Ferrero Rocher Cake

It was K’s 29th birthday a few Sundays ago, and we celebrated the big day together with a platter full of southern BBQ, a siphon coffee tasting and this epic cake.

My originally idea for K’s birthday cake was leaning more towards dark chocolate cupcakes, topped off with a Nutella-like icing, but that plan was quickly thrown out the window as I landed upon Marina‘s photo of her Ferrero Rocher cake.

This cake has K’s name written all over it. 2 Hazelnut cake layers, iced with Nutella and pure chocolate and topped off with crushed wafers? This is K’s dream cake, and what better time to make it for him than on his birthday?

What surprised me the most about this cake is that it was actually a fairly simple cake to bake and build, especially if you bake the cake layers the night before, then make the icing and asemble the cake on the actual day of when you want to serve it. It also does not call for too many ingredients and it’s almost gluten-free (only 3 TBsp flour, and you can leave out the wafers), as ground hazelnuts replaced a huge portion of the flour.

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Cake Layers

7 large eggs, room temperature
1/2 cups sugar
2 cups finely ground hazelnuts*
3 TBsp all purpose flour
3 TBsp cocoa powder
3 tsp baking powder

Icing

300 grams unsalted butter, room temperature
2 1/4 cups chopped chocolate (I used a mix of dark & semi-sweet)
1/2 cup Nutella
1/2-1 cup wafers, crushed

Decorating

8 Ferrero Rocher Candies
3/4 cups wafers, crushed

  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line the bottoms of two 8 inch round cake pans with parchment paper and grease the side walls.
  2. Sift flour, cocoa & baking powder. Stir in ground hazelnuts.
  3. In a stand mixer or using a hand mixer, whisk the eggs with sugar until they are three times in volume, light and fluffy.
  4. Using spatula, gently fold the dry ingredients into the eggs, in three additions.
  5. Divide the batter evenly between the 2 cake pans and bake until a toothpick inserted into the cake’s center comes out clean. About 20-25 mins.
  6. To make the icing, melt the chocolate in a double boiler and let it cool to room temperature
  7. Whip chocolate, butter & Nutella until thoroughly combined and a delicious icing is formed
  8. To assemble the cake, make sure the cake has cooled, then evenly spread a healthy dollop of icing on the 1st cake layer and sprinkle with crashed wafers.
  9. Place the other cake layer on top and use the rest of the icing (saving maybe 1/2 cup) to ice the sides and top of the entire cake.
  10. Press the remaining crushed wafers onto the sides of the cake, then with the remaining 1/2 cup of icing, pipe 8 circular mounts or stars on the cake.
  11. Place 1 Ferrero Rocher candy on top of each piped star and serve immediately
  12. This cakes will keep in the fridge, but the hazelnut cake layers do tends to dry out a little faster than a regular cake, so I would recommend finishing it within 24 hours. The icing will also harden in the fridge, so always bring the cake back to room temperature before serving so that the icing can soften a little bit.

*You can buy ground hazelnuts directly on from grocery stores, or you can ground the Hazelnut yourself using a high speed blender or food processor. It’s definitely an extra step, but in my opinion, freshly ground nuts are so much better than the pre-packaged ones.

**I actually had a lot of icing leftover after the cake was assembled, so you prefer a light icing on your cake, you can probably cut the icing recipe in half. Alternatively, you can place the leftover icing in mini mason jars and give it away to your friends and neighbors as a elevated version of Nutella spread. They will love you for it.

Recipe found on Let the Baking Begin Blog. Original Recipe from Lubię Gotować

Mini Italian Meatballs

The one problem with a physical injury to your lower body is that you have to limit your standing and walking time, which means that we need to think of ways to significantly cut down our cooking time.

Unwilling to sacrifice eating good wholesome food, K and I have started using our weekends to batch-make dishes that will last us through the upcoming week. Over the last 3 months, we have made giant pots of soup, hundreds of wontons and dumplings, and dozens of these mini Italian meatballs.

