Sunday, June 28, 2015

Smoky Black Bean Chili

I know it's summer time and hot, hot, hot! But my oldest daughter has fallen in love with chili since eating it at a friend's house recently.  I don't know about you, but I'm so over the dinner time struggle!!  I know I still have to deal with it for years to come, but hey, if I can find a few more healthy things my kids like that I can add in to the dinner rotation, I'm all over it.  My middle daughter already LOVES this black bean soup, as well as taco soup, so I didn't think it would be hard to get her to try this delicious chili!  Plus, you can totally eat it with chips.  That always gets their attention, haha! To my surprise both girls told me they didn't like the chili, they LOVED it!  I was so happy, I literally jumped up and down with them.  Dinner time was happy time that night.

This chili, like most soups, is open to a little interpretation.  I didn't add a ton of heat because I knew my three littles would be eating most of it.  I wanted to add a couple chipotles in adobo during cooking but I knew it would be too spicy, but feel free to do so.  Instead, I decided to just use the chipotle tabasco sauce on the side instead; my husband loves that stuff anyway and puts it on everything.  Whatever you do, don't leave out the smoked paprika, ginger ale and cocoa powder!! They lend such a unique element to the dish, I think that's why I loved it so much.

This chili would be lovely served with some cornbread, fresh tortillas or even hot cooked rice.

Smoky Black Bean Chili
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 lb. ground beef
1/2 onion, finely diced
1 red pepper, diced
3 cloves garlic
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground pepper
2 tsp. chili powder
2 tsp. cumin
2 tsp. cocoa powder
1/2 tsp. oregano
1 tsp. smoked paprika
1 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 1/2 cups ginger ale
1 8-oz can tomato sauce
3 cans black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can RoTel
1 can diced or crushed tomatoes

sour cream
shredded cheese (cheddar, monterey jack, mozzarella or my personal favorite smoked cheddar)
diced avocado
chipotle tabasco sauce
tortilla chips

Heat olive oil in a large sauce pan or Dutch oven over medium high heat.  Add onion and ground beef and cook until onions are translucent and beef is browned.  Drain off all but a tablespoon or two of the fat.  Add chopped red pepper, garlic, salt, pepper, chili powder, cumin, cocoa powder, oregano, smoked paprika, and brown sugar.  Sauté 2-3 minutes, until fragrant. Add ginger ale, tomato sauce, black beans, RoTel and tomatoes to the Dutch oven.  Stir to combine.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook about 15-20 minutes.

Serve warm, with desired garnishes.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

S'mores Layer Cake

Right before my birthday this year I posted on facebook a couple of times that I was getting ready to choose my birthday cake.  Usually it takes about a month (the time frame between my husband's birthday and mine) to decide but this year seemed busier than usual and my birthday was getting closer and I still didn't have a cake picked out.  SO, a week or two before my birthday hubby and I were out to a play and waiting for it to start so I whip out my phone and we scroll through alllllllll the cakes I have pinned (seriously there's a ton!).  When I saw this one, at the very end mind you, I knew it was the one.  I LOVE anything s'mores and this cake looked just absolutely delicious.  Plus, it's from Smitten Kitchen, so I knew I couldn't go wrong.

I was so, so happy with this cake!  Luckily I was able to share with a bunch of people, otherwise I would have been in BIG trouble.  I love how the cake tastes exactly like graham crackers and the ganache practically melts in your mouth, like it had been melted by the campfire.  I go for a classic s'more and to me that's only with milk chocolate, which it weird because otherwise I pretty much only like dark.  I really like the taste of Hershey's milk chocolate, that's what I always use when making s'mores.  Feel free to use something different but whichever chocolate you choose, make sure it's good quality.  Since the ganache is basically only cream and chocolate the flavor really counts.

S'mores Layer Cake
for the cake:
2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 cup dark brown sugar
4 large eggs, room temperature
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups honey graham cracker crumbs (about 1 1/2 sleeves of crackers processed until it's a powder)
2 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
2 cups buttermilk, well shaken and at room temperature

for the milk chocolate ganache:
16 oz good quality milk chocolate
1 1/3 cup heavy cream
pinch of salt

for the meringue frosting:
4 egg whites
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 tsp. cream of tartar
1 tsp. vanilla extract

mini marshmallows, for extra garnish, if desired

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease 2 9-inch round cake pans, line with parchment paper, then grease the top of the parchment. Set aside.

In a mixing bowl, whisk together flour, graham cracker crumbs, baking soda and powder, salt and cinnamon. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together butter and sugars until they are light and fluffy; about 2-3 minutes.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition.  Add the flour mixture alternating with the buttermilk, in three additions. Scrape down the sides and mix until just combined.

Divide the batter between the two cake pans and bake about 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.  Cool in pans about 10 minutes then remove from pans and cool completely on a wire rack.  Wrap each cake in plastic wrap and chill in refrigerator at least 30 minutes (I typically refrigerate overnight.) *NOTE: This cake is very soft and tender, especially when it's still a little warm. When lifting and wrapping the cake be very careful so it doesn't break.

To make the ganache place the heavy cream and salt in a sauce pan and barely bring to a simmer over medium heat.  Add the chocolate chips, cover and remove from heat.  Let sit 5 minutes.  After 5 minutes, remove lid and whisk until chocolate is completely incorporated and mixture is smooth and sheen. Transfer to a bowl and refrigerate until firm enough to spread on the cake.

