Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Chocolate Peanut Butter Heart Attack

You wouldn't know it, but I've been baking a fair bit recently. And according to Sister Bird, making food she can't eat. Not because it's bad. Some of the food she has legitimate reasons for never wanting to eat. Like the habanero spiced potatoes. I was the only person in the family who could handle the amount of heat in them, but I didn't like them enough to write up a post about them. Making something I haven' liked enough to share has been happening a fair bit, aside from the incredible response the jam muffins got.

On an unrelated note, am I the only one who uses jam and jelly interchangeably? I know, one is chunky, one isn't, but really?

But as I was saying... I have an enormous backlog of things to post about. Two more muffin recipes, stuffed zucchini, jalapeno cheddar cornbread, chicken and cannelinni soup, hummus, sloppy joes.... I've stored up plenty of pictures and thoughts, but I'm just slow about typing them out. I liked all of those things, but I don't think any inspired me to immediately share them with the world.

This cake, on the other hand, needed someone to write a public service announcement about it.

I wanted to make it for Papa Bird for Father's Day, because I know he has a soft spot for chocolate and peanut butter, and I've currently got a soft spot for any cake that'd let me practice with my leveler. So when I looked in my crazy collection of recipes and saw Smitten Kitchen's chocolate peanut butter cake, with three glorious layers, I knew it was a match made in heaven.

After I did the nutrition information for it? It was still a great match. But it certainly wasn't made in heaven.

One of the great things about this cake is that it was a one bowl recipe. Obviously, the frosting and the ganache were done in separate bowls. But the cake batter itself was whipped up in one bowl. Which, by the way, I did without the aid of Mama Bird's Kitchen-Aid mixer. I've been slowly shifting away from using mixers, and back to beating things by hand. It's easier to fold things like delicate berries into batter without breaking them, and it's easier to ensure that every part of the ingredients have been mixed. Or maybe I'm too lazy to get the mixer out. That would be impressively lazy.

I still made the frosting in the mixer, though. Whipping butter isn't fun or easy.

The whole thing took me most of the day to make, but most of it was waiting. Make the batter, wait for the cakes to bake. Panic when the edges bake too quickly and look burnt. Fret that they're not done after half an hour, and wait even more impatiently. Pull them out and wait for them to cool. Get impatient and put them in the freezer. Level and frost the bottom layer, and shove it back in the freezer.

Go bother the neighbors because you clearly need a break from all this hard work.

Frost the other half, put it back in the freezer, make ganache. Forget to put it in a double boiler and sort of accidentally make fudge. Break the corn syrup bottle and have to make the glaze without any syrup. Then finally serve the cake.

I was so proud of it. It looked professional. Sort of. It tasted either professional or like it really wanted you to have diabetes. It was extremely rich, and just tasted like peanut butter chocolate love. Papa Bird loves those things. Home run for Father's Day, right?

Well, not exactly. He was... okay with it. He was tired and not really hungry. He complained it was too rich, too many calories, even with such a small piece. He was tired and dare I say, possibly even a bit grumpy. I was sad I was forcing him to eat a cake he didn't want. I ate an entire huge piece out of spite for everyone who complained.

But really, it is delicious. Fleur Bird loved it so much he had two pieces and asked me to make it for his wedding. Papa Bird told me last night that he loved it and was sorry to see it all gone. So if you know anyone who loves peanut butter and chocolate and want to see them struggle with an amazingly rich piece of cake.... here's your cake.

Recipe slightly modified from from Smitten Kitchen
(Makes 16 slices, with 695 calories and $0.86 per slice)
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2.5 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup canola oil
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1.5 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
    1. Preheat oven to 350.
    2. Mix together four, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt.
    3. Add oil and sour cream and mix well.
    4. Mix in water 1/2 cup at a time, beating well.
    5. Add in vinegar and vanilla.
    6. Add in eggs and mix very well.
    7. Bake for 35-40 minutes.
    Peanut Butter Frosting
  • 10 ounces cream cheese
  • 4 ounces butter
  • 5 cups powdered sugar
  • 2/3 cup peanut butter
    1. Beat cream cheese and butter together until fluffy.
    2. Add powdered sugar, one cup at a time, beating well each time.
    3. Add peanut butter, and mix well, being sure to scrap all parts of the bowl.
    Chocolate-Peanut Butter Glaze
  • 8 ounces chocolate
  • 3 tablespoons peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup half & half
    1. In a double boiler, melt chocolate and peanut butter.
    2. Cool, being careful to not let set.
    3. Mix in half & half.
    4. Pour over cake as quickly as possible.

    Today's lessons learned:
    • Cake is not always a great present.
  • Saturday, June 11, 2011

    "These are the best muffins you've ever made."

    I made these muffins a while ago, using apricot jam that I had leftover from making thumbprint cookies. I had a whole second jar of jam, so I brought it to my friend's house to use up more and to leave it with them.

    I made the muffins while they were working on dinner, which was a delicious fish of swordfish steaks, crab cakes, and green beans with garlic and onion. The meal was fantastic, but I won't go into details about it because I did nothing to help prepare it, and it seems unfair to take their credit.

    Around 4:30, I decided I was too hungry to wait for dinner. So was Kendo Bird. So I decided to make the muffins I had promised Darth Bird, while they worked on making the crab cakes and the swordfish.

    They came out of the oven around 4:40.

    Except for the second one that I spent a while resisting, they were all gone by 4:46.

    Everyone ate two muffins, while they were still steaming from the oven. I had almost burned my hands getting them out as quickly as I could. And they were instantly destroyed.

