Silky Chocolate Pudding

Silky Chocolate Pudding ~ A decadent dessert that's so easy to make you'll wish you had skipped the box all of these years ~ The Way to His Heart #dessert #makeahead #pudding

We’re escaping the cold Maine weather in a week and heading down to Florida. This means many things. I’m a very busy mom packing, getting things ready for the house/pet sitter, getting things ready for the blog, all of the Valentine’s school activities etc. Since we are leaving on Valentine’s Day, I thought I’d make a nice dessert this past weekend to celebrate a little early. My mind immediately went to all of these wonderful, complicated and decadent desserts and then I realized just how busy I am. I figured you all may be busy as well. Looking for a sweet dessert that is easy to make and that everyone will love. Who doesn’t love chocolate pudding? Well, my husband doesn’t really love it, but he loved mine. Not sure if it’s because I’m his Valentine, it’s just that good (I think so), or it was there. Either way, everyone gobbled it up.

I also think pudding is just so comforting in the winter. It’s filling without making your stomach feel super full, which is a con in my book if you are making this for an intimate Valentine’s dinner. Enjoy it warm and it’s perfect for a snowy day.

Silky Chocolate Pudding ~ A decadent dessert that's so easy to make you'll wish you had skipped the box all of these years ~ The Way to His Heart #dessert #makeahead #pudding

I used semi-sweet chocolate because I knew the kids would enjoy it more, but using all bittersweet or a mixture of both is great. There’s also a note at the bottom of the recipe for a wonderful, simple, adaptation as well. I made it festive by tinting the whipped cream, placing two dollops of whipped cream on the pudding and using the back of the spoon to shape it into a heart. Voila! Dessert is served. This was really, really, delicious. I had more the following day, just a spoonful after working out ya, oops. I swear it got better overnight. It was supposed to be just a spoonful but I was amazed at how awesome it tasted and I had half a bowl. Sigh. Back to the elliptical.

Silky Chocolate Pudding ~ A decadent dessert that's so easy to make you'll wish you had skipped the box all of these years ~ The Way to His Heart #dessert #makeahead #pudding

Silky Chocolate Pudding

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 6 oz semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Combine cornstarch, sugar, and salt in a medium saucepan. Slowly, with a thin stream, whisk in the  milk until incorporated and smooth. Place over medium-low heat and whisk occasionally, scraping the bottom and sides. After 10 minutes, and when the mixture has begun to thicken and coat the back of a spoon, add the chocolate and continue stirring for another 2 to 4 minutes or until chocolate is fully incorporated and the mixture is quite thick. Remove from the heat and stir in vanilla.

Distribute among individual cups or one large serving bowl and chill until it is cool and set, about 2 to 3 hours.  To avoid the skin on top of the pudding, place a piece of plastic wrap on the surface of the pudding before refrigerating.

Pudding keeps for 3 days.

*For an extra chocolate boost, replace one ounce of semisweet chocolate with unsweetened chocolate.

Serves 4 to 6

Source: Smitten Kitchen, adapted from John Scharffenberger

Lightened Up Sweet & Sour Chicken ~ Ready in 20 minutes, this lightened up version spares you the calories and sodium without sparing the taste! ~ The Way to His Heart #CLBlogger #CookingLight #Quickmeals

We’re big fans of sweet and sour anything around these parts, but I have always fried the protein in a lovely, thick batter. I have two recipes on the blog already, my authentic and quick sweet and sour. I decided to still share this recipe with you because it’s ready in 20 minutes, is lower in calories and sodium, and tastes delicious. Being a bit picky about sweet and sour sauces I was a little timid, but the folks at Cooking Light Magazine have done a fabulous job! I think it’s spot on, sweet enough that the kids go crazy over it, but not that overly sweet maraschino cherry flavor. Yuck!

