That Was So Easy! [mocha chocolate icebox cake]

The other day, The (Not So) New Girl and I spent the entire day together, walking the ‘hood, hanging out, and sharing food. She brought me a giant slice of The Barefoot Contessa’s mocha chocolate icebox cake* and I told her I really didn’t need to eat more than half of it. Then I paused for a half second, and proceeded to eat, um, all of it.

I love a good riff on an icebox cake.

Ina’s feels fancy and extra rich because it uses mascarpone in the whipped cream mixture and in place of boring, plain chocolate wafers, she uses chocolate chips. Ah, the genius of Ina!


A huge part of that genius, though, is in her calling for Tate’s chocolate chip cookies, which are thin and crisp (and widely available at the grocery store-look for them by Pepperidge Farm cookies). Because the cream softens the cookies over time, you don’t want to use a soft batch cookie here or things would be a crumbly mess.

Because she always asked for cakes with mocha frosting, I decided right away that this would be Wooden Nickels’ birthday cake this year. I will not be waiting till next year to make it again.

To make an 8 inch cake, you will need:

  • 2 cups cold heavy cream
  • 12 ounces italian mascarpone cheese
  • 12 cup sugar
  • 14 cup kahlua liqueur (I left this out, but I wish I hadn’t)
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3 (8 ounce) packages chocolate chip cookies (Tate’s Bakeshop recommended)
  • shaved semisweet chocolate, for garnish
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, combine the heavy cream, mascarpone, sugar, coffee liqueur, cocoa powder, espresso powder, and vanilla. Mix on low speed to combine and then slowly raise the speed, until it forms firm peaks.

To assemble the cake, arrange chocolate chip cookies flat in an 8-inch springform pan, covering the bottom as much as possible. (I break some cookies to fill in the spaces.) Spread a fifth of the mocha whipped cream evenly over the cookies. Place another layer of cookies on top, lying flat and touching, followed by another fifth of the cream. Continue layering cookies and cream until there are 5 layers of each, ending with a layer of cream. Smooth the top, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight.

Run a small sharp knife around the outside of the cake and remove the sides of the pan. Sprinkle the top with the chocolate, cut in wedges, and serve cold.

*Isn’t mocha chocolate redundant?  I’ve been wondering that.  Isn’t mocha, coffee that’s flavored with chocolate?  Because this cake is so good, we’ll let it slide.

Homemaker

This post has been a long time in the making.  But this post goes back beyond the date I started writing it.  It goes back years.

As of right now (pressing publish, right now), I am a homemaker.  I left my job.  The job that was the only one I ever wanted since I was 5.  The job that I trained for for years.  The job that was the first one I interviewed for and exactly where I wanted it to be.  The job I got.  The job in which I worked so hard to grow.  The job that paid my first rent check.  The job that had its ups and downs, but for the most part, gave me energy and motivation and life for 10 years.  The job I believed in.  The job I loved.  Love?  I left it.

DEAR STELLA. Sketch, illustration, fashion.:

It was, to date, the hardest decision I’ve ever made about anything before in my life.

Pretty cushy life, huh?

Shiseido is committed to creating products that support holistic well-being and enhance natural beauty. After 20 years of research, we launched Ultimune, the first immunity-boosting concentrate that enriches a wellness routine, effortlessly! #LightMyStory  Like Shiseido on Facebook and share the moments that define you for a chance to win a Shiseido prize!  Illustration by Inslee by Design:

It wasn’t a decision I took lightly, nor was it one I made quickly.

But it was one, after several months of agonizing (no, seriously, ask my husband or Wooden Nickels, agonizing), I knew was right for me right now.

Unlike a lot of people who leave their jobs, I left mine without too much direction.  A wing and a prayer, and the words I read from Ina Garten that said something along the lines of, you can’t know what you want to do next when you’re still deeply rooted in what you’re doing now.

Huggies, Mom Trends and Inslee | The Sketch Book – Inslee Haynes:

And so right now, with nothing else on the horizon, I am a homemaker.  Remember how I said this post was years in the making?

This is how I picture myself.  Reality is a little bit different.- how true!:

I have always loved and been fascinated by the idea of home.

