White Russian Cake

When I first saw this recipe I thought it was pretty cool and that “I could make that”. If I was honest with myself, I would have said “I can make that but it’s going to be a pain and not turn out 100%”. Which was exactly what happened. Now, this still tasted good but I had enough hiccups along to the way to make me question whether or not I should have tried it in the first place. Plus, as I may have mentioned before, I’m not the greatest at detail work somthe actual decorating of a cake can be troubling. You can read the recipe here

This took the better part of a morning to put together. Some of that was down time while the cakes baked and some was figuring what to do when something didn’t go right but it was a little time consuming. It took an hour to get both cake batters made and in the oven. I don’t think I had much “trouble” but I will say that the vanilla came out very thick, to the point that I had to spread it out in each of the pans. The chocolate wasn’t as thick but, there was enough of it that I couldn’t really drop on top of the vanilla and swirl it in. I basically covered the vanilla with the chocolate. I still swirled it but it wasn’t quite the same. You can kind of see from the picture that the chocolate stayed on top of the vanilla (each piece is upside down). A suggestion from the comments of the recipe was to just make two vanilla cakes and one chocolate, leaving the chocolate on the bottom. Part of the point is to mimic the look of a White Russian which is darker on the bottom than the top. I would agree with that as an easier way to do it. 

The main issue I had was with the frosting. The water/sugar mix that you heated up didn’t turn out right. When I added the meringue powder and mixed it, it turned into hard ball of whatever, rather than a smooth frosting. The issue, I think, may have been our stove. I put our candy thermometer in the pot but then watched it get up to 180 degrees, drop back to 160, go back to 180, and, well, you get the idea. So, well after the 3-5 minutes we’re upmthat the recipe says it should take it never came anywhere close to 240 degrees but I ran with it. And it didn’t work. 

So, I ended up making “normal” buttercream frosting although I adjusted it for only using butter rather than the butter/shortening mix it called for. I didn’t use the shortening as I had all this butter sitting at room temperature and adding in the shortening would have made way more than I needed. In the end, I could have used a bit more. The white frosting was harder to spread than the chocolate, which makes sense as I still added the chocolate mixture to the frosting. I had plenty of the chocolate frosting so instead of having the chocolate go halfway up the sides, I had it go all the way up and just the white on top. Still gave it the desired effect, I think. 

Lastly, I did add the icing but I shouldn’t have done it. It was too thin and just ran off the cake and pooled on the platter. Very frustrating. 

Overall, the taste was good. People liked it. You couldn’t taste much of the alcohol but as I kept telling people, there wasn’t much in it and then it was only Kahlua. I’ll be honest and say that I felt the cakes were a little dry but no one else thought so. So, I do recommend this but be forewarned that it takes a lot of effort. 

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Creamy Gnocchi with Mushrooms

I’m going to start this post a little backwards and tell you right away that this was good and I would recommend it. However, I have a couple of thoughts on it. First off, it wasn’t as creamy as I thought it would be. From my perspective, the sauce should have been thicker – more creamy than it was. Maybe there could be a little cornstarch thrown in to thicken it or it could have simmered longer to further reduce the liquid. Also, this did not make a lot. For a family of four, two being younger kids, this barely made it for all of us. I think the fact that you use “one pound” of gnocchi is a little deceiving as it isn’t really that much. Big difference in quantity of one pound of gnocchi and one pound of pasta. So, keep that in mind. 

Now, his recipe comes from the website Cook’s Country and I can definitely say you need a membership to access it. This time I tried leaving the website open and it let me, but then one day it had shut itself off and was telling me I needed an account. Luckily I could pull it up on another device and take a few screen shots. I’ve listed the recipe and instructions below. 

I did make a few changes, mainly cutting the amount of mushrooms in half; and then using sliced mini bellas as the type. I did that because I knew it wouldn’t be a hit with the kids and I didn’t want to eat a pile of mushrooms. As it stood anyway, I ate my fair share of mushrooms. I added a second tablespoon of butter to the mushrooms as they seemed to be cooking yet, starting to stick to the pan a bit. Lastly, I skipped the basil. 

So, as I mentioned, this was good but if you have a group to feed, I might suggest doubling the recipe. 

