Ally's Sweet & Savory Eats: December 2010

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Flourless Chocolate Cake

I am assuming most people who read this blog like chocolate right?

Any out there that don't?

What a shame.

Last week before Christmas, before the stomach flu, before traveling, before everything, I baked up a new recipe - Flourless Chocolate Cake. I combined a few recipes I found online and made up my own.

For a couple gifts I packaged up some holiday gift baskets full of this cake, banana bread, cake balls, and various other goodies. Who doesn't like an edible gift?

The little man and I tried a slice of this cake before we wrapped them all up and I will admit it is pretty darn good. Very chocolaty, dense, and has a deep flavor. It almost tastes like dark chocolate, although none was added.

Try this one out, especially if you are looking to omit white flour from your diet, are dieting, or need it for someone with gluten allergies. The only thing is, you HAVE to serve it with either powdered sugar, whipped topping or ice cream.

Or all three combined. Which, then defeats the purpose of omitting the flour, but oh well.

Flourless Chocolate Cake
1 c. cocoa
1 c. melted chocolate chips
1/2 c. almonds, ground (food processor works great!)
3 eggs
1/4 c. oil or applesauce
1/4 c. sugar
1 t. vanilla
1/4 t. salt
1/4 t. baking soda
1/4-1/2 c. yogurt (plain or vanilla)

Place all ingredients in a stand-up mixer or a bowl to mix by hand. Beat until all combined. Batter will be thick and a little lumpy, but that is okay.

Place in a greased large loaf pan, 4 small mini loaf pans or an 8x8 baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean. Allow to cool on baking rack, can either serve warm or at room temperature.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Ham & Cheese Puff Pastry

Did everyone recover from the holidays?

We had a couple Christmas' this weekend and still have another one this coming weekend, so it's not over yet! Unfortunately, the husband and I both came down with the stomach flu on Christmas, therefore that last thing I've thought about lately is food...but, we are one the mend!

I wanted to share an easy, delicious appetizer/side dish I shared with my husband's family on Christmas Eve. I first saw Ina Garten make it on the Food Network last year. This is my second time making it, and no doubt there will be a third and a fourth.

I even omitted the cheese this year (very unusual for me, as I love cheese) and it still tasted great! Don't be intimated by puff pastry - buy it frozen, let it thaw, roll it out and bake it up. It is that simple.

Ham & Cheese Puff Pastry

1 pkg. (two sheets) frozen puff pastry (I used Pepperidge Farm)
2-3 T. Dijon mustard
1/4 lb. sliced ham
1/2 lb. sliced Gruyere cheese, sliced
1 egg beaten, plus 1 T. water for egg wash

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Spray baking sheet with non-stick spray. Lay 1 sheet of puff pastry out, and with floured rolling pin, flatten to 10x12 inches. Place it on baking sheet, top with mustard, ham and cheese, leaving a one inch border around the edges. Brush border with egg wash.

Roll out second piece of puff pastry and lay on top. Pinch edges together and seal with a fork. Brush entire puff pastry with egg wash. Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown. Allow to cool for a few minutes before slicing (pizza cutter works great!) and serve.
I have the rest of the week off work (yea!), but the little man and I still have quite a few things to tackle. A trip to my parent's for a couple days, watching the Hawkeyes in their bowl game, various appointments for him and I, and installing my new camera on the computer. Yep, you heard right - I finally got a new camera! I'll be showing it off soon, along with some more delicious recipes.
Flourless Chocolate Cake anyone???
Stay tuned.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Chicken in Wine Sauce

So I had a dream last night that I was Paula Deen's assistant. Cool, huh? She was as light hearted and funny in the dream as I'm sure she is in real life. I was helping her out on her latest book tour, controlling the crowds and keeping her happy.

If only I lived in Savannah.

Anyway, that dream was fitting as I'm sharing one of Paula's recipes today. One I shared way back when, when I first started this food blog. Probably when I had only a handful of readers - my mom and some friends!

So here it is again, as I'm sure most of you didn't see it the first time. It's a great one to throw together the night before, stick it in the fridge and pull it out for dinner the next night.

Chicken in Wine Sauce
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
4 slices Swiss cheese
1 can cream of chicken soup
1/2 c. white wine
1/2 box Stove Top stuffing mix
salt/pepper to taste

Spray casserole dish with non-stick spray. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper and lay in bottom of pan and cover with cheese. Mix together soup and wine and pour over chicken. Sprinkle stuffing mix on top.

Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour (depending on size of chicken breasts) at 375 degrees.

I am now off to tackle my list of "to-do's" before we head out of town this afternoon. I got the rest of my baking finished this morning (flourless chocolate quick loaves!) and the best banana bread recipe ever. If you haven't made that one you need too!

