Chocolate Sheet Cake with Chocolate-Pecan Icing

I was missing Mom yesterday, so I decided to bake her chocolate sheet cake. This recipe is so dang easy, and the rich texture and decadent icing make it the ultimate comfort food when only chocolate will do. I used to inhale this for dessert with a big glass of milk, and it was one of the baking staples in my mom’s cooking routine.  She used to tell me that my grandmother would bake this cake every Friday so that she would have something chocolate for her five kids to snack on over the weekend.

I like it with the pecans, but you can leave them out of the icing or substitute them with another chopped nut of your choice.

Chocolate Sheet Cake with Chocolate-Pecan Icing

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Ingredients

Cake

  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 stick butter
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 3 TBS cocoa

Icing

  • 1 stick butter
  • 3 TBS cocoa
  • 1 box of powdered sugar (1 pound)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 6 TBS milk
  • 1 cup chopped pecans

Procedure

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 9×13 cake pan.
  2. In a large bowl, stir together flour, sugar, and salt and set aside. In a separate bowl, whisk together buttermilk, eggs, baking soda, and vanilla. Set aside.
  3. Place butter, water, shortening, and cocoa in a medium saucepan. Cook mixture over medium-high heat until butter and shortening are melted and mixture begins to boil. Remove from heat and immediately pour cocoa mixture into the flour fixture, whisking until combined. Add the buttermilk mixture and whisk until fully incorporated. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 20 to 25 minutes. Prepare icing while cake cooks because you will pour it over cake when it comes out of the oven.
  4. To make icing, melt butter in saucepan on medium-low. Add cocoa and stir until smooth. Add powdered sugar and vanilla, stirring well. Add the milk and whisk until smooth. Stir in pecans. Pour evenly over warm cake and it will set as it cools. Enjoy!

Easy Gingerbread Cutout Cookies

School is out, which means we are in the final countdown toward Christmas. I’m making cookies with the kids, which is equal parts fun and frustrating as they argue about who gets to use which cookie cutter first. My kids could fight about what air tastes like if given the opportunity.

We are on to sugar cookies today, but ended up making Gingerbread Cookies last weekend. The recipe I use is pretty easy to work with and forgiving, so it’s great if you really want to get into decorated cutouts. If you need to distract restless kids, I highly recommend baking up a batch, and investing in a few dollar tubes of icing from the store so they can decorate and be distracted from arguing about that whole air thing.

Gingerbread Cutout Cookies

Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup shortening
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 1 egg
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp. grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. baking powder

Procedure

    1. In a large mixing bowl, cream shortening and sugar. Add molasses and egg, mixing well to combine.
    2. In a separate bowl, combine flour, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg, salt, and making powder, stirring well.
    3. Gradually add the flour mixture to the sugar mixture, mixing to form a soft dough. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and chill for a couple of hours.
    4. On a floured surface, roll out dough to 1/4-inch thickness. Cut out cookies with desired cutters and transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes until edges are firm. Transfer to a cooling rack and let cool completely. Decorate as desired.

Diet Kryptonite

My husband went on another baking frenzy this weekend, and I will be jogging extra miles all week to undo the damage to my waistline. He found a recipe online that ended up being the best dang cinnamon rolls I’ve ever had. I was all prepared to resist temptation, but alas, I failed.

It started out innocently enough:

But then, it got worse:

And then, he went and did this:

And then, they looked like that:

And then I committed diet suicide…twice. ’nuff said. If you see desperate woman running frantically around the park, that would probably be me.

Want to try the best dang cinnamon rolls ever? You really should, but don’t blame me if you need new pants later.

Cinnabon Copycat Cinnamon Rolls

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Ingredients

    Dough

  • 1 cup warm milk (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 1/3 cup margarine, melted
  • 4 1/2 cups bread flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons bread machine yeast

    Filling

  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup butter, softened

    Icing

  • 1 (3 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

Directions

  1. Place ingredients in the pan of the bread machine in the order recommended by the manufacturer. Select dough cycle; press Start.
  2. After the dough has doubled in size turn it out onto a lightly floured surface, cover and let rest for 10 minutes. In a small bowl, combine brown sugar and cinnamon.
  3. Roll dough into a 16×21 inch rectangle. Spread dough with 1/3 cup butter and sprinkle evenly with sugar/cinnamon mixture. Roll up dough and cut into 12 rolls. Place rolls in a lightly greased 9×13 inch baking pan. Cover and let rise until nearly doubled, about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).
  4. Bake rolls in preheated oven until golden brown, about 15 minutes. While rolls are baking, beat together cream cheese, 1/4 cup butter, confectioners’ sugar, vanilla extract and salt. Spread frosting on warm rolls before serving.

Sunday Dinner & My Husband’s Breadsticks

 

We had a nice weekend, and with the help of my industrious husband, we enjoyed a wonderful Sunday dinner. While I whipped up some Chicken and Sausage Spaghetti, he broke out the bread machine. I love it when we does that…what girl wouldn’t be giddy when her husband bakes for her?

