Barefoot Bloggers: Beatty’s Chocolate Cake

September 27, 2009

Mary of Passionate Perseverance selected Beatty’s Chocolate Cake for our second Barefoot Blogger’s September recipe to celebrate her birthday. Happy Birthday Mary!

I must say that while I’m not necessarily a chocoholic, I had been eying this recipe for a while! My husband, Red, was having a birthday on September 24, so I thought this would be a great birthday cake to make for his surprise birthday party. Now, Red loves almost all dessert, but not necessarily chocolate cake. He was however, optimistic by the reviews on this recipe that he might actually change his mind about chocolate cake after all. We both were definitely game to make this recipe.

After reading some of the reviews on Food Network, I decided to not change any of the ingredients in this recipe. I really wanted to leave it the way it is and see how much we would like it (or not like it). I also don’t have two 8×2 inch round cake pans, so I used (2) 9×2-inch, and they were fine. When they were cooled, they were a bit flat, and the center fell a bit more than I had wanted.

My friends asked me if I would decorate this cake, since it was intended for a party, and I wasn’t sure how well this frosting would pipe. Lo and behold, I saw this post a few days ago, and was amazed by her gorgeous cake, and decided that maybe I should decorate this cake! Also, after realizing that there is a raw egg involved in Ina’s original frosting recipe,  I decided to use this chocolate sour cream frosting from Reservation Not Required. And I was literally licking the spatula, the spoon, and the piping bag. I was almost covered in chocolate by the time I got the cake done, which is not a typical kitchen experience for me.

Our friends really enjoyed this cake, and so was my very surprised husband!


Butter, for greasing the pans
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pans
2 cups sugar
3/4 cups good cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup buttermilk, shaken
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee


Chocolate Sour Cream Frosting, recipe follows.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter 2 (8-inch) round cake pans. Line with parchment paper, then butter and flour the pans.

Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and mix on low speed until combined. In another bowl, combine the buttermilk, oil, eggs, and vanilla. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry. With mixer still on low, add the coffee and stir just to combine, scraping the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula.

Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool in the pans for 30 minutes, then turn them out onto a cooling rack and cool completely.

Place 1 layer, flat side up, on a flat plate or cake pedestal. With a knife or offset spatula, spread the top with frosting. Place the second layer on top, rounded side up, and spread the frosting evenly on the top and sides of the cake.

Chocolate Sour Cream Frosting
As seen in Reservation Required, Adapted from the New Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook

1 12 oz package (2 cups) semi-sweet chocolate pieces
1/2 cup butter
1 8 oz carton sour cream
4 1/2 cups sifted powdered sugar (about 1 pound)
1 tablespoon instant coffee powder

In a large saucepan melt chocolate and butter over low heat, stirring frequently. Cool for 5 minutes. Stir in sour cream.
Gradually, add powdered sugar, beating until smooth. Dissolve coffee powder in 2 teaspoons of very hot water and mix in to frosting.
This frosts the tops and sides of two 8 or 9 inch cake layers. (Halve the recipe to frost at 13x9x2 inch cake).
Cover and store frosted cake in the refrigerator.

Eggplant Parmesan

September 22, 2009

Our town’s farmer market is held every Wednesday afternoon in front of a strip mall, literally almost right across from the sub division where we live. They’ll have several stalls of local farmers displaying their gardens bounty and sometimes baked goods. As much as we love to cook, you would think that we’d be lining up there every Wednesday. But the truth is, with our work schedule…  it is very difficult to get there on time before they pack up and leave for the day, which is around 5 o’clock.

Last week however, Red and I decided that we would make time to stop by, even if it’s just for five minutes to see what they have left. Sometimes I have a reservation that maybe whatever left at the stalls would be of lesser quality. Boy, was I wrong!  I found these gorgeous looking eggplants which I knew right away that I absolutely had to have! Red asked me what I wanted to do with eggplants and I thought of this eggplant Parmesan dish.  He didn’t look too convinced, but we still went home with two eggplants in tow.

