AUNT SHARON’S CHOCOLATE BUTTERMILK CAKE, OR IS IT?

I’ve always called this Aunt Sharon’s Chocolate Buttermilk cake because I got the recipe from her when I was a teenager, but I have been making it from scratch with my own flourish (specialty quality ingredients as in the homemade rum vanilla, cocoa and cinnamon) for more years than I care to admit, so is it hers or is it mine now? I have tried other recipes over the years, always looking for that new PERFECT recipe, but ALWAYS come back to this one because it just works EVERY time!

CHOCOLATE BUTTERMILK CAKE

CAKE
2 cups KING ARTHUR all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup QUALITY buttermilk
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon PURE vanilla extract
2 LARGE eggs
2 sticks butter, room temperature
4 heaping tablespoons QUALITY cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon QUALITY cinnamon
1 cup boiling water

  • Preheat the oven to 350°.
  • If you are going to cut and layer this cake prepare the jelly roll pan with parchment paper and non-stick cooking spray, otherwise leave it un-greased.
  • In a large bowl, sift together the flour, sugar and salt. Set aside.
  • In another bowl, stir together the buttermilk, baking soda, vanilla and eggs. Set aside.
  • In a medium saucepan, melt the butter and add the cocoa.
  • Whisk together to combine.
  • Pour the boiling water in the pan and allow it to bubble a bit, then turn off the heat.
  • Pour the chocolate mixture into the flour mixture stirring together for a minute to cool the chocolate.
  • Pour in the egg mixture, stirring together until smooth, then pour into a jelly roll pan (rimmed baking sheet) and bake for 20 minutes.

CHOCOLATE FROSTING for sheet cake
1 3/4 sticks butter
4 heaping tablespoons cocoa powder
4 heaping tablespoons cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon QUALITY cinnamon
6 tablespoons WHOLE milk
1 teaspoon PURE vanilla extract
3 1/2 cups (1 pound bag) powdered sugar

  • Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat.
  • Add the cocoa powder and stir until smooth.
  • Add the milk, vanilla and powdered sugar, stirring together.
  • Immediately after removing the cake from the oven, pour the warm icing over the top. You’ll want to avoid doing much spreading, so try to distribute it evenly as you pour.

CHOCOLATE BUTTERCREAM for layer cake
1 pound butter, softened
7 cups (2-1 pound bags) powdered sugar
4 heaping tablespoons QUALITY cocoa powder
4 heaping tablespoons cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon QUALITY cinnamon
1 teaspoon PURE vanilla extract
1 tablespoon WHOLE milk

  • Cream butter.
  • Sift together the cocoa, cinnamon and powdered sugar into the creamed butter and blend well.
  • Add vanilla, blending well. If too stiff add 1 tablespoon WHOLE milk to thin.

TUSCAN CHICKEN TOMATO SOUP

TUSCAN CHICKEN TOMATO SOUP serves 6

8 thick slices sourdough bread
2 tablespoons avocado oil, plus more for toasting bread 
Salad Supreme garlic bread sprinkle
2 tablespoons salted butter OR 2 seasoned butter cubes (see notes)
3 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, diced OR 2 cups diced rotisserie chicken pieces 
1 LARGE shallot, diced 
2-3 cloves garlic, minced 
2 tablespoons QUALITY tomato paste  (I use Classico sun dried tomato pesto)
14-ounce can QUALITY diced tomatoes 
14-ounce can QUALITY tomato puree 
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth 
One 15-ounce can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 to 2 tablespoons honey 
2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano, plus whole sprigs, for garnish 
FRESH ground sea salt and black pepper 
One SMALL 6.52-ounce jar marinated artichoke hearts, drained 
Mini QUALITY Mozzarella balls 

