Magic Juice

This stuff is magic!  It’s one of the best discoveries on Pinterest.  The claims have been tested and proven over and over again for my husband and I.  The creator recommends 1-2 spoonfuls at times when you may be feeling run down or feel the early signs of a cold.  I get at least two or three colds in the winter months.  The one and only cold I got this year was prior to finding this recipe.  With countless sneezes and a chorus of sniffling in the office I was sure I would spend the entire holiday season sick, but not this year.

We have made a habit of taking a spoonful or two whenever we feel slightly under the weather or even if we had a dream where we felt slight under the weather LOL.  Holiday parties, family gatherings with the kids, germy malls, etc… I am telling you, it’s magic.

I must warn you, it’s got quite a kick.  I always have a glass of water very close by when I take it.

I usually just double the recipe and keep it in a jar in the fridge.  The original recipe as listed below is more than four servings since the author recommends a spoonful or two at a time.  Since we use it quite often I am making a fresh batch every few weeks at this rate.

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MAGGIE’S COUGH REMEDY
¼ teaspoon Cayenne
¼ teaspoon Ground Ginger
1 Tablespoon Organic Cider Vinegar
2 Tablespoon Filtered Water
1 Tablespoon Raw Honey

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Check out the link…http://nancyvienneau.com/blog/articles/home-remedy/

Pure Deliciousness

This cake is by far one of my favorites.  The taste is like nothing I have ever had in a bakery.  This was made for a bridal shower for one of the women in my husband’s office.  I was not there to enjoy it or see their faces but it got rave reviews which was just as good.  The restaurant staff where the party was held asked which bakery it came from.  For me, that is a heck of a compliment.

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I will not take an ounce of credit for the recipes, kudos to those that came up with them.  Below are the links for the cake and frosting.  The design was just something I came up with because I know my limits with piping frosting since I have no training and really don’t know what I am doing there other than having fun.  I wanted something pretty on top so we went with a flower.  As I have mentioned in prior posts I am much better with the structural design over the frosting detail…I will get there though.

So let me introduce a tower of pure deliciousness…

Vanilla Bean Cake filled with Chocolate Ganache and Tiramisu Buttercream…covered in a light fluffy Swiss Meringue Buttercream Frosting.

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The Frosting…oh the frosting…I cannot begin to tell you how delicious this is.

Swiss Meringue Buttercream

When I was choosing a recipe, I knew that I wanted to try something other than a traditional buttercream, made with butter and powdered sugar.  I was looking for a smoother, more delicate consistency.  I was always intimidated by any sort of meringue frosting but honestly I don’t know what I was waiting for.  This frosting is not any more difficult than any other, it just takes quite a bit more time and there is the added step of cooking the eggs whites.  I was going back and forth between Italian and Swiss buttercream.  I opted for the Swiss because there were so many review about it being more stable.  As well as that I didn’t want egg yolk, used in Italian buttercream, to influence the color of the frosting.

So from everything I read, there were a number of comments stressing the importance of adding the butter very slowly, allowing each tablespoon to incorporate completely before adding the next.  One writer commented that allowing it to whip on high for 15 seconds should do it.  I used the advice but I must admit there were a number of additions that it was far beyond 15 seconds.  I was multitasking and working on the flower while the frosting was being whipped.  I don’t know if the added time helped to ensure the frosting didn’t become runny (another concern with meringue buttercream) but whatever the reason, the recipe worked like a charm.  I wanted to do something in the meantime since I am a master (sometimes at fault) multitasker.  As you will see there are three cups of butter used in the recipe, all of which needs to be cut into tablespoon portions and added very slowly.  It takes quite a while to add at a tablespoon at a time so its likely you would want to find something to do at the same time.

NOTES:

  • I only used 2 1/2 cups of butter versus three.  I was happy with the consistency and didn’t feel that last stick was necessary.
  • A stand up mixer is a must unless you have the patience of a saint to stand in one place for what ends up being well over an hour, start to finish.
  • The recipe made approximately 9 cups of frosting.  I used just about half of it for this cake and froze the rest for next time.  You could easily just cut the recipe in half.

