Friday, February 18, 2011

Busy-Day Chocolate Cake

So on Valentine's Day I realized that afternoon that I had planned a great menu for dinner but hadn't planned a dessert. What? No dessert on Valentine's Day? That's just WRONG! So I quickly resolved this problem by making this cake to finish out our menu of Shrimp Scampi, garlic bread and Caesar Salad with Homemade Croutons.

Now if the recipe looks familiar, it's probably because you've seen my recipe for Wacky Cake. They're basically the same thing, but this one makes a smaller cake.

I'm not going to include a recipe for frosting. I just used an MSPI-friendly can of frosting that I had on hand, but the frosting from the Wacky Cake recipe would be great, too. Or just go without. This cake is great, even without frosting.

Busy-Day Chocolate Cake
Source: "Mad Hungry" by Lucinda Scala Quinn

1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
3 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
6 tbsp. canola oil
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 tbsp. white vinegar
1 cup cold water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In an 8-inch square baking pan, whisk together all-purpose flour, sugar, unsweetened cocoa powder, baking soda and salt.

Make a well in center of flour mixture and add canola oil, pure vanilla extract, white vinegar and cold water. Whisk until well combined. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Let cool completely in pan on a wire rack before topping with frosting of choice or a sprinkle of powdered sugar.

Tip: Go to this link to watch Lucinda make this recipe.

Quick Start with MSPI Mama: This is one of my Quick Start recipes, as long as you skip adding frosting. In lieu of frosting, try a sprinkling of powdered sugar.

Caesar Salad with Homemade Croutons

Since I evidently was on a garlic binge for our Valentine's dinner with Shrimp Scampi and garlic bread, I decided to keep the theme going with Caesar Salad. I've been wanting to try a dairy-free version, and this is what I came up with after looking at several different recipes.

Now, I won't lie to you, this recipe would be better if it had Parmesan cheese in it, but since that's a no-no, the homemade croutons really help you forget that you're missing something. They are that good!

Caesar Salad with Homemade Croutons
Source: Dressing adapted from; croutons from "Mad Hungry" by Lucinda Scala Quinn

2 cloves garlic
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. MSPI-friendly Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 tsp. anchovy paste, optional
1/2 cup olive oil

Combine all ingredients in a blender, except the oil and salt, and blend until smooth. Slowly pour in the oil while the blender is running until dressing is smooth and creamy. Turn off machine and taste the dressing. Add salt to taste.

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, left whole but crushed
2 cups MSPI-friendly fresh bread cubes, cut 3/4-inch square
1/4 tsp. coarse salt
At least 15 minutes and up to several hours in advance, in a small bowl, combine the olive oil and the garlic and set aside. When ready to cook, remove the garlic from the oil and heat the garlic-infused oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the bread cubes and cook, stirring, until golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Drain on paper towel and toss with the salt. Allow to cool.

2 heads Romaine lettuce, washed, chopped and dried

Place the lettuce in a bowl and top with the dressing. Toss until all the leaves are coated evenly. Sprinkle croutons over the top.

Tip: Leave out the anchovy paste to make this vegetarian.

Shrimp Scampi

As all of you know, eating out on this diet isn't exactly easy. Sure, there are allergy and ingredient charts available for many restaurants (If you haven't checked out the list under the Discussion tab on the MSPI Mama Facebook page, you really should!) and they are helpful, but that doesn't mean cross-contamination won't rear its ugly head. So to avoid any problems with the baby, we opted to eat in this Valentine's Day, and I made a restaurant-worthy meal for me and my valentine to enjoy. The only problem? I totally didn't realize just how much garlic was involved until after the fact. Well, at least we both had garlic breath! ;)

Incidentally, this entire menu came from the TV show "Mad Hungry" on Hallmark Channel. Of course, anything produced by Martha Stewart is going to be good, and these recipes didn't disappoint. My meal consisted of Shrimp Scampi, Caesar Salad with Homemade Croutons, garlic bread and Busy-Day Chocolate Cake. We were stuffed!