As the temperature drops outside,  this is such a perfect dish to have baking inside your kitchen. It has a lot of the ingredients that satisfies the “comfort food” criteria, like marinara sauce (I like mine spicy), cheeses (I have not met a cheese I don’t like!), sliced egg plants fried in bread crumbs… and layers of them!  It is great as a main dish for vegetarian meal (an alternative to vegetarian lasagna), but still hearty enough for a light supper.  I used Tyler Florence’s recipe from Food Network for the eggplant part, and cheated on the sauce by using the ready to use marinara sauce from a jar– and it turned out fantastic. I also think that this will make a nice appetizer if it is baked in an individual-size gratin.  Another keeper recipe that will warm up our house and tummies this winter!


1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon dried oregano
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
5 eggs
1 cup all-purpose flour
Extra-virgin olive oil
4 pounds medium eggplants, trimmed and cut lengthwise into 1/2-inch-thick slices
2 pounds whole ricotta
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
1 1/4 cups freshly grated Parmigiano-Romano
2 pounds shredded mozzarella cheese

Combine the bread crumbs, garlic powder, and oregano in a shallow bowl; season generously with salt and pepper and mix well. Crack 3 of the eggs into another shallow bowl; season with salt and pepper and beat with a fork to mix. Put the flour in another shallow bowl and season with salt and pepper. Arrange the eggplant, flour, beaten eggs, and bread crumbs on a work surface near the stove.

Heat about 1/4-inch olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When the oil is hot, dredge several eggplant slices first in the flour, then dip them in the egg, and finally coat them in the bread crumbs. Put as many eggplant in the skillet as will fit comfortably in a single layer and cook until tender and well browned on both sides. Drain on paper towels. Cook all of the eggplant slices this way, adding more olive oil to the pan as needed.

Stir together the ricotta and 1/2 cup of the Parmigiano cheese. Stir in the basil and remaining 2 eggs, and season with salt and pepper.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

To assemble the dish, first get yourself set up with a large, buttered baking dish. Have ready the eggplant, the ricotta mixture, the tomato sauce, the shredded mozzarella cheese and the remaining 3/4 cup grated Parmigiano. To start, spoon some of the tomato sauce over the bottom of the baking dish. Now add a layer of eggplant. Spread with half of the ricotta mixture. Spoon another layer of tomato sauce over and sprinkle with about one-third of the mozzarella. Repeat with a layer of eggplant, the rest of the ricotta, tomato sauce, and another third of the mozzarella. Finish with the rest of the eggplant, the rest of the tomato sauce, and the rest of the mozzarella. Sprinkle with the 3/4 cup Parmigiano.

Put the dish in the oven and bake for about 1 hour, until golden and bubbling. Let stand for about 20 minutes before cutting.

Baked Butternut Squash

September 21, 2009

When the weather started to get chilly this weekend, my shopping mood at the grocery store usually changes with the season as well. I also love picking up new ingredients that I don’t normally cook, to expand my taste bud’s adventure.

This time, I picked up a butternut squash that I had planned on using for a side dish I saw on a magazine. The main ingredient in this side dish was cranberry beans, and it looks delicious–with broccoli rabe, bacon, and dried cranberries. After hunting for cranberry beans for a few days and had no luck, I made an executive decision to switch gear and maybe just enjoy this squash on its own.

I have never done this before, but figured that I can just bake this in a shallow dish with water until it turns soft. Voila! So delicious! And aah… so simple. Red and I looked at each other and wonder why we don’t do this more frequently. Of course, this recipe won’t qualify as a “quick” dish, since you need at least a full hour in the oven, depending on how large your squash is. But we love how tender the flesh was, and how the crispy and saltiness of the bacon crumbles added such a nice contrast to the sweetness of the squash. Bon Appetit!


