Chocolate Raspberry Cake

I’ve been drooling for a while now over the Pinterest pins of chocolate raspberry cakes with their fancy chocolate ganache and fresh berries.  (Homer Simpson sounds….) 🙂  I’ve yet to try my hand at a ganache, but I did score a great deal on fresh raspberries the other day while grocery shopping so I finally had the right motivation to try out one of those delicious recipes.  Yay!

I used my favorite homemade chocolate cake recipe which is so incredibly moist and delicious.  However, I have discovered the hard way that this batter is not meant to be used in cakes that have to be handled a lot.  I’m sure things would have come out differently had I used parchment paper but I’m always forgetting to write it on my grocery list and therefore never remember to purchase it while out grocery shopping. Ugh!  The bottom layer did NOT want to come out of the pan, so I ended up piecing chunks of it together.  The top layer did a little better, but let’s just say I scared the boys to the point of crying with all my pan banging in the kitchen trying to get that thing unstuck.  That was one way to relieve stress.  Haha!  Thankfully frosting works like glue so no one was the wiser about my horrible baking skills.

Anyhow, this was a really fun experiment for me and I learned a lot while putting the cake together.  It will be a while before I get another chance to make this one again since I am forbidden by my husband to bake any more sweets for a while (plus he doesn’t care for cakes with frosting). 🙂  I have two months to try to burn 15 pounds so I guess my chocolate raspberry cake became my “Farewell-to-Baking” cake.  What a way to start a diet! Hahaha!  I don’t think I’ll mind not having sweets around, but it is going to be hard to keep myself out of the kitchen.  To me baking is like art.  Only problem is that painting doesn’t make you put on x-number of pounds with each surge of inspiration like baking does. 🙂  Hmmm… Maybe this is a way I can talk Tim into letting me take some oil painting classes.  It’s been years since I’ve done any oil painting and would LOVE to refresh my memory and get a little “me” time in the process.

Start with the cake batter.

“Perfectly Chocolate” Chocolate Cake – by hersheys.com

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 C. sugar                                                        2 lg. eggs
  • 1 ¾ C. flour                                                      1 C. milk
  • ¾ C. cocoa powder                                         ½ C. vegetable oil
  • 1 ½ tsp. baking powder                                    2 tsp.  vanilla
  • 1 ½ tsp. baking soda                                        1 C. boiling water
  • 1 tsp. salt

 DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two 9-inch baking pans (or line with parchment paper circles) and set aside.
  2. In the large bowl of a standing mixer, stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla and beat for 2 minutes on medium speed. Stir in boiling water.
  3. Bake 30-35 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks.  Cool completely.  Yields: 10-12 servings

While the cake is baking, begin working on your raspberry jelly for the filling.  I used this recipe from over at myjuicecup.com.

Raspberry Jelly

  • 2 cups fresh or frozen raspberries
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 3 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon water

DIRECTIONS:  Heat and mash the raspberries and sugar over medium heat in a sauce pan. When bubbling, incorporate the lemon juice.  While it’s still hot, pour the mixture through a strainer into a second bowl separate out the seeds.  Pour the seedless raspberry mixture to the sauce pan and set heat to low. Combine the cornstarch and water and mix  into a smooth paste, then add it to the raspberry mixture. Cook over low heat until thickened and let it cool completely.

For the frosting, I used my mom’s butter cream recipe.

Butter Cream Frosting – by Toni Fuhrman

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3/4 C. margarine
  • 3/4 C. shortening
  • 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla (only added 1/2 tsp.)
  • 6 C. powdered sugar
  • 3-4 T. raspberry jelly

DIRECTIONS:  Cream margarine and shortening together until creamy.  Add vanilla.  Slowly mix in powdered sugar.  Once all the sugar has been incorporated, begin adding in the raspberry jelly until you get the texture and consistency you desire.  The frosting should form peaks and fluff like whipped cream when mixed correctly.

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Joining the Ranks…

The little guy has a total of 7 razor teeth with more trying to cut through even now, yet he has had no inclination to use them other than chewing on material or whatever he can stuff into his mouth. 🙂  Although a lot of people out there think it is vital that a  baby start eating solids by six months or around that age, I believe that a child will let you know when he/she is ready to start weaning.  I would just offer foods periodically to see if he would accept them (which he wouldn’t).  My little guy has been thriving on nursing alone so I am a happy mama.  🙂  I mean, come on, nursing is FREE and I get the joy of being able to bond more with my little guy.

A was in his Bumbo seat on the table (his usual meal-time place) while his two older brothers were eating their lunches.  I looked over to find that he had snagged a Clementine out of the fruit bowl and was attempting to shove the entire fruit into his mouth.   He ended up getting a good bite in before I snatched it away from him.  I waited to see his usual response to anything with flavor (a gag reflex where his face scrunches up and his eyes shut), but this time he surprised me.  Instead of gagging, he gave me a look of utter reprimand for taking away his food/toy.

