Tiramisu Cake

How many law students and how many boxes of cake mix does it take to make a tiramisu layer cake like the one pictured below?

Trick question!  Apparently, it can’t be done.  At least not with just two law students.  We had to make it from scratch after the first two boxes of cake mix failed us.  Or maybe I should say that we failed them…

How can two seemingly competent bakers fail so miserably at making a cake from a cake mix? I’m still not quite sure, but it turned into quite the baking adventure.

It started with what seemed like an easy cake recipe…all that we needed to do was make a simple layer cake out of cake mix before adding lots of delicious other ingredients to make it into a tiramisu cake.  And then the first batch of cake came out like this:

Somehow, the cake batter decided not to spread throughout the pan to make a nice layer of cake. I’m not really sure what happened. Go ahead and click on the picture if you need to see it enlarged.

No problem, right?  I went to the store and bought another box of cake mix. This time, I was very careful to make sure that the batter spread throughout the entire pan.  But that turned out not to be the only problem, I learned.  Here’s what we got during round two:

I wish I could blame this on the oven, or the pans, or the cake mix, or…something…but I honestly have no idea what was going on.  Clearly, we should have lined the pans this time.

So then we contemplated making tiramisu trifle…

But this was for a dinner party, so my roommate decided to go the extra mile and make a third cake from scratch.  We made sure to spread the batter throughout the whole pan and to line the pans with parchment paper this time.

Success at last! Apparently, the third time’s a charm. Thankfully, the rest of the cake making process went much more smoothly.

We poured a coffee mixture into each layer, like this:

Notice how you get action shots when there are two cooks in the kitchen!  Then, we spread a mascarpone cheese filling in between the layers.

Looking good!  Then, we covered the cake with a whipped cream frosting, dusted it with cocoa, and topped it with chocolate curls.  Yum!  Here’s a slice of the finished product.  Please forgive me for being a terrible cake cutter.

And another one in case you want a close up of all the delicious layers!

The good thing is that the cake was really delicious!  I’m glad that it was worth it after all of that baking!

Here’s the recipe (adapted from AllRecipes.com):

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Shepherd’s Pie

I recently made a delicious low-carb shepherd’s pie.  How does one make a low-carb version of shepherd’s pie you might ask?  Well, I adapted this recipe from a South Beach diet cookbook, which has you replace the usual mashed potato topping with a mashed cauliflower topping.  Never would have come up with that idea on my own!

The recipe turned out really well, although I think that my vegetable-to-meat ratio was too high and the cauliflower-to-filling recipe was too low.  That being said, it still tasted really good!  I would definitely make this one again!

Here’s how to make it:

Ingredients:

  • 1 (16-oz) package of frozen cauliflower florets
  • 1 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • salt & pepper
  • garlic pepper
  • ketchup
  • 1 lb of lean ground beef
  • assorted frozen vegetables (I used three 10-oz packages of veggies — one package of corn, one of peas, and one of mixed veggies)
  • 1 package of brown gravy mix
  • 1/4 cup of Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon low-fat sour cream
  • 2 tbsp ricotta cheese (optional)
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese (or other cheese…I used Gruyere, since that’s what was left in the fridge)
  • paprika (optional)

Directions:

To begin, preheat your oven to 350 and spray a 9 x 13 inch casserole dish with cooking spray.  Boil the cauliflower until tender (about 10 minutes) and then drain.  While the cauliflower is cooking, heat the olive oil in a large skillet.  Add the chopped onions and garlic and simmer for several minutes.  Then, add the ground beef and cook until the beef is cooked through. Season with salt and pepper, garlic pepper, Worcestershire sauce, and several squirts of ketchup.

Next, add the frozen vegetables to the skillet and continue to simmer.  Add the brown gravy mix and a little bit of water.  Then, you can conduct a taste test to see if you need more seasoning.  Continue simmering for another 5-10 minutes and then pour the skillet mixture into the casserole dish.

That’s a lot of vegetables!  I would probably recommend using only two packages of frozen veggies instead of three like I did.

To make the cauliflower topping, beat the cooked cauliflower, sour cream, egg yolk, ricotta, and a pinch of salt in a large bowl with an electric mixture.  I actually didn’t have any eggs on hand when I made this, so I just left out the egg yolk.  I thought it turned out fine without it, but maybe it would have been even more delicious with the egg yolk!  Looks kind of like mashed potatoes, doesn’t it?