Recipe source: http://sweetapolita.com/2011/04/swiss-meringue-buttercream-demystified/

Additional tips and tricks:

The Cake….mmmmmh Tiramisu…

Recipe source: http://www.loveandoliveoil.com/2009/12/vanilla-cake-with-tiramisu-buttercream-and-ganache-filling.html

Notes:

  • I added a heaping half teaspoon of vanilla bean past in addition to the extract for added flavor.
  • I halved the buttercream recipe since I was only using it between the layers.
  • I made a traditional buttercream frosting for the Tiramisu buttercream using butter and powdered sugar rather than using the eggs whites called for in the recipe.  As long as you add the coffee as called for you will achieve the same flavor profile.
  • This was made as 4 layer cake in 8” pans.  Divided the batter in 4 2 1/3 cup portions and added soft pink food coloring at varying intensities to create an ombre effect inside of the cake as well.
  • I baked the cake at 375 degrees for 18-20 minutes, rather than 325 degrees for 26-28 minutes.  I read recently that cooking cake at a higher temperature, for a shorter time helps the cake maintain its height and not deflate.  So far, so good with that trick J
  • I made the cake a day in advance so I did use a simple syrup when assembling to ensure it was nice and moist.

Assembly

  1. Add a smear of frosting on the cake plate or cake board if using.
  2. Place first cake later
  3. Brush with simple syrup, if using.
  4. Spread a third of the chocolate ganache on the cake being cautious not to bring it to close to the edge.
  5. Pipe the frosting around the perimeter of the cake and cover the chocolate
  6. Carefully spread the frosting, again keeping clear of the edge.
  7. Top with second cake layer and repeat the process.
  8. Frost the cake as desired.  I did not do a crumb coat in the case, I just didn’t feel it was necessary.

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I was originally planning a more decorative ombre effect with the frosting but I wasn’t happy with the way it turned out so I just used a pastry scraper to smooth it out.  I’m very happy with the way it turned out although next time I will increase the darkness on the bottom layers a bit more.  The flower on top is simply melted white chocolate that I added a bit of food coloring to.  I used the back of a spoon to create the shapes on top of waxed paper.  I cut a paper towel roll in half lengthwise to create a canal and spread it open a bit.  I pulled the waxed paper into the tunnel to create the curve while the chocolate hardened.

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Chocolate Bowl of Heaven!!

Chocolate Kahlua Cake Trifle

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This recipe was passed on by a dear family friend, more family than friend.🙂  I think of her every time I make it, I could just kiss her for passing on such a delicious recipe.  I was introduced to it when I was young so I am not certain it’s true to the source but I can assure you that it’s always a huge hit.  This is a decadent, yet light (if that is possible) layered bowl of heaven.  With layers of cake, spiked pudding, Cool Whip and crushed toffee and then layered again, you can’t wrong.

Just a few notes…

  • I believe the original recipe called to drizzle the liquor over the cake but evolution played a roll so I add it right the pudding.  Either works though.
  • If you can, prepare the trifle a day in advance.  This allows the flavors to blend and increase the creamy decadence.
  • If you will be feeding little ones you could alter the recipe by adding the liquor to the cake before baking or cutting it out altogether.
  • The cake is served using a spoon and it best served in a clear trifle dish to be sure to get your guests attention as they get a sneak preview of what is to come.
  • Gauge your ingredients based on the size of your trifle bowl, or whatever bowl you use.  Depending on the size you may have more cake and pudding than what will fit.  The cake recipe below makes a bit more than a boxed cake so I did have a bit left over.  My husband didn’t mind since I was able to make a couple of individual bowls since this one was going to the office.

What you will need:

  • Chocolate Cake – see recipe below but keep in mind that a boxed chocolate cake works just as well, it saves a lot of time and is a great shortcut.
  • 3 cups Chocolate Pudding – I used  a 2.1 oz box Jell-O Instant Chocolate Pudding (Fat Free & Sugar Free).  Homemade pudding would be fabulous as well, I just tried to cut back on the fat and calories.
  • 1/4 cup Kahlua
  • 1/2 cup crushed toffee – I used Hershey Toffee Chips here.  Normally I would but Health or Skor Bars and crush them but I had the toffee on hand so I went with it.  I did miss the chocolate coating from the candy bars though.
  • 8-12 oz Light Cool Whip – again, using homemade whipped cream is to die for here, and there are far less processed ingredients – either is delicious.  There are no rules, do what makes your happy.

Chocolate Cake

Recipe source: http://www.goodhousekeeping.com/food-recipes/dessert/a14316/chocolate-cake-recipe/

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Ingredients:
2 cup  all-purpose flour
1 cup  unsweetened cocoa
1 1/2 teaspoon  baking soda
1/4 teaspoon Himalayan pink salt
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups low-fat buttermilk

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 9×13 inch cake pan with parchment paper.  Spray paper and sides of pan with non-stick cooking spray.

