Cake makes everything better!

Nothing fixes whatever ails one like a nice slice of homemade cake with rich, creamy, and sweet frosting. In my case it was a pulled back muscle and a epically frustrating day at work. They are but distant memories after a generous slice of this cake. So I say Marie Antoinette had it right when she most infamously said, “Let them have cake!”

Yes … let us have cake and let it be Chocolate bourbon porter cake with brown sugar bourbon porter buttercream frosting. Sugar, cake, and booze all wrapped up in one. Let us have several slices of cake!!!

This recipe was taken from: http://thebeeroness.com/2011/12/08/chocolate-stout-cake-with-porter-ganache/ and modified.

Ingredients

For the Cake:
3 cup flour
1 tbs baking powder
2 tsp baking soda
¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp kosher salt
2 sticks (16 tbs) unsalted butter
2 cup sugar
4 eggs
1 1/2 cup (2 3.5 oz bars) 72% dark chocolate, chopped
1 1/2 cup Chocolate Stout
1 cup of brewed coffee, cooled

For The Filling (Buttercream):
1 cup beer
1 cup of brown sugar
24 tbs of butter softened
1 tsp salt
2 cups powdered sugar

Directions

Cake:
Preheat the oven to 350.
Combine flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda and the cocoa powder in a bowl and whisk until well combined.
In the bowl of a stand mixer add the butter and sugar and beat until well combined. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each egg, scraping the bottom of the bowl between additions.
In a microwave safe bowl, add the 72% chocolate. Microwave for 30 seconds, remove and stir. Repeat until the chocolate is melted.
Add the melted chocolate to the sugar/egg mixture and blend well. While the mixer is on a medium-low setting, add the stout and then the coffee, continue to combine until well mixed, then add the flour mixture a little at a time until well combined.
Grease and flour two 9 inch cake pans. Bake for between 25 and 35 minutes (for cupcakes about 18 minutes) or until the cake springs back when lightly touched. Remove from oven and allow to cool.
Frosting:
Place the beer in a microwave safe bowl, heat on high until very hot, add the brown sugar and stir until completely dissolved. Allow to cool to room temperature.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, add the butter (must be softened to room temperature or it will not work), salt and powdered sugar, beat until combined. Add the brown sugar mixture and mix slowly until mostly combined, then turn the mixer on high and then whip until the frosting is fluffy and well combined.
Assembly:
Place the first layer of your cake on a a cake plate. Top with your brown sugar butter cream. Add the second cake layer. Top with frosting and spread all over with a offset spatula.

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Roast Chicken Salad with Butternut Squash and Farro

I’m setting myself up right for healthy eating this week.  I already have a refrigerator full of delicious items from Chef Grifka at calitable.com for that extra helping hand at eating healthy.  Ok, I have a little bit less than a refrigerator full – the breakfast quinoa and spinach and garbanzo soup were DELISH!  Check her site out and order some food this week.  Or next!

Shaving the butternut squash

Shaving the butternut squash

I wanted to keep the healthy trend going. Chef Grifka has an all vegetarian menu I believe, with some items gluten free and vegan.  I’ve also been doing “No Booze January” this month, in addition to starting training for doing a part of El Camino de Santiago this May.  Today I did a 13.5 mile hike in Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve, followed by a surprise Power Yoga class.   Let’s not forget all the hard work I did at Boot Camp last month before the holiday onslaught.   It’s all healthy healthy healthy today, and that includes the chocolate Muscle Milk, blueberry, peanut butter smoothie I made when I got home from the hike and yoga.  Mmmmm….I could use one for dessert right now.  But that is not what this post is about!

Shredded rotisserie chicken

Shredded rotisserie chicken

This post is about a recipe I tore out of a Men’s Health Magazine of all places!!   The January issue had a section dedicated to eating raw foods to help jump start a healthy new year.  Their recipe for Roast Chicken Salad with Butternut squash and Farro looked pretty darn tasty, so I tore it out and vowed to make it.  Tonight was the night, with the healthy planets aligning and all.

The article asserted that peeled and thinly shaved veggies like butternut squash and turnips didn’t need to be cooked because they would be sweet and tender and perfect for a protein-rich winter salad.  It sounded like something right up my ally.  I love those veggies and haven’t ever had them raw.  The trick was just to shave them thin enough, which turned out to be easy enough to do with the peeler I have.