I was shocked that he hadn’t reacted to the flavor of the Clementine in a negative fashion!  I peeled the fruit then held out a sliver for him to bite/taste.  To my delight he latched onto the offering and began sucking the life out of it then bit down and started to chew!!!

He was still whining for more after finishing off the slices of orange, so I found a jar of baby applesauce in the pantry and started spoon-feeding him.  Oh my, he loved that!!!!  No more worries about him taking a long time to figure out what to do with a spoon in his mouth or the different food textures.  After watching his behavior and ability to adapt to chewing, I believe my baby boy is ready for table food.  Nice to know we can just skip the expense and hassle of buying baby food at the store.  I just need to dig out my food mill, and A will be a happy camper come dinner time. 🙂

Squash Casserole

Wow!  What a weekend, or more like, what a month!!!  This was my second trip up to Illinois with the boys in about four weeks.  Thankfully, Tim was with me on this latest trip so I didn’t have to drive the entire time and actually got to take a very short nap in the car on the return trip. Ahhh luxury!! 🙂

The trip was short and crammed with activity for the entire family.  One of my youngest cousins on my mom’s side of the family got married on Saturday and it was a real treat to be able to see several of my aunts and uncles not to mention my other cousins and their children.  We took a picture of all the great-grandchildren together at the wedding, and I had to laugh when I realized that this large group only made up HALF of the total number of great-grandchildren (32 in all!).  My mom is one of six children and my dad is one of five.  On either side of the family, we have LOTS of cousins and second cousins.  Love it!!!

So after a delightful time of visiting with my extended family, helping my parents and grandma out in their huge garden, canning with my mom and fellowshiping with my parents’ pastor and his family we packed up and drove the 8 hours home.

Everyone was hot and hungry when we arrived home around dinner time, but I knew I had my work cut out for me before I could sit down and rest.  There was no bread in the house for lunches the next day meaning I needed to make something for dinner so we could use the leftovers for lunch.  Thankfully my mom and dad had loaded us up with a bunch of garden veggies. Yay!!!!  So with some fresh zucchini, yellow squash and tomatoes ready to go, I stuck with “Meatless Monday” and got to work.

So in honor of my Aunt Chris (the lovely mother of the bride) and her family – here is the recipe for her delightful “Squash Casserole.”  By the way, Aunt Chris, after Tim tasted his first bite he exclaimed, “Wow!  This tastes great!”  Best reaction to date of a new recipe. 🙂

  • 6 C. squash chunks (4 medium)
  • Onion, diced
  • Chunked Velveeta
  • 1/4 C. sour cream
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  • Sage
  • 1/3 of the seasoning packet and bread crumbs from a box of stuffing mix

DIRECTIONS:  Boil squash and onion for 20 minutes in a large saucepan.  Drain and put back into pan.  Add Velveeta, sour cream, salt and pepper.  Pour into a 9×9 pan or casserole dish.  Sprinkle with sage and 1/3 of the stuffing mix bread crumbs and seasoning.  Bake 20-30 minutes at 350 degrees.

Boil 6 cups squash chunks (or diced) with diced onion for 20 minutes.  [I didn’t have enough squash so I threw in some zucchini as well.  Yumm-O!]

Drain and place back inside pan.

Add chunked Velveeta, 1/4 cup sour cream (or plain Greek yogurt), salt and pepper.

Pour into a greased 9×9 pan or casserole dish.  Sprinkle with sage and 1/3 of the seasoning packet and bread crumbs from a box of stuffing mix.  Bake 20-30 minutes at 350 degrees.

Should be nicely browned on top and bubbly in the middle when done cooking.

I think the sage used in this recipe is WONDERFUL!!  The texture of the vegetables makes you think you are eating a hashbrown casserole but the flavor from the stuffing mix and sage really knock it out of the ballpark.

Homemade Citrus Cleaner

Just the other day I read a person’s comments on a blog post regarding canning oranges.  Apparently besides the benefit of being able to can oranges if you have an over-abundance and don’t want to waste the fruit, you can also use the peels to make your own disinfectant.  I thought this was a GREAT idea and just happened to have some oranges in the house.

Since I am not canning a bunch or oranges at one time; therefore, I don’t have an abundance of readily available peels, I simply placed the peels I did have ready inside a pint jar and covered with vinegar.  After that I sealed the jar with a lid and placed inside the back of a cabinet.  Every time I have more peels, I can add them to the jar along with more vinegar until the jar is tightly packed with peels.

It will take approximately 1-2 months for the mixture to steep before it is ready to use.  A sure way to test if it is done is to smell the liquid.  If you can still smell the vinegar, it hasn’t steeped long enough and should be replaced in the back of your cabinet for a while longer.  You should only smell a delightful citrus.  Pour the liquid into a spray bottle and you are ready to start cleaning.

This cleaner is good for cleaning kitchen counters as well as bathrooms since the vinegar is a natural disinfectant.  Considering the fact that this cleaner is made from two ingredients, one being something you were just going to throw away to begin with, it is amazingly inexpensive!  It is eco-friendly, wallet-friendly, and kid-friendly!

