I have a friend who only eats food from the four basic food groups — pizza, hamburgers, cashew chicken, and chocolate cake. So for his birthday we went for pizza and I made this great cake.

It’s a basic, no-fail chocolate cake recipe with an accidental twist. The ganache turned out to be a “chocolate chip ganache” because I let it harden too much before whipping, which resulted in little crunchy bits of chocolate throughout the creamy frosting.

Ingredients:

Cake

1 cup of unsalted butter, softened
2 cups organic granulated sugar
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 cup Hershey’s Special Dark cocoa powder
3 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk
2 tbs instant espresso dissolved in 1 cup very hot water

Ganache

12 ounces Guittard chocolate chips
1 cup of heavy cream

How I  Made It:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and prepare two 9 inch cake pans with baker’s spray and/or parchment.

In a standing mixer, cream the butter and sugar together until fluffy.  While that’s going, put all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl, sifting with a fork to combine thoroughly.

When the butter is light and fluffy, add the eggs one at a time. Then add the dry ingredients in three batches, alternating with the buttermilk. When that’s all combined, turn the mixer to low speed and slowly pour in the hot coffee. The bowl of the mixer will be full, so be careful not to splash yourself with hot cake batter. (I speak from experience.)

Transfer the batter to the cake pans, filling each 3/4 full. Bake the cakes for 35-40 minutes, or until a cake tester comes away clean but for a few crumbs. Let the cakes cool about 10 minutes before transferring them to a cooling rack to come to room temperature.

To make the ganache, put the chocolate chips in a large heatproof bowl. Heat the cream in a glass bowl in the microwave in 15 second bursts until it is very hot but not boiling. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and let it sit a minute or two before whisking the chocolate smooth. Chill the ganache in the refrigerator for 2 hours (or more if you want to recreate my accidental chippiness).

With a rubber spatula, transfer the ganache to the standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. On medium-high speed, whip the ganache into lovely frosting.

To assemble the cake, carefully level the top of one of the layers with a long serrated knife. That is the bottom layer. Spread 1/2 of the whipped ganache on the bottom layer. Put the top layer on and frost with the rest of the ganache.  Decorate as you please.

How It Turned Out:

Brians Cake

Yummy! Not too dense, not too crumby, and not too sweet. Just wonderful chocolate goodness. (It is probably even better with vanilla ice cream.)

Radio silence here at In the Kitchen with Kate is due in large part to just too many goings on and too little time to blog. Hopefully that has changed, or at least I’ll start picking easier meals to prepare so that they are easier to share. This hasselback potato recipe is about as easy as they come.

Ingredients:

1 organic baking potato, washed and peeled
2 tbs of unsalted butter
sea salt

How I Made It:

Preheat the oven to 435 degrees. Line a small baking dish or cookie sheet with foil.

If your potato won’t sit steady on the sheet, slice a little off the bottom so it will. Then slice the potato into thinnish but not too thin slices, about three-quarters of the way through. Use the handles of two wooden spoons, one on each side, to help prevent cutting all the way through.

Rub butter over the top of the potato and sprinkle with sea salt.  Bake the potato for 15 minutes, then add a little more butter and salt and bake for another 15-25 minutes, checking every five minutes or so (the size of the potato will dictate the cooking time).

hasselback 1 (2)

How It Turned Out:

While I’ve heard about these Swedish marvels, I’ve never made hasselback potatoes before. So I don’t know if these turned out “right,” but they were quite tasty. They were cooked through, but still firm. The butter drizzled down while the potato cooked so the bottom was a crisp golden brown. It was salty and buttery and just plain yummy.  So if this isn’t a proper hassleback potato, who cares?!?!

hasselback 2

This is a take on a traditional Italian cake. It is a relatively easy cake to make, and oh so delicious.

Ingredients

1 1/2 sticks of unsalted butter
1 1/3 cups of sugar
8 ounces part skim ricotta
3 eggs
1/2 teaspoon lemon extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
zest of 2 large lemons
1 1/2 cups of unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

How I Made It

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and prepare a bundt cake pan with bakers’ spray.

