Slightly Cheaper Than Therapy

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Sugar High Friday…er…Sunday August 26, 2007

Filed under: Cakes,chocolate — slightlycheaperthantherapy @ 8:54 pm

I’m discovering that in this world of foodie blogging, there are all sorts of blogging “events” where folks from around the world converge in their kitchens to creat new masterpieces based around one chosen theme.  Imagine my excitment when I found the Sugar High Fridays event.  Two of my favorite things (sugar and Fridays) brought together by a new favorite (food blogging).  This month’s theme is “Going Local!” and from the second I read about it I knew exactly what I’d be making. 

In my family this cake is simply known as “Chocolate Cake.”  It’s the only chocolate cake that ever gets made, and for good reason.  Every time I make it, and especially when I make it for a new audience, it always gets lots of ooohhhs and aaahhhs and various other near-orgasmic sounds.  It’s a relatively simple recipe with just a few varitions from your standard sheath cake.  But the thing that always gets me about this cake (besides the fact that it is sinfully delicious) is that people have really never had anything like it before.  And I’ve never seen it come out of any other kitchen or bakery. 

A few months ago, though, a coworker brought in a cake his wife had made because she’d had some leftover buttermilk that needed to be used.  My ears immediately perked up.  Turns out she’d found this recipe in an old southern cookbook and decided to give it a try.  I was so excited to see that somewhere else in this great big world this fabulous cake was being made and enjoyed. 

This cake really is a joy for me to make, not only because it’s so wonderful, but also because I feel connected to my roots when I make it.  And it’s the best kind of connection really, because it doesn’t involve an overly long and tiresome grin-and-bear-it family gathering.  No, when I make this recipe that’s been passed down for at least five generations I get to put on my rose colored glasses and focus on the fun my mom and I have had in the kitchen (and conveniently forget how it was always too small and we always argued over whether or not you really needed to beat the eggs for 5 minutes each).  It’s also fun to look back at the original recipe, which uses words like “oleo” and “heapin'” and really reflects my great-grandmother’s fastidious nature. 

Just to be safe, I wanted to confirm that this is in fact a “local” recipe.  After a few key search terms and 15 minutes of surfing, Google (wonderful thing that it is) told me that our Chocolate Cake falls into the category of traditional Texas sheath cakes.  Who knew we were the inventor of the sheath cake?  Certainly not me.  Oh and the use of buttermilk in this recipe also seems to be a southern thing.  So here’s a delicious chocolate cake, rich in taste and Texas tradition.

Chocolate Cake

1 cup water
3 heaping tablespoons of coca
1 capful of vanilla
1/2 cup Crisco
1 stick of Land O Lakes sweetcream butter
2 cup sugar
2 cup flour
2 eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon of baking soda

Preheat oven to 350.  Put first 5 ingredients in a small sauce pan and bring to a boil, stirring occassionally to mix.  Let this mixture cool to the touch.  While the cocoa mixture is cooling, put the flour and sugar in a large bowl and mix slowly to combine.  Add cooled cocoa mixture to the flour/sugar and mix well.  Add one egg and beat for 5 minutes.  Add second egg and beat for an additional 5 minutes.  While the last egg is mixing, mix the buttermilk and baking soda, stirring gently.  Fold into batter.  Pour into a greased 9×13″ pan and bake for 30-45 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.  Cover and seal with foil immediately after removing from the oven.  Allow cake to cool with foil covering.  This will take several hours.

Icing

5 tablespoons of milk
2 capfuls of vanilla
3 heaping tablespoons of cocoa
1 stick of Land O Lakes sweetcream butter
2 1/2  – 3 cups of powdered sugar

In your worst medium-sized sauce pan bring first 4 ingredients to a low boil, mixing well with a whisk.  Let cool slightly and add 1 c. of powdered sugar.  Mix well with hand mixer, and continue adding powdered sugar in 1/2-1 c. incriments.  The icing is ready when it starts to pull away from the sides of the pan.  Spread over cooled cake. 

Just the beginning...

 mmm....cake batter

Mom is great!  Make us the chocolate cake!

One more...just cause...