  • 1 1/4 cups vegetable broth 
  • 2 ounces grated Parmesan cheese (about 1 cup)
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 pound vacuum packed gnocchi 
  • 1 pound cremini mushrooms, trimmed and quartered 
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, torn into pieces

Whisk broth, Parmesan, cream, nutmeg, and pepper in a bowl and set aside. 

Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a skillet over medium high heat. Add gnocchi and cook until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate. 

Melt remaining butter in the skillet and add the mushrooms and salt and cook until golden brown, about 10 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add gnocchi and broth mixture to pan and bring to a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until sauce has thickened, about 5-7 minutes. Sprinkle with basil and serve. 

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Chicken Cavatappi Alfredo

On a whim the other night I decided that I would make a chicken Alfredo dish. Meal planning has been a little lacking lately and I was trying to figure out what to do for dinner and this struck me as an option. So I pulled out what I think is my “go to” recipe for Alfredo sauce and went from there. That recipe can be read here. I’ve made it at least once but think I’ve done it before, just not posted about since I usually don’t post about the same recipes unless I’m making significant changes. Which I ended up doing for this one. 

Making it “on a whim” usually is going to mean that I won’t have something laying around that is a part of the recipe. This time there were a few of those things but it was easy to substitute or leave out. So, there is what I did. 

  • Obviously the pasta is different as I chose to use the box of cavatappi rather than fettuccine.
  • For the chicken I used 1 1/2 pounds which was about four smaller breasts. 
  • I found out I was out of Italian seasoning so I used some Herbs de Provence. 
  • I skipped the mushrooms (and the tomatoes and sour cream).
  • I used black pepper over white pepper. 
  • I didn’t have any half and half so I used another cup of milk. We only buy whole milk so it was closer than a 2% would have been. 
  • I used mozzarella in place of the Monterey Jack. 

So, lots of changes and/or substitutions but overall it was a very good dish. In once sense the end result was more of a “regular” (plain) Alfredo sauce than adding in all that other stuff. 

Excellent meal, I definitely recommend this. 

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Simple Stovetop Macaroni and Cheese

I am a fan of macaroni and cheese but always wanted to go beyond the box. When I found a recipe I was happy with to make macaroni and cheese, I thought I was set. Then I found that I wasn’t making it as much since there was a decent amount of work involved in getting the sauce made, baking it, etc.  so I don’t make it as often as I’d like. Then I found this recipe that is, as it states in the name, a simple stovetop recipe. I had to try it. You can read the recipe here

It truly loved up to its name and, I’m proud to say, that it took me about as long as said it would take (20 minutes) from start to finish. That made it even better. 

I will admit I was a little leery of making it with the American cheese since I can be something of a cheese snob but it worked really well. And it tasted great so, there’s that. 

The only thing inchanges was using some spicy brown mustard in place of the Dijon as I was out of Dijon. And regular yellow. It worked fine but I’m sure the Dijon would be better. 

The bread crumbs could probably be left out. It makes it look super fancy but the effort there, while not a lot, wasn’t really worth it. I put some on mine and a little bit on the bowls for the kids. They didn’t say anything then but a couple of days later when they asked about having macaroni and cheese again, they asked for no bread crumbs. Which was fine since that time we used a box. If you do go with the bread crumbs, I would recommend letting the bread crumbs cool before adding the Parmesan. It would up melting and I had globs of the bread crumbs instead of something to easily sprinkle over the top. 

All in all, I definitely recommend this recipe and will be keeping some American cheese in the fridge to be able to make this any time we want. 

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Bang Bang Chicken Pasta

Okay, I made a few different changes for this so let’s get it out of the way in sharing the original recipe, which you can read here

The biggest change was the fact that I used chicken instead of shrimp. While I really wanted to use shrimp, the girls are not big fans so it was easier to do the chicken. I also used Miracle Whip instead of the Hellmans and skipped the red pepper flakes. I also didn’t use a full pound of spaghetti. I used about a half pound which I thought worked really well with the dish. Maybe if I had used shrimp, and there were more of them than there was of pieces of chicken, more pasta would have been good. 

I also prepped the majority of this in the morning. I got the chicken thawed and cubed and then mixed it with the paprika and garlic. I also put the sauce together. That made it super easy to just cook the noodles and chicken and toss it all together. I think that it worked out. I made this on a Monday night when we have to do a “quick dinner”. It made it much quicker. 

