Strawberry Avocado Kale Salad

This recipe is a little bit of a different take on Strawberry Spinach Salad.  The kale makes this a bit heartier, the avocado adds some great healthy fats and creaminess; strawberries for sweetness, and pecans for crunch.  The best thing about raw kale salads is that they’re hearty.  You could easily make this at the beginning of the week, and have easy lunches all week long.  Kale is also full of good for you vitamins, and is high in calcium!  While kale might be a bit intimidating, it’s quite easy to turn into a delicious meal.  Since kale is rather tough, if you plan to eat it raw you have to massage it.  I know it sounds weird, and I too have felt the “if anything’s getting a massage it should be me” thoughts, but alas, your raw kale wants a massage too.  All you have to do is rub the salad dressing into the leaves.  You’ll know you’re doing it right when the leaves turn a brighter green, look glossy, and have already softened up a bit.  It doesn’t take long to do a whole bowl of kale, so don’t let this deter your raw kale eating ways!

Strawberry Avocado Kale SaladStrawberry Avocado Kale Salad (A Seat at the Table)

Serves 4

Adapted from Two Peas and Their Pod

Lemon Poppyseed Dressing:

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 1/2 lemons, juiced (about 3 Tbsp)
  • 1 Tbsp honey
  • 1 tsp poppyseeds
  • salt and pepper to taste

Salad:

  • About 8 cups raw kale, stems removed and torn into bite size pieces (or enough to fill a large bowl, it reduces to about half the amount after it’s massaged)
  • 2 cups sliced strawberries
  • 1 avocado, chopped
  • 2 oz feta, crumbled (optional)
  • 3/4 cup pecans, toasted and chopped

In a measuring cup, whisk together the dressing ingredients.  Place raw kale in a large bowl, pour about 1/2 of the dressing onto the kale, and then massage the kale (rub the leaves between your hands), until kale is bright green and glossy.  Add remaining salad ingredients and serve.  Store in the fridge for about 3 days (although best to leave off the pecans until ready to serve).

Strawberry Spinach Salad

This salad is great.  If you’re not a salad person, give this a try.  It’s a wonderful combination of sweet and savory.  This is one of my aunt’s favorite salads, and when she got married she asked the caterers to make this for the reception.  The caterer (and everyone else) loved this recipe so much he asked if he could keep it in his repertoire for other clients.

Not only is this beautiful and delicious, it’s a great healthy combination.  Iron (from the spinach) is absorbed better when it’s eaten with vitamin C (from the strawberries).  So as strawberries begin to show up everywhere, pick some up and make this spring flavored salad…you might just love it enough to have it at your wedding.

Strawberry Spinach SaladStrawberry Spinach Salad (A Seat at the Table)

Serves 6-8

  • 1 bag fresh baby spinach
  • 1 pint strawberries, sliced
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans, toasted

Add spinach to a large bowl, top with sliced strawberries and toasted pecans.

Dressing:

  • 1 cup veg oil
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp dry mustard
  • 1 tsp poppy seeds
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup chopped red onion
  • 1/3 cup red wine vinegar

Combine all the dressing ingredients in a blender and blend until it turns a pale pink (from the red onion).  This makes a large amount, at least enough for 3 or 4 salads.  Store dressing in the fridge, but bring to room temperature before serving (this will make it easier to pour).  Toss with salad just before serving and garnish with some toasted pecans.

Oatmeal Toffee Cookies

These cookies were awesome.  They’re buttery-delicious with a nice crunch from the toffee and pecans, and a chewy base from the oatmeal.  Upon first bite, Mom declared them her new favorite cookie.  They’re awesome, a little something different and super easy to whip up.  I’d definitely recommend these!!

Oatmeal Toffee CookiesOatmeal Toffee Cookies

Makes about 3 dozen large cookies

Adapted from All Recipes

  • 1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) butter, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour (I think white whole wheat would be great in this and add a nice nuttiness)
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 cup toasted pecans, chopped
  • 3 cups toffee baking bits

Preheat oven to 300°F.  Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and brown sugar with an electric mixer.  Beat in the eggs one at a time, then beat in the vanilla.  Sift together the flour, baking soda and salt and mix into the wet ingredients.  Add oats, pecans and toffee and mix until just combined.

Scoop large (3oz) portions onto prepared baking sheet, flatten slightly, and bake for 20-23 minutes, until golden and center is set.

Raspberry Chocolate Pecan Rugelach

I’ve always been a fan of rugelach, they’re like delicious pastry cookies.  When I was younger I’d always go for the chocolate ones, but my mom liked the raspberry ones.  So imagine my delight when my new Smitten Kitchen Cookbook had a recipe perfect for the both of us.  These rugelach are the perfect balance of delicate pastry dough, tart raspberry jam, rich chocolate, and crunchy toasted pecans.