Getting the grapes and parsnips ready

Getting the grapes and parsnips ready

I can’t find a link to the article on-line so I will just reproduce the recipe for you below.   The only modifications I made were doubling the recipe to make sure I have leftovers going into the week.  I also used fresh squeezed OJ from Cara Cara oranges.  Man  – I love Cara Cara oranges!!

 

 

 

 

Roast Chicken with Butternut Squash and Farro

  • 1 cup farro
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgen olive oil
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 2 tsp minced fresh ginger
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 2 cups roughly torn rotisserie chicken (skin and bones removed)
  • 2 medium parsnips, peeled and shaved
  • 3 cups peeled and thinly shaved butternut squash
  • 1 cup red seedless grapes
  • 1/3 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/4 cup toasted pumpkin seeds
  • 3 oz soft goat cheese crumbled

1) Place the farro in 3 cups of water (or chicken broth for more flavor) in a medium pot. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook until tender, about 25 minutes.  Drain and cool.

2) In a large bowl, whisk together the olive oil, OJ, cumin, ginger, salt, and pepper

3) Add the farro, torn chicken, parsnips, squash, grapes to the bowl; toss everything to coat with the dressing.  Top with pumpkin seeds and goat cheese.

The finished salad!

The finished salad!

The article indicates that this could be served on a bed of baby kale for even more super nutrition.  I have some and might try it next serving, but it was super delicious as it was.  The shaved veggies were indeed sweet and tender, and worked great  with the sweet, spicy, dressing of OJ infused with ginger and smoky cumin.   I’m really happy with this recipe and even a bit surprised – no offense Men’s Health but you’ve had a LOT of misses when it comes to recipes.

You could even serve this with baby kale, but it's great just like this!

You could even serve this with baby kale, but it’s great just like this!

I’m going to enjoy this all week on and off.  The article says that with every bite I should be getting carotenoids, that will reduce cancer and heart disease, combined with protein from the chicken and fiber-rich parsnips and farro.  I’m just going to say I’m getting a fork full of a darn good dish!

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Korean Inspired Sandwiches for a hike

It always starts with a simple curiosity, doesn’t it?  A whim, a capricious thought, a lingering wonder, a down right primal urge to know exactly what is being sold in that really REALLY big new shiny store called Zion Market, out on Clairemont Mesa Blvd.    Well  – it happened last weekend.

At the check out line of Zion Market, just "checking it out"....oops.

At the check out line of Zion Market, just “checking it out”….oops.

I was in the area getting supplies for a trek in Northern Spain this upcoming spring and had to drive by back Zion Market, so I decided to stop and go in.  My friend who accompanied me to REI decided to skip.  I won’t fault him.  His main dietary staples are bacon and diet coke and I’m pretty sure he would have gone into shock the moment he stepped in the store.  Then I would have to call 911 and go to the ER with him.   In the end, a perfectly good adventurous food shopping trip would have been ruined under that scenario, so I dove in on my own.

Marinating the organic kurobuta pork belly

Marinating the organic kurobuta pork belly

I knew I was in trouble when I had two items in my hand held basket within the first minute.  They were good items though (the classic Korean cabbage kimchi and Korean pancake mix, Kimchjeon) and I was not about to deprive myself of them or the ensuing experience.

I wandered the aisles, marveled at things I had never saw before and equally wanted to try and not try, making mental notes to remember to come back when I was looking for all the special ingredients that are usually hard to find except in this store.  Starches of every kind, beans like I’ve never imagined, crazy amounts of yummy pickled things, and amazing produce!!

Kimchijeon ingredients

Kimchijeon ingredients

In the end, I made it to the check out with an overflowing basket and some things in my free hand.  I was happy.  Now to cook all this stuff!  And eat it.  Who was going to eat it?!  That’s when the moment of genius struck: make Korean inspired sandwiches and bring them on the hike I was doing the next day with some friends. I wanted to thank everyone for joining me on my first training hike in preparation for El Camino de Santiago in May and I could think of no better way than feeding them.

Batter!!  It should be really thin with finely chopped veggies.

Batter!! It should be really thin with finely chopped veggies.

Time to make the Kimchijeon

Time to make the Kimchijeon

I got home and set about the task at hand.  First off: marinating the organic kurobuta (berkshire) pork belly in LOTS of chile, garlic, ginger, and other good stuff.  (recipe below)   While that was going, I chopped up the veggies and kimchi, mixed up the pancake batter per the instructions and started frying up savory deliciousness in disk form. It took a little while to get the hang of it.   They need to be small and thin so they are crispy yet tender on the inside.  I ended up switching to a skillet with a little more peanut oil in it for the final batches.

