Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Flourless Chocolate Cake AND Homemade Whipped Cream

This cake is nothing less than amazing.  Really.  Truly.  A-MA-ZING.  And it's gluten-free!  And no, it's not one bit fat-free!!  It's totally fattening and rich!  But it's perfect and it is a keeper - all the way.  It's the kind of cake you have at weddings... or honeymoons... at a fancy hotel... at a fancy restaurant... on cruises... very gourmet.  I tried this out with a group of friends here last night.  There was not a piece left.  Everyone loved it.  We served it with homemade whipped cream and fresh sliced strawberries.  When Sandy emails me the picture of the actual presentation, I'll put it here too.  I found this on, and HERE is the link. 

Flourless Chocolate Cake


  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 18 (1 ounce) squares bittersweet chocolate
  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • 6 eggs


  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F (150 degrees C). Grease one 10 inch round cake pan and set aside.
  2. In a small saucepan over medium heat combine the water, salt and sugar. Stir until completely dissolved and set aside.
  3. Either in the top half of a double boiler or in a microwave oven melt the bittersweet chocolate. Pour the chocolate into the bowl of an electric mixer.
  4. Cut the butter into pieces and beat the butter into the chocolate, 1 piece at a time. Beat in the hot sugar-water. Slowly beat in the eggs, one at a time.
  5. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Have a pan larger than the cake pan ready, put the cake pan in the larger pan and fill the pan with boiling water halfway up the sides of the cake pan.
  6. Bake cake in the water bath at 300 degrees F (150 degrees C) for 45 minutes. The center will still look wet. Chill cake overnight in the pan. To unmold, dip the bottom of the cake pan in hot water for 10 seconds and invert onto a serving plate.
NOTE from Leah:  I only had a 9-inch pan, so I filled it moderately, then poured the rest of the batter into a cupcake pan.  The larger cake was prettier (for presentation), but the little cupcakes turned out alright too.

Homemade Whipped Cream

1 cup heavy whipping cream
1-2 Tbsp powdered sugar (or granulated sugar is fine too)

Whip at high speed in a bowl with an electric mixer until soft peaks form, about 5-7 minutes.  Keep chilled until serving time.

Optional:  Before whipping, add 1 Tbsp any flavorful liqueurs (Kahlua, Rum, Raspberry Schnapps), or small amount of extract (1/4 tsp) such as Almond extract, vanilla, peppermint - whatever you want to make it your own.

Breakfast Taquitos

 As a native Texan, half-hispanic, and especially having been raised in South Texas, a good breakfast taquito is a must-have in my recipe book.  When I lived in Arkansas, breakfast taquitos were unheard of, so this was our little taste of "home" when we needed it. Keep in mind there are many variations, but I will give you my basic recipe, and a list of suggestions to make your own style.  The possibilities are endless!  Comment your own ideas, if you'd like.  The ingredients & measurements listed here are mere approximations, and I don't even use measuring tools when cooking these.


The Breakfast Taquito

You will need:

1) a medium or large skillet for the eggs/taquito mix, and another skillet/griddle for heating the tortillas (a microwave is okay too)

2) a bit of oil or cooking spray

3) a medium potato, peeled and diced quite small --optional

4) salt and pepper to taste- Sometimes I use Lawry's seasoning salt in place of regular salt.

5) tortillas (your favorite kind - homemade is best.  I use HEB tortilla-factory-made-in-store tortillas, whole wheat)

6) about 1/4 to 1/2 of a small red bell pepper, seeded & diced very small. Can substitute green, but I like the color & taste of red. You could also add a mixture different peppers.

7) about 2-3 green onions, cut very small (may substitute regular onion, about 1/4 to 1/2 cup)

8) about 5 to 7 eggs

Other ideas to add:

1 or 2 cloves of garlic, pressed

comino (ground cumin) to taste (about 1/4 to 1 teaspoon)

1/2 of a diced/seeded serrano pepper

tomato, diced

Chorizo- cook it in a separate pan first, drain the grease, and add to the eggs.