Next, spread the cauliflower mixture over the beef and vegetable mixture and sprinkle the grated cheese and some paprika on top, so that it looks like this:

Now all that you have to do is bake it for 20-25 minutes.  The recipe I used said to bake until “golden on top,” but mine didn’t look very golden in the end…maybe that’s what the egg yolk was for?  Anyway, here it is!

I thought that this was a really good recipe, and as an added bonus, it’s pretty healthy overall!  The cauliflower topping tastes remarkably similar to mashed potatoes, which gives it a nice casserole feel.

Lebanese Salad

So, I have a confession to make.  I almost never make vegetarian food.  Like, ever. Especially lately, since I’ve been trying not to eat too many carbs and all of my vegetarian food ideas tend to involve cheesy pasta.  But, I saw some frozen falafel at Trader Joe’s recently and thought that it looked really good.  To be fair, I was looking for the frozen chicken when I found it, but that’s beside the point…

I ended up making a nice Mediterranean meal of falafel, lebanese salad, hummus, and tzatziki and it was really delicious!

The lebanese salad (which was inspired by a couple cooks) was really easy to make.  I chopped up two cucumbers, two tomatoes, 1/4 of a red onion, and a couple of green onions.  I put it all in a mixing bowl, added some crumbled feta cheese, and seasoned it with generous amounts of lemon pepper, garlic, garlic pepper, salt, and pepper.  I tossed it all together with about a tablespoon or two of olive oil and a generous amount of lemon juice (maybe about 1/4 cup).  And that’s it!

The rest of the meal came straight from the fridge or the freezer (via the microwave, of course!).

Here’s another picture of the lebanese salad:

And here’s the falafel (which I must say, is possibly the best falafel I’ve ever had.  Pretty impressive, Trader Joe’s.):

Spaghetti squash look-in-the-pan

When I was growing up, my mom always used to make a dish known as “look-in-the-pan.” The basic idea behind the name was that if you asked her what was for dinner, it would be easier for her to tell you to look in the pan than describe what she was making.  Look-in-the-pan almost always involved some kind of pasta, hamburger meat, spaghetti sauce, a variety of vegetables, and possibly cheese, but rarely consisted of the exact same combination as the last time.  It was a popular dish in our household that we ate many times over the years.

Well, today I made a new, low-carb version of look-in-the-pan.  It is much different than the kind I always ate growing up, but the name still seems appropriate.  Want to know what’s in it? Look in the pan…

Just kidding!  I’ll still tell you.  I combined cooked spaghetti squash, cooked chicken that had been marinated in a sun-dried tomato sauce (from Trader Joe’s…not homemade), olive oil, garlic, onion, fresh basil, feta cheese, salt & pepper, and a little bit of a sun-dried tomato spread that I had in the fridge.  It turned out really well, although nothing like traditional look-in-the-pan.  I did especially like the flavor of the feta cheese in this dish…something to remember!

What ingredients would you use if you were making your own look-in-the-pan?

Salsa Chicken Soup

A friend of mine loaned me her crock pot recently, so I have been on the lookout for something interesting to make with it.  I wasn’t really in the mood for beef stew, pulled pork, or any of the other usual suspects for crock pot cooking, but when I came across a recipe for “salsa chicken,” I thought that it sounded perfect.  The original recipe looked really good, but I decided to try to make it into more of a soup so that it could be eaten on its own, rather than over rice or in tacos.  In the end, I think that the recipe was a huge success!  I will definitely be making this one again (if someone wants to get me a crock pot for Christmas, that is…hint, hint).

Here’s how I made it (recipe adapted from mad tasty):

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 (16-oz) jars of your favorite salsa
  • 1 can of black beans
  • 1 can of whole kernel corn, drained
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 small yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 can diced tomatoes (I used a kind that had green chilies in it and that worked really well)

Directions:

All that you have to do is layer all of the ingredients in your crock pot and then cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours.  Start with about half the salsa, then add the chicken, then layer in all of the remaining ingredients except for the rest of the salsa.  Spread the remaining salsa on top and it is ready to go!

I cooked mine on high for about an hour before turning it to low because I only had about 5 hours until dinner and my chicken had not completely defrosted.  I ended up cooking it on low for a little more than 4 hours after that. This worked very well and everything was cooked through at the end.

When there are about 20 minutes of cooking time remaining, you can open the crock pot and shred the chicken with two forks.  It should be so tender that it is practically falling apart on its own.  Then, stir it all together and let it heat for another 15-20 minutes.

In the end, it should look something like this:

Eat and enjoy!  I served it with shredded cheese on top, which I would highly recommend. This would also be really good with some tortilla chips or some sour cream!