After they are frozen and properly stored, we can then turn them into pasta & meatballs or meatball marinara baked eggs (pictured below), or simple meatball sandwiches whenever we please. This recipe is adapted from Anne Burrell of The Food Network (we added stock, kale, and took out the veal), and we think it’s a winner.

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Extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, smashed and chopped
1/2 cup lacinato kale, cut into long, thin strips
Pinch crushed red pepper
1/2 pound ground beef, preferably grass fed & non-medicated
1/2 pound ground pork, also preferably medication/hormone free
2 large organic, free range eggs
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano
1/8-1/4 cup finely chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
1 cup breadcrumbs, white or 60% whole wheat
A big splash of beef stock

  1. Coat a saute pan with olive oil, add the onions and bring to a medium-high heat. Season the onions generously with salt and cook for about 5 to 7 minutes until soft and transparent.
  2. Add the garlic, kale and the crushed red pepper and saute for another 2 to 3 minutes. Turn off heat and allow to cool.
  3. In a large bowl combine the meats, eggs, Parmigiano, parsley and bread crumbs.
  4. Add the onion/kale mixture and season generously with salt and mix some more.
  5. Add the beef stock and do 1 final mix. By this point, I’ve usually started using my hands to get everything evenly distributed.The mixture should be quite wet.
  6. If you like, you can test the seasoning of the mix by making a mini hamburger size patty and cooking it.
  7. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  8. Using a medium ice cream scoop or a tablespoon, scoop the meat mixture into your hands and form into meatballs.
  9. Coat a large saute pan with olive oil and bring to a medium-high heat. Brown the meatballs on all sides.
  10. Place them on a cookie sheet and bake them in the preheated oven for about 15-20 minutes or until the meatballs are cooked all the way through.
  11. Serve them immediately with homemade tomato sauce on pasta, or let them cool on the baking sheet, then pop the sheet into the freezer until frozen, and store in ziplock bags.

Grilled Chicken Tacos

I miss summer.

I miss the long days and that soft 6pm light. I miss the warm breeze and the blue skies. I miss bountiful farmers markets filled with fresh peaches and cherries. I miss watching K standing by the grill, making these delicious chicken tacos while I sit on the balcony, pouring cold drinks into our ‘fancy’ mason jars.

The recipe today is my ode to summer. It doesn’t call for too many ingredients, but its bold flavor makes you weak in the knees. These tacos can be whipped up in under an hour, and as long as you use whatever produce is in season for the topping, it will be nothing short of amazing. Oh, I almost forgot to mention, it’s best paired with a tall glass of Mango-Peach Sangria.

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5 boneless, organic chicken thighs*
2 TBsp kosher Salt
1 1/2 TBsp light brown sugar
1 TBsp paprika
1/2 TBsp cayenne pepper
1 cup organic kohlrabi, thinly sliced
1 cup organic tomatoes. diced
1 ripe avocado, diced
5-7  tortillas, 6 inches diameter
Lime wedges and hot sauce to garnish

  1. Combine kosher salt, brown sugar, paprika, and cayenne pepper in a small bowl or resealable container, mix well to create a spice rub
  2. Use ~1/2 to 1 TBsp of the spice rub per chicken thigh, generously rub the spices onto the chicken. Let the meat rest and marinade for 20 minutes, up to 45 minutes.
  3. Preheat grill to medium heat while you chop and prepare the vegetables
  4. Grill the chicken until cooked through. If using skin-on thighs, then place the chicken skin-side down in the grill first
  5. When the chicken is 3/4  to finishing, brush a tiny amount of oil onto the tortillas and place them on the grill to warm them up
  6. Once the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165F, remove them from the grill and allow it to rest for at least 5 minutes, covered with aluminum foil
  7. Assemble the taco with tortilla, chicken, sliced kohlrabi, tomatoes, avocados. Top off with a squeeze of fresh lime and hot sauce. Serve immediately.