How to make them:

Begin by putting the oil/cooking spray in the skillet and warming it to a medium or medium-high heat. Add your potatoes (salt and pepper them to taste), stirring occasionally & cook until they are soft and lightly browned all over, about 7-15 minutes. While they are cooking you can heat your other griddle/skillet at low to medium heat and one by one heat your tortillas until just right (keep them warm in a towel or a tortilla warmer).

Once the potatoes are ready, turn the heat down a bit (to medium or medium-low), then add your other vegetables - peppers, onions, garlic, etc.  Also add any additional spices here. Now, with the eggs - I think most people lightly beat them in a bowl before adding them, that's fine to do, but I don't do it that way. For me, I enjoy cracking them right into the pan, and slowly stirring so that it creates swirls of color and still mixes nicely. Be careful not to overcook the eggs - turn down the heat if necessary, but take your time to cook them until just right, then immediately take the pan off the heat when they are done.

Your skillet should look beautiful! Great colors and balanced all over.

Serve hot, in a tortilla & topped with your favorite toppings - I used shredded cheddar cheese, others like salsa too.

Hearty Lentil and Sausage Soup AND Fuji Apple Chicken Salad

This is an extremely healthy, hearty, and full-flavored soup that has always been a big hit.  I make a double batch when we are expecting a large crowd for dinner.  Honestly, a single batch makes a lot, but it goes fast, and if you still have leftovers, they reheat well.  It requires a lot of chopping, but a food processor will save you time if it's worth it to you. This meal is complete with a great salad and some crusty bread.  Oh, and it's easy to make it gluten-free, just check your broth ingredients.  I got it from Whole Foods Recipes online, link is HERE.  (By the way, their photo is much prettier than mine!)
See below for the Salad Recipe.


Hearty Lentil and Sausage Soup


2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup chopped carrots
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped yellow onion
2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
1/2 pound sweet or hot Italian sausage, casings removed
1/2 pound mushrooms (such as white, cremini, shiitake, portobello and oyster), chopped
1 cup (about 7 ounces) dried French or brown lentils, picked through and rinsed
2 1/2 cups beef broth
2 1/2 cups mushroom or low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup chopped tomatoes, with their juice
1 cup dry red wine
Pinch red pepper flakes
1/4 pound baby spinach, thinly sliced
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon chopped thyme
Grated Parmesan cheese for garnish


Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add carrots, celery, onion and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are translucent. Add sausage and cook, breaking into small chunks, until it begins to brown. Add mushrooms and continue to cook until mushrooms have released most of their liquid. Add lentils, beef broth, mushroom or chicken broth, tomatoes and their juice, wine and pepper flakes; cover pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until lentils are tender, about 30 minutes.

Add spinach and salt and pepper, stir well and simmer for 1 to 2 minutes more; stir in thyme. Ladle soup into bowls and top with Parmesan.

Serves 6


Fuji Apple Chicken Salad

Admittedly, I copied this recipe from another BLOGGER after a diligent search online for this recipe from Panera.  I promise you, I get this salad every time I go to Panera.  Their salad is fantastic.  This recipe is really good too - tastes a little different, but it's a good attempt at copying it, and nevertheless a "keeper."   See the blogger, Donna, in the link to follow her recipe precisely.  I've modified it here to how I made mine (although mostly the same).

Mixed Spring Greens
Red Onion
Toasted Pecans
Dried Apple Chips
Gorgonzola Cheese
Cooked chicken breast, chilled and sliced

Donna's Fake Fuji Apple Dressing
3 T. Organic Apple Juice Concentrate (the frozen kind0
1 T. White Balsamic Vinegar
1 T. Apple Cider Vinegar
3 t. Garlic Powder
3 t. Onion Powder
1 tsp. Dijon Mustard
3 T Olive Oil (a nice quality)

Red Pepper Chicken Pilaf

This is a simple and tasty meal, and especially healthy if you use brown rice.  It would be fairly easy to modify to be gluten-free, using gluten-free flour and broth.  The trick is to not over cook the chicken, so watch it closely as it cooks.  ~Leah

2 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
2 red peppers, seeded and chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
4 chicken breast halves, skinned & boned
Salt and Pepper
All purpose flour
1 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup white wine
2 Tbsp. fresh chopped Italian flat leaf parsley
Hot Cooked Rice (2-3 cups cooked)

Melt butter and oil in large skillet over medium high heat.  Add peppers and garlic and saute until peppers are tender, about 10 minutes.  Remove peppers from skillet and transfer to bowl.