In a standing mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. While that is going, in a separate bowl sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together.

Add the ricotta cheese to the butter and sugar and mix completely.  Then add the eggs one at a time, mixing completely in between each.  Add the lemon zest and the extracts.

Slow the mixer and add the dry ingredients in three batches, mixing completely in between.  The resulting cake batter is more doughy than most batters.

Transfer the cake batter to the bundt pan and spread it evenly with a spatula.  Bake the cake in the center of the oven for 38 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.

How It Turned Out

Lemon Cake

You can serve this lovely cake with a basic lemon glaze, or with berries and whipped cream, or both!!

At some point this Fall, I decided I was going to eat granola and yogurt every morning for breakfast.  Nevermind that I never eat breakfast. Or that I’m not a big fan of granola. Thus, I have several packages of granola laying around and no desire to eat them.  Unless. . .

If you can make oatmeal cookies, can’t you make granola cookies?  That’s not a huge leap of logic, is it?  So, instead of toast and jam this morning I decided to make these breakfast cookies.

Ingredients

1 1/2 sticks of unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup of brown sugar
1/2 cup of sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
3 overripe bananas
3 cups of granola (I used Nature Valley Oats and Dark Chocolate)
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips

How I Made Them

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line 4 cookie sheets with parchment or silpats.

In a standing mixer, cream the butter and sugars together until it is light and fluffy. Reduce the speed of the mixer to medium and add the egg and vanilla.  Add the bananas in pieces (if you are not using a stand mixer, mash them up before adding them to the cookie dough).

In a separate bowl, sift the flour, baking soda, and cinnamon together.  Add the flour mixture to the standing mixer and combine on low-medium speed.  Then add the granola, and then the chocolate chips.

Drop spoonsful of the cookie dough onto the cookie sheets, with about 2 inches in between each cookie.

Bake for 15 minutes, until the cookies are done but not too crispy.  Use a spatula to remove the cookies from the cookie sheet to a cooling rack.

How They Turned Out

Yummy!  I was worried that the hard granola would still be hard in the cookies but it softened right up.The banana taste comes right through, and the dark chocolate adds just enough sweetness.

Banana Granola Cookies

Makes 3 dozen plus cookies.

This is one of the very best — though not the prettiest — cheesecakes I’ve ever made. It’s not a mocha cheesecake. It’s an intense espresso cake with a rich chocolate swirl.  Beware, though: it cracks a lot, so you need heaps of whipped cream to cover the flaws.

Ingredients:

10 ounce package of gourmet shortbread cookies
6 tbs unsalted butter, melted
2 tbs espresso powder dissolved in 1 tbs warm water (Medaglia D’Oro is the best)
3 8-ounce packages of cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup of sugar
3 eggs
6 ounces Guittard bittersweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream for the ganache

How I Made It:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Prepare a 9 inch springform pan with baking spray, then wrap the outside of the bottom in foil (in case the butter leaks out when you set the crust).

Crush the shortbread in the food processor. When you have a nice batch of crumbs, drizzle the melted butter over the top of the crumbs. Cover and pulse a couple of times to combine the crumbs and butter.

Press the shortbread crumbs into the bottom of the springform pan.  Place the pan on a cookie sheet and bake in the oven for about 5 minutes.  Remove the pan from the oven and set it aside to cool while you make the batter.

In a standing mixer, beat the cream cheese until smooth.  Add the sugar and beat the mixture until it is fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating each into the batter completely before adding the next.  Add the espresso and continue to mix at medium speed.

** I tend to over mix my cheesecake batter, because I like an airier cake.  As long as you have a well-combined batter, you can reduce the mixer time to your taste. **

In a double boiler or heavy bottom saucepan, heat the whipping cream over medium heat.  Be careful not to let it get too hot or to scorch.  Add the chocolate to the hot cream, and remove the pan from the burner.  Whisk the chocolate and cream together until smooth.  Set aside.

