Egg-free Chocolate Cake

IMG_1993I love baked goods.  That has easily been the hardest thing for me since my egg-intolerance surfaced this last summer.  Cakes, cookies, sweet breads, and so many more delicious treats are laced with eggs.

Ira’s birthday presented a new challenge: an egg-free birthday cake so we could all enjoy it.  Finding a recipe was easy, but when I read the ingredients and my eyes saw “silken tofu” on the list, I almost passed by this recipe in search of another.  However, something made me bite the bullet and just try it.  So I did.  This cake is AMAZING.  Moist.  Did I say amazing?

I even made a few modifications to the recipe to make it a little healthier.  (Because chocolate cake is already so healthy.)

Egg-free Chocolate Cake

2 cups flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

2 teaspoons baking soda

3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 1/2 cups sugar

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce (or an additional 1/2 cup vegetable oil)

1 cup hot water

1 cup milk

1/2 cup silken tofu, pureed in a blender

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Put all ingredients into a bowl and mix until well combined, but do not over mix.  Pour into a greased 9×13-inch pan and bake at 325 for 25-30 minutes, or until the middle is set when you tap on it.  Alternatively, pour into cupcake papers and bake at 325 for 13-15 minutes, or until the middle of each cupcake is set when you tap on it. Frost with frosting recipe below:

Amazing Chocolate Frosting

1/4 cup butter, melted

1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

2-3 tablespoons milk

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Mix together, adding milk or powdered sugar to desired consistency.

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Delicious Chicken Tacos

There’s only a few words that can be used to describe food.  Delicious is a good one.  To me, it means that something was so good, that I ceased all dinner-time conversation until my plate had been cleared and I could take a breath, reveling in the joy that was in my mouth.

Tonight’s dinner was DELICIOUS.  You know, like the, everyone sat down and plates were clean before anyone had anything to say.  First, start with homemade tortillas.  Then fill it with a delicious chicken and tomato sauce.  Top with cheese and shredded lettuce, a little red onion.

Here’s the recipe:

Flour Tortillas (makes 8, halve each ingredient to make 4)

2 cups flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup water

3 tablespoons olive oil (or other neutral-tasting oil)

Mix all ingredients together.  Kneed a few times.  Let rest for 10 minutes.  (This is where I started cooking my chicken and sauce.)  Roll into 8 balls, let rest for another 10 minutes.  Roll out into circles, the cook in a hot pan, about 30 seconds on each side.

 

Delicious Chicken and Sauce

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 pound chicken thighs (could use more, I just . . . didn’t)

1 8-ounce can tomato sauce

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon onion powder

2 teaspoons chili powder (I used 1 1/2 reg. chili powder and 1/2 teaspoon chipotle chili powder – it’s spicy, use sparingly)

1 teaspoon cumin

salt and pepper

1 (4 oz) can diced green chilies

1/2 cup frozen corn

1 cup Great Northern Beans (or other beans)

Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat.  Put in chicken thighs, and saute for a couple minutes until they start to cook.  Pour in tomato sauce and seasoning and chilies.  Bring to a simmer, and cook for 15-20 minutes.  Take chicken out and cut into bite-sized pieces.  Add frozen corn and beans and diced chicken.

Serve with shredded cheese and lettuce, sliced onions and tortillas.  Delicious.

 

 

Apple Pecan Salad

One of our favorite salads is crunchy, sweet, and tangy, all at the same time.  We use Marzetti Simply Dressed Pomegranate Salad Dressing, (available at Smith’s, Harmon’s, and other places) the only store-bought dressing that I buy.

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Lettuce and spinach

Red onion

Gala apple

Pecans

Blue cheese

Marzetti Simply Dressed Pomegranate

Turn the oven to preheat at 425 degrees.  Place pecans on a baking tray and cook for 2-5 minutes, until they are fragrant – they burn soooooo fast, so watch carefully.  When they are done, roughly chop.  Wash and dry one large handful of romain lettuce and spinach leaves per person.  Sprinkle with chopped red onion, peeled and diced gala apple, toasted pecans and blue cheese crumbles.

Good eating.

Homemade Frozen Pizza

I know a lot of people who think that making homemade pizza is just too much work.  For me, it’s a relaxing time, to dig into dough, combine my favorite toppings, and reminisce about the many many wonderful memories centered around a large pizza pie.

Like the one time that I was in San Diego, and we ordered a deep dish pineapple pizza.  We were starving.  It was burning hot.  It was delicious!