Have a VERY Merry Christmas and I'll check back in later this weekend!

Monday, December 20, 2010

A Mean Meat & Bean Taco Dip

I made this dip over the weekend to go alongside our two dishes of enchiladas. I will have to say I'll be making it again...even if enchiladas aren't on the menu. It is that good.

It's also a great side dish or appetizer to make to use up leftovers - taco meat, beans, cheese, salsa, shredded get the picture, right?

Mean Meat & Bean Taco Dip
*Photo courtesy of Kitchen Centsability*

2 cups of taco meat (beef or chicken)
1 cup refried beans
8 oz. sour cream
1 cup salsa
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup diced black olives

Layer ingredients in an 8x8 baking dish in the order listed. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until melted. Serve with tortilla chips as a side, or with your favorite Mexican meal.

Well, two more days of work and then off 11 days for Christmas! Lucky me! Although, we will be busy traveling, spending time with both families, squeezing in appointments while I'm off work, and just hanging out!

I'm looking forward to a week one-on-one with the little man, maybe he and I will come up with some new recipes???

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Peanut Butter Balls

As promised, I wanted to share another (I know!) baked good from last weekend. More on that a little later...

The little man and I braved the mall this morning for some last minute holiday shopping. Wow. It. Was. Busy.

But I love it. Some people hate the hussle and bussle, but we made a morning out of it and then met his god momma at Panera for lunch. Can't beat Panera! I had my usual, Pick 2, Smokehouse Turkey Panini with a cup of Broccoli Cheddar Soup. The little man enjoyed macaroni and cheese with a side of blueberry yogurt.

He didn't complain.

Now we are home for the day. Last night I made up TWO pans of homemade enchiladas (one chicken, one beef) and a mean taco dip for dinner tonight. The in-laws are coming and I figured they are driving here, it's cold out, a nice hot mexi-dinner sounds good.

Maybe I'll share???

Enough of my day...bring on the peanut butter! These are like a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup, but homemade and much better. I give my props to Jenelle for the recipe:)

Peanut Butter Balls
1/2 c. peanut butter
3 T. butter
1 c. powdered sugar, sifted
melting chocolate

Cream butter and peanut butter together in a bowl. Slowly mix in powdered sugar. Form into small balls, place on wax paper and allow to dry (usually about 15-20 minutes). Dip in melted chocolate (white and chocolate almond bark is what we used), place on wax paper and let dry.

These freeze well, so make a batch today for your next holiday gathering...I mean, it's only 4 ingredients!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

2nd Annual Holiday Baking Extravaganza

When I first started my food blog last year, I talked about my 1st Annual Holiday Baking Extravaganza. I'm happy to say we made it a second year.

I originally started this tradition with some old co-workers, but miles between us made it hard, so last year I started it up with my tried-and-true high school girlfriends. We go WAY BACK, and usually make any excuse to get together.

And that is what we did! We were buried deep in flour, sugar, frosting, and everything yummy in between.

I'll be featuring Cake Balls if you read further on...but take a look at some of our yummy goodies, many of which are being stored in our garage. #1 because our freezer is already full, and #2 the high today was 10 degrees, so who really needs a freezer?

Me, and my preggo self, decorating my heart out.

Cake Balls
1 box cake mix (any flavor)
1 can frosting (any flavor)
dipping chocolate (such as almond bark)

Bake cake as directed, allow to cool. In a large bowl crumble cake into fine crumbs. Mix in container of frosting. Take spoonful, roll into balls and place on cookie sheet. When all are rolled out, place in freezer (or outside) to harden. When frozen, dip in melted chocolate. Place on wax paper until set.

These keep for a long while, especially if kept frozen. It tastes like a mini cake explosion in your mouth, but better! They are so good, my mom and all her lady friends baked and dipped hundreds for my wedding favors back in 2006.
Yep, they really did.

In case you are wondering I baked up a chocolate cake with chocolate frosting and a strawberry cake with cream cheese frosting. Due whatever variation your heart desires...

I have a couple more baking recipes to share later this week for you, so stay tuned!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Mini Beef Wellingtons

So last weekend my department at work gathered for a little holiday party at a co-worker's house. It was nice to get together outside of the "work" setting and just enjoy each others company.

And eat tons and tons of great food.

Just look at some of the samplings!

I supplied the chocolate fondue (yell, if you'd like that easy recipe!) and my spinach artichoke dip with warm crusty bread. Yum.

The host outdid herself with a ooey, gooey, wonderful pan of lasagna and a new creation her fiance found - Mini Beef Wellingtons. She graciously gave me the recipe, so dig in! It's a great holiday appetizer for your next gathering.