Transfer half of your cheesecake batter to the springform pan.  Then, spoon five or six dollops of chocolate ganache on top of the batter.  With a thin bladed knife, swirl the chocolate into the batter. Espresso Cheesecake Part 1

Carefully pour the rest of the batter into the pan, and then repeat the chocolate swirl step.

Put the springform pan back on the cookie sheet and then put it in the center of the oven to bake.  Bake the cheesecake for 36 minutes or just until the edges start to turn a light brown and crack.  The center will not be set.  Turn off the oven and let the cheesecake sit in the oven for another 15-20 minutes.

Remove the cheesecake from the oven. Gently release the sides of the pan.  If you are not going to serve it right away, put the cheesecake, covered, in the refrigerator until you’re ready.  When you’re ready, top with whipped cream and serve.

How It Turned Out:

Cheesecake Final

VOILA!  Scrumptious!

I love all things Caprese (not just the salad, the island, too!).  Caprese salads are so simple and so tasty.  But, they can also be a bit . . . mundane.

So this year, for my holiday feast (which had an Italian theme) I decided to do something different. But what? And then, while I was watching the Curious George Holiday Movie with my favorite five year old, I saw just the thing — Tomato Snowmen!

The Italian chef on Curious George’s street makes them, and they are the Man in Yellow Hat’s favorite.  Curious George tries to make them as a Christmas gift for him, with disastrous results. Thankfully, mine turned out nicely with no monkey business.

Ingredients:

Cherry tomatoes
Fresh mozzarella medallions
Fresh organic basil
Long toothpicks
Balsamic vinegar for drizzling

How I Made Them:

Just as you would expect — stack the tomatoes, with bites of mozzarella and basil in between, on the long toothpicks to make a Caprese Snowman.  Plate and serve as an easy starter.

Caprese Snowmen

As every Southern woman knows, a casserole can cure everything from a cold to a broken heart.  It’s one of my favorite roles at church, being part of the Casserole Brigade. This lasagna recipe (or a version similar) makes a frequent appearance because it is easy to assemble and deliver, and then your friend can bake it whenever they are ready for supper.

Ingredients

1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tbs olive oil
1 jar of fancy tomato sauce — I used Gina Rispoli Arrabiata Sauce
1 28oz can of organic diced tomatoes
2 Mild Italian Chicken Sausages
Barilla No-Boil Lasagna Noodles
1 zucchini sliced into thin discs
15oz part-skim ricotta
1/3 cup shredded parmesan
2 cups shredded part-skim mozzarella

How I Made It

Prepare a deep baking dish with a quick spray of olive oil.

Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Saute the onion, bell pepper, and garlic together until tender. Squeeze the sausage from the casing into the skillet, then break it up with a spoon so that there are no big pieces. Brown the sausage with the peppers and onions, stirring frequently so that the vegetables don’t burn.

When the sausage is cooked through, add the tomato sauce and diced tomatoes. Cover and bring the sauce to a simmer.

Combine the ricotta and parmesan together in a bowl.

To assemble the lasagna, start by putting a little sauce in the bottom of the baking dish.  Lay the lasagna noodles side by side in the bottom.  Spread a layer of ricotta — not too thin and not too thick — over the noodles.  Top with sauce and shredded mozzarella.  Add another layer of noodles, then ricotta, then the zucchini slices. Top with sauce and shredded mozzarella.  Continue with these layers until you reach the top of the baking dish.

Lasagna

You can freeze or refrigerate the lasagna until you are ready to deliver or bake it.  With these no bake noodles, a little time to settle and soak up the sauce is a good thing.  Also, make sure there is plenty of sauce in your layers, so that there is enough moisture to cook the noodles as it bakes.

When ready, bake at 375 degrees for 25-30 minutes.  I start out with it covered with foil, but uncover it for the last 5-8 minutes so the cheese on top gets brown and bubbly.

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