Monday, April 07, 2014

Easy (and Light) Coconut Cake

I had a delicious meal with my Cooking Light group yesterday. Our dessert was this coconut cake, which was easy, absolutely delicious and somewhat light (I wouldn't call it "healthy" but it's not as loaded with fat as some other desserts).

We remarked that it would be easy to color the coconut green for Easter and garnish it with some jelly beans or other candies. If I was hosting guests that liked coconut, I'd totally go that route. That's not the case, though, so I'll save it for another time!

Easy Coconut Cake
Adapted from this recipe on Cooking Light

Cooking spray
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 (18.25-ounce) package white cake mix (cake mixes have gone down in size since this recipe was written, but a regular boxed mix works)
1 cup low-fat buttermilk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon coconut extract
2 large egg whites
1 large egg
1/4 cup flaked sweetened coconut
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
Coconut-Cream Cheese Frosting (recipe below)
Flaked coconut for topping, optional

Preheat oven to 350°. Coat a 13 x 9-inch baking pan with cooking spray; dust with flour.

Combine cake mix and next 5 ingredients (cake mix through egg); beat at low speed of a mixer for 30 seconds. Beat at medium speed for 2 minutes. Pour half of batter into prepared pan. Sprinkle with flaked coconut and brown sugar; top with remaining batter. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.

Cool the cake completely in pan. Spread the Coconut-Cream Cheese Frosting over top of cake. Sprinkle with extra coconut. (You may wish to dye the coconut first – such as green for Easter.)

Light Cream Cheese Frosting 
6 ounces 1/3-less-fat block-style cream cheese, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups sifted powdered sugar

Beat cream cheese and vanilla at high speed of a mixer until creamy. Gradually add the sugar, beating at low speed until well-blended.

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Basics Banana Bread

During one of the many snowstorms during the past winter, I wanted to bake a comforting banana bread. All of my usual recipes, though, included ingredients, such as buttermilk, that I didn't have in the pantry or fridge. There way no way I was venturing out, so I searched the internet for a recipe the called for only the basics. I found this one on a lovely website called Urban Comfort. I adapted made it into mini loaves in an effort to exercise portion control. I'm not sure it was effective in that regard, but at any rate it was moist and just sweet enough. I'm sure it will be a part of my regular banana bread rotation.

Basics Banana Bread 
Slightly adapted from the Urban Comfort website

Unsalted butter or cooking spray
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 teaspoon baking soda
Pinch of salt 2 large eggs, beaten
1/2 cup canola oil
1 cup sugar
2 large, very ripe bananas, mashed

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour (or spray) a 9-by-5-inch metal loaf pan (or mini pans).

In a medium bowl, whisk the 1 1/4 cups of flour with the baking soda and salt. In another bowl, whisk the eggs with the oil, sugar and mashed bananas. Stir the banana mixture into the dry ingredients.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan(s) and bake in the center of the oven for about 50 minutes, until the bread is golden and a toothpick inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a rack and let cool for 15 minutes, then turn the bread out onto the rack and let cool completely.

If you are using mini loaf pans, start checking at 30 minutes.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Butterscotch Bars in the Blizzard

The Blizzard made me do it.

On days like these, as Vulcan unleashes its wrath on Rochester (that's my husband and his snow blower), all I want to do is bake, bake, bake. I deliberately didn't buy chocolate chips when I went to the store yesterday, because I didn't want to be tempted to do so. (I sure don't need the calories.) That was silly; I just scrounged around and found something else to make.

This recipe, from a long-ago issue of Cooking Light, used to be in my regular rotation when the boys were little, but I haven't made it in years. Finding an open bag of butterscotch chips in the cupboard brought it to mind. It sure tastes good warm out of the oven.

Here's the recipe:

Butterscotch Bars 
Adapted from Cooking Light, January 2000
The original recipe was for a smaller pan; find the original recipe as well as the nutrition info here.

1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
4 large egg whites
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
Cooking spray (or use the butter wrapper)
1 cup butterscotch morsels

Preheat oven to 350°. Beat sugars and butter at medium speed of a mixer until well-blended (about 4 minutes). Add egg whites and vanilla; beat well.

Lightly spoon the flour into dry measuring cups, and level with a knife. Combine flour, baking powder, and salt; stir well with a whisk.

Add flour mixture to sugar mixture; beat at low speed just until blended.

Spread batter evenly into an 13x9-inch baking pan coated with cooking spray or butter from the wrapper. Sprinkle the batter evenly with morsels. Bake at 350° for 28 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in
center comes out clean. Cool in pan on a wire rack.

