Coca Cola Cake

I was headed to a meeting after work last week and wanted to take some cake to this group of folks with whom I’d been working.  I saw this recipe for Coca-Cola cake, which seemed super intriguing to me, so I thought it would be fun to make.  I saw the recipe in the Linn County Fair Cookbook.  It looked pretty and tasted delicious.  All was going according to plan until two hours before the meeting, it was canceled.  So, I took some cake to a couple neighbors, including some students who were raking their leaves down the block from me.  It seemed like a good way to spread some cheer on a Monday afternoon.

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Coca-Cola Cake

2 c flour
2 c sugar
3 Tbsp cocoa
1 c coca cola
1 c butter
1 1/2 c miniature marshmallows
2 eggs (beaten)
1/2 c buttermilk
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla

Frosting

1/2 c butter
1 Tbsp cocoa
6 Tbsp coca cola
1 lb powdered sugar
1/2 c pecans, chopped

Grease and flour a 9×13 inch pan and set aside.  In a large bowl, combine flour and sugar.  In a saucepan, combine cocoa, Coca-Cola, butter, and marshmallows; bring to a boil.  Combine the boiled mixture with the flour and sugar mixture.  In a separate bowl, mix eggs, buttermilk, baking soda and vanilla; add to the first mixture.  Pour into prepared pan and bake at 350 degrees for about 35 minutes, until cake tests done.

Frosting: In a saucepan, bring butter, cocoa, and Coca-Cola to a boil.  Stir in the nuts.  Spread over cake while both cake and frosting are still warm.

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Black-Bottom Maple Pecan Bars

With Thanksgiving only days away at this point, it’s fun to think about something slightly outside the norm for dessert.  When I made these bars from the Brown Sugar Kitchen Cookbook, I found them slightly addicting.  Without the complications of a pie and making sure it set, these pecan bars had a rich maple flavor and a bite was satisfying, whereas a full bar was almost too rich.  Yum.  A Thanksgiving dessert where I don’t want to eat the whole thing?  What more could I want?  So, if you realized you don’t want to make a pie for Thanksgiving, check out these bars and put them together today!

Black Bottom Maple Pecan Bars

Black-Bottom Maple-Pecan Bars

Cocoa Crust

1 c flour
1/4 c cocoa powder
1/3 c light brown sugar
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/2 c butter, cut into cubes and chilled

Pecan Filling

6 Tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 c dark brown sugar
2 Tbsp maple syrup
1/2 tsp kosher salt
8 oz pecans, coarsely chopped
1/4 c heavy cream

To make the crust: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Butter and flour an 8-in square baking pan.  In a food processor, pulse together the flour, cocoa powder, sugar, and salt.  Scatter the chilled butter cubes over the flour mixture and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Do not overprocess; the dough will look very dry and crumbly.

Press the dough into the prepared pan evenly across the bottom and about 1 in up on the sides; it should be about 1/2 in thick.  Bake until the crust looks dry and slightly puffed, about 15 minutes.

To make the filling: In a small saucepan, combine the butter, brown sugar, maple syrup, and salt and cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until the butter is melted and the sugar is dissolved.  Stir in the pecans and cream, reduce to a simmer, and cook until bubbling and warmed through, about 3 minutes.

When the crust is done, gently press down on any puffed-up areas.  Pour the filling evenly over the crust.  Bake until the filling has thickened and is bubbling, about 15 minutes.  Let cool completely.

Cut into 9 squares and serve at room temperature.

Chocolate Chip and Candied Ginger Blondies

I was taking some snacks to colleagues at work and had some candied ginger in my cupboards I wanted to use.  This combination in with chocolate chips in a bar was very intriguing.  The ginger added a great background flavor that I might not have placed otherwise, but that was tasty when I tasted the bars.  I think they went over well — at least I received an empty container back a few weeks later.  The recipe originally came from The Good Neighbor Cookbook.  They were easy to throw together and I’d recommend for something slightly outside the norm.

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Chocolate Chip and Candied Ginger Blondies

2 1/4 c flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 c butter
1 1/2 c dark brown sugar
1 1/4 c sugar
4 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
2 c chocolate chips
1 c loosely packed candied ginger, chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Butter or spray a 9×13 inch baking pan with nonstick cooking spray.  In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt.  Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with the paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer with a large bowl, beat the butter, brown sugar, sugar, on medium speed until fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes.  Beat in the eggs, one at a time, and the vanilla.  With the mixer on low speed, gradually add the flour mixture, mixing until just combined.  Stir in the chocolate chips and ginger.

Spread the batter evenly into the prepared pan and bake until a  toothpick comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes.  Let cool for at least 1 hour on a wire rack before slicing.

Broccoli-Green Olive Salad

A couple weeks ago we had a funeral at church and I volunteered to bring a salad.  I’d been wanting to try this recipe from Breitbach’s Country Dining Cookbook and it seemed like a good time to make it.  Broccoli and green olives seemed like a unique combination, and when I tasted it, I thought it was pretty good.  There was a strong flavor of dill in the dressing, but I may have noticed it because outside of dill pickles, dill is far from my favorite flavor.  But, in this salad, it seemed alright.