I made the Shrimp Scampi with pasta, like was shown on the show, but you can easily serve it over rice or just by itself with bread to sop up all the yummy sauce.

Shrimp Scampi
Source: "Mad Hungry" by Lucinda Scala Quinn

1 lb. pasta, or 3 cups cooked rice
Coarse salt
2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
2 lbs. large raw shrimp, thawed (if frozen), peeled and deveined
Freshly ground black pepper
5 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes, plus more for garnish
1-1/2 tbsp. freshly grated lemon zest
1/4 cup white wine
Juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves

Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and a generous pinch of salt and cook until al dente. Drain the pasta, reserving 1/2 cup of the pasta water.

Meanwhile, heat a large saute pan over high heat. Add 1-1/2 tablespoons of the oil and swirl it to coat the pan. Add the shrimp in a single layer. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. After 2 minutes, turn the shrimp over; add the remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons of oil, the garlic, and the red pepper flakes. Stir constantly for 1 to 2 minutes, regulating the heat to avoid burning the garlic.

Add the lemon zest and white wine to the shrimp. Stir to reduce the wine slightly. Add the lemon juice, cooked pasta, and reserved pasta water to the pan. Toss to combine. Remove from the heat and sprinkle with the parsley. Serve with a drizzle of olive oil and extra red pepper flakes on each serving.

Tips: I know it's tempting, but do not use precooked shrimp. It won't turn out as well. And if you have any questions about how to prepare this dish, follow this link to watch Lucinda make it!

Quick Start with MSPI Mama: This is one of my Quick Start recipes

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Cake Pops

I've been wanting to try my hand at cake balls for quite a while now. Have you ever had a cake ball? They are so stinkin' good! They just melt in your mouth! And -- Surprise! Surprise! -- they can be made MSPI-friendly. So I finally got around to making them earlier this week, as I mentioned on my Facebook page.

But instead of just making cake balls, I decided to make cake pops. Cake bites. Covered in chocolate. On a stick. Doesn't get much better than that! They make great Valentine's Day treats.

So the queen of cake pops is Bakerella, and I followed her method and Paula Deen's. Check out Bakerella's website for lots of cute photos of cake pops.

So here are a few tips from my experience. If you can't find cake mix and frosting that's safe for you to eat, make it from scratch. (Wacky Cake, anyone?) The freezer and refrigerator are your friends. Use them. A lot. And keep everything cold. This recipe takes lots of time to make, but it isn't difficult. Just hang in there; you can do it!

You can use this same recipe to make plain ol' cake balls, but I loved using the lollipop sticks. They made dipping the cake bites so much easier.

Most importantly ... have fun! You can make lots of different combinations. I made strawberry cake with vanilla frosting for the innards. Super yummy with the chocolate coating. And sprinkles make everything fun!

Cake Pops
Source: Bakerella and Paula Deen

1 package MSPI-friendly cake mix, including ingredients needed to prepare it
1 container MSPI-friendly prepared frosting
1 package MSPI-friendly chocolate chips
1/4 cup shortening
lollipop sticks
MSPI-friendly sprinkles, optional
large piece of Styrofoam

Prepare the cake mix, according to package directions in a 9x13 pan. Once removed from the oven, allow the cake to cool 30 minutes. Crumble the cake into a large bowl. Add the frosting to the cake and mix with a hand mixer until well combined. Cover and refrigerate three hours.

Line a baking tray with wax paper. Use a melon baller or small ice cream scoop to form balls with the cake mixture. Roll the balls between your hands to make them nice and smooth. Place the balls on the tray. Once all the balls are formed, place the tray in the freezer for one hour.

