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    Monday
    Mar022015

    Does Oatmeal Make It Healthy?

    Is there anything better than a chocolate cake? I’m not talking about that grocery store stuff that hardly tastes like chocolate and is smeared with a layer of artificially colored, sweetened shortening.  I’m talking about deep, dark, rich, chocolately goodness covered with fudgy deliciousness. That's exactly what this oatmeal chocolate cake is. I know I always go on about how important high quality ingredients are, but with chocolate, it’s more important than ever. If you make a cake with hersheys chocolate and generic cocoa, that’s exactly what it will taste like.  I’m not saying you have to put yourself in the poorhouse, but buy something decent. When using chocolate chips from the store, opt for the Ghirardelli or Guittard rather than the store brand or Nestle ones.  As for cocoa, I suggest a high quality, dutch process variety.  I get mine from Penzeys

    Here’s what you’ll need: 

    • 1 cup sugar
    • 1 teaspoon molasses
    • 6 Tablespoons butter
    • 1 egg
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla
    • ¾ cup flour
    • ½ teaspoon baking soda
    • ½ teaspoon baking powder
    • ¼ teaspoon salt
    • ¼ cocoa
    • ½ cup old fashioned oats
    • ¾ cup boiling water 

    The first thing you need to do is pour the boiling water over your oats and set them aside. 

    Now is probably a good time to preheat your oven to 350°, as well.  Then, in a mixing bowl, combine your softened butter, sugar, and molasses.  Mix it for a minute or two, scraping everything down once in the middle.  It won’t really get fluffy, per se, because it’s a bit heavy on the sugar side, but it should be light in color and soft. 

    Add the egg and vanilla.

    Stir until they’re incorporated. 

    Then scrape everything down again, and mix it for another minute.  I’ll be honest, it’s not terribly pretty at this point, but don’t panic, it’ll get better. 

    Sift in the dry ingredients and mix until they’re incorporated. 

    Now come the oats, along with any water they didn’t absorb. 

    Stir them in and then scoop the batter into a buttered 8 x 8 pan.  As you can see, the batter is quite stiff, but that’s just as it should be. 

    Spread it to the edges, doing your best to even it out across the top, then into the 350° oven for 35 minutes. 

    Now, the frosting for this cake gets poured on while the cake is still hot, so I like to start on it when the cake has been in the oven for about 10 minutes.  I didn’t take an ingredients picture for the frosting,

    But here’s what you’ll need: 

    • ½ cup sugar
    • ¼ cup cocoa
    • ¼ teaspoon salt
    • ½ cup milk
    • 2 Tablespoons butter
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla
    • ½ cup chocolate chips
    • 1 ½ cups powdered sugar 

    Combine the sugar, salt, and sifted cocoa in a sauce pan. 

    Stir them until they’re evenly distributed. 

    Pour in the milk,

    And add the butter.

    Stir constantly over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture just reaches a boil. 

    Then remove it from the heat and add the vanilla and chocolate chips. I used a combination of dark chocolate and semi-sweet, but you can use whichever suits your fancy that day.

    Stir until the chocolate is completely melted and you have this gorgeous concoction.

    Now, sift in half of the powdered sugar.

    Make sure it’s completely incorporated before adding the second half. 

    Then stir that in and your frosting is ready for the cake. And speaking of cake, it should be just about done. When it’s ready, a toothpick inserted in the center should come out pretty much clean. A few crumbs are ok, just not wet batter. 

    Pour the fudge frosting over the hot cake.

    Stop drooling, because now comes the hard part. Allow the cake to cool completely before cutting into it.  It’ll probably take 2 – 3 hours, minimum, for it to cool and the frosting to set. 

    I just sprinkled my piece with mini chocolate chips to make it more aesthetically pleasing, it really isn’t necessary.  In full disclosure, I actually took them off before eating it. This cake is absolutely fabulous just the way it is. It’s not like, wow, there’s oatmeal in my cake. If you didn’t make the cake, you’d probably never guess there was oatmeal in it, you’d just think, ‘I love the fantastic texture of this cake!’ and the fudge frosting is pure bliss. 

    What’s your favorite chocolate treat?