 

Tastes Like Jr. High

Filed under: Cheese,Pasta — slightlycheaperthantherapy @ 2:20 am

I think developed my love of all things cheese between 6th and 8th grades.  Most nights, if left to my own devices, I’d have chips and queso, grilled cheese or mac & cheese for dinner.  How I managed not to enter high school as an akward, seriously overweight teen is beyond me.  If I were to eat like this now, you’d have to grease doors to get me through them.  These days if I’m craving some comforting mac & cheese, I check my guilt at the door and dig into the full fat versions.  But now, thanks again to Cooking Light, I have found a lower fat recipe that is delish.  I’m a mac & cheese purist, so I omitted some of the jazz-it-up ingredients.  It very well could be mindblowing with these additions, but I’ll leave that for someone else to discover.

Creamy Stove-Top Macaroni & Chese (from Cooking Light)

4 c. uncooked medium elbow macaroni
3 T all-purpose flower
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
2 1/4 c. fat free milk
1/4 c. (2 oz.) 1/3 less fat cream cheese, softened
2 tsp. Dijon mustard (omitted from my version)
2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce (omitted from my version)
1/2 tsp. minced garlic (omitted from my version)
1 1/4 c. (5 oz.) shredded reduced fat cheddar cheese

Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat.  Drain and set aside.
While pasta cooks, place flour, salt and pepper in a large saucepan.  Add milk, stirring with a whisk until well blended.  Drop cream cheese by teaspoonfuls into milk mixture, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly.  Reduce heat and simmer for 2 minutes or until thick and cream cheese melts, stirring occassionally.  Stir in mustard, Worcestershire and garlic.  Simmer 1 minute.  Remove from heat.  Add cheddar cheese, stirring until the cheese melts.  Combine pasta and cheese sauce in a large bowl.  Toss well. 

Yields 6 (1 1/2 c.) servings.

 Mac & Cheese Sauce

 Mmmmmm….cheesey goodness.

Lighter Mac & Cheese

 

Honorable Mention

Filed under: Meats,Mexican — slightlycheaperthantherapy @ 2:02 am

Friday night I decided to give Mexican Night a go.  A few months ago, Friday night meant Ninfas for Rob and I.  While they don’t have the most inspired dishes, the do have pretty darn good strawberry margaritas and that avocado salsa they bring out (for free!) is fantastic.  But somewhere along the way my love of good ritas and dipping sauce got usurped by the desire to have less of me to love.  So we ditched our Mexican Nights in favor of something lighter from my kitchen.  I say mine because Rob rarely does more than make a sandwich or pour a bowl of cereal in it.

 Anyway, this Friday I went for a more interior Mexican than the usual Tex-Mex.  And while I know that food from the interior is, generally, a bit more bland (read: less cheesey) than Tex-Mex, it does have its own unique flavor.  However what I came up with wasn’t very flavorful at all.  Everthing was just sort of “bah”.  The chicken with tomatillo salsa and queso fresco didn’t have much kick to it, and the cilantro lime rice wasn’t very limey or cilantro-ey.  The rice I think I can fix, but I’m honestly not sure what to do with the tomatillo salsa.  I even used roasted hatch chiles for the love of pete.  But this dish photographed soooooooooooooooo well that I had to show it off.  Sometimes you’ve just got to admire a pretty package. 

 Chicken with Tomatillo Salsa and Queso Fresco

 Further evidence that it is my kitchen.  This is Rob’s version of helping me with dinner:

 refried black beans

 If you’d like to give this recipe a go, let me know and I’ll be happy to pass it on. 

 

Ketchup August 24, 2007

Filed under: Pasta — slightlycheaperthantherapy @ 5:02 pm

Since this week was crazy-go-nuts with the baseball game and book club, I slacked more than I intended to on the inaugural week of Slightly Cheaper Than Therapy.  But in an attempt to absolve myself of my over-commitment sins, I’m trying to catch up on all the yumminess that came out of my kitchen this week.