  • Preheat the oven to 425°.
  • Lightly coat the bread with oil on both sides and place on a baking sheet. Bake until toasted and browned, about 10 minutes.
  • Heat the butter and oil in a soup pot over a medium-high heat. When the butter has melted and the oil is hot, add the chicken (if you’re using the raw thighs otherwise rotisserie chicken pieces are added later), onion and garlic and cook until the onion starts to brown and the chicken is almost cooked through, about 5 minutes.
  • Add the tomato paste and stir until everything is well coated.
  • Add the canned tomatoes, tomato puree, chicken broth, beans, honey and oregano.
  • Add in rotisserie chicken pieces, if using.
  • Season to taste with FRESH ground sea salt and black pepper, stirring well and bringing to a simmer for 10 minutes or so until flavors are well blended.
  • Add the marinated artichoke hearts to the soup and stir to combine.
  • Tear the toasted bread into large chunks and place in the bottom of soup bowls OR use grilled cheese croutons for an extra yummy plus.
  • Ladle the soup over the bread.
  • Top each bowl with several mini Mozzarella cheese balls, chopped oregano and a drizzle of balsamic glaze.

NOTES: When I buy FRESH herbs (thyme, tarragon, oregano, basil…), I chop them up and make butter cubes in my lidded silicone trays to freeze and have on hand for recipes just like this. It adds another layer of flavor.

PAPRIKA CHICKEN IN LEMON SAUCE with PISTACHIO RICE for 2

PAPRIKA CHICKEN IN LEMON SAUCE with PISTACHIO RICE for 2

2 tablespoons FRESH chopped Thyme
½ cup Basmati Rice
1 teaspoon paprika
2 tablespoon sour cream
2 large green onions, thinly sliced, whites and greens separated
1 LARGE lemon, juiced
3/4 pound chicken steaks
1/4 cup chicken stock
1/4 cup crushed Pistachios
2 teaspoon avocado oil
2 tablespoon butter
FRESH ground sea salt and black pepper

  • Adjust rack to top position and preheat oven to 425°.
  • Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a small pot over medium-high heat.
  • Add scallion whites; cook, stirring occasionally, until just softened, 1 minute.
  • Stir in rice, ¾ cup water, and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce to a low simmer. Cook until rice is tender, 15-18 minutes. Remove from heat and keep covered until ready to serve.

 

  • While rice cooks, pat chicken dry and season all over with paprika, salt, and pepper.
  • Heat a drizzle of avocado oil in a large pan over medium-high heat.
  • Add chicken and cook until browned and cooked through, 3-5 min per side.
  • Transfer to a plate.
  • Wipe out pan. If you forget to do this or choose not to, your sauce will take on a red hue 😀
  • Melt 1 tablespoon butter in the same pan over medium heat.
  • Add chopped thyme; cook until fragrant, 30 seconds.
  • Stir in stock and bring to a simmer, then immediately turn off heat.
  • Stir in sour cream and lemon juice.
  • Season to taste with FRESH ground sea salt and black pepper.
  • Fluff rice with a fork; stir in lemon zest and pistachios.
  • Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Divide rice and chicken between plates.
  • Top chicken with sauce and sprinkle with scallion greens.

FRENCH ONION MANICOTTI

This is the French onion soup you eat with a fork! Caramelizing the onions takes the longest, but is the savoriest part of this meal! Don’t try to rush this process or you’ll ruin that cheesy goodness that will give you your comfy, cozy meal for a cold winter’s night!

FRENCH ONION MANICOTTI serves 4-6 depending on appetite
4 sweet Vidalia onions, thinly sliced
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
FRESH ground sea salt and black pepper
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon FRESH chopped thyme
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
1 box manicotti shells
2 cups ricotta cheese
1 large egg
1 cup grated Gruyere cheese
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for topping
1 tablespoon WONDRA flour
1 ½ cups chicken stock
⅓ cup heavy cream
1 cup grated Mozzarella cheese, for topping
1 tablespoon butter
1/3 cup seasoned breadcrumbs, for topping
FRESH parsley or thyme for topping

  • Melt butter in a large cast iron (or oven safe) skillet over medium heat.
  • Add onions.
  • Sprinkle with FRESH ground sea salt, black pepper, sugar and thyme. Cook, stirring often, for 30 minutes until the onions caramelize, BUT watch them closely so they don’t burn! Turn down the heat as necessary.
  • Once caramelized, add garlic, sauteing 30 seconds more. Turn off the heat, but leave them in the pan.

