Tuesday, December 18, 2012

It's Beginning to Feel A Lot Like Christmas!

Happy Holidays!!!
I feel like celebrating with...

Gingerbread Cake!!!

Gingerbread cake? Why yes! That's what I said! Gaahhh! I love the holidays! Just the lights and music and general cheeriness that occurs. Well, OK so that cheeriness kinda depends on the person and what they feel the holidays represent. There are some Grumpy-Guses out there. But I love the holidays. Sure they're a little stressful and spending money I don't have is a bit of a downer, but I love the feeling of giving someone a gift and watching their face light up. I especially love when I can give them something homemade and delicious, like this cake! Best part is, this cake is relatively easy as far as cakes go. It's not layered, there's no icing involved, it's just straight forward CAKE! I suppose you could frost it if you want. Mmmmm that would be delicious.

So for the holidays I always do a TON of baking. Everyone gets their own cookie tin of their favorite cookies, or a combo tin of a few different kinds...OK more like 5 or 6. This year I decided to include this cake in a couple of my combo tins. So I figured I would share the recipe with you as well! I spent a good part of the last 2 or 3 Sundays baking so I could get everything shipped out to people, since my family no longer lives in the same place. Holy hell shipping is expensive. Had to factor that into my Christmas shopping fund. Not the easiest thing to do.

Anywho, here's what you need for this marvelous dessert: either a hand mixer or a stand mixer with a whisk attachment, a 13 x 9 rectangle baking dish, and of course the ingredients...and an oven, but I'm sure you already got that part figured out. As far as ingredients...here we go!

1 cup of butter (2 sticks) softened
1 cup sugar
3 eggs
1 cup molasses
3/4 cup hot water
2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour (plus another 1/4 or so)
1-1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Whipped cream and additional nutmeg

Seems simple enough, right? Let's get started!!

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a large mixing bowl, you want to cream the butter and sugar together until it's light and fluffy. More like the bottom part here, not the top where there's still butter clumps. :)

Next up, add in the eggs and beat that on a low speed for about 2 minutes.

Now is when I start to get my water hot. I sometimes just let water boil then let it cool down for about 5 minutes. That works out quite nicely actually.

Gradually add in the molasses. This sticky stuff always gets everywhere with me, stuck to the side of the bowl or on the top part where the attachment of the mixer connects, so try your best to just get it in the path of where the whisk goes.

You're also going to add in the hot water now. Let it mix together for about 30 seconds. It should look like this...

Yes? Excellent! Moving on...

Combine the flour, ginger, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a separate bowl. Mix it together so the spices and baking soda/salt are evenly dispersed in the flour.

Gradually add the dry mix into the creamed molasses mixture. Once it's all in there beat on a low speed for about a minute...maybe 2. Feel free to add a touch more flour in here if it seem too liquidy.

Here's your batter! Now wasn't that easy? Didn't take too much time at all did it? OK So now grab that 13x9 baking dish and flour and grease it. By that I mean spread either some softened butter or shortening all over the pan in a thin layer, the shake some flour over it to coat it. This will help the cake from sticking to the pan. I even do this on my non-stick baking stuff just to make life a little easier on myself.

This is what your pan should look like once it's greased and floured. Now you're going to pour the batter into the pan and smooth it around so it is evenly spread, not really thick on one side and thin on the other. Also to make sure the edges are even with the middle.

Now I don't know if you can tell from this picture or not. But I have baking strips around the outside of my pan. Why you ask? Well you soak them in water and wrap them around your pan and it helps the cake cook really evenly so that it doesn't dome. Dome? I mean the edges cook too fast and don't rise as much as the center does. So I wrap these around the pan once they've been soaked in water and it cools down the edges so it has more time to cook like the center of the cake. Cool, right?

Pop that into the oven for about 45 minutes. Here's what I do, I put it in for 25 minutes. Then I turn the pan around and pop it in for another 10-15 depending on how the oven is. Sometimes I even go up to another 20 minutes. Basically you want a toothpick or cake tester to come out cleanly when inserted into the center of the cake.

Mmmmm baking cake...while you're waiting time to do those dishes!! Yep, yep, yep! And enjoy the delicious gingerbread smell that's filling the room!!

TADA!!! (You can see my cake strips better in this picture.) Your cake is done! Let it cool down for about 5-10 minutes before you dive in there and start eating it. I love eating it warm with a bit of whipped cream and nutmeg sprinkled on it.

So there you go! Simple, easy, delicious cake that is perfect for the holidays! With Christmas right around the corner this one is a definite hit! This cake keeps for about a week if you cut it up into pieces and wrap them in plastic wrap. Or if you just keep a piece of plastic wrap around the cut edges and cover the rest with foil, mine kept for a little over a week. Just ate the last piece today even and it was still delicious and moist. I hate dried out cake...

Just to leave you with a couple more pictures!

Enjoy this one!
Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas!
'Til Next Time!!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

One of My All-Time Favs: Chicken Alfredo

Creamy Chicken Alfredo...with Grilled Chicken

So, I love Alfredo sauce and I especially love Fettuccine Alfredo. Add some grilled chicken to it and, like much of my food when I think about it a lot, I feel my mouth start to salivate. There's just something about all that creamy, cheesy goodness that I can't get enough of! Although I try to limit myself on the Alfredo because of the calories and high fat content. Not that I honestly ever pay much attention to it, but knowing just by the ingredients that this one is chalk full of fatty yummy stuff. 

