5-Alarm/ 5-Bean Chili

YUM-O (<-- all rights reserved by Rachel Ray) :)

Ok, so last night I tried my hand at chili.
Simple enough recipe, with my little spin on some "hot" ingredients.
I followed THIS RECIPE and simply added a few 'extra' items.

My alterations were:
2 lbs of ground beef
1 1/2 onion
1 14oz can of diced tomatoes (w/o jalapenos)
1 14oz can of stewed tomatoes
1 4oz can of diced jalapenos (I figured I get more heat this way)
2 habanero peppers (I KNEW I would get some heat by doing this)

(here's where you have to pay close attention)
I originally thought that I forgot to pick up the chili seasoning packets.
It wasn't until 1 hour into the cooking time that I even realized that I didn't season ANY of the chili. Panicking I immediately reached for my inventory of seasoning. Hmmmm, now what do I think goes into chili?
Paprika, cumin, chili powder, onion powder, garlic powder, seasoning salt, pepper...(you know this drill... just grab everything and hope that it'll taste good).
So while I was pulling different seasonings out of the cabinet (and at the same time adding them to the crock pot) I came across 1 packet of chili seasoning (from God knows where). Now what do I do? Oh, hell... just add it in and see what happens.

4 1/2 hours later, we have chili.... and DAMN good chili if I must say so. Damn good, HOT chili if you ask my son (who was sticking his tongue into his glass of water.

Maybe next time I'll just use 1 habanero


I challenge YOU to...

This month's DB challenge was a simple one. Simply make frozen pops out of cheesecake. Phew! I thought it was going to be all hard, but NOPE just take approximately 2 days to make a dessert (including prep, cook, cool, firm time). Then when you cheesecake is, well, cheesecake, roll into balls, insert the stick and freeze. Voila.

Now, I'm hoping that you sense a hint of sarcasm in my tone. DO YOU KNOW HOW HARD IT WAS FOR ME TO WAIT TO EAT THIS DESSERT? Sheesh! First of all it's cheesecake (can we just pause for a minute and honor the inventor of this dessert). On top of waiting the normal timeframe, we added another 2 hours of freezing time and another 24 hours of "refrigerate until ready to serve" time.


Nah.... it was really fun. The funny part was that I remembered that my daughter had to complete a diarama (sp?) project last year for school and we purchased like 1000 popsicle sticks from (good ole) Michael's. This was the first DB challenge that I've done where I didn't have to purchase any of the ingredients needed. Making the cheesecake was a breeze and when it came time to "roll; insert; freeze" I was all set. Until I went to get the sticks from out of our art supplies container, and realized I threw away all of those damn sticks, thinking that I would never need them again (or more likely that I would just purchase another box if I needed to).
So while improvising I decided to use the 4 "poker designed" cocktail stirrers I just purchased for my husband's party. I only had four so the other balls were S.O.L.

Oh, well. This time I'm taking a more literal approach to the challenge, and I'll be "popping" these little balls into my mouth. I guess, then, we can still call them Cheesecake Pops!

Thanks "Elle" and "Deborah" for such a wonderfully fun challenge.


Devil's Food Cheesecake

Ok, so I am taking this opportunity to say that I LOVE watching Bobby Flay's Throwdown Challenge, that comes on the Food Network. Ever since I've been watching this program I've learned a lot of new recipes for foods that I've always loved. About 2 weeks ago I watched him challenge Junior's Cheesecake to the best cheesecake. Bobby made a regular cheesecake with carmel apple topping (he actually won the challenge). Junior's, however, made a recently newly created Devil's Food Cheesecake that immediately caught my eye. The judges (on the show) said that, altough it was a great cake, the amount of chocolate used along with the cheesecake overpowered the cake. It was a "cheesecake challenge" so the cheesecake should have been more overpowering than the chocolate. (*scratching my head*)

All I have to say is that, chocolate is never a bad addition to anything.

Here's the recipe... Now even though the recipe does not create the same looking cake that is shown on Junior's website (the recipe states to make 3 9" cakes) the cake is still really good. I chose not to add more chocolate on the cake. Also, my fudge frosting did not come out as dark as shown on Junior's picture. I honestly think that they altered the recipe to save their originality. I can't say that I blame them either.


