Sunday, November 16, 2014

Chocolate Chip Snack Cake



This chocolate chip snack cake is an easy thing to whip up for a yummy snack or simple dessert. It's a light vanilla-flavored cake, with a layer of chocolate chips & cinnamon in the middle and on top. Just mix it in one bowl, bake in a square dish, and serve just like that! It doesn't need frosting, cooling, or anything like that.

I lightened up the original recipe a little bit- I reduced the butter, subbed yogurt for most of the sour cream (you could probably use all yogurt if you had no sour cream), and reduced the amount chocolate chips.  Even with all that tinkering, this is still a soft and flavorful cake!

You might notice this calls for room temperature eggs. This is common with baking cakes from scratch, because if you add cold eggs to a sugar/butter mixture, they're likely to make the butter clump up and look like bits of cottage cheese. With the ingredients at room temperature, this doesn't happen and you have a smoother batter. If you're taking your eggs right out of the fridge (like I normally do), you can put them in a cup or bowl of warm water for 10 or so minutes to take the chill off them. Problem solved!

Adapted from: Mel's Kitchen Cafe

Chocolate Chip Snack Cake
Printable version here

Cake batter
4 tbsp. butter, softened
2 tbsp. applesauce (or an additional 2 tbsp. butter)
6 oz. vanilla yogurt
1/4 cup sour cream
2 eggs, room temperature
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/3 cup sugar
1 1/3 cup flour (all-purpose)
1 1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt

Filling & topping
Cinnamon/sugar mixture (I keep mine in a shaker container)
1/3 cup (or more) chocolate chips

1. Combine all wet ingredients, including sugar.  Mix until it is relatively smooth.  Add dry ingredients and mix just until no streaks of flour remain.

2. Grease a metal* 9x9 pan with cooking spray or shortening.  Spread half the cake batter into pan (it will be somewhat thick).  Sprinkle top with cinnamon/sugar and half the chocolate chips. Repeat layers one time.

3. Bake at 350º for 28 minutes (or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with only a few crumbs).

 *If using glass pan, lower temperature to 325º and add a few minutes to the baking time.  I haven't tried it, but the original recipe suggests doing this. 

Why I love it? It is ridiculously simple & good.  It's fluffy, vanilla-y, and chocolatey!  It just dirties one bowl and one pan!

Monday, November 3, 2014

Freezer Beef and Bean Burritos

We all need some convenience foods every now and then, but the options at the grocery store can be lackluster at best. Food you make yourself is usually healthier and cheaper, not to mention way more tasty. These beef and bean burritos are perfect- they're homemade, delicious convenience food! I love having these in the freezer for a quick lunch!

Normally when I make these, I do a double batch- we eat some that night for dinner, and I freeze the rest. They're more involved than just opening a can of refried beans and plopping them in a tortilla (which happened to be our lunch today...), but the flavor is worth it! They have beans, ground beef or turkey, spices, rice, cilantro, and cheese! When topped with sour cream and guacamole, there's not a better burrito around!

Rather than taking the time to retype the recipe, I'll just direct you to where I found it. I make it exactly as written, except that I've found I prefer to add the sour cream at serving, rather than freezing it with the sour cream inside. I also use baked brown rice instead of white. I make this recipe, and use half of it for this recipe (plus the cilantro stirred in after baking) and set aside half for another use. Enjoy!

http://www.melskitchencafe.com/freezer-beef-and-bean-burritos/
 




Why I love it? They are HUGELY flavorful, healthy, and a perfect make-ahead meal!

Update

So... I'm still here, alive, and well. Cooking and parenting pretty much nonstop! My homeschooled kiddos are now in grades K, 3, and 5. They love reading, art, and PE, and can usually be convinced to do the rest of their subjects...

I'm still working on eating well and exercising a couple times a week. This past April I reached my goal weight (which included losing 27 pounds), and almost 7 months later, I'm proud to still be there! It's been a learning process to see what amount of food (not calories, which I don't track) and exercise I need to maintain my weight.

I was told by my mother-in-law that I still have one blog reader who looks for new posts, so I'm going to try posting some more! I have a bunch of posts that I've started but not finished. I just finished one (Freezer Beef & Bean Burritos), and will do more as time allows. Right now I have a kindergartener asking me to go do science with her. Till next time, thanks for reading!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Roasted Vegetable Broth

 Start with a bunch of fresh veggies


Roast until lightly browned

 
Voila! 8 cups of broth to freeze!

I know that broth is something easy to buy in a store- there are many options, and it's cheap- but there's just something about making it from scratch that can be irresistible.  I make turkey and chicken broth often, and this roasted vegetable broth is another good recipe to have on hand.  You could use it in soup, to cook rice, gravy, and more.

With having to buy the vegetables at the store, this isn't necessarily cheaper than buying broth- it cost me about $6.50 to make 8 cups (4 cans worth) of broth.  It is more flavorful and healthy though, so you just have to decide what you're wanting.  Sometimes I go for what's quickest & cheapest, sometimes I go for most healthy & flavorful- although I try to have it all!  This would definitely be cheap to make if you were able to grow some of your own veggies.

The basic premise is that you roast a bunch of vegetables in a large pan (I lined mine with nonstick foil, partly because my roasting pan's finish is chipping), cook them in a large pot with water and other seasonings, then strain.  It's not very difficult, but it does take some time- about 3 hours start to finish.  It's yummy though, and worth making at least once! :)

Roasted Vegetable Broth
Printable version here 

1 1/2 pound sweet onions, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 pound carrots, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 pound tomatoes, cored
1 pound green bell pepper, cut into 1 inch pieces
1/2 pound turnips, cubed into 1/2 inch pieces
2 tablespoons (approx.) olive oil
1 pound (bunch) celery
3 cloves garlic, minced/pressed
3 whole cloves
1 bay leaf
6 whole black peppercorns
1 bunch fresh parsley, roughly chopped
1 gallon (4 quarts/16 cups) water
2 teaspoons salt, or to taste

1. Preheat oven to 450º.  Meanwhile, begin rinsing and chopping vegetables- onions, carrots, tomatoes, bell pepper, and turnips.  Place in a large roasting pan, drizzle with olive oil, and stir, making sure all the vegetables are lightly coated.

2.  Roast vegetables, stirring every 15 minutes, until the vegetables and browned and the onions start to darken.  This takes me about 1 hour 15 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, in a large stock pot (minimum 8 quart), add remaining ingredients (celery, spices, parsley, water, and salt).  I start this about 30 minutes before the vegetables are done, so that the water can begin heating, which saves time. Add roasted vegetables to the pot, bring to a boil, and simmer uncovered until reduced by half.  Mine took 1 hour 15 minutes.

4. Pour the broth through a colander, catching the broth in a large bowl or pot. (Scoop out some of the vegetables beforehand to help it not splash quite so much.) Using a spoon or spatula, press on the vegetables in the strainer to extract as much liquid from them as you can.  Add salt and/or pepper to taste, and enjoy!  Extra broth can be frozen for up to a couple months.

Yield: 8 cups broth

Recipe Source: Allrecipes.com

Why I love it? This makes an incredibly flavorful, natural vegetable broth.  Like all homemade foods, it's nice knowing exactly what's in it, and it's especially helpful being able to control the sodium content.