What I love about this recipe is that it uses all of the key flavors and doesn’t miss a beat. Rather than just saying, brown the chicken, they use an egg-white and cornstarch mixture to give it a nice crispy coating that gives you a similar experience to restaurant style batters. I’m all for fresh and light eating but on classic recipes I need it to feel a little indulgent and this does the trick. I’ll be using this egg-white mixture on my other recipes often as well.

 

Lightened Up Sweet & Sour Chicken ~ Ready in 20 minutes, this lightened up version spares you the calories and sodium without sparing the taste! ~ The Way to His Heart #CLBlogger #CookingLight #Quickmeals

 

Lightened Up Sweet & Sour Chicken

Ingredients

  • 2 large egg whites
  • 4 tsp cornstarch, divided
  • 1 lb skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 6 Tbsp unsalted ketchup
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 3 Tbsp cider vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp lower-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 Tbsp canola oil, divided
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh pineapple chunks
  • 2 tsp grated fresh ginger
  • 3 green onions, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 3/8 tsp kosher salt

Combine egg whites and 1 tablespoon cornstarch in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add chicken to bowl and toss to coat.

Combine remaining 1 teaspoon cornstarch, ketchup, and next 4 ingredients (through soy sauce) in a bowl, stirring with a whisk.

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add bell pepper to pan; cook 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add pineapple, ginger, and onions to pan; cook 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Transfer bell pepper mixture to a plate.

Ass remaining 1 tablespoon oil to pan. Add chicken mixture, allowing any excess egg white mixture to drip back into bowl. Stir-fry 6 minutes or until chicken is browned and done. Add ketchup mixture and bell pepper mixture to pan. Bring to a simmer; simmer 1 minute or until slightly thickened. Sprinkle with salt; serve immediately.

Source: Cooking Light January/February 2016

Beatty’s Chocolate Cake

Beatty's Chocolate Cake ~ The best chocolate cake ~ The Way to His Heart #chocolate #cake

This cake has been called the “Best Chocolate Cake Ever” and there is good reason, it really is. At least for a chocolate cake that has no extra gimmicks inside or other flavors. It’s pure chocolate here, the flavor only being enhanced by the coffee and not lending any flavor to it. I’ve been making this cake for a few years now and it never ceases to impress. Even when I botch up the frosting and it’s somewhat grainy because I let the chocolate seize (see note in directions). I took these pictures a long time ago, but deemed them not worthy and said I’d take some more the next time I made the cake. Except each and every time the cake was eaten before the chance ever came back up. I decided this week to go ahead and share this cake with you anyways. I honestly feel bad for keeping it from you all for this long. Well, that is if you haven’t heard of it already and/or aren’t an avid fan of Ina Garten. If you aren’t though, this cake will change your mind.

While I have other good, all purpose chocolate cakes, this is the cake I make when I’m not serving a bunch of kids or needing something to support a lot of marshmallow fondant. This is the cake that puts any given Sunday dinner over the top. This chocolate cake is what I make when someone wants a simple birthday cake, but deserves more. This is the cake you need to make soon, very soon! See if you beat me to it, since I’ve been craving this cake for the past few days and keep telling myself to at least wait until the weekend!

Beatty's Chocolate Cake ~ The best chocolate cake ~ The Way to His Heart #chocolate #cake

Beatty’s Chocolate Cake

Ingredients

For the cake:

  • Butter for greasing pans
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cups cocoa powder
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk, shaken
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee

For the frosting:

  • 6 oz good semisweet chocolate
  • 1/2 lb (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 extra-large egg yolk, at room temperature
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 Tbsp instant coffee powder

To make the cake:

Pre-heat oven to 350 F. Butter two 8″ x 2″ round cake pans. Line with parchment paper and then butter and flour the pans.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, sift flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Mix on low speed until combined. In a medium bowl, combine the buttermilk, oil, eggs, and vanilla. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry. With the mixer still on low, add the coffee and stir just to combine. Scrap the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Pour the batter into the pans and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool in the pans for 30 minutes, then turn them out onto a wire rack and cool completely.