Clif's big BIRTHDAY weekend

The big 3-0!
So the weekend of April 8-13th (and yes there are more than 2 days to this weekend) began with us celebrating the end of Clif's 20s. We had a small gathering of friends and family, with a small cake (see my previous post for details) to say goodbye to his 20s. We were joined by Aimee, Mariah, Kiara, Chynna, Porche and then our family.

4/9 began with Clif getting his birthday gift from the kids (a hat) and then dinner with some more friends for SAKE BOMBS. Richard, Porche, Uriah joined just the three of us.

4/10 (in lieu of Clif trying to set up an outing to Saddle Ranch) included our good friend Art surprising Clif by driving down from Northern Cal to spend some time with the birthday boy, and showing up at our door. That night Clif, Felix, Art and Jorge heading out to The Standard for an evening of male bonding, but ended up at Barney's and then to Lucky Strike for bowling.

4/11 started off real slow. I headed over to the laundry mat, while Clif and Chris slept in. Art gave Clif a call and wanted him to get him from the Palms area of LA. He then managed to get Clif out of the house so that I could set up for Clif's surprise party (Poker and Spades Party). At ~9:30 Clif walked through our house door to be surprised to see Tanya, Malika, Malcolm, Dontay, Felix, Aimee, Richard and Porche. Art, Tony and Jimmy were all with him so they were not as much of a surprise. The night was filled with poker (Clif took home the pot) and a long, interesting game of spades (as only Malika could make it).

4/12 began at 12:00p when Malcolm and Dontay arrived to join Clif and Art in a game of laser tag. Malika and Tanya showed up late for tag, but were early to hang out at Lucky Strike, which was our next destination. The 6 of us began a game of bowling and was soon joined by Felix, Yasi and Dariush. After Clif swallowed the surprise of seeing D and Yasi, in walked cousin Lucy (and her friend) for yet another surprise.

After a few games of bowling, good food and drinks we had to leave Lucky Strike to get ready for our next outing which was Saddle Ranch in Universal Citywalk. We arrived at 8:30p and it wasn't long before we signed our life away to be able to ride the mechanical bull. Shawna and I cheated (holding on with 2 hands) while Jimmy and Clif were honorable bull riders (Clif got tossed though).

4/13 arrived (sooner than we liked it) and we were off to meet up with the last of Clif's surprises for brunch in Hollywood. Patty, Garett, Mia and Cameron were unable to make the trip to the Griddle Cafe, so the 5 of us (Clif, Chris, Malika Tanya and I) ate enough to cover any loss food that was not ordered due to the shortened guest list.

We arrived home that afternoon EXHAUSTED but very fulfilled.

Here is a album of photos to enjoy of this past weekend. Enjoy.

Clif's Big 3-0 Weekend


The End of a Decade

To celebrate Clif turning the big 3-0, I made a "Last Day in Your Twenties" cake for him and our neigbors. Since my group has been BIG on Dorie lately, I selected to make the cake that graces the cover of her book, From My Home to Yours (page 247).

This cake was a HUGE success and it was a great way for Clif to end his 20s on a high note. What he didn't know was that the upcoming weekend was going to be filled with parties, special guests and lots of surprises.

I now give you Devil Food's White-Out Cake

As you can see I have the book opened to the page in the book that shows the inside of the cake. This cake lasted all of 5 minutes, and so there were no "cut slice" pieces for me to photograph.

I'll definitely be making this again.

Bacon to DIE for

Ok, so I have to get all caught up on my posting, but I wanted to be sure and get this one out of the way. This past weekend was filled with partying (Clif turned the big 3-0) so coming up next is a full re-cap. Before I do that, I have 2 things that I must post about.

Thing 1:

While watching Emeril Live (I so love the way that man cooks) he did an entire segment on "breakfast for dinner." Aside from his killer omeletts and fruit waffles, he made the most wonderful looking bacon I've ever seen. The next day (Friday) I couldn't help but make this wonderful creation to see if it tasted as good as it looked.