  • While the onions are cooking, bring a pot of salted water to a boil and cook the manicotti shells 6 minutes to al dente’. Drain and carefully place them on a piece of foil coated in non stick spray to cool.

  • Preheat the oven to 400°.

  • In a large mixing bowl, stir together the ricotta cheese, egg, Gruyere cheese, Parmesan cheese and a pinch of salt, pepper and dried thyme.
  • Add half of the caramelized onions from the pan and stir them into the ricotta mixture to create your filling.
  • Fill each shell with the filling, stuffing it full but not overflowing.

  • Turn the heat to medium-low under the remaining onions in the pan.
  • Stir in the flour and cook for 1 to 2 minutes.
  • Slowly stream in the stock while stirring, cooking for 2 to 3 minutes while the mixture thickens a bit. Stir in the cream.
  • Turn off the heat and place the shells in the french onion sauce.
  • Melt the butter and whisk in the breadcrumbs with a fork until evenly coated.
  • Top with the Mozzarella cheese followed by the breadcrumbs mixture.
  • Bake for 20-25 minutes, until golden and bubbly.
  • Serve immediately with a Parmesan and fresh herb garnish.

CRISPY CHEDDAR CHICKEN with LOADED BACON MASHED POTATOES

CRISPY CHEDDAR CHICKEN with LOADED BACON MASHED POTATOES

Golden cheesy crispy chicken is ALWAYS a recipe for success. When you add melted cheddar and BOLD spices along with a CHEESY stuffed mashed potatoes you have WINNER, WINNER, CHICKEN DINNER.

CHICKEN
3/4 pound thin chicken steaks
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1/3 cup FINELY shredded cheddar cheese
¼ cup Panko breadcrumbs
1 tablespoon QUALITY season salt
scant 2 tablespoons butter
FRESH ground sea salt and black pepper

  • Adjust rack to top position.
  • Preheat oven to 425°.
  • Lightly oil a baking sheet.
  • Pat chicken dry and season with FRESH ground black pepper.
  • Place on prepared baking sheet.
  • Evenly spread a thin layer of mayonnaise onto tops of chicken.
  • Melt butter in a medium microwave safe bowl.
  • Stir together the melted butter, Panko breadcrumbs, seasoning salt, and cheddar cheese.
  • Divide the Panko mixture evenly between the chicken steaks, pressing to adhere.
  • Roast on top rack until chicken is cooked through, 15-20 minutes. TIP: For a deep golden crust, broil chicken for the last 2-3 minutes.

POTATOES
3/4 pounds Yukon gold potatoes, diced into ½-inch pieces.
1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
4 slices bacon, cooked crisp
2 tablespoons sour cream
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 cup heavy cream
FRESH ground sea salt and black pepper
2 tablespoons minced chives

  • Place potatoes in a large pot with enough salted water to cover by 2 inches.
  • Bring to a boil and cook until tender, 15-20 minutes.
  • Drain and return potatoes to pot.
  • Add sour cream, 1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese, and 1 tablespoon butter.
  • Mash until smooth and creamy, adding heavy cream as needed.
  • Stir in half the bacon and half the chives.
  • Season to taste with FRESH ground sea salt and black pepper.

ASSEMBLY

  • Divide chicken and potatoes between plates.
  • Top potatoes with remaining bacon and remaining chives.
  • Serve immediately.