To make the meringue frosting, place the egg whites, cream of tartar and sugar in a heat proof bowl.  Place over a simmering pot of water and whisk constantly for about 3 minutes, until sugar is dissolved and it's warm to the touch.  Transfer to the bowl of a stand mixer with a whisk attachment, or use electric beaters.  Beat until stiff glossy peaks form, 4-7 minutes then add vanilla and mix in.

To assemble the cake, remove from the fridge and unwrap.  Using a long serrated knife carefully slice each cake in half.  Place the bottom half of one cake on cake plate.  Spread with about 1/3 of the ganache.  Place top half on top of the ganache and then spread another 1/3 of the ganache over that.  Place the top half of the second cake top down over the second layer of ganache.  Spread with remaining ganache and place the bottom half of the second cake, bottom up, on the very top. Quickly do a crumb coat with the meringue and place in the fridge about 10-15 minutes to let it set a bit.  Bring it back out and generously frost the cake, with extra marshmallows for garnish, as desired.  Brown with a kitchen torch. Keep leftovers covered and refrigerated.

SOURCE: Smitten Kitchen Cookbook

Some of my other favorite birthday cakes:
Cherry Chocolate Cake (#1 FAVE made this so many times!)
Chocolate Raspberry Truffle Cake
Neapolitan Layer Cake
Snickerdoodle Cake
Sweet and Salty Cake

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Snickerdoodle Sandwich Cookies with Marshmallow Buttercream Filling

Hello to the most amazing creation ever made!! No seriously this is NO joke.  When it comes to cookies I'm a die-hard chocolate chip cookie lover, homemade of course, and fresh out of the oven.  I like other cookies too, but I'm picky.  So, when I tried a cookie similar to this at a local restaurant I was seriously blown away.  I had never tried anything like it.  The flavor combination is out of this world!  And totally genius, if you ask me. The cinnamon-y and slightly salty cookie with the sweetness of the marshmallow buttercream.  OH. MY.

So, without further ado, I give you the Snickerdoodle Sandwich cookie with Marshmallow Buttercream Filling.

Snickerdoodle Sandwich Cookies with Marshmallow Buttercream Filling
for the cookies: 
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 large egg, plus 1 yolk
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cream of tartar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

for the cinnamon sugar mixture:
2 Tbsp. granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon

 For the frosting:
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature 
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
1 7-oz jar marshmallow fluff
3 cups powdered sugar
1-2 tsp. milk, if necessary

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat butter and sugars until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.  Add in egg, yolk and  vanilla and beat for another minute, scraping down the sides as necessary.

In a separate bowl, sift together baking soda, cream of tartar, salt, cinnamon and flour.  Gradually add it to the butter and sugar and beat until well incorporated.

Mix the cinnamon sugar in a small bowl.  Using a small cookie scoop or a spoon, scoop out dough  and roll into a ball, about 1-inch.  Roll the tops of each dough ball in the cinnamon sugar mixture then place them on a cookie sheet, about 9 to a pan.  Do not over crowd.

Bake about 10-12 minutes, turning cookie sheet halfway through baking. Try not to underbake them, as you will need them to be sturdy while spreading the frosting.  Cool cookies completely on a wire rack.  You can even place them in the fridge so they are more firm.

To make frosting, place butter in the bowl of a stand mixer.  Whip until creamy. Add in marshmallow fluff and beat 2-3 minutes, then add in vanilla.  Add in the powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time, until fully incorporated. Beat another 2-3 minutes.  If frosting is too thin, add a little more sugar, if it's too thick add a little milk, 1 teaspoon at a time. (You will most likely have extra frosting.  Nothing that another batch of cookies later won't remedy...or there's always a spoon or a graham cracker.)

To make sandwich cookies, frost the bottom of one cookie then top with another.  Continue until you've used all the cookies.  Store in an airtight container either on the counter or in the fridge (I actually like mine chilled so I keep them in the fridge.)

Friday, June 5, 2015

Nutella Stuffed Croissant French Toast

It is a rare occasion that I make something like this for breakfast.  I almost can't stand to serve my kids something that's over the top sweet that early in the morning.  However, I think I can get away with this french toast because croissants aren't really sweet at all, and neither is the whipped cream (unless you buy it premade at the store), and I just serve it with fresh berries. So I'm totally good right!! 

I almost never buy croissants because they're kind of expensive.  But I love to shop the reduced bakery rack at a couple of my favorite grocery stores. Occasionally there will be a package or two of these babies, so I just grab them and throw them in the freezer for when I'm ready to use them. Day old bread is perfect for french toast since it's a little dry it'll soak up the egg mixture a little better.

This french toast is easier than it looks and SOOOO worth it!! It just takes a few minutes to pull everything together and you'll be on a roll flipping these babies on the griddle in no time.

Nutella Stuffed Croissant French Toast
1 package of croissants (either 5-6 large ones or about 12 small ones)
2 large eggs
2-3 Tbsp. whole milk, heavy cream or half and half
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 Tbsp. sugar

whipped cream (homemade or store bought)
fresh berries

Preheat pancake griddle to about 300 degrees F.  Alternately you can cook these in a large frying pan, heated to medium-low. Add a little butter to the pan when you're ready to cook the croissants.

In a small shallow dish whisk together the eggs, milk, vanilla, cinnamon and sugar. Set aside.

Slice each of the croissants in half and spread on nutella as desired.  Place the croissants in the egg mixture and let them hang out to soak it up.  Flip them to soak on the other side.

Place croissants on the griddle and let cook about 3-4 minutes, or until golden brown.  Flip and cook another 3-4 minutes.

Serve warm with whipped cream and fresh berries.

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