Season chicken with salt and pepper.  Lightly and evenly coat chicken with flour.  Place chicken in skillet and saute until light brown, about 4 minutes per side.  Remove chicken from skillet.  Place peppers back in skillet, adding broth and wine.  Turn heat to high and cook for about 5 minutes until liquid resembles sauce texture.  As sauce thickens scrape up browned bits.  Return chicken to skillet and cook to 170F and until it is no longer pink in the center.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Place chicken and peppers on platter, sprinkling with fresh parsley.  Serve over rice.  Optional:  May cut chicken into 1" pieces rather than serving whole breast half.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Baked Ziti with Zucchini

This is currently my go to recipe for baked ziti. You can use pork or turkey italian sausage, I can't taste the difference. Will loves this and he hates zucchini AND italian sausage. HEB carries a brand of wine called "Birds and Bees" that I love, so I used their red wine in this recipe (their white is great too).

1/2 lb ziti, cooked and drained
1/4 cup onion, chopped
1-2 Zucchini, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 lb mild (or spicy is good too) italian turkey sausage
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons basil
1 teaspoon oregano
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/2 cup red wine
28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
1 can tomato paste
1.5 cups shredded mozzerella cheese

Cook sausage, onion and zucchini in olive oil over medium high heat until sausage is cooked through and onions are translucent and zucchini is tender.

Add garlic, basil, oregano. Cook for one minute

Add wine and brown sugar and then add tomatoes and tomato paste.

Reduce heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes.

Stir in 1/2 cup of the mozzerella cheese and pasta.

Pour mixture into a greased 9x13 pan.

Sprinkle remaining cheese over top.

Cook covered at 350 for 30 minutes, uncover and cook 5 to 10 minutes more, until cheese is brown and bubbly.

Adapted from recipe posted on

Grilled Vietnamese Chicken

This is one of our favorite recipes for chicken. It's easy and the chicken is so flavorful. Serve it with some Jasmine Rice or Quinoa and Steamed Green Beans and you've got a nice quick, healthy meal. You don't have to grill it outside, I'm sure that's great, but I'm not a griller unless Will is I cook it inside on the stove.

3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons fish sauce (I found this in the Asian section of HEB and also at World Market)
2 tablespoons Honey(or molasses)
2 tablespoons lemon juice (or lime juice)
1 tablespoon dark sesame oil
1 teaspoons black pepper
A pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts (thighs would work well too)

1 Heat grill (or pan).
2 Place all the ingredients except the chicken in a shallow glass baking dish and stir them together.
3 Make shallow slits across the chicken breast, going a little deeper in the thick end.
4 Make shallow slits long ways, resulting in a slight diamond pattern in the meat.
5 Put the chicken in the marinade and make sure some gets in the slits.
6 This only needs to marinade for 10 or 15 minutes to pick up the flavor, I believe this is because of the slits.
7 Place on grill and cook for 8 to 10 minutes, until no longer pink.
8 Turn once during cooking.

Adapted from a recipe from

Ina Garten's Beef Bourguignon

We've had some cold weather lately, which has been the perfect excuse to make some yummy soup. This is a delicious recipe from Ina Garten. It takes a little time, but it's worth it.

Some notes:
-I've left out the bacon before and it's still really tasty.
-You can substitute Brandy for the Cognac if you want a less expensive option. I've made it with each and they're both great...Will prefers it with Cognac though.