WHITE BEAN, CHICKEN & SAUSAGE STEW/SOUP

WHITE BEAN, CHICKEN & SAUSAGE STEW
1 Johnsonville beef sausage, cut into 1/4-1/2 inch slices
1-2 large chicken breasts, cut into bite size chunks **(see notes)
2 + 1 tablespoons avocado oil
FRESH ground sea salt and black pepper
1 onion, chopped or 1 bunch green onions, sliced thin
2 medium carrots, peeled, halved and sliced into half moons
2 stalks celery, thinly sliced
1/4 cup chopped FRESH parsley
1 tablespoon chopped FRESH thyme
1 can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 can white Cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
3-4 cups chicken broth **(see notes)
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon Garlic salt
1 baguette, cut or torn into bite sized pieces
Parmesan cheese, garnish

  • Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in large skillet over medium heat.
  • Add sausage pieces and cook 4-5 minutes until browned. Remove from pan to drain off excess grease.
  • Season chicken pieces with FRESH ground sea salt and black pepper.
  • Add to pan and sear 3-4 minutes until cooked through. Remove chicken pieces and add to sausage to drain.
  • Add remaining oil to pan along with the onions, carrots and celery mirepoix to saute 3-4 minutes.
  • Add tomatoes with their juice, rinsed beans and chicken stock, stirring to blend.
  • Bring to a SLOW boil, turn down heat and simmer 10-15 minutes more.
  • Return meats to pan along with Parsley and Thyme, stirring to blend and coat meat pieces with sauce.
  • While stew is simmering, make the croutons.
  • Preheat broiler.
  • Melt butter and whisk in garlic salt.
  • Toss croutons to coat in butter mixture.
  • Transfer bread pieces to sheet pan. Broil until golden, about 2 minutes, but watch closely to prevent burning.
  • Serve with croutons and Parmesan sprinkle.

NOTES:

  • If you prefer a soup to a stew, use the 4 cups of chicken stock.  Otherwise use 3 +/- cups to your desired consistency.
  • Often I substitute turkey breast or even rotisserie chicken pieces. If you use rotisserie chicken pieces, wait to add them until you are adding the sausage back in.

SWEET & SMOKEY PORK TENDERLOIN with CHERRY SAUCE and APPLE CARROT SLAW

SWEET & SMOKEY PORK TENDERLOIN with CHERRY SAUCE and APPLE CARROT SLAW

PORK
3/4 pound pork tenderloin
2 tablespoons butter
FRESH ground sea salt and black pepper
1 tablespoon of Smokey Cinnamon Spice rub

  • Adjust rack to middle position and preheat oven to 450°.
  • Rub pork with a large drizzle of oil.
  • Season generously all over with FRESH ground sea salt and black pepper.
  • Reserve ¼ teaspoon of the spice rub in a small microwave-safe bowl for later.
  • Rub pork all over with remaining spice.
  • Place pork on a baking sheet and roast on middle rack until cooked through, 18-20 minutes.
  • Let rest 5 minutes after removing from oven.
  • Let rest 5 minutes under aluminum foil.

SLAW
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
scant 2 tablespoons champagne vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
1 cup shredded carrots
1 apple, cored and thinly sliced
2-3 green onions, sliced thin
FRESH ground sea salt and black pepper

  • In a medium bowl, combine mayonnaise, vinegar and sugar.
  • Add carrots and toss to coat.
  • Set aside to marinate 10 minutes.
  • Add apples and toss to coat.
  • Add onions and season with FRESH ground sea salt and pepper to taste.

SAUCE
reserved spice rub
1/2 teaspoon champagne vinegar
4 tablespoons cherry jam** (see notes)
2 tablespoons sour cream
1 tablespoon butter

  • To the bowl with the reserved spice add the jam and remaining vinegar; stirring to combine.
  • Microwave until warm, 30-45 seconds.
  • Stir in butter until melted.
  • Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Blend in sour cream.

SMOKEY CINNAMON SPICE RUB
1/2 teaspoon QUALITY cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
2 teaspoons sugar

  • Whisk together.

ASSEMBLY

  • After pork is rested, slice pork crosswise.
  • Drizzle sauce over pork and serve.

