Darkly Chocolate Sheet Cake with Fudge Frosting

I had the end of a bag of powdered sugar and a little less than a cup of buttermilk. All I could think of to use them both was frosting but what to frost? I didn’t want to fuss with cake pans or layers so I went with a super easy chocolate sheet pan recipe.

The coffee makes it seem even more chocolately. By adding a full cup, the cake is super moist and tender.

The creme de cacao reduces the sweetness of the frosting. Be sure and add it after you’ve pulled the frosting from the heat as you don’t want to burn it all off.

An easy and delicious cake recipe. I definitely recommend it!

Darkly Chocolate Sheet Cake

2 sticks unsalted butter
½ cup Dutch process or natural unsweetened cocoa
1 cup hot coffee
2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups granulated sugar
½ cup buttermilk, at room temperature
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease and flour a 9″ x 13″ pan.

Melt the butter in a double boiler. Stir in the cocoa and hot coffee.

Sift together the flour, soda, and salt. Place in the bowl of stand mixer with the sugar.

Pour the cocoa butter mixture over the dry ingredients. Mix on low until combined. Beat in the buttermilk, eggs and vanilla. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.

Bake the cake for 30 minutes, or until it tests done with a toothpick. When done, the cake will begin to pull away from the edge of the pan. Remove the cake from the oven and cool it on a rack.

I use a tall sided pan for baking the cake so that when I pour over the warm frosting, it doesn’t make a mess.

Fudge Frosting

8 tablespoons unsalted butter
¼ cup Dutch process or natural unsweetened cocoa
6 tablespoons buttermilk, at room temperature
3 ¼ cups confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon creme de cacoa

Melt the butter in a medium-sized saucepan. Stir in the cocoa and buttermilk.

Bring the mixture to a boil, then remove it from the heat and mix in the confectioners’ sugar and creme de cacoa, beating until smooth.

Pour the frosting over the cake while the frosting is still warm. Serve the cake right from the pan.

Fresh Peach Schnapps and Tequila Cocktail

The Peach Tree On The Southern Wall

 

The peach tree on the southern wall
Has basked so long beneath the sun,
Her score of peaches great and small
Bloom rosy, every one.
A peach for brothers, one for each,
A peach for you and a peach for me;
But the biggest, rosiest, downiest peach
For Grandmamma with her tea.
Christina Georgina Rossetti

 

I bought a bunch of peaches from Chilton County, Alabama (home of the best peaches on the planet) and decided that I wouldn’t save the best for Grandma’s tea but rather to make a cocktail.

Sweet and juicy, like the fruit itself. Be careful of the sneaky kick from the alcohol!

Fresh Peachy Tequila Cocktail

1 ripe peach, peeled and sliced
1 teaspoon lime juice
2 ounces tequila
1 ounce peach schnapps
1 tablespoon agave nectar

Toss the peach slices in the lime juice both for flavor and for them to keep their color. Place the peaches and the liquid and all other ingredients with about a cup of ice in a blender and blend until smooth.

Serve over ice.

Chocolate Chip Snickers Cookies

I was really craving chocolate and was happily munching on a Fun-sized Snickers when my hind brain went, “Wait just a minute! Why don’t you put one of those in a chocolate chip cookie?”

I love my brain.

I cut each fun size I could rescue from the maw of my parents into 6 pieces. I ended up with a cup of Snickers pieces.

Definitely refrigerate the dough, as it will spread a bit more when it isn’t cold, making for thinner, less chewy cookies.

The cookies are really good – the caramel and nuts was a lovely addition.

Chocolate Chip Snickers Cookies

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 cup bittersweet chocolate morsels
1 cup fun-sized Snickers, each candy cut into 6 pieces

Combine flour, baking soda, and salt in small bowl. Set aside.

Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla extract in large mixer bowl until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in morsels and Snickers.

Cover bowl with plastic wrap and put in the refrigerator for 1 hour. It can be stored for up to 3 days before use.

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Drop rounded tablespoon of cookie dough onto ungreased baking sheets.

Bake for 10 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on baking sheets for 1 minute; remove to wire racks to cool completely.