* The chicken thighs can be skinless or with skin, totally up to you. Skin-on chicken tend to be a little harder to grill than skinless, but also a lot juicier.

Chicken Spice Rub from Alison Roman via Bon Appetite.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

The weather has been pretty wet and gloomy over the last few week.

With K and I both still on crutches and not able to leave the house much, the best thing for us to do on a rainy day is to whip up a batch of warm, gooey cookies from scratch.

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There’s something so comforting about the smell of cookies baking in the oven, especially when it’s coupled with the sound of raindrops falling outside. I especially love testing out different cookie dough mixtures during rainy days, it’s very therapeutic for me to cream the butter, mix in the eggs and fold in the chocolate.  The cookies that I’m sharing with you today are some of the tastiest and best looking ones that I’ve baked this year, so far.

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A solid recipe from Joy the Baker, I only adjusted a few very minor things to better suit our tastes. You can easily just go by the original recipe and you’ll end up with a batch of phenomenal cookies. However, if you like your treats a tad less sweet, then feel free to give my very slightly adapted recipe a quick try.

2  1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
A pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup smooth peanut butter*
1 packed cup light brown sugar
½ cup, plus 1 TBsp granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/3 cup granulated sugar for rolling cookies
A few sprinkles of sea salt

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F
  2. Move the oven racks to divide the oven into thirds and line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats. Alternatively, if you are only using 1 large baking sheet, move the oven rack that you plan to use to the center of the oven.
  3. Whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and nutmeg.
  4. Working with a stand mixer that’s fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter on medium speed until smooth and creamy. Add the peanut butter and beat for another minute.
  5. Add both the brown and granulated sugar and beat for 3 minutes more.
  6. Add the eggs one at a time, beating for 1 minute after each addition. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl and, on low speed, add the dry ingredients, mixing only until everything is incorporated.
  7. Fold in the chocolate chips to complete the cookie dough
  8. Pour the 1/3 cup sugar that you had set aside for rolling the cookies into a small bowl. Working with a tablespoonful of dough for each cookie, roll the dough between your palms to form balls and place them on the baking sheet, leaving 2″ spaces them. **
  9. Dip the tines of a fork in the sugar and press the tines against each ball first in one direction and then, dip the fork again, and press the cookie ball in a perpendicular direction- you should have a flattened dough ball with crisscross indentations. A great photo showing this step can be found here, by Nourish, Preserve & Flourish, who made a GF Vegan version of this cookie)
  10. Bake the cookies for 12 minutes, rotating the 2 baking sheets from top to bottom and from front to back at the 6 minute mark. If you are only using 1 baking sheet, then simply rotate the pan 180 degrees at the midway mark.
  11. When done, the cookies will be lightly coloured and a little soft. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for a minute before transferring them to a cooling rack.
  12. While the cookies are still warm, sprinkle a few flakes of sea salt onto each cookie
  13. Repeat with the remaining dough, making sure to cool the baking sheets between batches.

*Joy’s recipe says that crunchy peanut butter also works. I did not personally test it out in my kitchen so have left it out here. If you try it, I would love to know how it turns out! I suspect that it will be even more delicious!

** You may have noticed that in Joy’s recipe, she rolled the dough balls in the granulated sugar before placing it onto the baking sheet. I took out that step here because I wanted to avoid the extra sweetness from the rolled-on sugar.  By dipping my fork into the sugar every time before using them to press the cookies, I found that it was enough to keep the cookies from sticking to the fork and they flatten to the desired shape.

Kale, Apple & Mango Green Smoothie

Mornings have always been tough for me. I am a natural night-owl, or at least that’s what my body tells me. By the time 11pm rolls around, I am either bouncing around the living room singing loudly off-key to a Mariah Carey classic or dancing aggressively to the latest top-40 list on Songza. 11pm is when I am my best (crazy) self.

