Sunday, February 20, 2011

Peanut Butter & Chocolate Cake

This past Saturday was a big birthday for my dad, and I was in charge of dessert.  I wanted it to be something decadent, something that perfectly suited my dad's sweet-tooth.  When we were kids, he would "tax" our Halloween income by taking a few pieces of candy from each of our piles.  Inevitably, we always lost a few Reese's peanut butter cups to this taxation-without-representation.  I guess he was teaching us all about the real world.  At Easter, we kids would always get our baskets filled with peeps, Cadbury Eggs, etc. and he would always get a Sarris Candy Peanut Butter Meltaway Egg all for himself.  All signs pointed to the peanut butter/chocolate combo.

I found a recipe for a Peanut Butter Chocolate Cake that fit the bill perfectly and aligned nicely with my baking skills, or, should I say, lack thereof.  This recipe called for using a devil's food cake mix for the cake layers.  The peanut butter frosting was a simple combination of creamy peanut butter, powdered sugar, whipping cream, unsalted butter, salt and vanilla extract.  I struggled a bit with the frosting application; I guess I can cross Cake Boss off my list of potential future careers.  Ultimately, once the cake and frosting got to the right temperatures, I smoothed things out and crumbled some Reese's peanut butter cup bits on the top of the cake to mask any remaining blemishes.  The result was a rich dessert that satisfied the whole crew.  I definitely recommend checking out this recipe from Creations by Kara.

Also, birthday cake is commonly served with ice cream, but I usually pass because I hate that it makes my cake soggy.  For this birthday cake's ice cream garnish I used Klondike bars, offering a choice between the Original and the 100 Calorie bar.   The chocolate shell on the Klondike bar was just the barrier I needed to keep the ice cream from ruining my cake.  I haven't had a Klondike in forever and had no idea the varieties they now offer.  I suggest considering this option if you have the same cake with ice cream aversion I have.

And to wrap things up...Happy Birthday Dad!! 

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Try, Try Again

With Valentine's Day upon us and both my dad and husband away, my mom and I decided to do dinner earlier this week. We had planned to go out, but ultimately opted for staying in and making a variation on my mom's traditional linguine with white clam sauce, adding mushrooms, onions and asparagus to the mix.  It turned out great and so I decided to use these ingredients and flavors as the basis for my first experiment with no-boil lasagna noodles.

For a while now I have been pondering the use of no-boil noodles for something other than the standard lasagna.  I knew that I would need to include some moist ingredients to cook the noodles, which in a typical no-boil lasagna are doused in marinara sauce, see Mexican Lasagna and Butternut Squash Lasagna.  However, I should have created some sort of sauce to use in lieu of the marinara sauce, something that would stick to the noodles, because although my concoction included moist ingredients such as clams, ricotta cheese, mushrooms and olive oil, they clearly did not do the trick.  From the look of the casserole dish I cooked it in there was plenty of moisture, just not in the right spots.  Anyway, I do not think it's worth it to include my "recipe" for this, at least until I give it another shot and maybe get closer to a desirable outcome (it was edible, but the texture was all wrong).  If you have some creative uses for the no-boil noodle I would love to hear them!  Please post your recipes in the comments or email me, I can give your ideas a try and hopefully post a more useful no-boil noodle solution next time.  You never know unless you try...next time I will just have to try harder!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Restaurant Review: Brgr

Some girl friends and I have a monthly standing date to get together for dinner.  Originally it began out of necessity, my friends just needed to see the progression of my growing belly.  Whatever the excuse, it is great to find the time to catch up and eat some good food.  This month we tried to hit a spot that no one had been before. Brgr (yes, that's short for "burger") is located in East Liberty on Penn Circle South, adjoining its upscale sister restaurant, Spoon.  A quick note about Spoon before I focus on our Brgr experience:  We went there on New Years Ever with some friends.  The food was fantastic, the servers were pleasant and knowledgeable and the atmosphere is warm and high-end without feeling pretentious or stuffy.  I highly recommend it, but would probably save it for a special occasion, as it was relatively expensive.

On to Brgr...

Upon entering, the staff immediately sets the tone for the gourmet burger joint.  The host was incredibly friendly and casual.  Two of us had arrived early and weren't even sure how many people were joining us, but the host was welcoming and did not seem to mind that we didn't have all the answers.  I hate it when you enter a place and you feel immediately uncomfortable, like "where do I go, what do I do", as though you'll be thrown out if you aren't concise...maybe I've watched the "Soup Nazi" episode of Seinfeld too many times.  Anyway, we sat the bar and had a drink while we waited for the rest of our party to show up.  The bartender, also very friendly, explained the menu to us.  This menu included some amazing sounding burger options, spiked shakes and a promising selection of draft and bottled beers.  

Once the rest of the girls had arrived we moved to a table.  Again, great staff, our waiter was charismatic and easy-going...at the end of the meal I almost asked him if he wanted to be my friend.  For dinner, I had the Salmon Burger, done medium-well (no raw fish for me these days).  I am usually a medium-girl, so I was a little worried it might be too done for my taste.  However, it was perfect, complemented well by the fresh relish, smoked bacon and caper aioli that topped it.  We got some side orders for the table, a basket of fries with their homemade truffle cheese-whiz dipping sauce and some onion rings.  The dipping sauce was great (don't worry there is no Cheez Whiz involved in the making of this delicious accompaniment), although the fries were a little cold.  Had they been warmer it would've satisfied my expectations.  And although there was nothing special about them, the onion rings were very good.  All in all, I recommend this place for its food, ambiance and character...go there for an affordable and relaxing experience.

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