Stuffed green peppers, chicken enchilada style

Inspired by my last round of stuffed green peppers, I decided to make chicken enchilada style stuffed green peppers.  I took my favorite chicken enchiladas recipe and simply replaced the tortillas with green peppers.  I wasn’t sure how this combo would turn out, but they were really, really good!  I think that I like them even better than the Italian flavored stuffed green peppers from last time!

Making them was really easy and they were so good that I’m sure I’ll be making them again soon.  Here’s the recipe (I actually made a 2/3 batch, but you can make as much as you want):

Ingredients:

  • 3 cooked chicken breasts (cubed or shredded)
  • 1 8 oz container of sour cream
  • 1 can of cream of chicken soup
  • 1 small can of chopped green chilies (optional)
  • 1 small yellow onion, chopped (optional)
  • shredded mexican cheese (8 oz bag)
  • 1 can enchilada sauce
  • 5 green peppers

Directions:

To begin, preheat your oven to 350.  Mix together the cooked chicken, sour cream, cream of chicken soup, chopped onions, green chilies, and about half of the shredded cheese in a large mixing bowl.

Cut the stems off of the peppers, cut the peppers in half, and remove the seeds.  Unlike last time, I did not parboil the peppers this time to see how they turned out this way.  As expected, they were much crispier than last time, but still tasted really good.  I think that whether they should be parboiled in advance or not is really just a matter of personal preference…I think I like them a little better when they have been parboiled, but there are fewer dishes to wash when you skip that step, so who knows how I’ll make them next time!

Line the peppers in a baking pan like this:

Then, scoop the chicken mixture into the peppers.  Pour the enchilada sauce over the peppers and sprinkle with more cheese…how much cheese is up to you and can be varied based on how healthy you want them to turn out!

Bake them for about 20 minutes, or until the peppers are hot and the cheese is melted.

And now, you have a relatively low-carb, delicious chicken enchilada-like dinner!  Try not to eat too many of these at once!

Blue Cheese Burgers

I recently made some delicious blue cheese burgers using a recipe from The Vortex Bar & Grill in Atlanta.  I’ve never actually been to The Vortex, but my roommate made this recipe once and it looked really good, so I thought I would give it a try.

Basically, I wanted to make a burger topped with caramelized onions and The Vortex’s blue cheese spread.  I ended up getting a little impatient (read: hungry) and didn’t allow the onions to fully caramelize, but the burgers still turned out really well.

To make the blue cheese spread, you mix together approximately 1 1/4 cups of crumbled blue cheese and 3/4 cup of sour cream.  Then, you refrigerate the blue cheese mixture for two hours before eating it.  Thanks to The Vortex and the Food Network for sharing the recipe!  Next time I am in Atlanta, I will definitely have to go there to get the real burger!

Here are my onions in the process of caramelizing:

Stuffed Green Peppers

Today I finally used up the rest of the vegetables that I purchased at the farmer’s market by making these delicious stuffed green peppers!  I came up with this idea after doing some googling for recipes with green peppers, since I had so many of them.  I thought it turned out really well and will definitely have to make it again!

As a side note, while I was trying to decide what kinds of spices to season the beef mixture with, I couldn’t decide if I wanted this to be an Italian or Mexican dish.  I went with Italian, but am looking forward to trying a Mexican-themed version next time!

The recipe is pretty easy.  Here it is (adapted from momswhothink.com ).  Most stuffed green pepper recipes call for rice, but I left that out and didn’t miss it at all.

Ingredients:

  • 4 to 6 large green bell peppers
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 4-6 tomatoes, diced (or 1 20-oz can of whole tomatoes)
  • 2 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 4-6 basil leaves, chopped
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Garlic and Italian seasonings to taste
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • Grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 can of condensed tomato soup
Directions:

To make the recipe, begin by preheating your oven to 350.  Then, remove the stems and seeds from the peppers and parboil them in boiling water for 4 minutes.  Drain the peppers and set aside.

Here are my boiling peppers:

In the meantime, cook the ground beef in a large skillet and drain the grease.  Add chopped onions and tomatoes, worcestershire sauce, and spices to taste.  Reduce heat to medium-low and cook for 15-20 minutes.  Mix in half of the shredded cheese and add some grated parmesan cheese.

Spoon the beef mixture into the green peppers and place in a 9 x 13 baking pan.  Mix a little bit of water into the condensed tomato soup (until it can be poured) and pour over the stuffed peppers and the pan.  Sprinkle the peppers with the remaining cheese.

Bake the peppers uncovered for 20 minutes (or until cheese has melted and peppers are hot).  Enjoy!