This recipe came from one of my many stacks of Cooking Light magazines, and it was YUM-EEEY!  Yes, so yummy it deserved two syllables.  This wasn’t the lightest thing that ever graced my table, but it was a terrific substitute for the horribly fattening pasta alfredo concoctions that I am so fond of.  And if that wasn’t enough, this dish has the potential to be extremely flexible.  You could come up with a ton of variations just by using whatever veggies and pasta you’ve got on hand.

Pasta

 Shrimp, Broccoli and Sundried Tomato Pasta

1/2 c. sundried tomatoes (not packed in oil), julienned
3 c. farfella (bow tie pasta)
1 lb. shrimp
1 clove of minced garlic
1/2 c. of reduced fat cream cheese
1/2 c. chicken broth
1 1/2 c. broccoli florets
1/2 tsp. dried basil
1/4 c. parmesan cheese
cooking spray

If your tomatoes aren’t soft and pliable, soak them in boiling water (removed from heat) for about 10 minutes or until they soften up.  While this is going on, cook the pasta. 

Heat medium sized skillet coated in cooking spray over medium-high heat.  Add garlic and sautee for 30 seconds.  Add shrimp and cook for about 3 or 4 minutes or until done.  Add the broth and cream cheese, stirring as the cheese melts.  Bring to a boil, then simmer for 4 minutes.  Add basil, tomatoes and broccoli and cook till thoroughly heated.  Top with parmesan cheese.

Serves 4 (2 c. servings)

*I adapted this a bit by using Barilla Plus corkscrew pasta (high in protein, fiber and Omega 3’s, but without the consistency of wheat pasta) and asiago cheese, because it’s what I had.  Next time I’ll definitely go with the parmesan, as the asiago seemed a bit off.  Also, I really wanted to add pine nuts to the mix, but I forgot to pick them up at the store. 

Next time, I think I’ll add some mushrooms, pine nuts and swap the basil for italian seasoning.  Roasted red bell peppers might also be interesting in this dish too. 

 

Not your mamma’s porkchops

Filed under: Meats — slightlycheaperthantherapy @ 2:52 am

Monday night I threw these together in under 20 minutes.  The inspiration came from a Cooking Light recipe and a Giada recipe from Foodnetwork.com, which were very similar.  Usually, my main problem with porkchops is that they turn out really dry.  They either come out of the original fire dry or they dry out when reheating the leftovers.  But this recipe stays ridiculously moist and tender.  We didn’t even need a knife to cut them!  Rob gave them 10 1/2 stars, and actually asked that they be put into the regular rotation.  Considering that they are pretty darn good for you, I don’t think I’ll have a problem obliging.  Because I’m trying really hard to get in the 4-6 veggie servings/day, I served this up with some broccoli with cheese sauce and corn.  Nothing too difficult and perfect for a Monday night.

 Parmesan Crusted Porkchops

Parmesan Crusted Porkchops

1  1/2 c. egg beaters
1.c. parmesan breadcrumbs  (I used Progresso)
3/4 c. parmesan
5 or 6 (1/4″) boneless porkchops
1/4 + 1/8 tsp. ground sage
1/4 tsp. ground thyme
6 T olive oil

 Put the first three ingredients in three separate dishes.  Add sage and thyme to breadcrumbs.  Coat the chops completely with the cheese, pressing to adhere.  Dip into egg beaters.  Coat completely with bread crumbs, pressing to adhere.  Heat oil in skillet over medium-high heat.  Add chops (in batches if necessary) and cook till golden brown, about 2-3 minutes per side.

*I cooked three chops at a time and divided the oil between the two batches. 

 

Whole lotta bakin’ goin’ on August 20, 2007

Filed under: Cakes,Cookies,Desserts — slightlycheaperthantherapy @ 8:19 pm

Every year my office holds one or two weeks worth of events to benefit the United Way.  I usually only get involved with the silent auction, but this year they decided to include a bake sale.  Since I tend to pride myself on my baking skills, this seemed like a terrific way to get more involved this year.  