Sunday, February 02, 2014

Special Scotcheroos Fooballs

I'm a sucker for a theme, but I don't have a lot of time for fussing.

Today's Super Bowl treats: Special Scotcheroo footballs. I whipped up a batch of Special Scotcheroos, pressed them into a jelly roll pan, and refrigerated until they were not quite firm.

I cut them into football shapes. (I didn't have a football cookie cutter, so I bent an egg cookie cutter to be close to footballs.) I then used white chocolate to make the laces. (Melted white chocolate is a pain to work with because it oozes so much more than a frosting. I found it was easiest to make the center line by piping the white chocolate using a sandwich bag, then using a toothpick to make the laces.)

Fun and easy!

Thursday, January 02, 2014

Karen's Ham Salad

I cooked a ham for Christmas Day leftovers, and as usual, had a ton of leftovers. My usual go-to recipe for leftover ham is my mother-in-law's recipe for open-faced ham sandwiches.

I happen to spot a post for ham salad on the lovely blog Savoury Table, written by cooking contest friend Karen Harris. It looked like a tasty way to use up ham and I thought I'd try it for a a change. It was yummy! I made it just as she did, but reduced the amount of rosemary (which I had in the freezer from CSA time), and pulsed all of the ingredients in the food processor, except the mayo. I wound up using a bit more mayo than she did.

My son and I enjoyed the ham salad on crackers. It would be a great football snack.

For the recipe, head to Karen's post at Savoury Table!

Monday, December 30, 2013

Chicken mushroom noodle gratin

For a few years, three friends and I regularly attended cooking classes held at The Seasonal Kitchen. Dick and Ginger Howell gave -- and still give -- cooking classes in their inviting kitchen in Pittsford. Dick and Ginger are informative yet comedic, their recipes delicious yet approachable. Alas, the schedule demands of school-age kids brought our time at the Seasonal Kitchen to a halt, but I'm glad to see that Dick and Ginger are still going strong.

All of still use their recipes in regular rotation, and this one is a favorite. (The picture doesn't do it justice but I'm not about to delay dinner for a photo shoot.) It's a yummy way to use up leftover chicken or turkey, and is nice enough to serve to company. My friend, Marie, assembles the whole thing ahead of time and pops it into the oven for company. I'm afraid of mushy noodles, so I get all the components ready (cut-up chicken, cooked noodles, sauteed mushrooms) ahead of time, and then I make the sauce and assemble it all right before it goes in the oven.

A couple of tips:
1. The dry noodles will not look like enough when you measure it out (see the colander to the right), but it does work out just right. When you increase the noodles, you lose the creaminess of the sauce and throw the ratio off.
2. Be sure to undercook the noodles by a couple of minutes because they will continue to cook while baking.

Chicken (or Turkey) Mushroom Noodle Gratin

1 stick butter (3 Tablespoons for the mushrooms/3 for the sauce/2 on top)
1/2 lb. fresh mushrooms thinly sliced
4 Tablespoons flour
2 cups chicken stock (or poaching liquid from the chicken)
1 c. heavy cream
salt, white pepper to taste
1 T. rice vinegar or cider vinegar -- or use Madeira wine
3 c. chicken or turkey which has been poached in chicken stock and seasoned with salt and pepper (OR leftover cooked chicken or turkey), and torn into 2 x 1 inch pieces 
1/4 lb. wide egg noodles cooked 2 minutes less than directions for al dente and drained (do not increase amount of noodles - even if it looks skimpy)
1/4 c. freshly grated parmesan
2 T. fresh bread crumbs

Melt 3 tablespoons of the butter in a large skillet. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring constantly, until they have absorbed the butter and wilted, but not browned. Remove them, juice and all, to a small bowl.

Melt 3 more tablespoons butter in the same pan and add the flour, stirring constantly for several minutes, until thoroughly amalgamated. Do not brown. Gradually add the chicken stock and cream, stirring constantly with a whisk. Cook until smooth and thick about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and vinegar.

Bail out 1 cup of sauce and add it to 2 tablespoons of the parmesan cheese. Add this mixture to the cooked, drained noodles.

Fold the chicken and mushrooms into the remaining sauce.

Butter a 1 1/2 or 2 quart casserole and place half of the noodles on the bottom. Cover with half of the chicken mixture, then spread with the rest of the chicken mixture on top and sprinkle with the remaining parmesan cheese, mixed with the bread crumbs. Dot with bits of the remaining butter.

Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 40-50 minutes. (It will be a bit soupy but will thicken as it sets.)
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