Melt the chocolate and shortening in a glass bowl in the microwave, stirring every 5-10 seconds until it is nice and smooth. Remove one ball from the freezer and spear it with a lollipop stick. Dip the cake ball in the chocolate, covering it completely. Sprinkle the cake pop with sprinkles. Stick the cake pop into the Styrofoam, until the chocolate sets up completely. Repeat steps with remaining cake balls. Store cake pops in refrigerator.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Cookies 'n' Cream Cupcakes

I mentioned my kids' birthday party in my last post. In the past, I've made a cake for each of them. Let's face it, that's insane and way too much work! Not to mention, the leftovers were crazy, too. So this year I opted for cupcakes.

At 6 years old, Libby wasn't too happy about having to share with her brother, but she got over it when she tasted these cupcakes. They are so stinkin' good!

I saw this recipe over at Om-Noms by Kelly. My friend Laura had mixed results when she made the vegan cupcakes but the frosting was divine, so I opted to use an MSPI-friendly chocolate cake mix. If the cake mix doesn't work for you, use this Wacky Cake recipe.

The trick to this frosting recipe is lots and lots of mixing. If you have a stand mixer (such as a Kitchen Aid) it will make your life much easier!

Oh! And in case you're wondering, I got this cupcake stand at Wal-Mart for $5! So cute! Go get one!

Cookies 'n' Cream Cupcakes
Source: Adapted from Om-Noms by Kelly

MSPI-friendly chocolate cake mix, plus ingredients listed on package
1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup MSPI-friendly margarine
3-1/2 cup powdered sugar
1-1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 cup rice milk
18 MSPI-friendly chocolate cream-filled sandwich cookies (such as Oreos)

Prepare the cupcakes according to package directions. Once baked, allow to cool completely. (I baked mine the night before the party and prepared the frosting in the morning.)

Beat the shortening and margarine together until well-combined and fluffy. Add the sugar and beat for about 3 more minutes. Add the vanilla and the rice milk, and beat for another 5 to 7 minutes until light and fluffy.

While the frosting is mixing, place the cookies on a cutting board and lightly chop them with a knife. Place the cookie pieces in a large Ziploc bag and crush the cookies into small crumbs.

Once the frosting is done mixing, fold the cookie crumbs into the frosting. Top the cupcakes generously with the frosting.

Swap: You can also use one package of mini Oreos for the frosting, instead of the large Oreos. And for an impressive presentation, insert mini Oreos into the tops of the frosted cupcakes.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Peperoncini Beef Sandwiches

My two oldest kids had their birthdays last month (more on that in a later post) and since their birthdays are only five days apart, we always join their family celebrations together. Two-for-one party! So much easier on this mama!

I almost always end up serving some sort of sandwich or soup. This year was no exception. When I saw this recipe, I knew it would be perfect. I was able to cook everything two days before the event, store the meat in the fridge and then reheat the day of the party. Doesn't get much simpler than that.

Don't be scared away by the use of peppers in this recipe. The slow cooking really tames any heat, making the meat relatively mild but tangy.

This is completely optional, but to stretch the meat a little more, I sauteed a bunch of sliced onions and sweet peppers in olive oil. A great topping for the beef!

And, by the way, these sandwiches would be GREAT for a Super Bowl party, especially a Super Bowl in which the Packers are playing ... and preferably winning!

Peperoncini Beef Sandwiches
Source: A Year of Slow Cooking

2 lbs. beef chuck roast (no need to thaw if frozen)
1-16 oz. jar peperoncini pepper
MSPI-friendly buns

Place the roast in a 4- or 6-quart slow cooker. Pour the jar of peppers and juices over the roast. Cover the cooker with its lid and cook on low 8-10 hours. Remove meat from the cooker and allow it to cool to touch. Shred meat and return it to the cooker and mix with the juices and peppers. Serve on the buns.

Tip: If you decide to double the recipe -- this would freeze really well -- you can increase the amount of meat without needing to add more peppers. And speaking of peppers, while the meat is cooling for you to shred it, you might want to take a few minutes to remove the stems from the peppers. That'll make things a little easier on those eating the peppers.