Mornings, however, are unfortunately a whole different story. By 8am, I would’ve pressed my snooze button at least 7 times, and moving at the pace of a giant sleepy manatee, I would roll out of bed – grumpy, confused and very hangry.

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This green smoothie is like a magic potion that reverts me from grouchy sea cow back to human form. It is my favourite green drink to make in the Vitamix and it also gives me a nutritious start to my day.

This smoothie does not call for a strict set of ingredients, you can adjust according to what greens you have in your fridge and to your taste. Kale can easily be swapped with spinach, and pineapple would be a great fruit alternative to mangos. If you are looking for an extra boost of protein and Omega-3, then add a tablespoon or two of hemp or chia seeds to the recipe. I sometimes pop in a few small slices of ginger to fire up my immune system during the flu season.

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1 handful of organic lacinato kale
1 fresh ripe mango or 1 heaping cup frozen mango
1 organic granny smith apple, cored but unpeeled
1/2 frozen banana
2-3 ice cubes
*1/2 cup orange juice, or coconut water, or water

  1. Pop the kale and juice/water into a high-speed blender. Blend on high until everything is liquified and turns into a smooth green paste
  2. Add the rest of the ingredients and blend on high until smooth; serve immediately
  3. If you made more smoothie than you can drink all at once, pour the rest into popsicle molds. Freeze them for a healthy, refreshing afternoon snack

*Feel free to add more liquid for a runnier smoothie

Apple Cinnamon & Peanut-Butter Steel Cut Oats

It’s been a while since I’ve been here. 1 year and 2 months to be exact.

Where did the time go? Blogging almost feels foreign to me now, but I’m willing to give it another go, if you’re still willing to read 🙂

Life has been busy, in a great way. K and I got married 5 months ago in the mountains, underneath these stunning cottonwood tress, and we spent the entire weekend there celebrating with our closest family and friends. It was incredible and we now have memories to last us a lifetime together.

AK Wedding

Married life has been nothing short of amazing, with the exception that both K and I injured ourselves. I tore a tendon on my foot while running/falling down a set of stairs, and he broke his right knee while playing basketball. The both of us have been in casts of various sorts over the past few months, and we have creatively mastered the art of walking with crutches and standing on one leg.

This was not the way we had intended on starting our marriage together, but over the last few months, I think we’ve learned more about our relationship than all of the 4 years prior. I saw first-hand that K handles these set-backs in life with incredible courage and positivity, and that despite all this, he continues to be an amazing partner to me – forever supportive & understanding.

Our dearest friends, the people who stood beside us as we became Husband & Wife 5 months ago also have proven to be the best friends anyone could ever ask for. Our endless requests of grocery deliveries, food orders and rides to the hospital have never yet been refused, and many have offered to cook & clean for us to help us stay off of our feet as much as possible. If ever I am feeling down due to my (temporary) lack of mobility, all I need to do is to look back on my chains and chains of supportive messages from our friends over the last few weeks, and I am quickly reminded of how lucky we really are.

Aside from learning how to take care of each other while on 1 leg each, we’ve also started cooking a lot more homemade meals. A busy 2013 (moving to a new home, wedding planning, new business) had us eating out most of the time. With the both of us staying at home for the majority of this year, we are determined to cook most of our meals from scratch.

To kick-off the ‘relaunch’ of this blog, I think an easy recipe of a hearty breakfast item is in order. Steel cut oats have become one of my favourite things to cook and eat. They also keep well both in the fridge and in the freezer. You can make them in the morning if you’re an early bird, or you can throw some into a slow-cooker the night before for a quick meal the next day.

Apple Cinnamon PB SteelCut Oats

The recipe I have here is one for stove-top cooking. It has been slightly adapted from The Gouda Life as I added a little peanut butter flair into my pot of oats. A recipe for slow-cooked oats will come as soon as I make my next batch.