1 large butternut squash, about 2 lbs
Pepper & Salt to season
2 tbsp of butter
2 tbsp of crumbled cooked bacon

Slice squash lengthwise, and put them face side down on a shallow baking dish filled with 1/4 inch of water.
Season generously with pepper and salt.
Bake, covered in aluminum foil for about an hour at 350 degree, or until it’s soft.
When they are soft, mash it together with spoon, while trying to keep the shell intact.
Add butter, season with pepper and salt. Add topping of choice, mine was bacon. In the future, I thought about adding fried shallots. Yum!
Serve it in the shell.

Source: Blissfully Delicious

Pistachio Gelato

September 20, 2009

I never tried gelato before until I went to Italy for the first time this past summer. I had always heard about it, and was ready to have my first introduction to these delectable frozen desserts! And… wow! If I knew what I had been missing out until then, I would have worked harder to get them here at home! Red and I easily spent $150 if not more on gelato during our 16-days trip to Italy. I had budgeted 10 Euro daily allowance for gelato during our trips. Some days when it was too hot to eat lunch, Red and I had an understanding that a couple of scoops of these frozen wonders would be acceptable as a meal.

So when we came back home, it wasn’t too long before we had our gelato withdrawal. Red and I quickly tried to find some basic gelato recipes that we could try using our new ice-cream attachment. It was very difficult to find one that didn’t contain any heavy cream. Gelato is supposedly made out of milk, sugar, egg yolks and some natural flavorings. This one that I found on Epicurious looked authentic, and we absolutely loved the recipe. I didn’t have any liquid food coloring, so I used a couple of very tiny drops of my Wilton color gel that I use for tinting frosting. Maybe next time, I would find a different food coloring.

The grounded pistachio also made this gelato very nutty, so next time, I would probably strain the nuts to make this recipe closer to the type that we found in Italy. But I think the recipe and flavoring were very authentic, and will make again for sure! If you love pistachios and ice-cream, this recipe is a must try!

P.S.: I promise, I will also post recipes other than frozen treats, I know I have been churning up all kind of ice-cream this summer. But they were SOOOO… good! And ice-cream is a staple at our house, all year long, even when it’s minus 30 degree outside!


3/4 cup unsalted shelled pistachios (about 3 3/4 ounces)
3/4 cup sugar
2 cups whole milk
1 teaspoon almond extract
5 large egg yolks
2 drops green food coloring

Finely grind 3/4 cup pistachios and 1/4 cup sugar in processor. Combine pistachio mixture, milk and almond extract in heavy medium saucepan. Bring to boil. Whisk yolks and 1/2 cup sugar in large bowl to blend. Gradually whisk milk mixture into yolk mixture. Return mixture to saucepan. Stir over medium-low heat until custard thickens slightly and leaves path on back of spoon when finger is drawn across, about 8 minutes (do not boil). Remove from heat. Whisk in food coloring. Refrigerate custard until cold, about 3 hours.

Process custard in ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions. Transfer to covered container and freeze. (Can be prepared 1 week ahead. Keep frozen.) Scoop into glasses or bowls. Garnish with chopped pistachios.

Pistachio Gelato on Foodista

Carrot Cupcakes with Cream-Cheese Frosting

September 19, 2009


I came home from a work trip a couple of weeks ago to find a 5-lb bag of baby carrots in my refrigerator.  It looked like Red had gone out to Sam’s Club and decided that he wanted to have some baby carrots for snack and pick up this large bag of carrots. I don’t normally like munching on carrots (I know, I know… I should find a way to at least enjoy them since they’re healthy), so I knew that I had to find a way to use up.

Since Red’s birthday is this month, it was his turn to bring in treats during his office’s birthday treat day.  I thought it would be appropriate for me to make these carrot cupcakes to take advantage of the ingredient that I already had in hand. I have only made carrot cake once before, back in college. And I can’t even remember which recipe I use, so I decided to use this Martha Stewart’s recipe which I found on her Martha Stewart Cupcakes book.