 

Rosemary Garlic Sage Rubbed Grilled Chicken

I bought a whole chicken the other day and found a partial case of old light beer when cleaning my parent’s garage. That made it easy to decide to grill it using the beer can up the the butt method. The added moisture from the beer keeps the chicken moist through the grilling, so you don’t need to brine it.

The rub is all things that are delicious with chicken – rosemary, garlic, sage plus salt and pepper. While the amount I fixed had enough for one chicken, it keeps well in an airtight container, so feel free to double the recipe and keep extra on hand.

I forgot to take a picture before I started carving but you can see how moist the meat and beautifully crisp the skin is after 70 minutes grilling and ten minutes of resting. Very tasty and the leftovers make awesome chicken salad.

Be very careful when removing the chicken from the grill – the can will be slick and the chicken is now top heavy so it can easily slide off a pan. Of course a few grassy notes won’t harm anyone and, if you’re quick to pick it back up, no will ever know you dropped it.

Not that I speak from experience or anything.

Rosemary Garlic Sage Rubbed Grilled Chicken


3-5 lb whole chicken
1 can beer
2 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1 teaspoon granulated garlic
1 teaspoon rubbed sage
½ teaspoon black pepper
6 tablespoons butter, softened

Pour off about a third of the can of beer and cut the top partially off. Drop in the garlic cloves.

Combine the salt, rosemary, garlic, sage and black pepper. Mix with your fingers. Set aside.

Loosen the skin of the chicken and smear pats of butter under the skin. Use any leftover butter to coat the outside of the skin. Sprinkle the rub onto the chicken about 1 hour before grilling, turning it over to coat all sides.

Set up the grill for indirect cooking. I usually make a half circle with the coals. Ease the very slick chicken down on top of the beer can. It will take a little effort to work it down but, once it is on, the legs will act as a tripod and it will sit securely on the grates.

Grill for 1 hour, with the back of the chicken facing the coals. Take its temperature after 60 minutes and then turn it carefully to finish cooking with the breast side facing the coals.

When the internal temperature has reached 170, remove the chicken from the grill. Use tongs to separate the hot can of beer from the chicken and discard. Let rest for at least 5 minutes before carving and serving.

Grilled and Filled Pears

I fired up the grill to do steaks for my Dad for Father’s Day and decided that we’d go pear shaped for dessert. I like baked pears (and apples) and figured wood smoke would be a delicious addition.

Not really knowing too much about pears, I just picked up some firm ones from the grocery. You need them to keep their shape, so don’t choose soft ones.

I filled the pears with a sweetened and flavored cream cheese, that I rolled into balls and then rolled the balls in chopped pecans.

Once the steaks were grilled and were resting, I put the pears on to get grill marks. I then closed off the vents and let the pears roast in a pan above the dying fire while we ate. Once we finished and the plates cleared, I pressed in the nut ball and served the grilled and filled pears.

Very simple and quite tasty!

Grilled and Filled Pears

3 pears
2 tablespoons lemon juice mixed with 2 tablespoons water
4 ounces of cream cheese, softened
¼ cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ cup pecans, finely chopped
2 tablespoons butter

Cut pears in half and core. Rub the exposed surface with diluted lemon juice to keep from browning.

Combine cream cheese, brown sugar and cinnamon. Roll into balls the size of the cored cavities and then roll the ball in chopped pecans. Place into the fridge.

Place pear halves cut side down on the grill grates and roast for 5 minutes. Drop the butter into the aluminum pan and let melt. Use tongs to remove the halves to the pan and rub the cut sides in the butter. Leave the pears butter side down and place the pan on the grill away from the coals and continue to roast until tender, about 15 minutes more or until pears have softened and yield gently when squeezed.

When the pears are done, remove the nut balls from the fridge. Flip over the pears and press a nut ball into the cored cavity of each pear half. You can leave the pears on the fire to stay warm or remove pan from the grill and serve.

Lambrusco Sangria

We opened a rather large bottle of Riunite Lambrusco to have with grilled steaks and didn’t manage to finish it that night.