Raspberry Chocolate Pecan RugelachRaspberry Chocolate Pecan Rugelach

Makes about 48

Adapted from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook, Alex’s Chocolate Raspberry Rugelach

Dough:

  • 2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 pkg (8oz) cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour

Beat butter and cream cheese together until light and fluffy.  Sift together the salt and flour and add to the butter-cream cheese mixture.  Beat on a low speed until the flour is just combined (or mix by hand).  Scrape dough onto a large piece of plastic wrap and form into a flat-ish packet.  Wrap well and chill in the fridge for at least 2 hours or up to 3 days.  (You can also freeze the dough for up to two months).

Fillings:

  • 2/3 cup seedless raspberry jam
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 Tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup toasted and finely chopped pecans
  • 1/2 cup (3oz) finely chopped bittersweet chocolate or mini-chocolate chips

Prepare the fillings while the dough chills.  Over medium heat, bring the jam to a simmer to make it easier to spread.  In a small bowl whisk together the sugar and cinnamon.  Toast and chop the pecans, and chop the chocolate.

To assemble, remove dough from the fridge.  Divide the dough into thirds.  Place one third on a lightly floured surface, and return the other two thirds to the fridge until their turn.  Roll the dough into about a 12″ circle, doesn’t have to be precise, but you want it pretty thin and even.

Brush dough with a thin layer of jam, about 2-3 Tablespoons.  Sprinkle with cinnamon-sugar (about 1 1/2 Tbsp), and sprinkle on pecans and chocolate (a third of each pile).  Use a large piece of wax paper to gently press the toppings into the dough.  Then using a pizza cutter or a sharp knife, divide the dough into 16 wedges.  Roll each wedge tightly from the outside to the center and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper with the point on the bottom.  Space them about one inch apart.  Once you’ve finished rolling all of them place the baking sheet in the freezer for about 15 minutes.

Glaze:

  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 tsp water
  • sprinkle of cinnamon sugar

While the formed rugelach are in the freezer, preheat the oven to 350°F.  Repeat the assembly process with the other two thirds of dough.  Whisk together the egg yolk and water.  Once you’ve removed the rugelach from the freezer, brush with the egg wash and sprinkle with a little of the remaining cinnamon sugar.  Bake for 20-25 minutes, until puffed and golden.  Transfer rugelach immediately to wire racks to cool (so they don’t stick to the paper).  Serve warm or at room temperature.  Store in an airtight container.

Cowboy Cookies

In my dad’s opinion, there is nothing better than a chocolate chip cookie.  Unfortunately for him, I’ve been making a different Christmas cookie each week this month and plain chocolate chip cookies haven’t made the cut.  On the upside, apparently my dad’s qualifications for a chocolate chip cookie is just a cookie that contains chocolate chips, so this recipe ended up being right up his alley.

So whether you like chocolate chip cookies, or are looking for a recipe to feed an army, these cookies are delicious and a little something special.  I particularly liked the cinnamon in these and the oats bring a delicious chewiness without turning these into oatmeal cookies.  These are super yummy and are great for a party, or you can scoop all the cookie dough and freeze them until you’re ready to bake them.

Cowboy CookiesCowboy Cookie half

Makes about 6 dozen

Adapted from Laura Bush

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder
  • 1 Tbsp baking soda
  • 1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 scant cup brown sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla extract
  • 3 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 3 cups old fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 1/2 cups sweetened coconut, toasted
  • 2 cups chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt.

Cowboy Cookies

In a large bowl, beat butter until smooth, gradually add sugar, beat for about 2 minutes.  Add eggs one at a time, then add vanilla beating well after each addition.  Gradually stir in the dry ingredients until just combined.  Stir in chocolate chips and oats.  Fold in the toasted coconut and pecans.

Using a cookie scoop, scoop the cookies onto the prepared baking sheets spacing them about one inch apart.  Bake for 12-15 minutes, until golden brown.  Move cookies on the parchment paper onto wire racks to cool.

Chocolate Decadence Cake

This is a recipe from my grandma.  It makes an entire sheet cake, so it’s perfect for a crowd.

Chocolate Decadence Cake

Serves about 30-40

  • 1 box German Chocolate Cake mix (or 1/2 recipe of German Chocolate Cake)
  • Eggs, oil and water according to cake mix directions
  • 1 (8oz) pkg cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/2 cup mini-chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350°F.  Grease a large jelly roll/sheet pan with cooking spray.

Mix up the German Chocolate cake mix according to the directions.  Spread batter into the prepared sheet pan.  In a separate bowl, beat cream cheese and sugar together until smooth.  Pour cream cheese over cake batter.  Run a knife through the batter to marble the cream cheese.  Sprinkle the top with pecans and mini chocolate chips.  Bake cake for about 20-25 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.

Happy Birthday, Dad!! Happy Birthday, Grampy!!

I hope you both have a magnificent start to your new year!

And of course, may there be lots of cake!