Mini Beef Wellingtons
beef tenderloin
1 red pepper, diced
1/2 onion, diced
2 c. mushrooms, diced
1 T. garlic
1 pkg. puff pastry, thawed
egg wash

Cut up the beef tenderloin into bite size pieces, saute in skillet with oil until medium (or to your preferred liking). Remove beef from pan. Saute peppers, onion, garlic and mushrooms until tender. Add beef back into pan to mix, but turn off the heat.

Roll out puff pastry and cut into small squares. Drop one piece of beef, along with veggie mixture onto pastry and place another pastry square on top, then seal edges. Place on baking sheet and brush with egg wash mixture.

Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes, or until golden brown.

These were delicious. We ate them plain, but I'm also imagining a creamy horseradish dip or something of that sort to dunk them in.

What has been your favorite dish so far this year at any holiday gatherings?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Mouthwatering Blueberry Pancakes

Can I just say my 15 month old little man is becoming a handful?

My husband and I have noticed in the last month he has turned into a wild man! No longer that sweet, little innocent boy - he is now testing our limits daily. Now, don't get me wrong he still is a great little guy, so very happy and loves everyone, but man, he makes this mama tired!

If he's not getting into one cupboard, he's shoving something (usually my cell phone) into another, all the while yelling at the tops of his lungs because he can't reach something he "wants" on the kitchen counter.

I often wonder how I'll handle TWO.

Okay, blueberry pancakes. The little man LOVES blueberries and LOVES pancakes, so why not put them together? Well, it was a good idea, but for some reason he insisted on eating them separately and not in the together form.

See what I mean?

Oh well, we enjoyed them.

This recipe is my basic pancake batter recipe that I've used for years, only with some blueberries thrown in!

Mouthwatering Blueberry Pancakes
3 T. butter, melted
2 eggs
1 t. vanilla
1 1/2 t. baking soda
1 1/2 t. baking powder
1 T. sugar (or agave nectar)
1 1/2 c. buttermilk
1 1/2 c. flour

Melt butter, then add in vanilla, baking soda, baking powder, sugar and eggs. Whisk until incorporated. Add milk, and sift in flour.

Pour into a hot griddle, placing a few blueberries onto the pancake, before flipping.

If you're like us, we sometimes eat pancakes for dinner, we did this night.

I won't tell.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Holiday Gift Package Winner

Congrats to #8, Biz! In honor of my 1 year food blogging anniversary, she won my holiday gift package (holiday baking cookbook, 3 copper cookie cutters, and a Christmas tree cookie spatula).

I have been reading Biz' food blog for many, many months now, and she just keeps drawing me back with her mouth-watering meals. And I guess you could say I'm paying her back, as I won a giveaway of hers earlier this year, and now she has won mine!

Biz, I hope you enjoy this holiday package!

Stayed tuned in the next day or so for recaps of my work holiday gathering we had this weekend. We had SO much food. Isn't that always the case?

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Holiday GIVEAWAY reminder!

As I'm sitting here tonight enjoying some peace and quiet - reading, browsing the internet, watching college football (yes, I watch LOTS of football), I wanted to remind everyone for my holiday gift package GIVEAWAY that ends tomorrow at noon.

Enter here.

Remember leave a comment here and tell me your favorite holiday food. By doing that you could win a cute holiday cookbook, a set of three copper cookie cutters and a Christmas tree cookie spatula.

Too cute to pass up! Just leave your comment here by noon tomorrow and then patiently wait and see if you're the lucky one.

Enjoy your Saturday night everyone!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

1st Food Blogging Anniversary Holiday GIVEAWAY!

Can you believe it's been a year?

Check out my very first post, back on December 6th, 2009. Wow. I've come a long way! At that time I was staying home with the little man who was about 4 months old, and starting up this new little hobby!

I've learned a LOT, cooked a LOT, and made a LOT of wonderful friends. I hope each and everyone one of you still enjoy reading my food posts!

To celebrate I have a surprise Holiday gift package I'm giving away. An adorable little gathering of holiday "baking" items I found at Target last weekend (love that store!).
  • A Great Holiday Baking Cookbook
  • 3 copper Christmas cookie cutters
  • 1 very cute Christmas tree cookie spatula

All in time for your holiday baking!

Simply leave a comment telling me your favorite holiday meal, baked good, drink, etc. And if you don't bake, enter anyway, you have friends don't you? You have until Sunday, December 5th at 12:00pm CST to enter.

So get a crackin'! I can't wait to read all of your responses (don't be afraid to attach recipes, I'd love to try out your favorites!)

Happy Holidays!