So I decided to turn it into sangria. It makes a lightly effervescent and very refreshing drink. I basically used the fruit in the fridge – I would have added about a cup of grapes (peeled) had I had any or a banana. You want a mix of citrus and other mild fruit flavors that will commingle with liquids but still retain their shapes.

The basic rule of thumb is for every 2 cups of Lambrusco, add about 1 cup of other flavoring liquid – I like a mix of orange juice and triple sec. A full bottle of wine is about 3 cups.

The perfect accompaniment to the cicadas, katydids and laughter that were the music to our socially distant cocktail hour on a lovely June evening.

Lambrusco Sangria

1 orange or 3 tangerines/clementines/satsumas, peeled and cut into rounds
1 apple, peeled, cored and cut into chunks
1 peach, peeled and cut into slices
½ cup cantaloupe chunks
3/4 cup orange juice
¼ cup triple sec
2 tablespoons agave nectar (more as necessary)
2 cups Lambrusco

In a pitcher, stir together the fruit pieces. Add in orange juice and orange liqueur and agave nectar. Let sit for at least 30 minutes for the flavors to marry.

Stir in Lambrusco and ice cubes. Stir vigorously and taste for sweetness. Add more agave nectar, if needed. If it isn’t effervescent enough, add a splash of club soda or sparkling water. Serve over ice, placing some of the fruit in each glass.

 

Reimagining Joy (With Pecans)

I’m not above scarfing down many of the candy bars that populate the displays near cash registers. Including Almond Joy. However, I’m a southern girl who prefers pecans over every other nut and so, when I made these at home, I used toasted pecans instead.

I looked up several recipes on the internet but went with the one my friend, Conan, sent to me. This one didn’t enrobed them in chocolate – just put everything together and let the morsels work their magic with the pecans, coconut and sweetened condenses milk.

A quick and easy recipe that is very addicting.

Pecan Joy

14 ounces shredded, sweetened coconut
14 ounce can of sweetened condensed milk
2 cups bittersweet chocolate morsels
1 cup toasted and salted pecans, chopped

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, mix the coconut, sweetened condensed milk, chocolate chips and pecans. Stir until combined.

Using a small ice cream scoop, press together portions of the mix onto the parchment covered baking sheets. Use damp fingers to push everything together into a tidy round.

Bake for 17-20 minutes, rotating the baking sheets midway through baking. The pecan joys will be done when the edges and bottom turn golden brown.

Cool on a rack and store in an airtight container.

Small Batch Banana Pudding

Only have a couple of over ripe bananas but really want banana pudding? Here is a recipe that works with only a couple of bananas and serves 4.

I like to wait until the bananas are getting rather brown and then mash them with a fork to mix in with the pudding. It makes for better banana taste throughout the dish, too.

Very tasty!

Small Batch Banana Pudding

¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
dash of salt
2 eggs, separated
1 cup milk
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
2 overripe bananas, mashed with a fork
about 20 Nilla Wafers

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Combine ¼ cup sugar, flour and salt in top of double boiler. Stir in 2 egg yolks and milk. Whisk to combine. Cook, uncovered, over boiling water, stirring constantly until thickened, about 10 minutes.

Beat egg whites on high speed until they begin to thicken. Add the 2 tablespoons sugar and continue to beat until soft peaks form.

Remove pudding from heat; add vanilla and mashed banana. Stir well.

Crumble up 10 Nilla Wafers and scatter in the bottom of 4 medium ramekins. Place 4 whole Nilla Wafers along the outside.

Spoon banana pudding evenly between the four ramekins. Place meringue on top, spreading to the edge to cover the pudding. Crumble four more wafers and sprinkle over the top of the meringue.

Place ramekins on a baking tray and bake in an oven for 10 minutes. Let cool before putting in the refrigerator to chill completely before serving.

Fried Mozzarella Sticks

I had the peanut oil out at lunch and, after cleaning up from our meal, took a nap to dream up things to fry in it.

Cheese! And, not just any cheese, but mozzarella.

We didn’t use all the pizza sauce on Friday’s sourdough cast iron pizza so that was our dipping sauce. Below is the basic recipe:

Pizza sauce – dashes of basil and oregano plus a sprinkle of salt in a small can of plain tomato sauce, heated in a saucepan over low heat. Taste after it is warmed and add more of whatever it is missing. If there is a metallic taste from the can, consider adding in a pinch of sugar.