NOTES: Jam can be any flavor that goes with pork. I happened to have apricot in the refrigerator tonight when I made this so color is off a bit from a cherry red. 😀

PAN SEARED LEMON APRICOT CHICKEN

PAN SEARED LEMON APRICOT CHICKEN
LEMON APRICOT CHICKEN

3/4 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 tablespoons FRESH parsley, finely chopped
1/4 cup apricot preserves
3/4 cup chicken stock
1 LARGE lemon
1 shallot, finely chopped
2 tablespoons avocado oil
FRESH ground sea salt & ground pepper
1 tablespoon WONDRA flour
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon butter

  • Preheat oven to 450°F with a rack in the top position.

  • Pat chicken dry, then pound to an even ½-inch thickness.
  • Season all over with FRESH ground sea salt & ground pepper.
  • Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a medium skillet over medium-high.
  • Add chicken and cook until browned and cooked through, 3–4 minutes per side.
  • Transfer chicken to a plate.
  • 
Add shallots to same skillet; reduce heat to medium. Cook, stirring, until softened, about 2 minutes.
  • Add chicken stock, apricot preserves, ¾ of the parsley and the vinegar. Simmer, scraping brown bits from the bottom of the skillet, until sauce reduces to ½ cup, 5–7 minutes.
  • Remove from heat, then whisk in butter.

  • Add chicken and any resting juices back to the skillet. Cook over medium, turning chicken once, until warm and coated in sauce, 1–2 minutes.
  • Remove from heat.
  • Season to taste with FRESH ground sea salt and black pepper.
  • Garnish with remaining parsley. Enjoy!

SWORDFISH with LEMON PEPPER BASTING SAUCE

GRILLED SWORDFISH with LEMON BASTING SAUCE
4 tablespoons butter, room temperature
2 teaspoons FRESH chopped fresh parsley
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 teaspoon ground mixed peppercorns, plus more for sprinkling
1/2 teaspoon (packed) grated lemon peel
1 tablespoon avocado oil
4 1-inch-thick swordfish fillets (about 6 ounces each)

  • Preheat oven to 400°.
  • Mash butter, parsley, garlic, 1/2 teaspoon ground mixed peppercorns, and lemon peel in small bowl. Season to taste with salt.
  • Heat butter in heavy large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat.
  • Sprinkle swordfish with salt and ground mixed peppercorns.
  • Add swordfish to skillet, cooking until browned, about 3 minutes.
  • Turn swordfish over and transfer to oven.
  • Roast until just cooked through, about 10 minutes longer.
  • Transfer swordfish to plates.
  • Top with Lemon Sauce

LEMON SAUCE
1/3 cup butter
2 green onions, finely minced
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
a pinch of cayenne pepper
1/4 cup FRESH squeezed lemon juice
Zest of one LARGE lemon
1/4 cup hot water
a couple drops Tabasco

  • In a small saucepan, melt the butter.
  • Add green onions and sauce a few minutes.
  • Whisk in the paprika, sugar, salt, pepper and cayenne.
  • When well blended add lemon juice, hot water and Tabasco.
  • Add lemon zest just before serving.

FENNEL CRUSTED PORK MEDALLIONS with ROASTED POTATOES and LEMON MINT GRAVY

FENNEL CRUSTED PORK MEDALLIONS with ROASTED POTATOES and LEMON MINT GRAVY

Fennel-Crusted Pork Medallions with Roasted Potatoes & Green Beans
Fennel seeds are an aromatic spice, used in savory (and sometimes sweet!) preparations. The seed comes from the fennel plant, a flowering vegetable plant that is part of the carrot family. Here, we use these seeds to make juicy fennel-crusted pork medallions served alongside roasted potatoes and crisp green beans for comfort food at its best.

