Tag Archives: food

Red Wine Chocolate Cake

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In middle school, Georgia and I used to make homemade truffles to give to our friends around the holidays. Actually, Georgia started this practice—I remember being in awe of her cocoa-dusted truffles neatly packaged in tiny Chinese takeout boxes that she gave me one Christmas. I thought it was a genius idea to give out homemade treats and started doing the same. Some years I made chocolate peanut butter cups, packaging them in cheap holiday mugs for my family. They were probably melted by the time the recipients opened them, but I remember being quite pleased with my handiwork.

Despite living in New England all my life, I think I have a bit of Southern girl in me, as I believe that the best way to show people you care about them is by cooking for them. A simple omelet, a box of dark chocolate truffles, and a birthday cake all become more special if you’ve made them yourself.

Sophie, one of our closest friends, recently turned twenty. To celebrate her special day, we gathered and feasted upon a truly decadent red wine chocolate cake, topped with a mascarpone cream and fresh, juicy strawberries. Although it was simple to prepare and not grandiose in the least—the cake is only one layer—it was one of the best chocolate cakes I have ever eaten. The cake is rich, chocolaty and punctuated by pockets of deep red wine flavor, but perfectly complimented by the cool cream and sweet strawberries. It’s sophisticated enough to serve after a formal dinner, but easy enough to prepare that you’ll want to make it for every occasion.

If you haven’t thought of something to get your dad for Father’s Day, I recommend making this cake. It requires no more than an hour of your time, a few ingredients, including good red wine, and endless love.

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Red Wine Chocolate Cake
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

For the cake
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg & 1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
3/4 cup red wine
1 cup + 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/2 cup Dutch cocoa powder (we used Hershey’s Special Dark)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

For the topping
1/2 cup mascarpone cheese
1/2 cup heavy cream, chilled
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

  1. Preheat oven to 325. Line the bottom of a 9-inch round cake pan with parchment paper, then butter and flour both the sides of the pan and surface of the parchment.
  2. In a large bowl, beat the butter until smooth, then add sugars and beat until light and fluffy. Add the egg and yolk, beat well, then add the wine and vanilla. The mixture might look a little lumpy, but fear not, this is totally normal and your cake will be fine.
  3. In a smaller bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Sift the dry mixture over the wet, then beat until combined.
  4. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the surface with a rubber spatula. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then remove the cake from the pan and cool on a wire rack.
  5. To make the topping, beat together mascarpone, heavy cream, powdered sugar and vanilla until soft peaks form–don’t over-beat. Smooth over the surface of the cake and garnish with fresh strawberries or raspberries.

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Ultimate Lasagna

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So, I’m not really sure what to call this dish. “The Best Lasagna Ever” is a bit subjective, right? “Roasted Red Pepper, Mushroom and Spinach Lasagna with Whole Wheat Pasta” sounds like a carnivore’s worst nightmare and fails to mention the chunks of Italian-style chicken sausage simmered into the sauce. “Homemade Lasagna” doesn’t sound right either. If I’m giving you a recipe for it, isn’t it homemade by default?

Perhaps I should just tell you about this “Ultimate Lasagna,” a carb and cheese-lovers favorite casserole that I created from many different recipes. It features layers of homemade chunky tomato sauce, homemade whole wheat pasta, homemade ricotta cheese blended with sautéed spinach, roasted red peppers and mushrooms and a generous helping of a combination of smoked mozzarella and regular mozzarella. It sounds complex, like a fan of Old English literature, but it’s not. It’s perfection in casserole form, if I do say so myself.

The great part about this dish is that you don’t have to make every component from scratch. I probably wouldn’t have made my own pasta, ricotta and sauce and roasted my own red peppers except for the fact that I am on spring break and nobody’s around, so the kitchen has become my best friend. If you’re pressed for time, you can just as easily use prepared ingredients, or prepare the sauce, ricotta and veggies a couple days beforehand. The components are pretty easy to make, even the pasta–but it all takes time. Fortunately, I think the finished product is well worth your time.

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Ultimate Lasagna

Ricotta Sauce
1 recipe ricotta (or 1 15-oz container)
6 oz fresh spinach
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
Salt & pepper

Tomato Sauce
1 recipe tomato sauce (I added 1/2 can tomato paste to thicken)
2 chicken, turkey or regular sausages (I used Italian-style chicken)

Vegetables
2 roasted red peppers, diced
2 Portabella mushroom caps, stem & gills removed, diced
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt & pepper

Whole Wheat Noodles
1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour (or, 1 cup wheat & 1/2 cup white)
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
2 tablespoons water

To Assemble
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (I used 1/2 regular mozzarella and 1/2 smoked mozzarella)

  1. Add 2 diced sausages to tomato sauce and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove from heat.
  2. In a skillet over medium heat, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil, then add spinach, salt and pepper. Saute until the spinach is wilted. Let cool, then mix in a medium bowl mix together ricotta, spinach, egg, parmesan and season to taste with salt and pepper.
  3. In the same skillet, heat a tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Add mushroom pieces and sauté about 5 minutes, or until soft. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  4. Preheat oven to 375. Meanwhile, prepare the noodles.