I didn’t make any modifications to this recipe, the only thing that I didn’t have was cloves, but I left everything else alone. I thought this recipe was a good classic carrot cake recipe. Since it’s not very sweet, the un-frosted version of this cupcakes would be good as breakfast, and the sweet cream cheese frosting would make a sophisticated dessert. In the future, I may add walnut or pecan as variation.

I have been having fun with my new cake decorating kit which I purchased recently for my Wilton class, so I decided to use one of the larger tips to pipe the frosting on the cupcakes. The frosting was a little bit too soft for more elaborate decoration, so I just piped it with the star tip. Not only that they brought this ordinary dessert to another level, it was a lot less messy too in my opinion! I also tried to tint the frosting with “orange” color, but it came out yellow… uh-oh! They were still delicious and happily consumed by the co-workers at work!

Adapted from Martha Stewart Cupcakes


1 pound carrots, finely grated
3 large eggs, room temperature
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
1/3 cup buttermilk
1 vanilla bean, halved lengthwise, seeds scraped and reserved
1/2 cup golden raisins
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Make cupcakes: Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line mini muffin tins with paper liners. Whisk together carrots, eggs, sugar, oil, buttermilk, vanilla-bean seeds, and raisins. In another bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and spices. Stir flour mixture into carrot mixture until well combined.

Divide batter among liners, filling 3/4 full. Bake until a cake tester inserted in centers comes out clean, 23 to 28 minutes, rotating tins halfway through. Transfer tins to racks to cool for 10 minutes. Remove from tins; let cool completely.

Make frosting: Beat cream cheese and butter with 1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar. Continue to beat while adding remaining sugar 1/4 cup at a time. Add vanilla, and beat until fluffy, about 5 minutes.

Yield~ 2 dozen standard size cupcakes.

Penne a la Carbonara

September 18, 2009

Sometimes I forget how simple pasta dishes are! They usually can be put together pretty quickly using ingredients I already have in my pantry and are usually satisfying.  One of my all time favorite way to enjoy pasta is a la carbonara. I absolutely love the Tom Cruise’s version of spaghetti carbonara and appreciate that he uses olive oil instead of cream in his sauce. However, I still wanted to try another variation of this pasta dish and the recipe that I decided to try was Giada’s Penne a la Carbonara from her Everyday Italian cookbook.

This dish uses heavy-cream instead of olive oil, so it definitely has a little more depth than the Tom Cruise’s version, but it was still light and delicious. This actually reminds me to a lot of the pasta carbonara that I had during my trip to Italy earlier this summer, so it scored points with Red!  It was so good that I was amazed that we don’t make this more frequently!


2 tbsp olive oil
1 lb pancetta, diced into 1-inch cubes (I used bacon)
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
6 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 1/4 cups freshly grated parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp salt plus more to taste
1 lb dried penne
1 tbsp chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley


In a large saute pan, heat the oil over a medium flame. When almost smoking, add the pancetta and saute until golden brown and crispy, about 5 minutes. Stir in 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper and remove the pan from the heat.

In a medium bowl, beat the eggs and cream. Stir in 1/4 cup of the Parmesan cheese, 1/2 tsp of sea salt, and 1/4 tsp of pepper.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the penne and cook until it is just tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes. Drain. Do not rinse the pasta with water; you want to retain the pasta’s natural starches that help the sauce adhere.

While the pasta is still hot, return it to the pot, and quickly toss with the browned pancetta, then the cream mixture. It’s important to work quickly while the pasta is still hot so that the cream mixture will cook, but not curdle. Toss with the remaining cup of Parmesan cheese and the chopped parsley. Season the pasta with more salt and pepper to taste. Transfer the pasta to bowls and serve.