adapted from Jennie Perillo at Marley Spoon

3/4 cup chicken stock
3/4 pound pork tenderloins
1 lemon, zested and juiced
2 tablespoons FRESH chopped mint
1/2 pound green beans
2 teaspoons fennel seeds, crushed
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Yukon gold potatoes
1 tablespoon WONDRA flour
1+ 1 + 1 tablespoon avocado oil
FRESH ground sea salt and black pepper
1 + 1 tablespoons butter

  • Preheat oven to 450°.
  • Arrange rack in lower half of the oven.
  • Cover sheet pan in foil for easy clean up.
  • Scrub potatoes, then cut into even sized wedges.
  • Toss potatoes with 1 tablespoon avocasdo oil and season with FRESH ground sea salt and black pepper.
  • Roast 12 minutes until potatoes are golden.
  • While potatoes are roasting clean wash, trim and cut green beans.
  • Toss beans with 1 teaspoon avocado oil, lemon zest, 1 tablespoon of the lemon juice, half of the minced garlic, FRESH ground sea salt and black pepper.
  • Flip potatoes and add green beans to baking sheet along with the potatoes. Roast for another 10 minutes.

  • Cut pork tenderloin into 4 equal sized pieces and flatten with a meat mallet to about 1/4 inch thickness.
  • Generously season pork tenderloins with FRESH ground sea salt, black pepper and the crushed fennel seeds.
  • While vegetables are roasting, heat 1 tablespoon of avocado oil and 1 tablespoon of butter over medium high heat in large skillet.
  • Add pork to hot skillet and sear for 2 minutes on each side.
  • Return pork tenderloins to cutting board and cover with foil to rest while you prepare the gravy.
  • Sprinkle pan with flour and whisk to blend.
  • Add chicken stock, remaining garlic and remaining lemon juice to skillet, simmering to slightly thicken.
Whisk in remaining mint and 1 tablespoon butter.
  • Bring to a simmer and cook until sauce reduces slightly, about 2 minutes.
  • Season to taste and serve immediately.

 

BAKED PEANUT BUTTER WAFFLES

BAKED PEANUT BUTTER WAFFLES

¾ cup flour
3 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup milk
3 tablespoon neutral oil
LARGE eggs
1 teaspoon PURE vanilla
1 tablespoon peanut butter
1 tablespoon QUALITY honey
PURE maple syrup

  • Preheat the oven to 400°.
  • Brush the Waffle Stick Pan with a neutral oil.

  • Sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl.
  • In a separate bowl, whisk together the milk, oil, vanilla, peanut butter, honey and eggs.
  • Whisk the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients JUST until combined.
  • Distribute the batter evenly among the wells.
  • Bake for 11–13 minutes, or until golden brown.
  • Let the waffle sticks cool for 5 minutes before removing.

OPTIONS:

  • Add 1-2 tablespoons MINI semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • Add 2 tablespoons SMALL WILD blueberries
  • 1 teaspoon QUALITY cinnamon


SEVEN LAYER DIP TACO CUPS

SEVEN LAYER DIP TACO CUPS Servings: 12

6 flour tortillas (8-10 inch)
1 14-ounce can re-fried beans
2 cups grated Cheddar Jack cheese
1 cup guacamole
1 cup salsa
¾ cup sour cream
1 small bunch green onions, chopped
1 tomato, finely diced*

  • Preheat oven to 350º.
  • Cut flour tortillas into large squares and then divide each into quarters, making 4 smaller equally sized square pieces, per flour tortilla.
  • Generously coat a standard-size muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray.
  • Line each cup of prepared muffin tin with a tortilla sheet.
  • Spoon a tablespoon of re-fried beans into each sheet.
  • Sprinkle shredded cheese over each sheet.
    Place another sheet of tortillas on top of the bean/cheese mixture and press so it flatten.
  • Cook for 15 minutes.
  • Spoon in a tablespoon of guacamole, sour cream, and salsa into each cup then top with green onions and tomato.
  • Enjoy!

NOTE: I sometimes skip the fresh tomato if I don’t have one and use a can of Rotel original tomatoes, drained WELL!