1 tablespoon good olive oil
8 ounces dry cured center cut applewood smoked bacon, diced
2 1/2 pounds chuck beef cut into 1-inch cubes
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 pound carrots, sliced diagonally into 1-inch chunks
2 yellow onions, sliced
2 teaspoons chopped garlic (2 cloves)
1/2 cup Cognac
1 (750 ml.) bottle good dry red wine such as Cote du Rhone or Pinot Noir
1 can (2 cups) beef broth
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves (1/2 teaspoon dried)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature, divided
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 pound frozen whole onions
1 pound fresh mushrooms stems discarded, caps thickly sliced

For serving:
Country bread or Sour Dough, toasted or grilled and rubbed with garlic clove
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley, optional
Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F.

Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven. Add the bacon and cook over medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the bacon is lightly browned. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon to a large plate.

Dry the beef cubes with paper towels and then sprinkle them with salt and pepper. In batches in single layers, sear the beef in the hot oil for 3 to 5 minutes, turning to brown on all sides. Remove the seared cubes to the plate with the bacon and continue searing until all the beef is browned. Set aside.

Toss the carrots, and onions, 1 tablespoon of salt and 2 teaspoons of pepper in the fat in the pan (THIS IS WHAT INA SAYS...but I've removed the fat before and cooked in a bit of olive oil instead and it tasted fine) and cook for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are lightly browned. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add the Cognac, stand back, and ignite with a match to burn off the alcohol. Put the meat and bacon back into the pot with the juices. Add the bottle of wine plus enough beef broth to almost cover the meat. Add the tomato paste and thyme. Bring to a simmer, cover the pot with a tight-fitting lid and place it in the oven for about 1 1/4 hours or until the meat and vegetables are very tender when pierced with a fork.

Combine 2 tablespoons of butter and the flour with a fork and stir into the stew. Add the frozen onions. Saute the mushrooms in 2 tablespoons of butter for 10 minutes until lightly browned and then add to the stew. Bring the stew to a boil on top of the stove, then lower the heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Season to taste.

To serve, toast the bread in the toaster or oven. Rub each slice on 1 side with a cut clove of garlic. For each serving, spoon the stew over a slice of bread and sprinkle with parsley.

Recipe from

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Cookie Cake

This cookie cake is so easy and good. My good friend, Mandi, passed this recipe to me and it's worth trying if you're in the mood for something sweet. Unlike cake mix cookies I've tried in the past, it does not taste powdery or weird like the cake mix cookies usually taste.

Cookie Cake
1 box yellow cake mix
1 (12 oz.) bag chocolate chips
1 egg
1/2 cup oil
1/4 cup water

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2) Mix everything together in a bowl until blended.

3) Press mix into a 9x13 baking pan and bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes, until edges are golden.

4) Let cool about 10 minutes and cut into bars or just cut what you want to eat :)

Zucchini Garden Chowder

This is such a perfect meal for cold weather! And it's another recipe passed on from Leah. She always makes these amazing soups/chowders that are just amazing! This one is so hearty and delicious. BTW you can make this with just veggies, or add chicken pieces (which I did).

Zucchini Garden Chowder

2 TBS butter or margarine
2 medium zucchini (chopped)
1 medium onion (chopped)
2 TBS fresh parsley (chopped)
1 TBS fresh basil (chopped), or 1 tsp dried
1/3 cup flour
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
3 cups water
3 chicken bouillon cubes
1 tsp lemon juice
2 cups tomatoes (chopped)
1 1/2 cups evaporated milk (12 oz can)
2 cups corn (or 1 can, drained)
1-2 pounds chicken (cooked & chopped), optional
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese (freshly grated)

1) Melt butter in soup pot over medium heat
2) Add zucchini, onion, parsley, & basil. Saute until tender.
3) Stir in seasonings and flour
4) Gradually stir in water to make a smooth stock
5) Add bouillon & lemon juice. Mix well.
6) Bring to boil, reduce heat, & cook stirring often for 2 minutes.
7) Add tomatoes, milk, corn, & chicken (optional). Return to boil.
8) Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 5 minutes, until corn is tender.
9) Just before serving, add cheeses & stir until melted. Add a pinch of sugar to taste (optional) & garnish with chopped fresh parsley (optional)