A couple of weeks ago it was my birthday, and as per a new tradition I have started, I made my own cake.  I do this because I get to customize the dessert, test recipes on my family, and avoid the store bought cakes, which frequently have trans fat and processed flour in them.  Usually I go with a Boston Creme pie, but this year I decided to do a peanut butter chocolate cake.  I stumbled on this recipe from smitten kitchen and after looking at the pictures was sold.

Since my mother and I theorize that processed flour is the cause of many of our food woes, I decided to substitute sprouted flour 1 : 1 in this recipe as an experiment.  Sprouted wheat flour is heavier, thicker, and more glutinous than its all purpose counterpart, so I was unsure of how things were going to turn out.  After about half a day of baking, frosting, glazing and chilling, I was left with this:

Not only did it look great, but my whole house smelled like chocolate and peanut butter for a few days afterward.  I was still a bit concerned, as the cake ended up weighing a ton!  However, it ended up being a smash hit at my family party, with people saying it was my best dessert yet.  Though the cake turned out heavier and denser, it was still delicious, albeit not traditionally light and fluffy.  As a bonus, it took a longer amount of time to eat each piece, which made accidental pigging out very difficult.  This cake is very rich, but totally worth it!

This post is a bit late, but I want to share my Thanksgiving 2011 contributions.  This year I decided to venture into the world of cheesecakes.  I went to 2 holiday dinners – for the first I made this pumpkin toffee cheesecake.  I omitted the caramel topping, and it still turned out delicious and amazing.  The only issue I had was that the crust stuck to the bottom of the pan.  Here it is in all of its glory:

 

For the second dinner I made this chocolate peanut butter cheesecake.  It also turned out fantastic (and came right off the pan!).  Here it is:

 

Needless to say, Thanksgiving ended with a full stomach…one that, to my dismay, ended up being much smaller than my eyes.

During the following Black Friday sale, I made many kitchen purchases, including getting a great deal on a stand mixer (which I have wanted for a long time).  I bought the KitchenAid KP26M1PSL Professional 600 Series 6-Quart Stand Mixer, Silver.  I have already had a chance to set it up and test it, and so far, it works like a dream.  It makes dozens of cookies very quickly, and best of all (again, so far) takes all of the work out of making bread by using the included dough hook.  I couldn’t have been happier with this purchase.  Here it is on my counter, constantly reminding me that it’s ready to take one new challenges.


A few months ago I went to Oregano’s and had their Oregano’s Favorite Salad.  It has a bunch of delicious ingredients, but one really caught my attention…the sun dried tomatoes.  They were bursting with flavor!

Fast forward to the summer and my grandpa has an abundance of tomatoes from his garden.  I thought this would be the perfect opportunity for me to try making my own sun dried tomatoes.

I read about the process online, and found out you can literally leave them out in the sun to dry.  In the Phoenix heat, I figured this probably wouldn’t take long…but I decided I wanted more control over the process, so I found an oven-dried tomato recipe here.  The recipe called for Roma tomatoes, but I figured I would try it with the on the vine variety that I got for free.

I started by cutting the tomatoes in half and brushing them with the oil/salt/sugar mixture.

 

The four halves on the bottom came from the garden, and the ones on the top were store bought (I wanted to try both varieties).

Into the oven they went!  Here they are after about 4 hours.

After about 6 hours they looked like this.

I decided that they needed more time, so I stuck them back in the oven.  After 8 hours, this was the result.

I tried one right after cooking – they were packed with flavor!  I decided to take some and make a sun dried tomato vinaigrette, with a recipe I found here.  The vinaigrette turned out great too!

A few weeks ago a friend expressed her love for chocolate covered strawberries.  That got me thinking – it would probably be much cheaper to make them at home, and they had the potential to be much tastier since I would use fresh strawberries from the grocery store.  That was all the fuel I needed to try this out for myself!

Chocolate Chips Starting to Melt

I had experience making truffles in the past, so I applied the same chocolate covering technique I used then.  My preferred method is to take about two cups of chocolate chips (I use the all natural Toll House chips) and put them in a saucepan on the stove over low heat.  From what I have read, the trick to melting chocolate is to do so very slowly – you want it to melt and stay at a good consistency, but not burn.  In my pictures you can see I am using a nonstick saucepan, but I have since switched to stainless steel after reading that the nonstick coating can be dangerous.

Once the chocolate chips had melted down, it was time to dip!  Hold the strawberries by the stem and at an angle, and roll them around in the chocolate.  Then put them on a metal sheet lined with wax paper.

After the strawberries have been dipped, put them in the refrigerator to set.  I left them in there for about an hour, but I think you really only need to keep them there for 10-20 minutes.

Cleanup can be kind of tricky with this, so I would recommend washing all of the chocolate off of everything before it solidifies.

These turned out pretty amazing.  I estimate it cost around $6 to make about 20 of these, and I even used organic strawberries!

 

Recipe

Ingredients:
1 Package Strawberries
2 Cups Chocolate Chips (you may need more or less depending on how big your package of strawberries is)

Melt the chocolate chips over low heat until they reach a liquid consistency, stirring every few minutes.  Hold strawberries by the stem and roll them in the chocolate until covered.  Place them on a metal sheet lined with wax paper.  Transfer the strawberries to the refrigerator and let them set for about half an hour or until the chocolate has hardened.

About Me
Hello! My name is Shawn and I am a full time computer programmer. In my spare time I love to cook. I mostly eat very healthy, and try to use organic and all natural products whenever I can. I also have a huge sweet tooth and like making dessert too. I'll be posting about food I make, kitchen items, and cuisine I see when I travel. Enjoy!
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