1 cup steel cut oats
2 cups water
1 1/2 cups  2% milk, organic if possible
1  Gala apple, peeled and cut into 1/2” dice
1/2 tsp  ground cinnamon
1/8 to 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/8 to 1/4 tsp ground cardamom
1 heaping TBsp peanut butter
4 TBsp brown sugar, or more to taste
Toasted almond slivers, apple slices (unpeeled) or banana slices for garnish

  1. Combine water and milk in a pot and bring it to a boil
  2. Pour in oats. Once the mixture begins bubbling again, turn down the heat and reduce it to a simmer
  3. Add apples, cinnamon, nutmeg and cardamon into the pot and continue cooking for 20-25 minutes until the oats are tender and cooked through, stirring regularly
  4. Remove from heat and stir in the peanut butter and brown sugar until desired sweetness is reached
  5. Serve oats immediately, topped with toasted almonds, apples and/or banana slices

Chinese Fried Rice with Zucchini, Shiitake & Spam

Alright. Stop with the judging already. I know, I used Spam. Get over it.

I.Love.Spam.

There. I said it. It’s out there.

I hope you will still love me…

In case you’re wondering…

No, I do not love Spam more than bacon. Bacon is in a league of its own and nothing, except for maybe Hickory Sticks in giant Costco-sized bags will come close.

But I digress…

If it makes you feel any better, the fried rice also had plenty of zucchini and Shiitake mushrooms to balance out the non-nutritious, but heavenly tasting spiced ham. They will help unclog your arteries after the Spam attack.

There are a few rules/tricks in making the perfect fried rice. I have personally never been successful with making fried rice until earlier this month, because… well, I don’t like rules. I like to break rules. Often times, a few broken rules can lead to spectacular results. But this is not the case for fried rice, unless you enjoy clumpy, soggy rice with uncooked veggie chucks that taste like vomit… then, I really can’t help you.

Here are the rules:

  • Use high heat. Allow your wok to heat up as the oil should be nice and hot so that your ingredients will fry up quickly.
  • Use leftover (1 day old) rice. Leftover rice tend to be more dry, with each grain separated. Chilling rice in the fridge also dries out the rice.
  • Fry the eggs first in the wok, removed it from the pan, then fry the rice. Or…if you are lazy like me, you can fry the eggs first, and when it’s about halfway done, add in the rice and stir it up.

Here’s what you’ll need:

1/2 medium yellow onion, diced
1 small stalk of green onion, diced
1 medium zucchini, quartered then diced
6 Shiitake mushrooms
1 Cup Spam, cubed
3 eggs, beaten in a small bowl
4-5 Cups leftover rice
A few spoonfuls of canola oil
1 TBsp light soy sauce
Salt & pepper, to taste

  1. Heat a wok or large saute pan on high heat and drizzle in 1 big tablespoon of canola oil.
  2. When the pan is nice and hot, throw in the onions (both yellow and green) and saute quickly until the onions begin the soften.
  3. Add in the mushrooms and zucchini. Once the zucchini is soft and cooked through, remove everything from the wok and set it aside.
  4. With the oil that remains in the wok, turn the heat to medium high, add in the cubed Spam and saute until some of the edges are golden brown and the meat is cooked through. Remove the Spam from the wok and set aside.
  5. Add 1-2 more tablespoons of canola oil into the wok, let it heat up and pour in the whisked eggs. Stir the eggs quickly to scramble them and when they are about halfway done, throw in the leftover rice and stir well. Spread the rice all around the wok and to allow the rice to ‘fry’, toss it occasionally.
  6. When the rice is evenly heated through, add in the veggies. Toss the rice, add in soy sauce, salt & pepper and mix it into the rice. Don’t add in too much salt as the Spam that you’re about to add is already salty.
  7. Finally, add in the Spam, taste the rice and adjust the seasoning if needed.
  8. Once everything is heated through and you’re satisfied with your seasoning, your rice is done!