As for how it turned out, I think it turned out really well but it had a bit of a kick to it so the girls were not big fans. Eating the chicken pieces was okay but the noodles had “too much” sauce. That was an error on my part as I (incorrectly) thought that the sweet chili sauce wouldn’t be spicy. But it was. 

So overall, this turned out well but keep in mind that there is a bit of a kick. 

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Philly Cheesesteak Garbage Bread

I’ve had this recipe saved for awhile (surprise, surprise) and finally had an opportunity to make it. At one point I had put this on my list for the Super Bowl but changed my mind as it seemed more labor intensive than I wanted to do for that day. And I’m glad I did for while this turned out pretty well, it also didn’t. Read the recipe here

As I was gathering ingredients for this recipe I did decide to make some changes for ease of putting it together. I chose to go with the pre-made, refrigerated dough which came in two packages and, as it was with something else I made, a little hard to work with. Getting the two pieces to seal together was easy but rolling it out was a little hard. I ended up not with a rectangle but some kind of odd, misshapen oval. But it still worked. 

For the meat, I took a package of sirloin steak out to thaw instead of flank steak. Mostly because we just got a 1/4 of a cow and had some of the previous 1/2 cow in the freezer and it needed to be used. I ended up making the meat “backwards. Instead of cooking, cooling, freezing, slicing I started with slicing it. It wasn’t fully thawed so it was easy to cut into thin pieces and then cook. I weighed out a pound as the steak was more than a pound to start with. Then I just let it cool and added it back in. 

Given that I knew my kids would not be too keen on all the mushrooms and onions and whatnot, I cut how much onion I put in as well as tried to cut them thin. And then I chose to use up what I had in the fridge which was yellow and red onion. For the peppers, I did buy two banana peppers and cut those small as well. 

For the cheese, I used a bag that was a mixture of a lot of cheese (provolone, asiago, Parmesan, etc.) plus some extra Monterey Jack and mozzarella. This was definitely a “use up what is in the fridge” meal. 

For putting it all together, I had difficulty rolling it up. While I put it on parchment paper to start with, it stuck like crazy (should have floured the paper) and rolling it up became more like just making sure the filling was wrapped up. 

For baking, I put it in for 40 minutes but took it out early (between 30-35 minutes) as it was really starting to brown. May have been partially due to the egg wash (might have overdone that) and partly it just browned up. The bottom got a little over done and we didn’t eat some of the bottom. 

All in all, despite the over doneness of the bread, this was pretty good. The girls liked it and it even took them awhile to figure out there were things like mushrooms in it. I would definitely give this a try. 

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Buffalo Honey Meatballs

I am a little behind in posting about what I’ve made recently as this was the second dish I made for the Super Bowl party we went to. But things get busy. You can read the recipe here. It’s a fairly simple recipe, as in it’s not that much work. I was proud of myself this year for not going crazy in trying to make a lot of things for the party or things that would take a lot of effort. I made these early on that Sunday as they needed to cook in the crockpot for a few hours. 

I did make some changes. Some intentional, some not. In putting the meatballs together I used regular paprika. I could not find smoked paprika in my cabinet even though I was pretty sure that we had some. Of course, as soon as I did use the regular stuff, I found the smoked kind. Of course. For the meatballs I got about 30 of them made. I can’t remember exactly even though I counted when I made them. I’ve slept since then.  

For the sauce, I did make some intentional changes along with another unexpected change. I had a bottle of Frank’s Buffalo Wing Sauce and chose to simply use that instead of buying another bottle of something to only use a little bit of it. I also substituted orange marmalade for the apricot preserves. Again, it was a chance to use up the orange marmalade rather than buy something new to only use a little bit of it. The unintentional change was the soy sauce. Apparently we are out as I couldn’t find any. So I decided to use sesame seed oil. I went with one tablespoon of it instead of two. No real reason why other than it didn’t seem, to me, like it was a good one-to-one substitution. I think it worked fine. 

As these were cooking in the crockpot I was a little worried about the sauce as it seemed very thin. It didn’t seem to be coating the meatballs and I didn’t think it was looking much like the picture in the recipe (although, let’s be honest, when does it ever really?). But, after deciding to put the meatballs in another dish, and pouring the sauce over them, it was a lot better. 

These turned out well. Pretty tasty and pretty low in the effort needed to put them together. I would recommend this recipe. 

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