Place one layer, flat side up, on a flat plate or cake stand. With a knife or offset spatula, spread the top with frosting. Place the second layer on top, rounded side up, and spread the frosting on the top and sides of the cake.

To make the chocolate frosting:

Chop the chocolate and place it in a heat-proof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Stir until just melted and set aside until cooled to room temperature, but not stiffened otherwise chocolate will seize in the frosting.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium-high speed until light yellow and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the egg ylk and vanilla and continue beating for 3 minutes. Turn the mixer to low, gradually add the confectioners’ sugar, then beat at medium speed, scraping down the bowl as necessary, until smooth and creamy. Dissolves the coffee powder in 2 teaspoons of the hottest tap water. On low speed, add the chocolate and coffee to the butter mixture and mix until blended. Don’t whip! Spread immediately on the cooled cake.

Serves 8

Source: Ina Garten, Barefoot Contessa at Home

George Turns Two! A Boat Party

George Turns Two! A Boat Party ~ The Way to His Heart ~ #birthday #boats #partyfood #kidsparties

My George is two. How did time go by so fast? I’ve heard the second child grows up faster, but this is ridiculous! He’s always grown fast, but now he’s in a rush to do the same things as his sister which means I’m losing the toddler in him very fast. His birthday was back before Thanksgiving and we knew were going to throw him a boat party. He’s been loving boats all summer long and anytime we go over a bridge, by a stream, or by the ocean he’ll ask, “boat?”

Now that I’ve gotten a few children’s parties under my belt and have two kids to look after I decided to hold back a little and keep this party simple. My husband and I also really didn’t want to deal with fondant this year so there were no 3D puppy cakes or bounce houses like his sister’s second birthday party, but we had just as much fun and the food and decor were a hit!

I opted to make a simple wave cake for George. I’ve never done a smash cake before and I figured this would be the last chance to do one so I thought making a smaller cake with simple piping to look like waves would be cute. Top it with a little origami boat and it’s a win. George loved the cake, but didn’t do the typical smashing. I thought he would since the kid loves cake, but he chose to eat his with a fork. For everyone else I made cupcakes with little sailboat toppers. There were a few more toppers made but George woke up a few days before the party and decided to play with them. No problem, we’ll just have less. I’m learning that sanity is worth a lot more then four extra toppers!

For the food I decided to go with some comfort food. It was before Thanksgiving and I wanted to steer away from those flavors, but it was cold and I just thought some chili would be great. I also made a batch of macaroni and cheese because I knew it would be a hit for both the children and adults. Through in some great breads, simple appetizers, and we were good to go! I went real simple with the favor bags and opted to give the kids some goldfish and a tub toy boat. Again, they are two and they really don’t need any more desserts to go home with and now that I’m a bit wiser I also didn’t want to send their parents home with more stuff!

We had a great time and this party was really simple to plan and execute once I decided on everything. We still play with the cardboard sailboat and George now has a cute life preserver with his name on it for his bedroom door!

 

George Turns Two! A Boat Party ~ The Way to His Heart ~ #birthday #boats #partyfood #kidsparties

Menu

Snacks

Crudites with Ranch Dressing

Chips and French Onion Dip

Cowboy Caviar

Queso

“Catch of the Day” Goldfish

Apple slices

 

Lunch

Texas Chili with fixings (corn chips, sour cream, green onions, cheese)

Crockpot Macaroni & Cheese

Cornbread

Super Easy Crusty Bread

 

Dessert

Ice Creams ~ Easy Mint Chip, Vanilla Bean, Ben’s Chocolate Ice Cream

Cupcakes and Cake ~ Chocolate Cake, Buttercream Frosting

 

Decor

George’s Sailboat Shirt

George’s Sailboat ~ A few inspirations from Pinterest and a handy husband

George’s Life Preserver ~ Purchased from Amazon, personalized by Wink’s Kennebunkport

Paper Sailor Hats

Cupcake Toppers

Cake Sailboat Topper

Favor Bags ~ Tub toy boat and goldfish with Catch of the Day Bag Toppers