We like to eat pizza on Fridays (or Mondays, we’re not picky).  But as a crazy busy family, that relaxing time to prep pizza does not exist.  So I went looking for an easier alternative.

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Did you know that you can make your own frozen pizzas, ready to cook when you are?  It’s easy.  Let me tell you how.

  1. Make your favorite pizza crust recipe.  I like this one or this one or even this one.  Prepare through a first rise in a bowl or lumped on the counter.
  2. Spread pizza dough on an oiled pan.  Try to keep the dough pretty thin.  I use these disposable cookie sheets for pizzas to give away.  I bought a couple of quarter sheet pans (they’re about 9″x13″) for pizzas I make and freeze for our family.
  3. Top with sauce, cheese, and other hearty toppings (meat, onions, olives, pineapple!!).  Save the peppers, mushrooms, spinach, chopped tomatoes, and other delicate toppings for putting on the pizza just before baking.  I love this sauce recipe, but often just use a jar of store-bought spaghetti sauce.
  4. Cover pizza with foil and freeze.  These probably shouldn’t be in the freezer more than about 4 weeks.
  5. When you’re ready to cook, preheat your oven to 425 degrees, put in the frozen pizza and bake for 20 minutes, add additional time, as needed.  You’ll know it’s done when the crust is a golden brown and the cheese is bubbly.

I think this typically tastes better than fresh pizza (something about the dough aging and being delicious) and much much better than a frozen pizza purchased from the store.

Good eating!

Leftover Turkey Soup

My dear husband bought me a copy of My Kitchen Year by Ruth Reichl, who just happens to be my favorite food writer.  Ever.  I was thrilled to read her recipes and discover that they are more about the art of cooking than the science of it.  Although there is an element of science behind food, it also is an art.  For example, there are thousands of recipes for any one item, but it is the spice mixture and the amount of ingredients that make each recipe unique and a work of art.

My husband is a full time grad student and we have two growing little boys with seemingly bottomless stomachs.  Money can be a little tight some months, and so when we had tons of . . . less than delicious leftover turkey and gravy from Thanksgiving, naturally I wanted to save some pennies and so throwing out food was unquestionable.  Instead, I diced the turkey into 1/2-inch cubes and portioned off the gravy.  I’ve made this soup a couple of times now, and we love it.  I add different things each time, to make it a bit of a work of art.

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Leftover Turkey Soup

1-2 cups diced turkey (cooked)

2 cups gravy

2/3 cup long grain white rice

1 cups water (plus more, as needed)

salt and pepper, to taste

Add-ins: diced celery, carrots, sweet potatoes, onion, etc.

Put everything in a pot.  Add additional water until everything is barely submerged.  Simmer for 20 minutes, or until rice is tender.

 

 

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!

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Love,

The Salty Kitchen Staff

The Chef – Megan

The Sous Chef – Michael

The Dishwasher (age almost 3)

The Entertainer (7 or 8 months, Mom is too tired to keep track)

This year has been an interesting one for us.  Mike returned to school full time, I started a second year at my nerdy favorite job writing math curriculum for Davis School District. Ira has filled his role as the best big brother in the world, and Geo has gone from the most difficult baby to the best baby, seemingly overnight.  I’m blessed beyond all measure and cannot wait to see what 2016 has in store.  We anticipate Mike being that much closer to finishing his graduate degree and me completing the 3rd-6th grade project at work – dreams that just may come true.  Love to you all!

Beef and Broccoli & Meat Tip

I don’t really love to handle raw meat.  I’d rather not touch it and then clean up after it.  Just not my thing.  So often, I buy a 10 pound bag of chicken breasts from the freezer section in Costco.  It requires very little touching as it usually is trimmed fairly well and if I cook it in the slow cooker it will shred easily once it’s cooked.  Another tip is to buy meat at Target.

What?!  Target?  Their meat is priced super ridiculously high!!  Yes, it is.  But not if you find meat that is near its expiration date and has a $1, $2, $3, or $4 discount sticker on it.  Every time I go to Target, I quickly wander through their meat section and pick up anything that I think I may use in the next month, then promptly go home and freeze it.  Target meat usually is fairly trimmed and has a lot less “gross” packaging than meat that I would buy at a local grocery store like Smith’s or Dick’s.

Just a tip.