    They're also delicious in the mornings, microwaved to the point where the jam is once again hot and bubbly. They're light and, dare I say it, fluffy, with a slight hint of cinnamon in the dough. We've used six different jams now: apricot, black cherry, red plum, peaches, raspberry, and blackberry. I've only eaten the apricot and red plum. We played muffin roulette. Made two dozen muffin, with four of each, put them all on a giant plate, and spun it around. I got red plum, but my diet stopped me from taking two or three more, like I really wanted to.

    These are certainly a new favorite. I can see making these for parties, although I'd love to find a way to make them look prettier...

    I dunno, they look pretty good on their own.

    Cinnamon Jam Roulette Muffins
    (Makes 12 muffins, with 126 calories and $0.21 per muffins)
  • 1.5 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2.5 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup vanilla yogurt
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup jam
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
    1. Preheat oven to 375.
    2. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, and salt. Mix well.
    3. Combine yogurt, butter, milk, and egg in separate bowl.
    4. Add wet ingredients to dry, just combining.
    5. Spoon one tablespoon batter into each liner.
    6. Top each with 1 teaspoon jam, and then top with remaining batter.
    7. Combine extra tablespoon sugar with extra cinnamon, and sprinkle over batter.
    8. Bake for 15 minutes.
    Today's lessons learned:
    • My friends really, really like muffins.
    • Six varieties of jam, and no one can decide which was best....
  • Tuesday, June 7, 2011

    Parsley smells delicious

    I wish I could tell you that tonight's dinner was a well-planned out meal I had been intending on eating for the last few days, but it wasn't. I decided it was going to be my dinner at about... 7 o'clock. Mama Bird, Sister Bird, and I went to the grocery store at 7:30, and we sat down to dinner at 9:30. It was one of the worst meal planning days I've had in a few weeks.

    But it was good enough I am writing a post about it only hours after eating it. So at least it was inspiring.

    I've been stealing Mama Bird's camera for more and more pictures. I think she's going to notice soon.

    Now, as for what this fish actually was... it was very, very easy to make. Perhaps that's why I picked it, because I didn't want to be in the kitchen all night. We had most of the ingredients: we still had fresh parsley from a salad I had made previously, we have an insane amount of lemon juice, and the rest is staples in our house. Except the fish. That we bought fresh.

    And really, this is incredibly easy to make. You blend some parsley, lemon juice, garlic, and then marvel at home wonderful your kitchen smells. Maybe you even call your mother into the kitchen to make her smell it too. She'll agree, but be annoyed you aren't finishing cooking everything else.

    With some green beans and pierogies, it's a a pretty quick meal. I doubled the amount of garlic in the original recipe, and didn't count the exact amount of parsley I used. Next time I would have used slightly less, because I thought there was a bit too much. Maybe that's just because I wanted to use the rest of the parsley mix as a sauce for my green beans.

    And sadly, my family did not enjoy this meal as much as I did. Mama Bird and I liked it, but Sister Bird and Papa Bird didn't. Sister Bird doesn't like fish, and Papa Bird chowed it but said he'd rather eat some 'real meat.' Oh well, I guess not everything can please everyone.

    Recipe from Budget Bytes
    (Makes 4 servings, with 170 calories and $2.32 per serving)
  • 4 tilapia fillets
  • 1/2 bunch fresh parsley
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
    1. Preheat oven to 450.
    2. Rinse parsley and put in food processor with lemon juice, olive oil, pepper, and garlic.
    3. Put fillets in baking dish and pour parsley mixture over them.
    4. Bake for 12-15 minutes.

    Today's lessons learned:
    • Sister Bird and Papa Bird don't like fish. That is sad.
  • Friday, June 3, 2011

    Not eating meat has not killed me.

    I feel obligated to post under that title because it's been a full week and I haven't updated, which makes me sad. A week without cooking? The only thing sadder is a week with no reading, which I would be totally unable to endure. The more observant of you may notice I posted a button for a 'Books' section, which remains... empty. I will be posting some stuff there once I have a few hours in the evening, because I haven't had a night at home since last Thursday. Which is also why I haven't really been cooking.

    My meatless month is still going well. I don't really crave meat unless someone mentions a specific dish, like my coworker telling me about the rub he used to grill up a few steaks, or smelling fajitas when sitting in a TexMex restaurant. Other than that, I've not missed it nearly as much as I thought I would.

    And as someone pointed out to me, yes, I know it isn't actually vegetarian to eat fish. I'm technically pescetarian for the month. And I have been eating a lot of delicious fish.

    So what have I been eating? Stuffed peppers, tuna-cannellini spinach salads, some pizza, some pasta... and a lot of just mixed veggie salads. Baby corn, red onion, carrot, cucumber, spinach, lettuce, green pepper, and other things I can't even remember. Oh, and I tried a veggie burger from a new local burger joint. Boyfriend Bird ordered a tuna burger, partially because he likes eating things he can't make at home and partially because he'd feel bad eating a huge burger in front of me. The veggie burger was nothing like the ones I would occasionally eat as a child, and it was not bad. But I didn't love it like I wanted to. I'm hoping to make my own and see how they turn out.

    I do have a few recipes to share with you, as well as some pictures of my dog getting filthy in our backyard, but Blogger is being mean about uploading the pictures, so that will be for later. I won't be home until Sunday, but hopefully I'll have the time to bake the next round of muffins and share some of the things I've made.

    After a brief but passionate fling with Mama Bird's camera, I'm thinking of spending a few hundred dollars and buying myself a nice one. Is it crazy to buy a nice camera solely for pictures of food? Something tells me definitely maybe.