Tag Archives: Not quite

The Best Chocolate Cake Ever!!!

I have found this recipe online several times, often with the title “The Best Chocolate Cake Ever!!!”  And while it is a very good, very chocolatey chocolate cake, I don’t know if I could say it’s the best ever.  That is a very big claim.  But yesterday, after much pleading from Lulu and feeling like we all needed the mood boost a chocolate cake brings, I decided to bust out my new silicon cupcake pan.  I was hoping for cute little mini-bundt cake looking cupcakes.

IMG_0356

Bonus points because it’s green!

Instead, I got this:

IMG_0354

Now, it’s kind of hard to tell from this lousy photograph, but that is a clumpy pile of chocolate cakes that have none of the decorative grooves and whatnot I expected.  Which brings me to my problem with this cake: both times I have made it, it has refused to come out (the first time I used a metal cake pan).  No matter how good a cake tastes (and this one does taste very good), I cannot consider it “the best ever” it it sticks to the pan and breaks.  I’m a bit perplexed as to how to fix this…increase the baking temperature?  Cook it longer?  Maybe oil the pan instead of butter-and-flouring it?  If any of you baker pros out there have any tips, please leave them in the comments!

No matter how this cake looks, it does taste very good, and the recipe is a nice basic one to have on hand.  You could easily tweak it a little bit (like I did for Christmas, adding ground cardamom and orange zest) to add a flavor boost.  And, um, if it does happen to fall apart on you, just follow Lulu’s example:

IMG_0359Grab the biggest clump you can find and shove it in your mouth!

(Maybe) The Best Chocolate Cake Ever

1 cup flour
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. espresso powder (I used 1 tsp. instant coffee added to the boiling water)
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup boiling water

In a large bowl, mix the dry ingredients thoroughly.  (You can do this recipe by had with a whisk or with a hand mixer.)  Add the remaining ingredients except the boiling water and mix thoroughly.  Add the water (with the instant coffee if you’re using that) and mix as fast as possible for one minute.  Bake at 350 F for 30-35 minutes in a 9″ pan that has been greased and floured.

What I’ve Been Up To…

Hi there.

Yes, it’s been a long time.  Longer than I ever would have expected.  When I started this blog, I vowed I would not be “one of those people.”  You know, the ones who start going strong and then suddenly drop off the face of the virtual world.

But, that’s what happened.  Multiple moves, one (very healthy, pleasant, and still ongoing) pregnancy, and a very uncertain future have taken the vast majority of my physical, mental and emotional energy over the past few months.

Still, I’ve come up with a few things worth sharing.  The first (which I only tell you about because it was something new to me) falls into the category of “church potluck casserole.”  That is, it contains canned cream of (anything) soup and some sort of crust on top–often, french-fried onions, but in this case, crumbled crackers.  I thought it absolutely revolting and wrong in so many ways, but Hungry Husband liked it, and so did the people at the homeless shelter.  But I threw the recipe away.  Quickly.  Because canned cream of (anything) soup is not real food.

Church Potluck Casserole

Fortunately, I have had better luck since then.  In the midst of what has been a long and very stormy spring, I have been yearning for summer and light, fresh flavors.  First, I came up with a lovely black bean-based salad.  It’s the sort of thing that does not have a recipe…I just threw in things that reminded me of the Caribbean: black beans, mango, celery, red peppers, red onions, cilantro, lime juice, chili powder, chicken, corn, jalapeno, garlic, cumin.  It is very flexible and tasty.  I took a big bowl to a friend’s graduation party last weekend and the dish was cleaned out rather quickly.

So pretty!

Finally, another recipe-less dish based on one of my favorite marinades: olive oil, lemon juice, cilantro, and garlic.  I whipped up some penne pasta, opened a can of salmon (fresh salmon is way out of our budget right now–boo!) and had Hungry Husband chunk the meat, and turned the marinade ingredients–plus a slab of butter) into a sauce.  When the pasta was ready I threw everything together and voila!  A fresh and flavorful pasta dish that pairs perfectly with sauteed or grilled vegetables.

A perfect pasta for summertime longings

Tonight, I am having Taco Lasagna with Cilantro Lime Cream Sauce (from Sweet Peas and Pumpkins), and I’m secretly glad that Hungry Husband is away for the night, because I may eat the whole pan myself.  Good thing I only made a half recipe!