German Chocolate Cake

Makes a three layer cake

Baker’s German Chocolate recipe

For the Coconut-Pecan Frosting:

  • 1 1/2 cans evaporated milk
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) margarine or butter
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 10 oz sweetened flaked coconut (most of 1 pkg)
  • 2 cups chopped pecans

Mix milk, sugar, margarine, egg yolks, and vanilla in a large saucepan. Cook and stir on medium heat for about 12-15 minutes or until thickened and golden brown. Remove from heat.

Stir in coconut and pecans. Allow mixture to come to room temperature before spreading on cake.

German Chocolate Cake:

  • 1 pkg (4oz) Baker’s German’s Sweet Chocolate, chopped
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temperature
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 4 egg whites

Line bottoms of 3 (9″) round cake pans with parchment paper. Preheat oven to 350°F.

In your measuring cup, combine water and chocolate, microwave in 30 second rounds until chocolate is completely melted, stirring after each time.

Sift together flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add egg yolks one at a time, beating well after each addition. Mix in the chocolate mixture and the vanilla. Add flour mixture in batches alternating with the buttermilk, beating until just combined.

In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites (with clean beaters) until stiff peaks form. Gently fold into the batter. Divide the batter among the three prepared pans and bake for 28-30 minutes, until cake springs back when lightly touched in the center. Run a spatula or knife around the edge of the cakes. Allow cakes to cool for 15 minutes before removing from the pans. Allow cakes to cool completely before frosting.

Enjoy!

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German Chocolate Cupcakes

In honor of my uncle’s 40th birthday on Sunday, his wife asked me to bake cupcakes for them to take to church as a surprise celebration for him.  Ken isn’t much a of a sweets eater, but when it comes to that side of the family nothing says birthday like German Chocolate Cake.  My grandpa and my dad both request German Chocolate Cake on their birthday (which happens to be the same day), so I figured this traditional cake would be a crowd pleaser for such a momentous occasion.  And since cheesecake is Ken’s favorite dessert, I made Double Chocolate Cheesecake for the smaller birthday celebration Sunday evening.

I tried out a new recipe, instead of using the recipe on the inside of the Baker’s German chocolate packaging.  This cake tasted more like dark chocolate and my dad claims the frosting tasted “lighter” than usual, but I thought it tasted pretty spot on.  I’d definitely make these cupcakes again.

German Chocolate Cupcakes

Makes about 24

Adapted from Ina Garten in House Beautiful

  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup natural cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp coarse salt
  • 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup light brown sugar, loosely packed
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup buttermilk, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup sour cream, room temperature
  • 2 Tbsp coffee, cooled

Preheat oven to 350°.  Line cupcake pans with liners.

Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt.  Set aside.

In a large bowl cream together the butter and sugars on medium-high speed for about 5 minutes, until light and fluffy.  Beat in the eggs one at a time, then beat in the vanilla.

In a separate bowl or large measuring cup, whisk together the buttermilk, sour cream and coffee.  Alternate mixing in the buttermilk mixture and the flour mixture into the creamed butter, beginning with buttermilk and ending with flour.  Be careful not to overmix, but make sure you get everything mixed in from the bottom.

Divide the batter into the cupcake tins.  Bake for 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  Allow cupcakes to cool in the pan for about 10 minutes before removing.  Allow to cool completely before frosting.

German Chocolate Frosting

  • 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
  • 1 (12oz) can evaporated milk
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 5 egg yolks, lightly beaten
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp coarse salt
  • 2 1/2 cups sweetened flaked coconut
  • 2 cups pecans, chopped

Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat.  Stir in the milk, sugar, egg yolks, vanilla, and salt with a wooden spoon.  Allow mixture to get just to boiling point, stirring constantly.  Reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes until thickened.  Mixture should coat the back of the spoon.

Strain the mixture through a fine mesh sieve into a heatproof bowl.  Stir in the coconut and pecans.  Allow to cool at least 1 hour before frosting.  Place in the fridge if needed to speed the cooling process.

 

Four year wait

My sister made these cookies for me when I was in undergrad.  Four years later, I found the recipe and finally got around to making them on Tuesday.  These are delicious, light, fluffy cookies.  They’re also incredibly easy to make.  Don’t wait four years to try them.

Mexican Wedding Cookies

Makes about 30 cookies

Adapted from here

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar (more for rolling)
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup toasted pecans, finely chopped
  • 2 cups flour
  • For rolling:  about 1/2 cup powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Spread pecans out on a cookie sheet and place in the oven, allow to toast for about 10 minutes, stirring halfway.  Cream butter and 1/2 cup sugar together.  Mix in vanilla.  Add nuts and flour and stir until just combined.  Roll small balls of dough and set on a greased cookie sheet about an inch apart.  Bake for 12-15 minutes, until just beginning to golden.  Allow cookies to cool on a wire rack for 15-20 minutes before rolling in powdered sugar.