This was an interesting day, I decided I wanted to do my chicken in my Alfredo a little differently. So I have a Le Creuset Cast Iron Grill pan that my mum got me for Christmas last year. I wanted to grill the chicken rather than just cut it up and cook it in a bit of oil and spices like I normally do. So I got out my grill pan and got to work. It turned out pretty damn good if I do say so myself!

OK so here's what you'll need to acquire in order to make this wonderful dish. A grill pan is ideal if you don't want to use your BBQ or some way to grill the chicken. And I use my deep dish saute pan to make the Alfredo sauce...and of course a stock pot of some sort to cook the pasta.

For the chicken part...

About a pound of chicken, 2 or 3 boneless skinless breasts works well
garlic powder, onion powder, rosemary, and season salt...and a touch of paprika

Take the chicken breasts and butterfly them like so...you want to cut down the chicken breast, but you obviously don't want to completely cut it in half. So leave about half an inch of the breast uncut. I cut down the center, then the center of the two halves. Basically I cut it into fourths.

Take a couple pieces of plastic wrap, put one under the chicken and one over. Next, you're going to take a meat tenderizer/pounder and flatten the chicken. Use the smooth side of the tenderizer as you don't want to puncture the chicken. You want it to be an even thickness so that the chicken cooks evenly.

Now you're going to season the chicken with some garlic powder, onion powder, dried rosemary or fresh, season salt and a touch of paprika. With whatever you're using, grill pan, grill, or just a skillet, put it on a medium-high heat and cook the chicken. I liked using my grill pan so I could get the score marks on the chicken and make it look all fancy. You're going to cook the chicken about 6 minutes on one side then flip the breasts over and cook for about another 7 or 8 minutes, until the chicken is no longer pink and the juices run clear.

Looking sorta like that? Yes? No? Maybe? Does it look edible at least? I hope it does. Man I need to make this one again. So once the chicken is done let it cool down for a few minutes so you can cut it into bite sized pieces. I cut it into strips then cut the strips into thirds. I like big chunks of chicken in my Alfredo so cut the chicken however you want to.

Now set the chicken aside for a little bit. And get a pot of water going so it can boil. use about 8-10 oz of fettuccine noodles to make this amazingness, it'll serve about 4 or 5 pretty comfortably. And now you can get started on the Alfredo sauce! Yay!! Here's what you'll need:

6 tablespoons of butter, cubed/sliced
2 cups heavy whipping cream
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, the fresher the better
1/2 cup plus another few tablespoons Romano cheese (or Mozzarella)
2 egg yolks lightly beaten
1/4 teaspoon salt
some black pepper to taste
a pinch or two of ground nutmeg

Over a medium heat, you're going to melt the butter.

Add in the heavy cream and the cheeses. Stir so the cheese melts into the cream and also to get the butter to mix into the cream and cheeses.

Next, take those egg yolks...don't mind my dog she loves eggs and anytime I take eggs out of the fridge she's right there hoping to get one. Anyways, add those into the sauce and stir it all up.

Finally, add in the salt, pepper, and ground nutmeg. Stir is all up add some more pepper or nutmeg if you choose. Taste it a bit, more cheese? Sure why not! Yeah I add more cheese in all the time. It's like an addiction, cheese is delicious.

OK so cook and stir this awesome sauce over the medium-low heat until it reaches 160 degrees Fahrenheit. You do NOT want this sauce to reach a boil, no, no, no, no, NO. Don't do it. Keep it at a low heat and stir it until it reaches 160F that's it!!!

How are your noodles coming along? Just cook them according to the packaged directions. Then drain them and you'll be good. If you managed to get the timing just right to where the sauce is ready right as the noodles are, I congratulate you. It's a difficult thing. I suck at my timing sometimes. But I'm getting better, yay!

What's next? Yep you guessed it! Once the sauce is at the 160 temp and the noodles are done and drained. Toss them into the sauce. Stir it all up and get the noodles nice and coated. Once that's done add in the chicken! Remember that tasty chicken from before? Yeah, grab that and toss it in the pan too!

Also, you're going to stir the chicken in and get it nice and coated in delicious, delicious Alfredo sauce. Now here's the hard part. Cover the dish/pan that you're using and let it sit on a low heat for about 10 or 15 minutes. Why you ask? Well, the chicken has been sitting out on the counter for a bit and you want it to be warm in the pasta right? Yeah well that's why we cover it and let it heat throughout for a few minutes. It's going to be a long 10/15 minutes but it's completely worth it. Do a few dishes or something to make the time go by faster!

There you go! I top mine with a little more grated Parmesan cheese and a touch more black pepper. I love pepper, so I probably over do it on my food sometimes, but when I'm eating it I don't care at all! Like I said, this serves about 4 or 5 comfortably. I made this for myself, my brother, and our roommate and I still had plenty of leftovers to take for lunch the next day.

Well that's it!
Hope you enjoy!!
'Til Next Time!!