Monday, 12 February 2018

Italian Love Cake

With Valentine's Day upon us, I could have featured a Red Velvet SOMETHING.  But it felt a little too easy.  (Let's be honest - I have quite a few Red Velvet recipes up my sleeve)

For many, many years I've been looking at recipes for Italian Love Cake.  But I've always been so hesitant, because - well - ricotta doesn't scream dessert to me.

But I decided to take the plunge and just give it a try.  

Plus - it turns out that it's SUPER cool.  Science.  You just wait and see!!

Here's what you'll need.

In a large bowl, combine the Ricotta (Loooootttts of Ricotta - and make sure it's whole milk ricotta),

And 4 eggs.

Sugar and vanilla.

And whip it all together with a hand mixer until smooth.

You'll need to prepare the cake according to the package directions.  Spread the batter into the bottom of a glass baking dish.

Make sure the baking dish you use is glass and deep - this is a big cake!

Then, carefully spread the Ricotta mixture over the cake batter.

Bake the cake for one hour and allow to cool completely before frosting.

Combine the milk and pudding and whisk until thickened.

Then fold in the Cool Whip.

Now - here's the SCIENCE part!!

The layers SWITCH PLACES.  How cool is that?! 

I mean - it's not as cool if you didn't know that was supposed to happen and you were just eating it as a guest...  But it was cool as heck for me!

Spread the prepared frosting on the cooled cake.  (I skipped this part so it wouldn't spoil the surprise above).


I thought the icing was a light complement to the rest of the cake.  The ricotta was sweet and rich and the cake was really tender.  

I did find that it was a little on the "damp" side on the bottom of the ricotta - but I honestly can't remember if I got a chance to let it chill overnight or not.  Make sure you do that.  But it might need to be baked a little longer or have the ricotta strained slightly.

Just a gentle reminder that this cake is really rich - so just be prepared!

I hope you make this Love Cake for someone you love and that you all enjoy it as much as me!

xoxo - Heather

Italian Love Cake
1 package chocolate cake mix (and the ingredients need to prepare the cake)
2 pounds whole milk ricotta cheese
4 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 (5.1 oz) package instant chocolate pudding mix
1 cup cold milk
8 ounces thawed Cool Whip
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Spray a 9 x 13 inch glass baking dish with non-stick cooking spray and set aside.
  2. Prepare the cake mix according to package directions to the batter stage and spread into the prepared baking dish.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the cheese, eggs, sugar, and vanilla.  Beat with a hand mixer until smooth. 
  4. Carefully spread the ricotta cheese mixture over the cake batter.
  5. Bake the cake in the preheated oven for 1 hour.  Allow to cool completely before icing.
  6. After the cake has cooled, prepare the icing.  In a large bowl, combine the milk and pudding mix.  Whisk until the pudding has thickened.  Fold in the Cool Whip until well combined.
  7. Spread the prepared icing over the cooled cake.  Cover and refrigerate for 6 hours or overnight - it gets better the next day!

Tuesday, 6 February 2018

Gnocchi in Creamy Pork Sauce

Sometimes I struggle to decide on how to start a post.  

About how best to draw you in.

I'm sure you notice that there are long periods of time between posts.  Half the time it's because I have no idea what to say to engage you, the reader, and the other half of the time it's because I have no idea what I should post next, because everything I want to share with you is so good its hard to know where to start.

And here we are at the beginning.  How to start.

I figure if you're here, you probably don't mind the little tid bits and pieces I tell you and that you probably enjoy the recipes I share.

So I guess the truth is that - I can always start however it feels right.

I looked at this recipe many, MANY times after Michelle shared it on her blog.

Everything about it was right up my alley.

It starts with very few ingredients.

First, an evenly chopped onion.  Make sure the pieces are all the relatively same size, but it doesn't need to be diced.

Place the onions in the bowl of a slow cooker, add the minced garlic.

Then place the pork shoulder on top.  Michelle's recipe calls for a bone-in shoulder, but I could only get a boneless.  Either is fine.

Pour one can of the crushed tomatoes over top of the pork shoulder.

Sprinkle the Italian seasoning over top.