You’re not supposed to say you want to get married and stop working.  You’re not supposed to say you’re okay without bringing in a paycheck.  You’re not supposed to say that you’re perfectly happy to plan meals, go to the grocery store, and cook everything.  You’re not supposed to say that doing the laundry is satisfying.  That folding clothes and setting them in just the right place brings with it a sense of order.  That you manage to derive a bit of joy from making the bed each morning.  That these little routines you’ve carved into each day are comforting, and worthwhile.  You’re not supposed to be a woman who thinks these things in 2016.

Markette anne ve çocuk Huggies-Inslee-2:

I am.

I don’t wear aprons, though.  I do have some limits.

“This sketch was created for some pasta loving ladies and is a reminder that Christmas is coming and original art is the ultimate gift. Get your requests…”:

Stay with me on this next leg of the journey dear readers, I think it’s going to be a good one.

*All images by the insanely talented Inslee.  (I have no idea how to sew.)

Chicken McHelen [crock pot creamy italian chicken]

In our family we grew up eating Chicken McMom and Chicken McBarney. These were affectionately named for family members and meant to poke fun at McDonalds McEverythings. So it’s only fair that after getting this recipe from my Aunt Helen, it takes on her moniker.


And now I have to revoke my claim that all I’m looking for in life is a good slow cooker recipe without cream of mushroom because this is a good slow cooker recipe with cream of mushroom. It’s head and shoulders above the endless others I’ve tried. 

To make Chicken McHelen, you will need: 

  • boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 package Good Seasons Italian dressing mix
  • 1/2 stick (4T) unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 2 cans golden mushroom soup (which I couldn’t find, so just used regular cream of mushroom)
  • 1, 8 oz. package cream cheese with chives

Melt butter in a large skillet. Add dressing mix and stir to coat. Add white wine and deglaze the pan, scraping up brown bits. Stir in soup and cream cheese. Place chicken in slow cooker. Add sauce on top, and cook on low, 6-8 hours. 

Happy Birthday Hey Girl, Hey [chocolate chip cookie cupcakes]

Hey Girl Hey and I like to run away for the summer, finding various beaches where we can spend the better parts of 10-12 weeks. So imagine my surprise when the stars aligned and we were both in town for a piece of August. Better yet, the piece that included her birthday. When I asked her dessert preference, she divulged that she is, in fact, an equal opportunity dessert lover, and I could make whatever I pleased. Cupcakes.

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I used to be a cupcake machine, cranking out new flavors for friends’ birthdays left and right. But when #andthenweboughtahouse happened and I was ousted from my kitchen for a year, I got thrown way off my game. And cupcakes aren’t quite in the spotlight the way they once were. So I don’t remember the last time I made them. It was glorious fun to be back in the kitchen whipping these up, and even better that they were in celebration of the great, Hey Girl, Hey.

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I flipped through one of my favorite old cookbooks, and landed on chocolate chip cupcakes with chocolate glaze. And because I was feeling fancy, and because these are already insanely brown-sugary, I sprinkled the tops with toffee bits.

To make about 20 cupcakes you will need:

  • 2 C flour
  • 2 C brown sugar, packed
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 C butter, cold, and cut into small pieces
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 C sour cream
  • 1/4 C whole milk
  • 2 C chocolate chips

In the bowl of a mixer, combine flour, brown sugar, and baking soda. Add butter, and continue mixing until butter is in smaller pieces (you may still have some chunks, that’s okay). Add egg and vanilla, mixing till incorporated. Add sour cream and milk, and beat the batter just till smooth. Fold in chocolate chips.

Using an ice cream scoop if you have it, scoop equal portions of batter into about 20 muffin tins, lined, or sprayed with nonstick cooking spray. Bake 25-30 minutes.

For the glaze (this recipe came from a different cupcake cookbook because I didn’t have the right ingredients for the one called for):

  • 1 C powdered sugar
  • 1 heaping T cocoa powder
  • 2 T melted butter
  • 2 T milk, possibly a little more
  • Toffee bits, if you like, for garnish

Stir powdered sugar and cocoa powder together. Add melted butter and stir as much as possible. Add milk and stir till completely incorporated. If mixture is still too thick,  add milk, a tsp at a time, stirring to incorporate completely before

On Easy Baking [peanut butter snack cake]

I am sitting here, typing this post, incredulous that my all time favorite cake (Lazy Daisy Cake, from The Fannie Farmer Cookbook) is not on this blog.  I’ll need to remedy that.  I love it because not only is it a wonderful yellow cake, but it’s the simplest thing to put together.  It bakes in an 8×8 pan, and begs for swirls of chocolate frosting.  It’s an everyday kind of cake, and who would ever complain about that?