  1. In a medium bowl, combine flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
  2. In large bowl, with mixer at low speed, beat butter and brown and granulated sugars until blended. Increase speed to high; beat 5 minutes or until pale and fluffy, occasionally scraping bowl with rubber spatula. Reduce speed to medium-low; add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla until blended. Add flour mixture alternately with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour mixture; beat just until batter is smooth, occasionally scraping bowl with rubber spatula.
  3. Spoon batter into prepared pan. Bake 22 to 25 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean. Allow cake to cook completely in pan, and allow it to come to room temperature before assembling the trifle.
  4. Once cooled, run a knife through the cake to cut small pieces. These pieces will be placed into the trifle so consider the size you would want to bite into.

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Chocolate Pudding

Prepare chocolate pudding according to package directions and add ¼ cup Kahlua or Bailey’s Irish Cream.   Again, in an attempt to trim fat and calories I used fat free milk.

* Adding the extra liquid will help to keep the pudding a bit more loose making it easier to spread.

* I have combined Bailey’s and Kahlua to play with the flavors a bit – yummy!!

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Assembly:

  • Add some of the diced cake in the bottom of the bowl ensuring that and gaps are filled with cake.
  • Spread half of the pudding over the cake.
  • Press the layer down a bit to ensure any gaps are filled.
  • Sprinkle half of the toffee over the pudding
  • Sprinkle half of the Cool Whip over the pudding toffee layer
  • Repeat the layers – pressing the cake layer down a bit again
  • Sprinkle some toffee or shaved chocolate on top

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I would love some feedback if you try this (or any) recipe!  Rest assured it is always a crowd pleaser!!

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Crockpot Sesame Chicken

This is such a tasty and easy dinner.  It’s especially tasty when you allow the chicken to marinate over night.

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Ingredients

  • 1lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 cup of honey (raw, organic if possible)
  • 1/2 cup of low sodium soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil (not pictured)
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup diced onion
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 teaspoon Himalayan pink salt
  • Diced scallion (see tip below)
  • Sesame seeds, toasted

Mix all of the above from except for the chicken, scallion and sesame seeds in a crock pot.  Mix well to combine.  Place the chicken in the crockpot and toss to coat.  You can set this to cook right away or place the bowl of the crockpot in the refrigerator, covered, overnight if possible.  Cook on low for 3-4 hours or high for 1½ – 2 hours.

Serve hot over a bed of Jasmine rice, sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds and scallion.

I warned you, super easy!!  Enjoy!

Tip:  After buying and using scallion don’t through the rooted ends away.  Place the root end in a small bowl or glass, add water and set them in direct sunlight.  The scallions will begin to grow again in just a matter of days.  Cut them back and use them every two weeks or so and place them right back in the bowl of water.  Periodically rinse and wipe the ends and roots a bit to reduce the sliminess that forms.  Refresh the water as needed.  I love using fresh herbs  This helps to ensure they are always on hand.

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Soup for the Soul

The wife of a friend at work is winning her fight with cancer.  After undergoing major surgery I had the pleasure of putting a care package together for her.  I mentioned my plans to him and he asked if I could bring soup since so many people were helping them with dinners.   Sometimes all you need is a small bowl of warmth to bring you comfort.

When she was first diagnosed and was undergoing her first treatment of chemo I sent a package of homemade English Toffee in hopes to boost her appetite.  This is now one of my favorite go to recipes for a splurge.  It’s always a big hit and it makes a fantastic gift.  Well it seems she enjoyed the first box because it was requested a second time. :)  Here is the recipe.  I will try to post pictures the next time I make it.  The only change I made is that I use crushed pecans on top but any nut would be delicious.

Low Fat Tortilla Soup with Shredded Chicken

Serves 4 – 6

This is one of my go to soup recipes.  I change it up a bit each time with the level of spice, a touch of lime and sometimes roasting the vegetables first.  It’s super easy, especially if you cheat time by buying a roasted chicken at the market.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/2 cup olive oil, divided
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, diced
  • 4-6 cups unsalted, fat free, chicken stock
  • 28 ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin seed
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 3-4 cups shredded or chopped, roasted chicken
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • 1 cup black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 tablespoons fresh cilantro leaves
  • Tortilla chips, avocado, jalapeños, and sour cream to garnish

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PREPARATION

In a stockpot over medium heat, sauté onion, bell pepper, jalapeno and garlic in olive oil. Stir frequently until tender.