And salt and pepper.  I used 1 teaspoon salt and about 1 teaspoon pepper.

Cover with the second can of crushed tomatoes.

Cover and cook on low for 11 hours.

Yes.  ELEVEN hours.

I put this in at about midnight and then went to bed.  It was done about 11 am and then I shredded it and let it sit in the slow cooker on the warm setting until later in the afternoon.

Cause I was not about to get up at 5 am to start it.  hahahahahaha - never.

If you're concerned about food safety.  You could start it earlier in the evening so that it finishes earlier in the morning, and keep it in the fridge until a couple of hours before you want to serve it.  I would suggest setting it to warm to start heating (I worry about the bowl cracking if it's too hot) and then turning it to low after its warmed through.

About an hour before you want to serve, you'll need to add in cream and dried gnocchi.  I find this gnocchi in the pasta aisle.  There is a fresh-type gnocchi in the fresh pasta section at the grocery store.  Don't use that one.  It'll get too soggy.

Pour in the cream.

Stir in the gnocchi.  Cover and let cook on low for 1 hour.

When you're ready, serve with crusty bread, or garlic bread, or (EVEN BETTER) cheesy garlic bread, or soft buns.  Really whatever carb your heart desires.

And a Caesar salad - just to green things up.

Oh - and I totally recommend using parmesan cheese on top.

Oh kids.  You're going to have leftovers for DAYS.  This makes a HUGE bunch of food.

I would recommend making for a big bunch of company or for a potluck.

Considering that there is almost no spice in this dish aside from the garlic, onion, Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper - there is a ton of flavour.  And I have no idea where it comes from.  It's rich and complex and the meat is tender and both the gnocchi and pork kind of melt in your mouth.

And it was fantastic leftover.  I would even recommend cutting up crusty French bread and making an open sandwich with it.  That would be just a thing of glory.

One more thing before I go - freezing leftovers.  The pork will freeze beautifully, but the gnocchi gets kind of gross after its frozen.  Just something to keep in mind.


xoxo - Heather

Tuesday, 30 January 2018

Ancho Chile Shrimp Quesadillas

I've always found that quesadillas are either hit or miss.  I've had good quesadillas and I've had really crappy - like, watery quesadillas.

And this is actually one thing that I don't make very often - even though I really like quesadillas.  But, for whatever reason - I just never seem to get around to having them.

And then, one night, on a whim I just decided that I couldn't go another second without trying these quesadillas from the Homesick Texan.

Sometimes that happens.

Now - Lisa's original recipe calls for an actual ancho chile - buuuuuut....  They aren't that readily available in the city where I live.

Isn't there some kind of quote about improvisation?  Along the lines of mother of invention?  I can't remember.

Never mind.  Let's get on to these quesadillas.

First - you're going to start with the shrimp and make a marinade.

Now - because I didn't have an actual ancho chile I substituted 1 Tablespoons anch chile powder.

I combined everything into the blender and whirled it all together so that it would emulsify.

Then I poured it into a Ziploc bag.

You guys.  The smell in there.  I could make a vat of this and just - swim around.

Then add the shrimp and squoosh it around so that it's coated with the marinade.

Now - these DO take some planning because the shrimp need to languish in this marinade for between 2 and 8 hours.  Believe me - it's worth it.

Then get the filling bits ready.

That just means shredding some cheese and chopping some cilantro.

Then, when the shrimp has languished for as long as you can possibly wait, melt some butter in a pan.

Confession - Lisa's recipe wasn't really clear about this.  It's says to "toss with the pan sauce" - but I didn't have any "pan sauce".  So I threw in the shrimp when the pan was hot and added in the marinade at the same time.

I'm still here so it's probably fine to do that.  I honestly have no idea if that's strictly food safe or if I have guts like a hyena.

Once the shrimp was cooked, I removed it from the pan and cut each shrimp in half.

Then I returned it to the pan to keep it warm.  I split the shrimp as much as I could for each quesadilla.

So, at this point, you could just put a small tortilla on a pan over medium heat to start heating it over, add the shrimp, cheese, and cilantro, put the second tortilla on top and flip it to melt the cheese......  OR.  You could do this.