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This cake, in that same vein, is a dream to make.  It takes minutes to put together, and you don’t even need a mixer.  I topped it, as Molly suggested, with a dusting of powdered sugar, but I think it’s begging for a Nutella buttercream.  Next time.  It tastes kind of like a peanut butter cookie, but in cake form.  I brought this to a group of friends, but I’d imagine I would bake it any random morning, set it on the kitchen counter, and watch it disappear throughout the rest of the day.

To make peanut butter snack cake, you will need:

  • 1 c sugar
  • 1 c all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  •  3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 c buttermilk
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 c flavorless oil, like canola
  • 6 tb water
  • 1/2 c creamy peanut butter (Molly uses all natural.  I didn’t, so I dropped the sugar by about 1/4 C)

preheat oven to 350.

grease an 8-inch square pan (or something similar, like the pan that i used), line the bottom with parchment paper, and set it aside.

in a large bowl, whisk together all the dry ingredients. in a medium bowl, whisk together all the wet ingredients. whisk the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and then pour into cake pan and bake until the top is golden and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. begin checking for doneness at 25 minutes.

let cool for about 10 minutes in the pan and then turn onto a lightly greased cooling wrack.

dust with powdered sugar, cut into squares, and serve! store in an airtight container for up to a few days, or freeze for up to a few weeks.

Not Hyperbole Dinner [meatball subs]

I speak in hyperbole and absolutes almost all the time.  AGOMYR made a good point once that telling 15 people, “I love you the most,” cannot possibly be true.

So I’d understand if you didn’t believe me when I told you that I just made the easiest, and best dinner ever.

But I really did.

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Meatball subs.

I love meatballs to the ends of the Earth, and when I saw this on Pinterest, I knew it would be dinner soon.  I found some cooked chicken sausage meatballs at the grocery store (with the prepackaged coldcuts), which endlessly simplified things.  I spent about 95% of the time these were under the broiler gushing about how excited I was to eat them. They’re amazing. Though they fed our little family well, I can also see these being a great go-to for bigger families. 

To make meatball subs you will need:

  • Rolls
  • Meatballs (we used sausage meatballs)
  • Marinara sauce
  • Slices of your favorite cheese 
  • Parmesan

Heat the broiler of your oven before assembling your dinner. Dig a little well in each of the rolls, large and deep enough to hold the meatballs. (Bonus: extra bread for snacking!) Line the well with slices of cheese. I did one slice thick, but I’d go crazy and double it up next time. All the cheese! Put meatballs over the cheese slices, and spoon marinara over the meatballs and into the crevices. Put sandwiches on a baking sheet, and broil till meatballs are hot, and cheese is melted and maybe even slightly browned. For me, this took about 7 minutes, but with anything under the broiler, you want to watch it carefully. When subs are done, remove from the oven, and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. 

Currently

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Making: a hair appointment. This is momentous.
Cooking: lots in the slow cooker. Trying a new recipe tonight that does not involved cream of mushroom.
Drinking: Rose in a can!  (also, sparkling cranberry juice; a new obsession)
Reading: Shop Class as Soulcraft. Because my dad told me to.
Wanting: to order a couple more pairs of Pilcro chinos before fall hits.
Looking: into getting built ins made here at La Moneda.
Playing: podcast after podcast.
Deciding: to wait to go to IKEA until after Maryland has started for the year.
Wishing: for the green light to feed Gooplet some solids!
Enjoying: the rhythm of our days lately.
Waiting: on slightly cooler days when I can walk after 10 a.m. without melting.
Liking: how many August birthday cards I’m sending.
Wondering: whether I can keep up with reading at the rate my holds are coming in from the library.
Loving: a new to me Barefoot Contessa recipe (coming soon, duh!)
Pondering: a couple schedule options for fall. It stresses me out to think about schedules again!
Considering: ways to organize the pantry.  Boring, but necessary.
Watching: UnReal. And it’s so good.
Hoping: my husband has to go on a business trip somewhere fun, and we can tag along.
Marveling: at the uptick in laundry a daily pool visit causes.
Needing: a new TV. Our big guy broke.
Smelling: chlorine.
Wearing: athletic shorts on repeat.
Following: my gut when it comes to a couple of mom-things.
Noticing: how quiet DC is in August. We’re not usually home.
Knowing: that we are slowly turning La Moneda into exactly the house we want.
Thinking: about making the most giant to-do list that ever was.
Feeling: weird about this back to school season looking so different.
Admiring: people who are really and truly kind.
Sorting: through a bunch of books.
Buying: new little boy clothes from ThredUp.
Getting: so emotional over Olympic wins.
Bookmarking: everything on Pinterest.
Disliking: how fast summer always flies by.
Praying: for lots of big people I know, headed off to college.
Opening: real mail. I love real mail.
Giggling: at the swim team’s carpool karaoke.
Snacking: on milkshakes. If that’s a snack.
Coveting: Pottery Barn outdoor furniture.
Wishing: I could magically make travel with a baby easier and Hamilton tickets fell in my lap.
Helping: myself to M&Ms each evening.  Guilty pleasure.
Hearing: white noise.  Always white noise.