Yield: 4-main course serving

Barefoot Bloggers: Birthday Sheet Cake

September 13, 2009

I must admit, when I first saw the birthday sheet cake selection for the first Barefoot Blogger’s recipe in September, I was a little bit apprehensive due to the reviews on Food Network. Susy of Everyday Gourmet was celebrating a birthday, so Happy Birthday Susy!


I decided to make this recipe with a few tweaks… well, maybe more than a few. I figured that I needed some practice in my cake decorating skill that I picked up over the summer. I haven’t really decorated any more cakes since the class ended.


Here are my revisions:

1. I halved the recipe
2. I used an 8-inchx3 round pan, which I used for my Wilton classes
3. I used the bake spray that was recommended by my Wilton instructor instead of shortening, or butter and flour
4. I used 3/4 of baking soda instead of 1
5. I omit the lemon zest, because I didn’t feel like grating a lemon
6. I used the Wilton butter cream frosting recipe so I could decorate the cake, which I also used as a filling.

The verdict: the cake was just okay for me. A little bit in the dry side, but there was nothing special. For a cake made from scratch (from her, too!) I would have expected a lot more.


I probably will not make this again in the future.


Ben & Jerry’s Kit Kat Ice Cream

September 11, 2009

For one of my friends’ baby shower this past summer, I decided to whip up a batch of Kit Kat ice-cream. All of my other ice-cream recipes used eggs, so I thought that I would try one of the variation of sweet cream bases from my fave Ben & Jerry’s Homemade Ice Cream & Dessert book that did not use eggs.

Unfortunately, I had only tried the sweet-cream base that used eggs in my past ice-cream, and I was concerned about making something that I had never made before to a party. Secondly, the book says that the base version that  I was considering to make would not store well in home freezers, therefore we should be prepared to eat them all. Hmm… now that I think back, who would turn down an offer to polish off a homemade ice-cream?

Per Red’s recommendations, we tried this Kit Kat version. He convinced me that everyone loves Kit Kat, so if the sweet cream bases wasn’t good–well, they can at least enjoy the frozen Kit Kat, and a large gathering like this baby shower was a good place to try! And it was! It turned out delicious, and people did not miss the custard-based cream that we normally get in ice-cream using egg-yolks. This ice-cream was light and refreshing, with just enough hints of fun from the candy bits. In fact, Red loved this so much that he occasionally still drops me a hint that he didn’t get to eat enough of this ice-cream since he wanted to make sure everyone else at the shower had a taste. At least I am proud that he was considerate! 🙂













4 Kit Kat candy bars (1.6 ounces each)
2 tsp vanilla extract
Sweet Cream Base Version 2 (See recipe below)

1. Using a sharp knife, cut the candy bars into bite-size pieces. Refrigerate in a covered bowl.
2. Prepare the Sweet Cream Base, adding the vanilla extract with the cream. Transfer to an ice-cream maker and freeze following the manufacturer’s instructions.
3. After the ice-cream stiffens (about 2 minutes before it is done), add the chopped candy, then continue freezing until the ice-cream is ready.

Yield: 1 generous quart

Sweet Cream Base-Version 2
2 cups heavy or whipping cream
2/3 cup half and half
3/4 sugar

Pour the ice-cream into a mixing bowl. Whisk in the sugar, a little at a time, then continue to whisking until completely blended, about 1 minute more. Pour in the half and half and whisk to blend.

Zuppa Toscana Soup

September 11, 2009

I found this recipe on the internet about two and a half years ago, when I was looking for something that is easy to prepare and can be used as a one-stop meal during our first winter in Iowa. When I said one stop meal, I usually look for some sort of protein, carbohydrates and some leafy vegetables all into one dish. This recipe also introduced me and Red to our first taste of kale as well, and we absolutely loved how this recipe transformed kale into something so delicious!