Here’s a dinner on the cheap for you, especially if you use lots of broccoli and a little beef.  This is definitely one of our favorites and we eat it as often as I buy a cut of beef (which isn’t very often).  Last week I picked up a chuck steak at Target.  It was marked $8.49 and had a $4 off coupon on it.  When I went to cut it up, I cut half of the steak into pieces for dinner and the other half of the steak into pieces and placed them in a freezer container for next time I make this dish.  See how I did that?  I only had to touch it once for two meals.  Cool.  And, the meat for each meal cost roughly $2.25.  The recipe makes enough to feed two large dinner portions and have leftovers for two decent size lunches tomorrow.

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Estimated Cost of Ingredients: $2.25 beef, $1.00 broccoli, $1.00 soy sauce, Sriracha, oil, honey, vinegar, $0.25 onion, $0.25 rice

Total: $4.75 (approximately)

Eating on a Budget

We are deep in Baby Step #2, working feverishly to pay back student loans for grad school and I am thinking about making a challenge for myself.  For the 2016 year, I’ve decided that we are going to live on a budget of $30 per week for food for all four of us.  That’s roughly $120 per month.  We have a lot of food storage to rotate through, which will help keep costs low.  We have also recently become completely unsatisfied with eating out, so we are adding that to our plan, too.  No restaurants.  No takeout.  For 366 days (leap year!).

I’ve made a rough outline of daily dinner themes:

Mondays: Pasta (dinner and leftovers for less than $3!)

Tuesdays: Tacos or Beans and Rice

Wednesday: Pantry (i.e. get creative with what we have) or Leftovers

Thursday: Soup, Salad, Sandwiches, or Breakfast

Friday: Pizza

Saturday: Beans and Rice

Sunday: Special recipe

Yes, we have beans and rice more than once a week.  I cook beans from dry in an electric pressure cooker and I’m confident that I would eat beans every day and love it if I had to.

Wish us luck.  If all goes well, we should be able to save an extra $1,800 just by cutting our groceries down to practically nothing.  I’m hoping to post some recipes soon.  We’ve been so incredibly busy.  Mike is finishing up the semester, I’ve had to write a whole chapter in the curriculum I’m writing in 3 weeks, and there hasn’t been much cooking going on around here.  We’re getting back on the bandwagon.  Slowly, but surely.

Chocolate Caramel Pecan Pie

This pie.  Seriously.  There are not enough words to describe how delicious it is.  A combo of caramel pecans and chocolate cheesecake.  It saved my Thanksgiving fail (see previous post).

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Pie Crust 

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1/2 cup butter, cold, cut into 16 pieces

3 tablespoons ice water, plus extra, as needed

Follow directions found in this video (expect their recipe uses shortening, and this recipe does not).  To roll out and transfer, watch this video.  Be sure to poke a few holes in the bottom of the crust.

Put pie crust in freezer for 15-20 minutes.  Blind bake by laying a piece of foil in the pie dish, fill with pie weights or dry beans, and bake at 400 degrees for 8-10 minutes.

Chocolate Layer

1/2 cup chocolate chips

2 tablespoons heavy cream

4 ounces cream cheese, softened

2 tablespoon sugar

1 large egg

In a microwave-safe bowl, melt the chocolate chips and cream 30 seconds at time until it is melted.  Mix in cream cheese, then add sugar and egg.  Spread evenly in blind-baked pie crust.

Caramel Pecan Layer

3/4 cup coarsely chopped pecans

3/4 cup caramel (14 unwrapped caramels)

2 tablespoons heavy cream

2 tablespoons butter

1 large egg

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

pinch of salt

6 tablespoons sugar

Toast pecans in a 350 degree oven until fragrant.

In a medium microwave-safe bowl combine caramel, cream and butter.  Microwave in 30-second intervals until smooth.  Cool.

Stir in eggs, vanilla, salt, and sugar.  Stir in pecans.  Pour caramel mixture over chocolate layer in pie crust.

Place pie on baking sheet (it will spill easily).  Bake pie at 350 degrees for 35-45 minutes or until center is set.  Let pie cool.  Serve cold or warm.  Can be frozen and then thawed for 4-8 hours in refrigerator.

Thanksgiving Fail

Last year I made a turkey roulade.  It was moist and tender and probably the best turkey I ever had.  So naturally, what would you think I would make this year?  Turkey roulade, of course.

So I made it.  Carved up my turkey, boned the legs.  Rolled the pieces of meat with delicious fillings (butter and orange in one and olive oil and smoked paprika in the other), and baked it.

I was late to dinner and the turkeys need finishing.  So everyone ate the rest of their meal without turkey, then I sliced up the roulades.

And they were disgusting.

But I saved my image by serving a delicious pie.

See the next post for the recipe.  It’s good at Thanksgiving and the other 364 days of the year.