     

    Friday
    Feb132015

    Braised Pork Shoulder with Creamy Polenta

    As you probably know by now, Hubby and I are somewhat anti tradition.  For instance, at Christmastime, rather than getting a tree and decorations and exchanging gifts, we take a nice trip to the ocean.  The past two years we went to Virginia Beach and Atlantic Beach, but this year we were back in Utah, so we went to our very favorite place, San Diego.  Why is it our favorite?  Well, because of this,

    And this,

    And this,

    Well, you get the idea. San Diego is beautiful, and at that time of year, it feels like paradise. In addition to enjoying the perfect weather and taking in the awesomeness that is the Pacific Ocean, there are a couple other things that are a must on our to do list. We always go whale watching, because seriously, why wouldn’t you?

    And we always eat lots of fabulous food. Most mornings, we eat breakfast at the Broken Yolk Café. Their food is fantastic, and because oranges are in season that time of year, I never pass up the fresh squeezed juice. 

    For dessert, Extraordinary Desserts is THE place. You’d think a place with a name like that would be your typical pretentious, overpriced, disappointing dessert café, but you would be wrong. Their Au Chocolat is simply to. die. for.

    When it comes to dinner, however, we eat all over the place.  We’ll usually go into Little Italy a few times during our trip and wander into some random restaurant. This year we wandered into a little place called Davanti Enoteca.  Their menu items are served family style, so we got a couple of things to share.  One of them was the mascarpone polenta + ragù of the day.  The day we were there, it was made with pork shoulder, and it was one of the most amazing dishes I have ever eaten.  When we got home, I had to try to recreate it.  To be honest, I didn’t have high hopes of being able to match the fabulousness from that restaurant, but the end result blew me away.  Even Hubby said it was every bit as good as theirs, and maybe even better. Now you can make and enjoy this wonderful recipe, as well. 

    Here’s what you’ll need: 

    • 1.5 – 2 pounds pork shoulder
    • ½ teaspoon salt
    • 1 medium onion, diced
    • 2 cups water
    • 1 teaspoon dried parsley
    • 3 teaspoons ‘secret ingredient’
    • 2 – 3 bay leaves 

    The Whole Foods by me sells these pork shoulder steaks which work really well for this, but a whole pork shoulder will be fine, as well.  It’ll just be a little more work. 

    Whichever you use, you’ll need to cut it into small pieces, maybe ¾ - 1 inch.  I removed some of the fat from mine, but you definitely want to leave a good bit of it on because it helps the pork to become nice and tender.

    Place a pan (not a nonstick pan) over medium high heat. When it’s hot, add a tablespoon of oil and the diced pork.

    Sprinkle over ½ teaspoon of salt.  Move the pork about with a spatula giving it a chance to brown on all sides. 

    When the pork and the pan have a nice brown color on them, add the diced onion.

    Give it about a minute to sweat and then pour in 2 cups of water.  It should help you to scrape the browned bits off the bottom of the pan.

    Go ahead and turn off the heat.  Now it’s time for the secret ingredient, Better than Bouillon’s Au Jus Base.  Sure, you could probably get away with using one of the other flavors, but if you can get your hands on the Au Jus one, I highly recommend it.

    Add 3 teaspoons to the pan.

    Stir until it is dissolved, then sprinkle over the dried parsley. 

    Stir that in and then slide in 2 or 3 bay leaves, making sure they’re completely submerged. 

    On goes the lid, and into a 300° oven for 3 hours.  (I like to turn the temperature down to 275° for the last hour, but I’m not sure it’s strictly necessary.)  When it’s done, remove it from the oven, but leave the lid in place and just allow it to sit while you make the polenta. 

    For the polenta you’ll need: 

    • ½ cup Fine Grain Polenta
    • 2 cups water
    • ½ teaspoon salt
    • 2 Tablespoons butter
    • 2 Tablespoons cream cheese 

    Add the salt to the water and bring it to a boil.  Keep some extra water handy.  Slowly sprinkle in the polenta while briskly whisking. (say that 10 times fast)

    Turn the heat to low and continue to whisk.  If it gets too thick, add a little more water.  Continue stirring, allowing it to cook for about 5 minutes or so. 

    Turn off the heat and add the butter and cream cheese.  Feel free to substitute mascarpone or goat cheese if you prefer.  Whisk them in until the polenta is nice and smooth and creamy. 

    Spoon a nice puddle of it onto your dish.

    Then, remember the pork? When you remove the lid, scrape any brown stuff from the lid and stir it in.  I know, that doesn’t really sound good, but trust me, it is serious flavor goodness that you don’t want to waste.

    Remove the bay leaves, then spoon the pork, with all its luscious juices, over the waiting polenta.  Prepare to be blown away by what an amazing chef you are. 

    What restaurant dish would you like to be able to replicate at home?