The combination of the spicy sausage, bacon, and heartiness of the potatoes and kale in cream-broth was a winter solitude in a bowl. We loved this so much that this has became a weekly staple at our house in the winter. And in the Midwest where we live, that’s easily about six to eight months out of the year. Or at least it feels that way. We love serving this to our friends as well who quickly fell in love with this soup and started making it at their home–and made it their fave. Red had been asking for this soup when the weather started getting chilly last week.  As much as I don’t like the cold winter days (and evenings!), I know that at least we have this to look forward to.

1 lb spicy Italian sausage, crumbled
1/2 lb. smoked bacon, chopped
1 quart water
(2) 14.5 oz. cans (about 3 2/3 cups) chicken broth
2 large russet potatoes, scrubbed clean, cubed
2 garlic cloves, peeled, crushed
1 medium onion, peeled, chopped
2 cups chopped kale OR Swiss chard
1 cup heavy whipping cream
salt and pepper, to taste

In a skillet over medium-high heat, brown sausage, breaking into small pieces as you fry it; drain, set aside.
In a skillet over medium-high heat, brown bacon; drain, set aside.
Place water, broth, potatoes, garlic, and onion in a pot; simmer over medium heat until potatoes are tender.
Add sausage and bacon to pot; simmer for 10 minutes.Add kale and cream to pot; season with salt and pepper; heat through.

Tomato Tart

September 9, 2009

I have always wanted a vegetable garden, but we don’t really have a good spot for it. Especially with my little gardener (shown below here, taking a nap after a hard day of work!) that constantly patrols the backyard, it is basically safe to say that I may not be able to have my own garden until I figure out  a way to protect these plants from her.


When my mom told me that she had planted about a dozen of tomato plants or so this summer, I was excited to be able to get some homegrown tomatoes from her! I had initially thought about making a tomato salad with fresh mozzarella drizzled with olive oil or balsamic vinegar, but wanted something a little bit more rustic and filling. So when I saw a recipe for a tomato tart in Martha Stewart Baking Handbook, I knew that I could use my tomatoes for this recipe!


This tart was surprisingly filling, while still relatively light & actually pretty healthy.   We didn’t have any salad or baguette to go with this salad, but I think in the future, it would have been perfect to have a nice green salad and or baguette to make this a complete meal. Red ate half of the pie before he left for his work trip overseas.  I think this may also work well as appetizers. What a perfect fall recipe… and versatile as well!


1 head garlic
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
All purpose flour for dusting
Pie Crust
3/4 cup grated Italian Fontina Cheese (~ 3 ounces)
1 1/2 cup ripe but firm tomatoes (about 4 med, sliced about 1/4 thick)
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
12 Fresh Basil Leaves


Pre-heat the oven to 350 deg F. Place the garlic on a piece of aluminum foil; drizzled with 1 tbsp of olive oil. Fold foil to encase the garlic; sealing edges well, and place on a small baking sheet. Roast in oven until golden brown and the tip of a paring knife easily pierces the flesh, about 45 min. Remove from the oven; set aside. When garlic is cool enough to handle, use your finger or the handle of a knife to squeeze the cloves out of their skins and into a small bowl; mash with a fork, and set aside. Discard the papery skins.

Fit the pie dough into a 10-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom, pressing into the edges. Using a rolling pin or a sharp paring knife, trim dough flush with the top edge of the tart pan; chill tart shell until firm, about 30 min.

Spread roasted garlic evenly on the bottom of the chilled shell. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup of the fontina cheese. Arrange sliced tomatoes in an overlapping circular pattern on top of the cheese; working from the outer edge toward the center. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup of the cheese and drizzle with remaining 2 tablespoons of oil.

Raise oven temperature to 425 deg F. Bake tart until crust is golden and tomatoes are soft, but still retain their shape, 45 to 55 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for 20 minutes. Thinly slice basil leaves lengthwise. Sprinkle tart with basil and serve warm.

NOTE: I entered this recipe as a part of the Orange Kitchen’s Garden Veggie Roundup.  Check out what other domestic goddesses out there doing with the fruit of their vegetable garden this year!