And I kind of INSIST that you do this.  Arteries be damned.

Melt some butter in a pan over medium heat.  When it's hot, add the first tortilla and cook it for about 30 seconds.

Then add the cheese.  One ounce of each kind.

Add 1/4 of the chopped shrimp.

And some cilantro.  There's a lot on that shrimp and it was totally fine.

While this is happening, I recommend heating more butter in a separate pan over medium heat, cook the second tortilla on one side for 30 seconds, flip and cook for another 30 - 45 seconds.

Take the second tortilla, place it over top of the shrimp.

And serve.

Oh. my. GAWD.  I can barely tell you how much I loved these quesadillas.

Wanna know WHY I insisted that you make these MY WAY?

The tortillas kind of get flakey and fluffy and wonderful.  They literally go from being discs of flour tortilla to these leavened morsels of heaven.

Nevermind that they're slathered in butter.

I loved, LOVED, these..  They're simple and straightforward, but you could dress them up with jalapeno and bacon (these were actually noted on Lisa's original recipe) - but with the flavour from the marinade and the cilantro, you don't really need it.  At least I didn't.  I didn't even bother with sour cream or salsa!

And the cheese.  You could use whatever cheese you want to - but Monterey Jack is beautiful for melting and the Muenster cheese offsets the Monterey's sweetness with is salty tart flavour.

I could go on and on.

Also - I'm completely obsessed with ancho chile seasoning.  I love the smoky sweetness of it.  I've used it in other recipes and I am totally enraptured.

I hope you fall as deeply in love with ancho chile powder as I have.  And that you love these cheesy, smoky, sweet quesadillas as much as me.  

I've probably had them 10 times.

xoxo - Heather

Saturday, 20 January 2018

Cheeseburger and Fries Casserole

Oh my HECK we have been through some amazing Winter weather and then some NOT SO NICE weather which deserves language that I will not use here.  I shouldn't complain - I don't think it was below -15 degrees C until late December.

And if you follow this blog, you know that I love heavy, hearty comfort food when the weather turns eVIL.

(Name that movie)

And this recipe fits that bill.

Now - the title either drew you in because you thought "Ew.  Heather." or because you were legitimately intrigued.

And the list of ingredients - well.  If you have a food/nutrition coach you may want to look away.  They will lower ALL your macros just for LOOKING at this.

Okay - it might not be THAT bad.  

Cook the beef until ALMOST fully browned and then add the onion, salt, pepper, and garlic.  Cook until the beef is cooked through and the onions are translucent. 

The original recipe didn't call for onion - but I thought it would be a fantastic addition. 

Drain off the fat.

Stir in the soups.  The recipe I used called for cream of mushroom, but I.....  am somewhat particular about mushrooms.  So I used cream of celery instead.

Then spread the beef mixture into a 9 x 13 inch baking dish.  

Then spread the fries over top of the beef mixture and bake until the fries are crispy.

Remove the casserole from the oven and cover with cheese.  (I always recommend a little extra!).  Bake some more until the cheese is melted.

You can't tell - but I'm doing a smile and nod every time I get to this part.  This casserole was so GOOD!  It was cheesy and kind of creamy and stuck to my ribs and was everything that I expected from cold weather comfort food.

And - not to be a Debbie Downer - but when my grandmother passed away this summer, one of my Auntie and Uncle's friends dropped a pan of this off for them.  I only got leftovers, but I have to say that it was EXCELLENT as leftovers.  In addition to calling this comfort food, I would also now consider it soul food.

I also think that the recipe is fairly versatile.  You could change this up with different kinds of soup.  I used a Mexican blend cheese because that's what I happened to have in the fridge - but you could use any cheese blend.  You could also shred up some carrots so that you can sneak in some veggies for the kiddos.  Or use curly fries instead of regular fries.  The possibilities are endless..

I like it plain jane just the way it is.

I hope it finds its way into your cold weather recipe rotation.

You could serve it with a salad or other veggies so that you don't send your nutrition coach into a complete meltdown event.

xoxo - Heather