A Maryland Moment [Baltimore Berger Cookies]

If you know people from Maryland, and I happen to know scads, then you undoubtedly know that as of yesterday, August 9, Maryland had won more gold medals at the Olympics than every other country except China. No, not the whole US, just Maryland. Thank you, crazy-talented swimmers, for allowing the state such a moment of glory. 

In celebration, I finally got around to making the homemade version of Baltimore’s famous Berger Cookies. The recipe is from the folks at King Arthur, whose products and ingredients are unparalleled (no one asked me to proclaim that truth), so I went in hoping for a close match. 


And in the end, I almost got it. The cookies are true to form, cake-like, and the right shape and color. They come together very simply as well, which I always appreciate about a baked good. And the icing to cookie ratio (which for Berger Cookies should be 1:1, if not slightly heavier on the icing side of things) is spot on. But I wonder about the semi-sweet chocolate. It tasted not-quite like the real things, so I’d suggest you go with a dark, but not too dark chocolate, should you go about making these on your own. 

Which you should, because, hello, 1:1 icing to cookie ratio. 

To make about 20 Berger Cookies, you will need:

  • 1/3 cup (5 1/3 tablespoons) unsalted butter
  • 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 1/2 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 1/3 cup milk

For the icing:

  • 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips (but again, I’d go with dark chocolate here, maybe the Ghiradelli chips)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons (1 ounce) light corn syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¾ cup (6 ounces) heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Lightly grease (or line with parchment paper) two baking sheets.

To make the cookies: In a large mixing bowl, beat together the butter, salt, vanilla, and baking powder.

Beat in the sugar, then the egg.

Add the flour to the wet ingredients alternately with the milk, beginning and ending with the flour. Do this gently; there’s no need to beat the batter.

Using a spoon or a tablespoon cookie scoop, drop the dough onto the prepared cookie sheets. The balls of dough should be about 1 1/4″ in diameter. Flatten each mound of dough to a circle about 1 ½” across; wet your fingers or a knife, or grease the bottom of a drinking glass or measuring cup to do this. Leave 2″; to 2 1/2″ between each cookie, for expansion.

Bake the cookies for about 10 to 11 minutes, or until they?re a mottled brown on the bottom (carefully tilt one up to look), but not colored on top. You may see the barest hint of browning around the edges, but these cookies are supposed to be soft and cake-like, so don’t over-bake them. Remove the cookies from the oven, and let them cool righton the pan as you make the frosting.

To make the icing: Place the chocolate chips, corn syrup, vanilla, and cream into a large microwave-safe bowl, or into a large saucepan.

Heat the mixture until it’s very hot; the cream will start to form bubbles. Remove from the heat, and stir until smooth.

Beat in the confectioners’ sugar and salt. Let cool to warm room temperature while you make the cookies.

Dip the top of each cookie into the warm icing; swirl the cookie around to really give it a good coating. Set the cookies back on the baking sheet.

Spread the remaining icing evenly atop the cookies. If it’s too soft and flows off the cookies, let it set a bit, until it’s firmer. It’ll feel like you’re piling on a lot of icing; that?s precisely the point! Allow it to set, then store the cookies airtight in a single layer. Keep at room temperature for several days; or freeze for longer storage.