Mix in the salt, cumin, onion powder, garlic powder, chili powder and cayenne.

Add the all of the contents of the canned tomatoes.  Mix well to combine all of the ingredients.

Add 4 cups of chicken stock and mix well.

Use an immersion blender and carefully puree the soup until its smooth.

Bring to a simmer over medium to medium high heat for about 15 minutes until heated through.

Just before you are ready to serve it add the chicken, corn and black beans and heat through, about 5-8 minutes.  At this point you may want to add a bit more stock to your desired thickness.

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Serve with your choice of tortilla chips, chopped jalapeños, shredded cheese and sour cream.

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This is another favorite and so simple.  When I buy butternut squash I try to buy two, planning to use one.  I peel and chop the second one and put it in the freezer for later.  Sometimes I add apple to this soup and other times I leave it out, it just depends on what I have on hand.  Either way is delicious.  I also opt to roast the squash sometimes as well, it adds a great depth of flavor.

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Butternut Squash Soup with Apple

Serves 4 – 6

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon Himalayan pink salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 4-6 cups Butternut Squash, peeled and chopped
  • 1 granny smith apple, peeled and chopped
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 4 cups unsalted chicken broth

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PREPARATION

In a stockpot, over medium heat, sauté onion in butter.  Stir frequently until soft and translucent.

Add a good pinch of salt and mix to combine then add the squash and apple (if using) and mix well to coat the ingredients.

Mix in the nutmeg and pepper.

Add 4 cups of chicken stock and mix well.  Turn the heat to medium high and simmer for approximately 15-20 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.

Use an immersion blender and carefully puree the soup until its smooth.  Taste and adjust seasoning and add a bit more broth if needed.

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That’s it.  It’s really that simple.

Lightened Up Bolognese

We love pasta, especially a rich, hearty Bolognese.  This recipe packs all of the flavor and everything you would expect from the traditional recipe.  The good news is the fat is trimmed down significantly since this is made with ground turkey instead of beef and skim milk instead of heavy cream.   I have to admit my favorite part is a good dollop of ricotta cheese on top but grated Parmesan cheese is also delicious.

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Lightened Up Bolognese

makes approx 6 servers

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 Large onion (chopped)
  • 2 Medium carrots (chopped)
  • 2 cloves garlic (chopped)
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1lb ground turkey (99% fat free)
  • 1 cup skim milk
  • 1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 28oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon Himalayan Pink Salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 onion powder
  • 1/2 garlic powder
  • 1/4 crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Ricotta cheese or grated Parmesan cheese for topping (optional)
  • 1lb pound, pasta (hearty variety to stand up to the meat sauce)

Directions

Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a heavy bottom pot. Saute the onion and carrot until tender, about 5-8 minutes.  Season with a generous pinch of salt and pepper. Add the garlic and saute an additional 2 minutes or so. Add the tomato paste, stirring to coat the vegetables, cook for about a minute.

Add the ground turkey to the pot, season with an additional pinch of salt. Use a wooden spoon to gently break up the meat, and cook until the meat has cooked through, stirring occasionally and continuing to break up any large chunks.

Add the milk, and bring it to a gentle simmer, stirring frequently. Cook until the milk has reduced by about half. Stir in the grated nutmeg.

Add the wine and bring it to a steady simmer. Simmer to reduce the liquid slightly.  Add the diced tomato and all of the juice from the can.  Stir thoroughly to incorporate all of the ingredients. Stir in the thyme, oregano, bay leaves, red pepper flakes and additional pinch of salt and pepper.

Reduce the heat to very low so that the sauce is at a very gentle simmer. Cook, uncovered, for about an hour, stirring occasionally. If the sauce gets too dry as it cooks, add 1/2 cup of water or tomato juice to loosen up the sauce a bit.  Be careful not to add to much as Bolognese is meant to be very hearty. Be sure that all of the additional liquid is fully absorbed before serving.

While the sauce is simmering bring a pot of water (salted) to a boil.  Add the pasta and cook according to package directions.

Give the sauce one last taste test and season with additional salt, if needed.

Plate the pasta and top sauce.  Add a dollop of ricotta cheese and grated Parmesan and enjoy.

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TIP: Freeze leftover tomato paste in measured portions for future recipes.

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