For Noodles:

  1. Mix together flour and salt in a shallow dish. Make a well in the center of the flour and add egg and water.
  2. Beat the egg and into the flour with a fork until the dough comes together, then use your hands to knead it. Roll into a ball and let rest for 20-25 minutes.
  3. Divide the dough into 9 even pieces and roll each piece into a 9×3″ rectangle. Place the noodles aside, storing in 3 layers of 3 noodles. Cover each with a piece of damp paper towel.
  4. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil.

To Assemble:

  1. Spread 1/3 of the tomato sauce on the bottom of a 9×9″ baking dish.
  2. Place three noodles in the pot and boil about 30 seconds. Remove from the water, rinse under cold water, pat dry, and layer on top of the tomato sauce.
  3. Spread about 1/2 of the ricotta mixture over the noodles, followed by 1/2 of the peppers and mushrooms, 1/3 cup of mozzarella and then another 1/3 of tomato sauce.
  4. Repeat the process to make another layer–you should have used up the peppers/mushrooms and ricotta and have 3 more noodles, 1/3 tomato sauce and 1/3 cup mozzarella remaining.
  5. Boil the last noodles and layer on top of the tomato sauce. Spread the remaining tomato sauce on top then sprinkle with the remaining mozzarella cheese.
  6. Place an oil-coated piece of aluminum foil over the lasagna and bake for 20 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbling. Remove the foil and bake for another 30 minutes, or until the cheese is lightly browned. Cool 15 minutes before cutting & serving.

Adapted from Chow and Naturally Ella

Bacon & Brussels Sprouts Skillet Pizza

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After a long and seemingly endless winter break, I am back at college in the city. I took a small cooking hiatus (unless you count instant oatmeal as cooking) in order to settle into second semester, but here I am to share with you something Wright Time for a Schnack rarely features–a meal, not dessert!

I will admit that I’m quite partial to baking, but I do enjoy cooking myself a nice meal every now and then. When I saw this bacon and brussels sprouts pizza on How Sweet It Is, I knew I just had to try it. It has all the makings of a perfect meal: brussels sprouts are one of my favorite vegetables (especially if they’re roasted), and everything’s better with bacon. Oh, and cheese. Enough said.

My roommate Hannah and I spent Saturday afternoon at the Union Square Greenmarket in search of fresh ingredients for our pizza. It was fantastic to see the greenmarket open post-Nemo. Less than fantastic, however, was the amount of watery slush we had to trudge through to get there. Oh, the joys of the New York City in the snow.

Unfortunately, this pizza isn’t too college budget-friendly. However, if you’re splitting the cost of ingredients with someone else, and you have leftovers for lunch tomorrow, and you taste the sheer genius of the ingredient pairing, you forget that paid almost $10 for bacon. And thanks to the wonderful cheese man at Whole Foods’ fromagerie (did anybody know they called their cheese shop a fromagerie? They do. It was printed on the cheese label), I was able to get exactly the right amount of cheese that I needed for this pizza. Apparently you can ask for a specific amount of cheese at the cheese counter, and they will cut it to size for you. I did not know this before. My life has changed for the better.

Let me forewarn you that the skillet pizza method is not foolproof, especially if you don’t have the proper ingredients (like a pizza peel, or a broiler in your oven). Albeit a couple mishaps and a crust that was overdone in a few spots, we ended up with a tantalizingly delicious pizza. The skillet pizza method is wonderful because it takes only minutes to cook–if your oven is equipped with a broiler.

Basically, what you need to do is heat a skillet under a broiler or on the stovetop for ten minutes until it is hot. Don’t touch it or else you’ll sear your fingers off and that would not be fun. Then, after artfully layering ingredients on the pizza dough, which should be set atop a well-floured pizza peel (or, in our case, a wooden cutting board), you’ll want to slide the pizza onto the skillet. This is where we had a bit of trouble–some of the ingredients tumbled into the skillet and started cooking on contact. If this happens and you’re quick enough, you’ll be able to position the pizza in the skillet and scrape the melted cheese off of the surface and onto the dough, wielding only a spatula and oven mitt. The oven mitt is necessary, as this is dangerous stuff. After you have settled the ingredients back onto the dough and had a quick tantrum about how sad and un-artistic the arrangement of the ingredients are, you will need to act quickly and place the skillet under a broiler for only about 2 minutes. Yes, 2 minutes. Unless you don’t have a broiler, in which case you will put the skillet on the top rack of your oven heated to 400 and hope the crust doesn’t overcook.

Drizzled with balsamic glaze (Hannah recently returned from Italy and brought back a bottle of balsamic crema, which is thick balsamic syrup. It’s amazing), this pizza is complete. The balsamic balances the salty bacon, Brussels sprouts and cheese beautifully. Unfortunately, because of our lack of broiler, the crust and cheese didn’t get that toasty look, but the pizza was delicious nonetheless. I recommend serving it with a side salad composed of whatever you can find in your fridge and pantry–red peppers, tomato, avocado, nuts, dried fruit–to balance the heartiness of the cheese. And don’t be surprised if someone walks into your room, drawn by the heavenly scent of melted cheese.