Mmmm...pork belly!  Problem is my house smelled like a Korean BBQ restaurant after.  Wait...is that really a problem??

Mmmm…pork belly! Problem is my house smelled like a Korean BBQ restaurant after. Wait…is that really a problem??

Once those were done, the marinated pork belly went on the griddle ala Korean bbq style.  It wasn’t totally tender and delicious after cooking, so the next morning I lined a sheet pan with foil and cooked it at 300 deg F for about 45-55 min and chopped it up into bite sized pieces perfect for a sandwich.

While the pork belly was cooking, I made super thin egg omelets to go with the pancake sandwiches.  I sliced up the ciabatta and baguettes and toasted them after brushing with a little olive oil.  Then it was assembly time: on the ciabatta I put a kimchi pancake, an egg omelet, and a generous squeeze of Asian mayonnaise which is slightly sweeter.   The baguettes got the pork belly, some sliced pickled radish, lettuce, and some of the same mayo.

Really thin omelets to go with the kimchijeon

Really thin omelets to go with the kimchijeon

Toasted bread.  Always toast the bread.  Mmmm

Toasted bread. Always toast the bread. Mmmm

The sammies got wrapped and packed, then put into my new bag I was taking for a test drive on this hike.  At the second peak of the hike (South Fortuna in Mission Valley Regional Park), I surprised everyone with a little lunch. Well, they knew I had food but what it was remained a mystery.    Judging by my leftovers (hardly any…only one pancake and egg on ciabatta, and ALL of the original back up PB&J’s in case there were any picky eaters) the sandwiches were a hit!   That really made my day.  Besides having a great hike on a beautiful day with some awesome people of course.  The hikers were really troopers, with one recovering from a nasty cold,  and good company for sure.

Now, to try to top this for the next hike.  I think burritos were mentioned…

Kimchijeo and egg omelet on ciabatta with mayo

Kimchijeo and egg omelet on ciabatta with mayo

Pork Belly sandwich, with lettuce, pickled radish, and mayo on a baguette

Pork Belly sandwich, with lettuce, pickled radish, and mayo on a baguette

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oh and let’s not forget these little delicious treats I picked up in the food court from a chain called Cocohodo: fresh made walnut pastries with sweet red bean paste and walnuts on the inside.  SUPER YUM!!  And I don’t usually like sweet red bean paste.

 

Walnut pastry from Cocohodo

Walnut pastry from Cocohodo

For the pork belly spicy marinade: 

Combine the following ingredients, add pork belly, and let marinate for at least an hour.
3 tablespoons Korean red chili pepper paste (gochujang)
1 tablespoon Korean red chili pepper flakes (gochugaru)
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice wine (or mirin)
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon grated ginger
1/8 teaspoon black pepper

 

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Simply chicken teriyaki for a stressful day

Even I will admit: you may not want to “Take My Life and Eat It” on this one.  Or maybe you will.    Either way it’s been a crazy week and a crazy day today, summed up in one word: PLUMBING.  You don’t think about it, wonder how it works, or wonder where all that “stuff” goes…until it all goes bad.  And when it goes bad, does it go bad.

Chicken Teriyaki with garlicky gai lam

Chicken Teriyaki with garlicky gai lam

So, long story short: a pipe lining repair in the neighbors house overshot their section of the shared main drainage line and blocked me out.  The result: NO DRAINING for me.  It’s getting fixed now by the people who made the error, after some direct phone calls and heated exchanges.  It’s amazing how much energy is expended when we get our hackles, even for a moment.

The problem all went down right in the middle of me prepping for lunch of course.  The flame was turned off several times, as I went running out to figure out what was going on or to bang on the neighbors door.    I have no idea why I was even attempting to cook in the midst of this crisis.  Oh yeah, I was hungry.  Very hungry.

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This recipe is from Sam the Cooking Guy’s website.  I amped it up with oyster mushrooms and LOTS of extra ginger and garlic.  The garlicky gai lam (Chinese broccoli) I got at the Korean market was a great side to it as well.  Just chop into inch long pieces, sauté on high some garlic for a minute in peanut oil, and add the gai lam until slightly charred.