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Broccoli Green Olive Salad

Dressing:

1 c mayonnaise
1 c sour cream with chives
1 Tbsp tarragon vinegar
1 Tbsp Italian seasoning
1 Tbsp dill weed
1 Tbsp garlic salad mix

Salad:

Broccoli
1 c green olives
1 green pepper, chopped

Mix all together and serve.

Fresh Cranberry Salsa with Cilantro, Lime, and Jalapeno

On Halloween, we had a potluck at work and I decided to use it to test out a recipe from Kaylyn’s Kitchen that I was considering making for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday.  Since cranberries are in season and I love a good salsa, this seemed like a great opportunity to check out a recipe.  I loved it.  And, it seemed to go over pretty well at the potluck.  The lime, sugar, cilantro, and jalapeno really brighten the flavor of the cranberries.  And, it is a nice change from the hot pepper jelly that has become popular.  If you’re needing to bring something for the holidays and want a quick and easy (15 minutes or less) dish to bring, this salsa is a wonderful option.

Fresh Cranberry Salsa with Cilantro, Lime, and Jalapeno

Fresh Cranberry Salsa with Cilantro, Lime, and Jalapeno

1 bag (12 oz.) fresh cranberries
3/4 c sugar
1 bunch green onions, sliced (about 3/4 cup sliced green onion)
1 bunch fresh cilantro, chopped (about 3/4 cup chopped cilantro, or use more to taste)
2 fresh jalapenos, seeds removed and chopped
1 T olive oil
1 T fresh lime juice
cream cheese
crackers

Chop the green onions, jalapenos, and cilantro.  Put the cranberries into a food processor or blender and pulse until they are partly chopped.  Add sugar and pulse a few times more to combine.  Add sliced green onions, chopped cilantro, chopped jalapenos, olive oil, and lime juice and pulse until all ingredients are chopped and the mixture is well combined.
Put mixture into a glass or plastic container with a tight-fitting lid and chill for several hours or overnight.
Serve with crackers and over a block of cream cheese.

Fudge Brownies

One of the restaurants I used to frequent in college was a restaurant called Cafe Latte, and it’s counterpart, Bread & Chocolate.  At one point, I lived about a mile away from them and could justify eating some soup or a piece of cake by walking there and back.  When Linda Quinn, the owner, shared her fudge brownie recipe with a local publication, I clipped it and forgot I had it.  But, after a neighbor lost a relative, I knew I wanted to drop off a sweet treat, and these brownies looked to fit the bill.

Fudge Brownies

Fudge Brownies

1 c butter
2 c sugar
4 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
1-1/3 c flour
1 c Dutch cocoa
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
Frosting
1/2 c sugar
1/4 c milk
2 Tbsp butter
1 c chocolate chips

Cream together butter and sugar. Add one egg at a time. Blend in vanilla. Add flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt and mix well. Scrape bowl and pour mixture into greased 10×14-inch pan and bake at 375 degrees for 20–23 minutes. For frosting, bring sugar, milk, and butter to a boil. Add chocolate chips and stir until melted and mixed. Drizzle on cool brownies. Makes approximately 20 1-1/2 inch-square brownies.

Soft Apple Cider Caramels

With apple cider season still happening and the grocery stores continuing to carry Wilson’s Apple Cider, I came across this recipe in the 2013 Annual Food and Wine Cookbook and knew I wanted to try it out.  So, last Saturday afternoon, when it was gloomy and foggy and a mist was in the air, I returned home from a volleyball game, turned on some football and spent the rest of the afternoon over the stove, putting these apple cider caramels together.

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Soft Apple Cider Caramels

2 quarts apple cider
3 c heavy cream
1/2 c sweetened condensed milk
4 c sugar
3/4 c light corn syrup
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 stick cold unsalted butter, diced
1/2 tsp cinnamon
pinch of ground allspice
pinch of ground cloves
neutral oil, such as canola or grapeseed, for brushing

In a large saucepan, simmer the apple cider over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until reduced to 1 cup, about 1 hour.  Pour the reduced cider into a bowl.

Line a 9-by-13 inch rimmed pan with foil and coat the foil with nonstick cooking spray.  In a medium saucepan, combine the cream and condensed milk and bring to a simmer over moderate heat; keep the mixture warm over low heat.

In another saucepan, combine the sugar with the reduced cider, corn syrup, salt, and 1/4 c water and bring to a boil.  Simmer over moderate heat until the sugar dissolves, about 5 minutes.  Carefully whisk in the butter until melted.  Gradually whisk in the warm cream mixture until incorporated.  Cook over moderately low heat, stirring frequently, until a golden caramel forms and the temperature reaches 245 degrees on a candy thermometer, about 45 minutes.  Stir in the cinnamon and allspice, and cloves and scrape the caramel into the prepared pan.  Let cool completely, then refrigerate the caramel overnight.

Lightly brush a sheet of parchment paper with oil.  Invert the caramel onto the parchment and peel off the foil.  Suing a sharp knife, cut the caramel into 1-inch-wide strips, then cut the block crosswise into 1/2 inch rectangles.  Wrap each caramel in a square of parchment paper or a candy wrapper and twist the ends to seal.  Serve or pack into boxes.