My contributions are two of my favorite recipes: 

Lemon Blueberry Bundt Cake

Lemon Blueberry Bundt Cake

This is a better-for-you version that Cooking Light put out two years ago in their annual “best of”, and it’s so well done that you don’t even miss the superfluous fat and calories that get cut.  The lemon-berry, sweet-tart combination makes this light, but seriously satisfying all at once.  I am a huge fan of citrus and berries, so I make this one just about any chance I get.  Our wedding cake, which was out of this world, was lemon and raspberry with a traditional white cake.  Maybe next time I make this I’ll sub raspberries for the blueberries.  Mmmm…I kinda wish I’d thought of this earlier today!

Cake:

Cooking Spray
2 T granulated sugar
3 c. of all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. of baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 3/4 c. granulated sugar
1/4 c. Land O Lakes Sweet Cream Butter
1 T grated lemon rind
4 large eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 (16 oz) carton of reduced fat sour cream
2 c. fresh blueberries

Glaze:

1 c. powdered sugar
2 T fresh lemon juice

Preheat oven to 350. To prepare cake, coat a 12-cup bundt pan with cooking spray; Dust with 2 T granulated sugar. Set aside. Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups and level with a knife. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt, stirring with a whisk. Place 1 3/4 c. granulated sugar, butter and rind in a large bowl. Beat with mixer at medium speed until well blended (about 2 mins.). Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition (about 4 mins. total). Beat in vanilla and sour cream. Add flour mixture. Beat at medium speed just until combined. Gently fold in blueberries. Spoon batter into prepared pan. Bake at 350 for 1 hour or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove from oven and cover top with foil. Cool in pan for 15-20 minutes. Remove from pan and continue cooling on wire rack.
To prepare glaze, combine powdered sugar and lemon juice, stirring well with a whisk. Drizzle over cooled cake. Yields 16 servings.  If you really want the fat and calorie info, drop me a line and I’ll pass it on.  But isn’t it good enough to know that they are a bit better for you than your average bundt cake?  :o)

*I don’t own a wire rack, so I just let it cool in the pan for a few hours before I glazed this.  Once I used my cover-it-immediately-out-of-the-oven trick, but it was tooooooooooooo heavy the next day.  Day 1 it was superb, though.  So if you make this and it will be consumed within 12 or so hours, the covering trick makes it super duper moist.

Cheesecake Cookies

Cheesecake Cookies

I got these from the lovely author of www.bakingbites.com, and first tried them out last week.  They were so so so so good that I knew I had to share them with the masses at the bake sale.  How could I not?  They’re based on one of my all time favorite things:  cheesecake.  I’d eat cheesecake for breakfast if I thought I could stand the self-inflicted guilt and belly ache.  Alas, my will power is too strong in the morning for straight -up cheesecake, but these little darlings are light and small enough to let me get my daily confection in early, and not feel too terribly bad about it.  

½ cup cream cheese, soft (1/2 block)
½ cup butter, soft (1 stick)
1 cup sugar
1 egg
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp baking powder
1 cup all purpose flour

Preheat oven to 350F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, beat together butter and cream cheese. Gradually beat in sugar at medium speed until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and salt.  Whisk together baking powder and flour in a small bowl and, mixing by hand or at low speed, add to cream cheese mixture.  Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls onto prepared baking sheet.

Bake at 350 for 12-14 minutes, until the bottom edge just barely turns brown.

*I usually get about 2 dozen out of these, though the original recipe says you can get 3.

 

And so it begins…

Filed under: Uncategorized — slightlycheaperthantherapy @ 8:06 pm

I seriously have no business starting up a second blog when my first and original blog, Cheaper Than Therapy, is often neglected these days.  Still, I feel compelled to join this foodie blogging world, as it has really gotten me back into my kitchen with gusto and ambition.  And since I’m not too keen on venting my frustrations or sharing my vacation photos with the foodie world at large, I’ve decided that it’s best to start a new space for my foodie musings. 

 I’m also fairly certain that a few of my friends could care less about strategies for keeping your cake moist or your chicken tender.  Regardless of these people’s obvious shortcomings, I think I’ll spare them the details because I’m super thoughtful and kind like that.  But for the rest of you, this should and hopefully will be a regular recording of the new things I try and the old favorites that keep popping up on my table. 

 Happy eating!