LEFTOVER LAMENTATIONS

This has not been a stellar week for eating in my house.  I’m not quite sure what exactly to blame it on…I have a few suspicions (well, one in particular), but in general I can say that it has been very difficult to get back in the swing of things.  Especially because, at this point in our lives, we are in a period of rather inactive waiting with nothing specific to do, and I have found that in times of aimlessness like this, I am prone to wasting inordinate amounts of time doing absolutely nothing.  Hopefully we have only one or two more weeks of this before some of our future life murkiness clears up…

Upon returning from our long trip, we spent several days grudgingly eating thawed chicken-and-vegetable noodle soup, the very same soup that seemed like such a lifesaver when we returned from traveling and there it was, ready to eat in just minutes!  Two days later, there were still several servings lingering in the fridge, and in my desperation to clear out that precious space for food that we actually wanted to eat, I threw the remaining soup in a casserole dish, spread a thick layer of garlicky mashed potatoes on top, and baked it to a bubbly, golden brown.  (This is one of my main tricks of reinventing leftovers…thankfully, it usually works.)  In this case, it was like a potato-y version of chicken and dumplings, and I was happy.

We managed to finish that off, and to replace it with…

Disaster.  I don’t know what happened.  I went to make one of my old stand-by dishes, a spinach-tomato-and-chickpea bake, a dish I have made so many times and which is so fundamentally easy in its composition that I don’t even have a recipe anymore.  And yet this time it turned out weird and watery and I still haven’t figured out what went wrong.  We choked it down the first night and then it sat in the fridge for two days while I wondered if there was any way to save it.  Last night I threw a bunch of curry spices in a pot with some chopped potatoes and cauliflower, and then added the spinach yuckiness, which resulted in a tolerable (although still not entirely enjoyable) curry.  I also put it in a nice serving dish, which is another trick I have for increasing edibility.  However, the addition of more vegetables increased the volume to such an amount that there are, again, leftovers sitting in the fridge.

I really, really hate throwing food away, even when I really, really don’t want to eat it.  But at the same time, I have a very low tolerance for food repetition, especially if it is a food that didn’t taste good the first time I ate it!  There is a good chance that this curry will languish another day or two until I give into the guilt and throw it away.  I doubt even the stray cats that live off my garbage will be interested in it!

 

P.S.  Do you have any favorite leftover-saving tricks?

FIX THIS: ROASTED VEGETABLE MOUSSAKA

I am continuing on in the world of eggplant, although maybe it is no longer eggplant season in America.  Meh.  It seems like it is always eggplant season in the Middle East, so if your world is now devoid of glorious purple orbs, give a little sigh and bookmark for next year any future recipes that seem interesting.

I’m not sure I’d recommend this be a recipe you rush to come next August, although I think it has potential.  It’s from a cookbook called Perfect Mediterranean, one of those little cookbooks that probably has companion versions like Perfect Italian and Perfect Asian.  I think this book concentrates very heavily on the north Mediterranean coast, and this moussaka is definitely closer to the Greek versions than any of the Arab versions I have ever had.

We liked this dish okay but I would make a few changes next time.  My main complaint was that the sauce-to-vegetable ratio was way off; you can see from the pictures the difference between my dish and the cookbook.

In the book...

In my kitchen.

The pieces of vegetable were also annoying large to me, so I’d probably go for chunks rather than slices.  I am going to give you the recipe as is but would suggest doubling the sauce.  I also would add more garlic, because I like garlic, but I would add it to the roasting pan halfway through the process, as leaving it the whole time resulted in burnt garlic.  And I might add potatoes, which are often part of the Arab moussaka, to give it a little more substance.  What would you try to improve this dish?

ROASTED VEGETABLE MOUSSAKA

(from Perfect Mediterranean, Parragon 2008)

  • 1 large eggplant, sliced thickly
  • 2 med. zucchini, sliced thickly
  • 2 onions, cut into small wedges
  • 2 red bell peppers, cored, seeded and chopped coarsely
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped coarsely
  • 5 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp. chopped fresh thyme
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 ¼ c. strained plain yoghurt
  • 14 oz. canned chopped tomatoes in juice (I used fresh tomatoes)
  • 2 oz. feta cheese

Put the eggplant, zucchini, onions, bell peppers, and garlic in a roasting pan.  Drizzle over the oil, toss together, and then sprinkle over the thyme and season with salt and pepper.  Roast in a preheated oven, 425 F/220 C, for 3-35 minutes, turning the pan halfway through the cooking, until golden brown and tender.

Meanwhile, beat together the eggs and yoghurt and season with salt and pepper.  When the vegetables are cooked, reduce the oven temperature to 350 F/180 C.

Put half the vegetables in a layer in a large ovenproof dish.  Spoon over the tomatoes and their juice, then add the remaining vegetables.  Pour over the yoghurt mixture and crumble over the feta cheese.  Bake in the oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until golden brown.  Serve hot, warm, or cold.