My husband knew his way around a bread machine long before he met me, and his repertoire included homemade cinnamon rolls, oat bread and breadsticks. Our busy schedules have not allowed much time for baking lately, so when I heard he was mixing up a batch of Garlic Breadsticks, I practically swooned.

Want to try ’em? Here’s the recipe:

Garlic Breadsticks

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  • 1 1/8 cups water (70 to 80 degrees F)
  • 2 tablespoons olive or canola oil
  • 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 3 cups flour (Bread flour is ok too).
  • 2 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 1 tablespoon butter or stick margarine, melted

Directions

  1. In bread machine pan, place the first nine ingredients in order listed. Select dough setting. When cycle is completed, turn dough onto a lightly floured surface. Divide into 20 portions. Shape each into a ball; roll each into a 9-in. rope. Place on greased baking sheets. Cover and let rise in a warm place for 40 minutes or until doubled. Bake at 350 degrees for 18-22 minutes or until golden brown. Remove to wire racks. Brush warm breadsticks with butter.

 

Trust me, they are dang tasty.

Slow-Down Sunday and an Unexpected Macaroni Grill Copycat

After several hectic weeks, and an unfortunate tendency to overbook, overdo and overanalyze everything, we slowed things down around our house this weekend. I always seem to forget how fine the line is between “active” and “overwhelmed,” until I’ve jumped past it into the land of Stressville.

Yesterday started with a marathon canning session, because our garden is producing food faster than we can eat it. My husband has managed to keep the garden healthy despite the continuing drought, and I’ve kept my green-thumb-of-death far away from it. The tomatoes, eggplant and cantaloupe aren’t quite ready yet, but we have jalapenos and cucumbers coming out of our ears. After five more jars of jalapeno jelly, I tried my hand at sweet pickles:

That was certainly an adventure, because as a pickling virgin, I was unprepared for the otherwise predictable fact that cucumbers float. How in the heck do people keep them from popping above the rim and contaminating the lip of the jar before they can get the lid on? Am I missing something here? Anyway, these jars will have to cure about four to six weeks before I can taste- test them to see whether my first foray into pickles was epic success or depressing failure. As a relative canning newbie, the odds are split pretty evenly between these possibilities. Meanwhile during my canning sprint, the heathens goofed off, as they are wont to do:

Yes, that was my child wearing gloves, when the temperature outside was roughly 98 degrees. Furthermore, you should note that he cut all the fingers of said gloves off, which apparently occurred WITH MY HUSBAND’S BLESSING. My oldest has since been notified that he should run all scissor-generated wardrobe modifications by ME, before undertaking them…sigh. His brother managed to contain his amusement:

Probably because he was thinking, “better you than me!”

We watched a rare late afternoon storm from the shelter of our front porch:

And then headed inside for dinner.

Perhaps the best part of the day was my surprisingly successful bread experiment. In last month’s Food Network Magazine, I saw a recipe for something similar to Macaroni Grill’s bread. Since my youngest heathen loves this bread and can eat his weight in it, I decided this copycat recipe was worth a try. After all, I was in the need for some cool mom points to start my week off right. I mixed up the dough in my stand mixer, and let it rise in our laundry room, since the heat in humidity in that room cuts our rising time in half:

Forming the loaves was easy, because this dough was very forgiving and not at all sticky:

The finished product was perfect:

So, yes, I did in fact rack up some cool mom credit. The only way I deviated from the recipe was by omitting the additional sprinkling of rosemary over the top of the loaves. Rosemary is a strong enough herb in this recipe that the flavor already comes through well enough, and the additional rosemary garnish probably would have freaked the heathens out anyway. Want to try it? Here’s the recipe I found at Food Network:

Almost Famous Rosemary Bread

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Ingredients

  • 1 1/4-ounce packet active dry yeast
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing and serving
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 2 tablespoons dried rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon fine salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt Freshly ground pepper

Directions

Stir the yeast, sugar and 1/4 cup warm water in a large bowl (or in the bowl of a stand mixer). Let sit until foamy, about 5 minutes.

Add 1 tablespoon olive oil, the flour, 1 1/2 tablespoons rosemary, the fine salt and 3/4 cup warm water; stir with a wooden spoon (or with the dough hook if using a mixer) until a dough forms.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead, dusting lightly with flour if necessary, until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. (Or knead with the dough hook on medium-high speed, adding a little flour if the dough sticks to the bowl, about 8 minutes.)

Brush a large bowl with olive oil. Add the dough, cover with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature until more than doubled, about 2 hours.