I'll never eat bacon the regular way again.

1/2 cup brown sugar (fresh, not hard and stale)
2 tsp of black pepper
bacon (however many slices you can drown in the sugar will (just about) do

Mix sugar and pepper in a bowl. Dip bacon in mixture. Place bacon on a wire rack, ontop of a cookie sheet. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 6-8 minutes. Enjoy.


Runner's, start your training!

So a couple of friends and I decided to enter into the Nike Women's Marathon that is coming up this October, in San Francisco, CA. It sucks because I wouldn't have any known to sign up if it wasn't for my SFAMily members who are always on the ball. Their group didn't make the lottery cut (there were so many people that signed up last year, Nike decided to select runners via a lottery). I'll be walking/running/sweating with them in mind.

Let's see how all of my baking will come into play with me training for a full on marathon.

How to line a cake pan w/ parchment

Ok, so I was watching a YouTube video of how to line a cake pan. This task is what keeps me from actually lining the bottom of a cake pan in lieu of just oil/flouring it.

So, here goes:
1 Take a piece of parchment paper (wider the the size of the pan that you're using.
2 Fold in half.
3 Fold into a triangle (using the bottom as an edge).
4 Fold into another triangle (again, using the bottom). You will have something that looks like this:

5 Take the (almost paper airplane looking thing) over to the back side of the pan.
Place the point in the middle of the pan, and allow the rest of the paper to rest on the pan. (here's a visual)

6 cut the paper where it meets with the edge of the pan.


Perfect Cake (for a little party)

So, I'm a few days late (3 to be exact) with my Daring Bakers challenge post this month. My apologies. I finished my cakes yesterday and was able to surprise a couple of gals in the snackbar of my daughter's softball league, with these cute treats. They loved them... and so did I later on last night after I returned from the gym.

*Warning: never bake a cake and leave the house to run an errand. I went over to the field to prep the snack bar for last night's game. I took my cooking timer and everything. When I returned the cake was in the over about 5 minutes too long. Which resulted in me making "mini" cakes (the sides were over done).

Lemon Zest

Lemon + sugar = lemon sugar :)

Cakes (after cut into little circles)

Strawberry preserves

Buttercream filling/frosting

Little sammiches

Viola!... all decorated with coconut and topped with more preserves!

Here's the recipe... and thanks to Morven for the challenge.

From Dorie Greenspan’s Baking from My Home to Yours (pages 250-252)

Words from Dorie
Stick a bright-coloured Post-it to this page, so you’ll always know where to turn for a just-right cake for any celebration. The original recipe was given to me by my great dear friend Nick Malgieri, of baking fame, and since getting it, I’ve found endless opportunities to make it – you will too. The cake is snow white, with an elegant tight crumb and an easygoing nature: it always bakes up perfectly; it is delicate on the tongue but sturdy in the kitchen – no fussing when it comes to slicing the layers in half or cutting tall, beautiful wedges for serving; and, it tastes just as you’d want a party cake to taste – special. The base recipe is for a cake flavoured with lemon, layered with a little raspberry jam and filled and frosted with a classic (and so simple) pure white lemony hot-meringue buttercream but, because the elements are so fundamental, they lend themselves to variation (see Playing Around), making the cake not just perfect, but also versatile.

For the Cake
2 ¼ cups cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 ¼ cups whole milk or buttermilk (I prefer buttermilk with the lemon)
4 large egg whites
1 ½ cups sugar
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
1 stick (8 tablespoons or 4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ teaspoon pure lemon extract

For the Buttercream
1 cup sugar
4 large egg whites
3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
¼ cup fresh lemon juice (from 2 large lemons)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For Finishing
2/3 cup seedless raspberry preserves stirred vigorously or warmed gently until spreadable
About 1 ½ cups sweetened shredded coconut

Getting Ready
Centre a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter two 9 x 2 inch round cake pans and line the bottom of each pan with a round of buttered parchment or wax paper. Put the pans on a baking sheet.