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The recipe for the chicken is as follows: from (http://thecookingguy.com/cookbook/recipe.php?id=625)

Simply Terikayi Chicken

  • 2 tablespoons peanut oil
  • 1 bunch green onions, 1/2 of them cut into 1 inch pieces and the rest finely chopped
  • 1 large clove garlic, chopped fine (or like 4-5 if you like garlic. I do)
  • 1-1 inch piece of ginger, peeled and finely chopped (or 2 inches…mmmmm ginger!!)
  • 1 lb chicken thighs, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1/4-1/3 cup bottled teriyaki sauce (I used Fresh and Easy all natural variety)

Steps

  1. Add oil to pan or wok and heat until almost smoking
  2. Add green onion, garlic & ginger – stir fry 2 minutes, remove from pan
  3. Get pan super hot, add a little more oil and ddd chicken
  4. Cook quickly until almost done then add vegetables and and sauce
  5. Mix all together well until heated through and serve on steamed rice
  6. Topped with finely chopped green onion

In the end, everything is going to turn out ok and I will eventually have working plumbing There are also some lessons to be learned here, as in everything I suppose.  First, take care of you home.  It’s where you live.  Secondly, stand your ground firmly but politely – get fixed what has been done incorrectly by others.  Thirdly, treat others with kindness and respect, no matter the situation.  And lastly, and most importantly, there is ALWAYS room for good food!

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Get out of bed early chocolate chip pancakes with bananas

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Sometimes you need to get up early and make dark chocolate chip pancakes with sliced banana on top. This morning was one of those mornings. I needed the fortitude to take down my Christmas tree. I broke out my trusty Costco sized bag of Krusteaz buttermilk mix. It’s a 10 lb bag…does anyone want some? Seriously. Come and get it!!

Regardless of it gynormous size, it’s really my go to pancake treat solution. All you do is add water, lightly mix, add any extras and pour on the griddle! This morning I added some dark chocolate chunks, sliced up some banana, sprinkled some powdered sugar, and added a light drizzle of Trader Joe’s Organic Midnight Moo syrup. Breakfast treat done!!

Ok – so it may not be on the sugar-free juice all raw gluten-free macrobiotic New Years cleanse everyone is on. But hey, I’m not drinking alcohol for the month so I need to compensate somehow!!

Now to tackle that Christmas tree…

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Lunch with the rain

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Inspired by the chefs over at Canal House Cooks Lunch, I was inspired to do a little simple “this is what I ate for lunch” post.

I needed something simple, fast, and healthy. I’m in a Bootcamp right now and my lasagna and wine for dinner last night at my favorite Italian restaurant with one of my favorite peeps, although delicious perhaps wasn’t in the Bootcamp food program.

After dinner, I stopped across the street and picked up one of my last Community Supported Agricultural Bags. Lots of good stuff, including pea shoots, even at this time of year! I love San Diego’s growing season.

The menu was decided: grilled salmon patties (ok, they were frozen – cut me some slack!), garlicky sautéed peat shoots, and oven baked crispy sweet potato fries – all with a maple, dark soy, sesame oil, togarashi glaze. Not half bad Wilgenbusch. Not half bad. Now to keep eating on and Bootcamp on!

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I made my own yogurt!!

I recently added NPR to my Facebook feed and am really liking the gems they post, but arguably my favorite one so far was the post “Yes, It’s Worth It To Make Your Own Yogurt” by Nicole Spiridakis.  Before you flip out and say, “My parents used to make yogurt in the 70’s” or “You’ve gone totally crunchy Craig” let me explain please.   It is TOTALLY worth it to make your own yogurt.  There.  Clear enough?!  I think my argument was succinct and to the point, no?  Ok, I will expound upon my, and Nicole’s thesis more.

After, and if, you get past the “my life is über fab and I’m moving to Casablanca” part she makes some good points about knowing with one hundred percent certainty what is in the yogurt.  I like that.  And the ease of it.  It is really easy.     I will add my own reasons here too.  I’m a little, uhm….on the lactose intolerant side.  Ok, a lot.  I love yogurt but too much dairy, even with all the good bacteria, is not such a good thing.  And I often forget to take the pills that go with dairy that are supposed to help.   And those soy yogurts??  BLECH!   So to think that I can use whatever milk I like is just amazing!  And I know exactly what’s in it?  Even cooler.  100% my own doing.

My first jar of cultivated yogurt! With a serving missing already. Yum.

My first jar of cultivated yogurt! With a serving missing already. Yum.