Yield: 20 to 21 medium (3″) cookies.

Allow the icing to set, then store the cookies airtight in a single layer. Keep at room temperature for several days; or freeze for longer storage.

A Slow Cooker Round Up [slow cooker pork chops and slow cooker chicken cordon bleu]

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Okay, here’s the thing with the slow cooker. I love it and hate it at the same time. It is undoubtedly, the way I manage to get dinner on the table some nights. I am a delight most mornings–still running on coffee, sunlight boosting my mood, the heat of the day not yet so oppressive that I can’t even. So I’m happy to prep some ingredients early in the morning, and get them cooking before noon hits. Because when that happens, all bets are off. No matter how much I’ve done in the day, there’s always one more task I wish I had crossed off, or there doesn’t seem to be a way to keep my child from whining, and the caffeine has long since left my system. That’s no time to pull a meal together. And for these purposes, the slow cooker is my best friend. 


But is it just me, or does almost everything that goes in the slow cooker ultimately end up tasting like cream of mushroom soup? 

For the record, I love cream of mushroom soup. 

But it’s not what I want for dinner every night.  I save it for special occasions, like when I make green bean or hash brown casseroles. 

Though I never thought I’d say this, I’m slightly excited for the advent of cooler weather, only so I can bring some slow cooker soups to this rotation, and add some variety to the flavors that come out of my trusty machine.

These are the latest offerings out of the slow cooker. Both good. Both cream of mushroom-y, if you’re feeling it. 

slow cooker pork chops:

  • 10¾ oz (325 ml) can low-fat cream of mushroom soup
  • 1/2 cup (125 ml) dry white wine
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) Dijon mustard
  • 3/4 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 5 medium potatoes,peeled and sliced
  • 1 medium yellow onion,peeled and thinly sliced
  • 4 pork chops

Combine first 6 ingredients and mix well. Layer potatoes and onions on bottom of slow cooker. Pour soup mixture on top and toss to coat. Put pork chops on top of vegetable mixture. Cover slow cooker and cook on low for 6-7 hours. 
slow cooker chicken cordon bleu:

  • 6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (I thought these got dry, so I’m using thighs next time)
  • 1 can cream of mushroom soup
  • 1 C milk
  • 6 slices deli ham
  • 6 slices Swiss cheese
  • 1 bag of your favorite dry stuffing mix
  • 1/4 C melted butter

Mix soup and milk together, and pour a thin layer on the bottom of your slow cooker. Add chicken, placing a slice of ham on top of each piece, and cheese on top of that. Cover with remaining soup mixture. Add stuffing, drizzle with melted butter, and cook on low, 4-6 hours. 

Pioneer Woman Desserts [creamy lemon crumb squares]

I’m laughing at myself today, because my group text friends have been going back and forth about a healthy baby food site they’re loving, and I’m sitting here, typing up a post about a Pioneer Woman dessert.*  Ah, well, it was sent to me by one of those group texters.  While there’s no one whose lemon squares I love more than Ina herself, these are a different, creamier take on the classic.  Instead of a shortbread crust, there’s oatmeal on the top and bottom layer of these.  They paired so well with the Leinenkugels I was downing at the beach.

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To make 16 small bars, or 9 larger ones, you will need:

  • 1-1/3 cup All-purpose Flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon Salt
  • 1 teaspoon Baking Powder
  • 1 stick (1/2 Cup) Butter, Slightly Softened
  • 1 cup Brown Sugar (lightly Packed)
  • 1 cup Oats
  • 1 can (14 Oz. Size) Sweetened Condensed Milk
  • 1/2 cup Lemon Juice
  • Zest Of 1 Lemon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix butter and brown sugar until well combined.

Sift together flour, salt, and baking powder.

Add oats and flour to butter/sugar mixture and mix to combine.

Press half of crumb mixture into the bottom of an 8 x 11 inch pan.

Mix together condensed milk, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Spread onto the bottom layer of the crumb mixture. Top with the other half of the crumb mixture, but don’t press.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden brown.

Allow pan to sit on counter for 30 minutes after baking. Cut into squares and refrigerate for a couple of hours or until cool.

Serve cool.

*p.s. It’s been so long since I’ve made anything Pioneer Woman, and I’m glad to “see” her again.  Let’s not go so long between recipes next time, Ree.