Ricotta, Spinach, Tomato and Basil Stuffed Crusted Chicken

Here’s a fun recipe I tried a short time ago that turned out well.  I needed to use up the baby spinach I had leftover in the refrigerator as well as some Roma tomatoes so this recipe seemed perfect.  It would have been even better had I had enough time and milk on hand to make some fresh homemade ricotta, but I had to settle for using the store-bought variety instead.

You will need…

  • 1 C. low fat ricotta cheese
  • Small handful of baby spinach, chopped
  • Tomato, diced remove seeds if possible)
  • 2 T. parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 T. dried basil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 tsp. oregano
  • 2 chicken breasts
  • Italian seasoned bread crumbs (or whatever flavor you like)
  • 2 tsp. olive oil

Chop your spinach and tomato.

Combine the ricotta, spinach, tomatoes, parmesan cheese, basil, garlic, salt and pepper.

Mix until thoroughly combined.

Rinse chicken breasts then cut a long horizontal slit along the center of the thin long edge of the chicken breast, nearly through to the other side.

Fill the cavity of the chicken breast with ricotta mixture.  Season each side of the chicken with salt and pepper, to taste.

Carefully dip the chicken breasts in bread crumbs until both sides are evenly covered.  Close the slits together with toothpicks.

Heat oil in an oven proof skillet on the stove over medium high heat.  Once the pan is hot, place the chicken in the skillet to cook for 3-4 minutes or until the chicken is golden brown.

Flip the chicken over and place the skillet into the oven.  Bake at 400 degrees for 20-30 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through.  Let the meat rest for 5 minutes before slicing.

Served great with a yummy fresh garden salad loaded with veggies or an Italian pasta salad!  Enjoy!!!

 

QGTB Family Night – Then & Now

I love to look at old photos and compare them to recent pictures especially when it comes to photos of my boys.  Tonight the law firm Tim works for hosted their annual Traveler’s Game Family Night for all their employees and families.  After arriving home and getting the boys cleaned up and put to bed, I downloaded my pictures and proceeded to be amazed at what a difference a few years can make.

This was A’s first Traveler’s baseball game, so I didn’t have any pictures to compare with him other than the fact that I was almost five months pregnant with him at last year’s family night. 🙂  However, I do have pictures of E and I.  They are just growing up soooo fast!!

Then (2010)…

and now (2012)!!!

This was the first year E wasn’t afraid to jump in the bouncy houses or go down the slides by himself.  Such a big boy! 🙂

Spinach Ravioli Bake

Move over, Olive Garden, we found a BETTER dish and deal!!!!

Even though not everything in this new recipe is from scratch, it was incredibly tasty and a LOT less expensive than taking the family out to our favorite Italian restaurant.  I added up all the ingredients and rounded up a bit bringing the total for this meal to $6.  I was being VERY generous with my rounding. 🙂  We even had a yummy salad and fresh bread to go along with the ravioli – just like Olive Garden!  If we were to order this same dish from the restaurant for everyone in our family to eat, the total cost would be $39.96 plus tax and gratuity.  Oh, and don’t forget the gas it would take to drive there!

The point is, this yummy – and might I add incredibly EASY – dish is not only a family hit with our stomachs but also with our wallets.  I would also like to state that this is a great recipe to add to the “Meatless Monday” menu!

Spinach Ravioli Bake – by Taste of Home

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 C. spaghetti sauce                             
  • 1 pkg. (10 ounces) frozen, chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dried
  • 1 pkg. (25 ounces) frozen ravioli          
  • 2 C. shredded mozzarella cheese         
  • ¼ C. grated Parmesan cheese  

 DIRECTIONS:  Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place 1 C. spaghetti sauce in a greased shallow 2-qt. baking dish.  Top with half of the ravioli, mozzarella cheese, spinach and Parmesan cheese.  Repeat layers.  Bake, uncovered, at 350 for 40-45 minutes or until heated through and cheese is melted.  Yield: 4-6 servings.

Here are the ingredients I used to put this all together.  The cheese ravioli was on sale for $1.99, and I used fresh spinach instead of the frozen.  I also used grated romano cheese instead of parmesan and gave a liberal dose of garlic powder and oregano to the top of the dish before baking.  I trust my homemade spaghetti sauce to have flavor, but adding a little extra seasoning never hurts! 🙂

Start by chopping your spinach (either frozen or fresh).

Pour 1 C. spaghetti sauce on the bottom of your greased casserole dish.  Then add half the ravioli, spinach, and both cheeses.  Continue layering the remaining ingredients following the same pattern.

After your layers are complete, place inside a preheated oven set for 350 degrees uncovered for 40-45 minutes.

When bubbly and heated through, remove from oven and let cool slightly before serving.  (You can see here the added seasonings which gave it a different look.)

Serve with your favorite salad or vegetable and fresh bread.  Enjoy!