I just made my first batch and it was really that easy.  Heat the milk up to 180 degrees, cool it down to 115 deg, stir in 1/4 cup of yogurt (store bought to get started).  (Note: make sure you have a calibrated thermometer so nothing gets burned!  My candy thermometer has a habit of slipping now and then and not being in the right position to read correctly.)   Pour in sterilized mason quart jar and put in warm place for 10 to 12 hours.  My warm place turned to be in the microwave oven over the stove with the light on.   (see the original article for more specific details)

Lactose free, pro-biotic yogurt goodness with some Organic Raw agave syrup for some sweetness.

Lactose free, pro-biotic yogurt goodness with some Organic Raw agave syrup for some sweetness.

I’m really happy with the results!  And glad I had it on hand to help me through an ugly case of suspected food poisoning.  Ok – it would seem obvious to most people that at 3 PM the salmon lasagna at the Ikea cafeteria was NOT the best choice.  I’m not sure why it wasn’t to me.  But ANYWAY…    I might even try a batch of raw milk, per the suggestion of a friend to see how that sits with the ol GI tract.  But until then, Lactaid milk it is.  Yogurt on my pro-biotic friends!

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My version of Gai Pad Krapow – Thai Basil Chicken

Recipe to follow on this one! I had a few chicken breasts in the fridge and hated the thought of having them plain and boring. I googled “ground chicken thai”…thought thai would be tasty…and came up with Gai Pad Krapow! My version added carrots and fennel from my CSA bag and jalapeños and thai basil from the garden.

I have to think about what else I put in this and update this post later with the recipe!

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Cooking lessons

So when one opens there big fat trap on facebook, one ends up giving a “cooking lesson.” Never tease someone about their burnt pizza or inability to boil water unless you are prepares to show them how it T.I.S. done. And then be prepared they might just actually know how to cook more then they let on too, but are just hiding that fact for some freebies.

Not that I mind either. I love a good excuse to have friends over for dinner. Especially new ones and ones I haven’t connected with in a long time. Inevitably there are good laughs and new insights about them you didn’t know before. Now if I could’ve just managed to take even ONE picture of what we (yes WE…it WAS a lesson after all) this blog post might have some more visual interest.

The menu: arugula salad with grapefruit and fennel, seared sea scallops with fettuccine in a tarrgon infuses béchamel sauce, and molten lava chocolate bourbon cakes. Delicious right? Yet not one dang picture of the food. Apparently I not only need a sous chef, but a staff photographer.

Dinner was flawless though. The salad was scrumptious, and we all learned or were reminded about how to make a basic vinaigrette. The béchamel was flawless! Sea scallops seared to perfection. Time to dig in.

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Chicken and kimchi stir fry

How did I go from not liking kimchi as a child to loving it as an adult.  No, “not liking” isn’t strong enough – hating?  DETESTING.  Yes.  Ridiculing anyone who liked it?  Definitely. My dad used to bring home jars of the stuff for a period of time when I was in 5th and 6th grade.  From what I recall, someone who worked for him had a wife of Korean descent.  He loved getting a bottle of the stinky stuff.   The rest of the family hated it.  Ok, maybe just us kids.

Something has happened in the last 5 years that has caused me to just plain ADORE kimchi!!  Do our taste buds change chemistry or structure in our late 30s (ok, early 40s)? What is the mechanism that causes us to flip our tastes and likes so radically?   I could wonder for ever, but then that would get in the way of making delicious kimchi and cooking yummy dinners like the one I made tonight.

After making up a batch of kimchi, I couldn’t wait to make something with it.  This was super simple to make.

– 2 breasts of chicken, cut into bite sized pieces

– 1/2 jar of the large pint jar of kimchi, diced up

– 1 med sweet potato into small/med dice

– 1 tbsp of sesame oil

– 1 tbsp of soy sauce

Mix it all up and let it sit for 10-15 min.  Heat a pan or wok up so it’s super hot (technical term), add 1 tbsp of vegetable oil, and put the chicken/kimchi mix in the pan spreading it around.  Let cook for 2-3 minutes.  Move around and stir fry for another 5-7 min, letting it sit between stirs to get a nice caramelization on it.   Serve with some rice, or just by itself, but either way put a little fresh kimchi on top!    I had mine with some left over flour tortillas a friend who was in town the previous weekend had whipped up. Delicious!

Kimchi, from jar to bowl.

Kimchi, from jar to bowl.

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