Brush 2 baking sheets with olive oil. Generously flour a work surface; turn the dough out onto the flour and divide into 4 pieces. Working with one piece at a time, sprinkle some flour on the dough, then fold the top and bottom portions into the middle. Fold in the sides to make a free-form square. Use a spatula to turn the dough over, then tuck the corners under to form a ball. Place seam-side down on a prepared baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining dough, putting 2 balls on each baking sheet. Let stand, uncovered, until more than doubled, about 2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Bake the loaves 10 minutes; brush with the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil and sprinkle with the kosher salt and the remaining 1/2 tablespoon rosemary. Continue baking until golden brown, about 10 more minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool. Serve with olive oil seasoned with pepper.

Yummers.

Get ready for “Diet Killer–Part 2.”

A couple of weeks ago, I made a new recipe called Pumpkin Spice Bars.

One bite of these, and I knew I had to immediately get them out of my house, lest I eat the entire pan, gain a jeans size, and free-fall into an orgy of Ben and Jerry’s, Fruity Pebbles and Blueberry Poptarts. These bars were so good, that they instantly became my personal Kryptonite.

In an effort to save myself, I sent the pan to my husband’s office. I was unsure what the reception would be, because I’ve been known to have the taste buds of a schizophrenic sometimes.

By the end of the day, the empty pan was returned to my husband, already washed, and with a note that said, “Thanks—More Please.”

I suggest you make these soon, and bask in your newfound popularity.

Pumpkin Spice Bars

  • 1 package spice cake mix
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped pecans
  • 1 Tbsp. vanilla extract (the good stuff, no imitation!)
  • 1 (8-oz) package cream cheese, softened
  • 1/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin puree
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract (use the imitation, and I’ll haunt you)
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped white chocolate, or white chocolate chips
  • 1 Tbsp. butter, melted
  • 1/3 cup regular uncooked oats
  • powdered sugar for garnish

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine first 4 ingredients, mixing well with a fork. Reserve 1 cup of this crumb mixture to make the topping later; place these crumbs in a separate bowl, because you will be adding stuff to it. Press remaining crumbs into a lightly greased 9 x 13-inch baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 13 to 15 minutes, or until puffy and set. Cool pan on a wire rack for 20 minutes. It should look something like this:

2) Beat cream cheese at medium speed with an electric mixer for 30 seconds, or until creamy. Add brown sugar, egg, pumpkin, 1 tsp. vanilla extract; beat until blended. It should look like this:

Pour filling over baked crust.

3) Stir white chocolate, 1 Tbsp. melted butter and oats into the 1 cup of crumbs that you reserved earlier when making the crust:

(clearly, I may have gone overboard on the white chocolate…I’m a freak like that) Sprinkle this mixture over the filling:

4) Bake the bars at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, or until edges begin to brown and center is set. Cool completely in the pan on a wire rack. At this point, I like to chill the bars, because it makes them easier to cut into pretty portions, and I think the taste and texture is a little better if they are served on the cool (but not cold) side; After they’ve been refrigerated, I let them sit out about 20-30 minutes before serving. Garnish with a sprinkling of powdered sugar, if you are so inclined:

Make these, and I bet you have a new BFF by the end of the day.

Cool Mom Points…Or How to Turn a Cub Scout Meeting into a Self-Esteem Booster

If there is one thing I’ve learned about kids, it’s that they are visual creatures. Long before food ever hits their taste buds, they’ve already passed significant judgment on its’ appearance, and I honestly believe that their first impression predisposes them to like it or hate it. Hence, instead of disclosing to my boys that I was serving them sweet potato fries last week, I told them that I dyed their fries orange to celebrate Fall. Yep, I’m a liar, but they ate it, didn’t they?

For last night’s Cub Scout meeting, I was charged with bringing the snacks. My boys take a certain pride in the fact that Mom usually brings the homemade snacks, and I was determined to keep up appearances, and collect some Cool-Mom credit. I have to take my Cool-Mom credit when and where I can get it, since my husband is usually monopolizing the Super Parent title with his cool games and potty humor. That sneaky Dad….but I digress….

I found this recipe in Southern Living, and knew it was perfect:

(That’s their photo by the way)

They look exciting, but underneath all that multicolored bling, they are still plain old sugar cookies, and therefore definitely kid friendly. The recipe was very easy, and the end result was some happy Cub Scouts. You should try them next time you need some deceptively easy Cool Mom Points.

Sugar Cookie Pops


Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup canola or vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • Colored sugars, sparkling sugars, and multicolored jimmies
  • 4″ white craft sticks

Preparation

  1. Beat butter and shortening at medium speed with an electric mixer until fluffy; add sugars, beating well. Add eggs, oil, and vanilla, beating until blended.
  2. Combine flour and next 3 ingredients; add to butter mixture, blending well. Cover and chill dough 2 hours or overnight.
  3. Shape dough into 1 1/2″ balls. Roll each ball in colored sugar or jimmies in individual bowls, pressing gently, if necessary, to coat balls. Place 2″ apart on ungreased baking sheets. Insert craft sticks about 1″ into each cookie to resemble a lollipop.
  4. Bake at 350° for 10 to 11 minutes or until set. Let cool 2 minutes on baking sheets; remove cookie pops to wire racks to cool completely.