To Make the Cake
Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.
Whisk together the milk and egg whites in a medium bowl.
Whisk together the sugar and lemon zest in a mixer bowl or another large bowl and rub them together with your fingers until the sugar is moist and fragrant.
Add the butter and working with the paddle or whisk attachment, or with a hand mixer, beat at medium speed for a full 3 minutes, until the butter and sugar are very light.
Beat in the extract, then add one third of the flour mixture, still beating on medium speed.
Beat in half of the milk-egg mixture, then beat in half of the remaining dry ingredients until incorporated.
Add the rest of the milk and eggs beating until the batter is homogeneous, then add the last of the dry ingredients.
Finally, give the batter a good 2- minute beating to ensure that it is thoroughly mixed and well aerated.
Divide the batter between the two pans and smooth the tops with a rubber spatula.
Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the cakes are well risen and springy to the touch – a thin knife inserted into the centers should come out clean
Transfer the cakes to cooling racks and cool for about 5 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the cakes, unfold them and peel off the paper liners.
Invert and cool to room temperature, right side up (the cooled cake layers can be wrapped airtight and stored at room temperature overnight or frozen for up to two months).

To Make the Buttercream
Put the sugar and egg whites in a mixer bowl or another large heatproof bowl, fit the bowl over a plan of simmering water and whisk constantly, keeping the mixture over the heat, until it feels hot to the touch, about 3 minutes.
The sugar should be dissolved, and the mixture will look like shiny marshmallow cream.
Remove the bowl from the heat.
Working with the whisk attachment or with a hand mixer, beat the meringue on medium speed until it is cool, about 5 minutes.
Switch to the paddle attachment if you have one, and add the butter a stick at a time, beating until smooth.
Once all the butter is in, beat in the buttercream on medium-high speed until it is thick and very smooth, 6-10 minutes.
During this time the buttercream may curdle or separate – just keep beating and it will come together again.
On medium speed, gradually beat in more lemon juice, waiting until each addition is absorbed before adding more, and then the vanilla.
You should have a shiny smooth, velvety, pristine white buttercream. Press a piece of plastic against the surface of the buttercream and set aside briefly.

To Assemble the Cake
Using a sharp serrated knife and a gentle sawing motion, slice each layer horizontally in half.
Put one layer cut side up on a cardboard cake round or a cake plate protected by strips of wax or parchment paper.
Spread it with one third of the preserves.
Cover the jam evenly with about one quarter of the buttercream.
Top with another layer, spread with preserves and buttercream and then do the same with a third layer (you’ll have used all the jam and have buttercream leftover).
Place the last layer cut side down on top of the cake and use the remaining buttercream to frost the sides and top.
Press the coconut into the frosting, patting it gently all over the sides and top.

The cake is ready to serve as soon as it is assembled, but I think it’s best to let it sit and set for a couple of hours in a cool room – not the refrigerator. Whether you wait or slice and enjoy it immediately, the cake should be served at room temperature; it loses all its subtlety when it’s cold. Depending on your audience you can serve the cake with just about anything from milk to sweet or bubbly wine.

The cake is best the day it is made, but you can refrigerate it, well covered, for up to two days. Bring it to room temperature before serving. If you want to freeze the cake, slide it into the freezer to set, then wrap it really well – it will keep for up to 2 months in the freezer; defrost it, still wrapped overnight in the refrigerator.

Playing Around
Since lemon is such a friendly flavour, feel free to make changes in the preserves: other red preserves – cherry or strawberry – look especially nice, but you can even use plum or blueberry jam.

Fresh Berry Party Cake
If you will be serving the cake the day it is made, cover each layer of buttercream with fresh berries – use whole raspberries, sliced or halved strawberries or whole blackberries, and match the preserves to the fruit. You can replace the coconut on top of the cake with a crown of berries, or use both coconut and berries. You can also replace the buttercream between the layers with fairly firmly whipped sweetened cream and then either frost the cake with buttercream (the contrast between the lighter whipped cream and the firmer buttercream is nice) or finish it with more whipped cream. If you use whipped cream, you’ll have to store the cake the in the refrigerator – let it sit for about 20 minutes at room temperature before serving.