For the recipe, head to How Sweet It Is.

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Dirty Chai Pancakes with Spiced Caramel Sauce

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My friends, Wright Time for a Schnack has officially reunited! We have meandered our way back to snowy little Rhode Island from our respective corners of the world, and this morning happily cooked in the same kitchen for the first time in over four and a half months. We might be a little more street-smart, city-slick, and worldly, but we are still delighted to return to our now-quaint hometown and the brilliant friends and family who inhabit it.

On this chilly winter morning, both of us recovering from colds, Caty and I concocted a delightful warm breakfast of dirty chai (chai with espresso, for those not in the know) pancakes with a sweet caramel sauce to top it off. It was enormously satisfying. One of the many lovely things about pancakes is that they are extremely adaptable–one can put any number of ingredients in pancakes and they transform to suit any number of occasions. In this instance, our occasion was our blogging reunion, and the newly-born year of 2013. (If you don’t have any occasions to celebrate with food, I encourage you make one up on the spot.)

I would recommend for those without huge sweet teeth (and believe me, I myself like my sugar) to cut back on the amount of the caramel sauce, because between the two of us Caty and I probably ate no more than half of what we had made–the sauce-to-pancakes ratio was quite high.

These were a lovely treat, but the best part was enjoying each other’s blogging company after so long apart! There’s only one person who understands my need to dance crazily in the kitchen, and that is one Caty Schnack.

Happy New Year, everybody!

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Dirty Chai Pancakes with Spiced Caramel Sauce
Adapted from Cooking for Seven

For the spiced caramel sauce
1 cup sugar
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces
1/2 cup heavy cream at room temperature
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
A pinch of each cloves, nutmeg, cardamom and ginger

For the pancakes
1 1/3 cup milk
2 teaspoons white vinegar
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup white flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
Pinch of sea salt
1 tablespoon finely ground espresso (we used Cafe Bustelo espresso-style coffee)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon cardamom
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
Pinch of cloves
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 tablespoon melted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  1. For the caramel sauce: Place sugar in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Stir vigorously until completely melted, then add butter one piece at a time. Slowly pour in heavy cream while continuing to whisk. Remove from heat and add salt and spices. Set aside.
  2. Combine the milk and vinegar in a measuring cup and set aside to curdle for five minutes.
  3. Sift together the dry pancake ingredients. Add the curdled milk, maple syrup and vanilla and stir until just combined. The batter might be liquidy; let it sit for a couple minutes and it will thicken up.
  4. Heat a heavy skillet and coat with non-stick cooking spray or butter. Drop batter onto skillet using a 1/3 cup measure and cook until bubbles appear on the sides of the pancake, 1-2 minutes. Flip and cook for another 1-2 minutes until cooked on both sides.
  5. Serve with caramel sauce and enjoy!

Chilled Snap Pea Soup with Lemon and Mint

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Summertime is simply wonderful. I love everything about this season–the weather (that does include the oppressive New England humidity, but that’s our little secret); salt-water hair, lazy days and basking in the sun. Summer provides so much inspiration for cooking and creating food. Fresh ingredients abound, the fruit is ripe, the grill is on, and the patio table is set for an evening of dining al fresco.

So yes, I truly love everything about summer, especially the food. Today Georgia and I took advantage of fresh sugar snap peas from the garden and crafted them into a deliciously refreshing soup with notes of fresh mint and lemon. It’s a beautiful shade of green, set off by a dollop of fresh creme fraiche (or yogurt, or heavy cream, if you’re not that fancy).

This is a lovely soup to make for a hot summer day, as the only cooking it requires is blanching the peas in boiling water for several minutes. The rest of the preparation is only a matter of blending the ingredients together. You could also serve this soup hot on a cool summer night.

If this soup knocks your sandals off and the flavors make you want to grab summer by the hands and dance around with it, then, yes, you’re making it right.

Enjoy!

Snap Pea Soup with Lemon and Mint
From The Year In Food, serves 4-6

1 1/2 pounds snap peas, stems removed, rinsed
1/2 cup minced shallots
2 1/2 cups vegetable broth
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons chopped fresh ming
Zest of one lemon
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
1/4 cup creme fraiche, heavy cream or yogurt

  1. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add the peas and blanch until tender but still bright green, about 6-8 minutes. Drain immediately and place in a bath of ice water in order to retain the color and to prevent further cooking.
  2. Heat a stock pot over medium heat and cook the shallots until soft, about 3 minutes. Remove the pot from heat.
  3. Add peas, broth, parmesan, mint, lemon zest, juice, salt and pepper to taste to the pot. Blend with an immersion blender or blender until it reaches the desired consistency. Whisk in the creme fraiche and serve, garnished with a dollop of creme fraiche and mint.