You can definitely season the bread crumbs – as our sauce was flavorful, I didn’t but a little cayenne would have been tasty.

As Mom said of the fried cheese, “It is like a pizza melting in my mouth!”

Fried Mozzarella Sticks

8 oz Mozzarella cheese block
1 egg
½ cup all-purpose flour
½ bread crumbs
oil for frying – I used peanut

pizza sauce or marinara sauce

Cut the cheese block in half and then each half in six equal size pieces.

Place the flour in a pie plate. Scramble the egg in a shallow dish. Spread breadcrumbs in another pie plate. Coat the cheese sticks in flour, dredge in the egg and then coat with bread crumbs. Place them on a rack above a baking sheet.

Freeze for at least an hour or up to two.

Heat about a quarter inch of peanut oil or other neutral oil in a large skillet. Bring the oil to about 375 degrees F. Fry for about a minute each side or until golden brown.

Serve with warmed pizza or marinara sauce for dipping.

Beer Pretzels

I made my brother-in-law jealous with all the pretzels I’ve been making and not sharing, so I decided to make a batch for him to enjoy (and the rest of us as well, as this recipe makes 12-16 pretzels).

The good thing about this batch is that you can press pause after shaping them and place them in the freezer for later boiling and baking. It means delicious, warm pretzels later without repeating the process. You boil them from frozen, so it is a nice thing to keep around for a craving.

These make soft pretzels with a nice yeasty taste. Pop leftover cooked ones in the toaster oven for a quick rewarming. I gave my sister a bag of unbaked, frozen ones to take home and cook, whenever they want more.

Beer Pretzels

1 cup warm water
½ cup sourdough starter
1 tablespoon rapid-rise yeast (about a package and a half)
½ cup packed dark-brown sugar
½ cup beer
6 ½ cups unbleached bread flour
4 tablespoons coarse salt
½ cup (1 stick) frozen unsalted butter, plus more for serving
Nonstick cooking spray
½ cup baking soda

1 egg, beaten in 1 tablespoon water
Coarse salt

In a medium bowl, mix together warm water, yeast, and 1/2 cup brown sugar; let stand until foamy, 5 to 10 minutes.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, whisk together flour and coarse salt. Grate frozen butter into bowl and mix with your hands until mixture is crumbly. Stir beer into yeast mixture and mix into flour until a shaggy dough is formed and liquid is absorbed.

Using the dough hook attachment, mix dough on medium speed until dough is tight, elastic, and smooth, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer to a large, lightly oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator; let chill at least 8 hours and up to overnight.

Remove dough from refrigerator and let come to room temperature.

Roll dough out into a 14-by-12-inch rectangle. Cut dough into about a dozen 12-inch-long strips, each about 1-inch wide.

Working with one piece of dough at a time, roll out each piece into a 24 to 30-inch-long rope (about 3/4-inch thick), starting from the center and working toward the ends. Make a “U” shape with the rope and cross the ends over twice, pinching at the bottom of the “U” to form a pretzel. Return to baking sheet and repeat process with remaining dough.

If you don’t want to bake all your pretzels at once you can freeze them overnight or for several days at this point. Just place the shaped pretzels on a baking sheet and place into the freezer. If you’re not going to eat them right away, place in a zip top bag once hard frozen.

When ready to continue, preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Coat a large baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray and sprinkle lightly with salt. In a large saucepan, bring 8 cups water to a boil. Add in baking soda. Simmer pretzels, one at a time, about 30 seconds, holding them under the surface of the water, if necessary, using a spider or slotted spatula. For pretzels straight out of the freezer, boil for 1 minute. Place on wire rack to drain, then transfer to prepared baking sheet and repeat process with remaining pretzels.

Coat pretzels with egg wash. Sprinkle pretzels with coarse salt. Place in oven and bake for 5 minutes. Rotate baking sheet, and bake until deep brown, 6 – 8 minutes more. Remove from baking sheet and transfer to a wire rack to cool slightly.

Serve warm with butter or mustard.