consuming and a little annoying, but I assure you it is all too necessary if you want the cakes to come out of the pan).  In a small saucepan, combine the butter, cocoa powder, salt, and water.  Cook over medium heat until the butter is melted and the cocoa powder is incorporated.  Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar and baking soda. Pour half of the butter/cocoa mixture into the dry ingredients and whisk until combined (it will be thick and lumpy).  Pour the other half of the liquid in and mix again.  Add eggs, one at a time, stirring after each addition.  Add vanilla and sour cream, and mix again.

Pour into your prepared bundt pan.  Tap it on the counter a few times to get out any bubbles.  Bake for 40-45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean (for mini bundts, fill the bundt molds 1/2 full and bake for 15-20 minutes, then repeat the process after the first set of cakes have been removed from the pan).  Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then invert onto a cooling rack (place the cooling rack on top of the cake pan then flip it over).  Cool completely (one hour or more).

Make the glaze by heating the cream and condensed milk until just below boiling, then pour the milk mixture over the chocolate.  Whisk until well combined.  Drizzle over the cooled cake and top with any other desired toppings (for the minis we did jimmies, mini chocolate chips, and bits of broken chocolate toffee bar).