Chocolate Guinness Layer Cake with Baileys Buttercream Frosting


How do you make things interesting when a once a year holiday rolls around that is based around the same menu of food? This dilemma has sprung up for the last 4 years every thanksgiving and now there is a new culprit…St. Patricks day.

The problem really comes down to a battle to the death between craving traditional favorites and an inner desire to switch things up and try new recipes.  I’ve come to a nice compromise with thanksgiving but St. Patricks day is a little harder.  With a meal where the traditional favorites are limited to a few dishes at most not to mention doesn’t lend itself to a multiple course execution it really comes down to one option….dessert.

I’ve come to my senses and decided to stop claiming that I am not a baker.  It is true, I am not a great baker and I don’t find myself dreaming up dessert recipes but when it comes to planning a themed meal dessert is always the missing link.  When cooking for a group of people, including a dessert at least half made from scratch always wows the crowd.

Now back to St. Patricks day.  The staples can’t and wont change; Corned beed, Cabbage, and Potatoes (Give or take irish soda bread).  Now as much as you can switch up your method for cooking cabbage and potatoes in the end a new recipe will not blow your mind.  This year we chose to go big, the fact that it was just myself and my roommate for dinner did not stop us from deciding on making a cake.  But not just any cake, a Chocolate Guinness Layer cake with Baileys Buttercream frosting to be exact.

Don’t let the long name fool you, it is actually a simple recipe; the hardest part is applying the frosting. (If you want to write anything or draw a design my tip for you is to sketch it out first with a toothpick or similar tool so that you only have to trace it with the darker frosting)

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{Peek-A-Boo}

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Skewered Appetizers

Pinterest has infiltrated the minds of so many women ages 20-35 it’s almost scary.  I have even found the term pinteresting or pinterest-y come out of my mouth in reference to something in a mason jar, a chalkboard, or for example these two appetizers.  I have found the pinterest is both a really amazing revolution and also the most obnoxious site to waste time on, there are so many crafting, food, or outfit ideas that it can really be a great way to get ideas for a party but I also have realized that I don’t want to walk into a party and have the first person’s comment on my food be “oh did you get that from pinterest!?”

With all of that off my chest I really enjoyed making these, Watermelon feta skewer with a lemon mint dressing and a caprese skewer.  It started last January when I cooking all the food for my dad’s birthday, I made a mediterranean skewer that was quite enjoyable.  So when it came down to choosing something to bring to a graduation party I was going to with a friend, there was no question…it had to be skewers.  My favorite was definitely the watermelon feta combo, and since making it as a skewer, I have made it as a mixed serve yourself salad and it was just as much of a hit so tailor the presentation to your needs as you see fit.

I got the recipe for the Caprese Skewers from THIS blog and used the same concept for the watermelon combo.

Watermelon Feta Skewer 

Ingredients (makes about 40-50 skewers)

  • 1 medium watermelon cut into bite size (skewer size) squares, Cut as many squares as skewers you are making
  • Juice of one lemon
  • 1 bunch of mint
  • olive oil
  • 1 block of feta (crumbles will work if you are mixing it, but you need the block for the skewers)
  • toothpicks

Recipe 

  1. In a blender or food processer blend the mint, lemon juice and about 2 tbl olive oil until it is blended well.  Place about 1/4 c of the vinaigrette in a large bowl
  2. Add the watermelon squares to the
  3. If you are making the skewers, cut the feta into small cubes (smaller than the watermelon squares) Feta is pretty strong so a little square is plenty
  4. Assemble the skewers by stabbing a piece of feta and a piece of watermelon.  (you might have to figure out what works best for you, if the feta seems to be crumbling too much I would stab the watermelon first)

{The fixin’s}

{Not the prettiest picture but damn they tasted good}

Pan Seared Scallops with a Fava Bean Pesto Risotto

The first time I ever tried scallops I think I was about 19 years old and with a newfound interest in food but barely cooking myself.  I was at a restaurant, actually to be honest I think it was Macaroni Grill which is funny to me now since I would probably never order scallops from a macaroni grill, mimis cafe, chilis or the like at this point in my life.  I ordered a salad with scallops on it I remember and really had very little idea what scallops were or how they tasted, and remembering it now I think I forced my way through that first taste test.  There was nothing dramatically offensive about them, but the texture was slightly slimy however there was zero fish taste and in fact it is a notoriously sweeter taste.  I’ve posted one other recipe with scallops and it was a salad with sliced strawberries and seared scallops and because of the sweetness of the scallops the pairing with the strawberries was fantastic.

This time, I chose a more savory approach but one which I had at a restaurant shortly before I made this recipe.  I found that the risotto was a perfect pairing because of the creamy texture of risotto and the smooth texture of the scallops .  Overall this was not the most difficult thing I have attempted to make but it does take a bit of dedication, a moderate amount of planning, and a step by step adherence to the recipe.

I chose to add the fava beans mainly because they are in season but also because they seemed like a fun ingredient that I had seen at the farmers market.  Which is honestly how I choose the recipes I make.  Something seems fun, and there ya go.  Fava beans are not much different than cooking other fresh beans, but the thing to remember about favas is that they are double shelled, meaning there is the outer shell that holds the individual beans and then each bean has a softer shell that also needs to be removed. HERE is a good step by step of how to cook them.

For anyone who thinks scallops are beyond their skill, they are wrong and anyone who things scallops are too expensive is misadvised.  Granted, you will get a better quality scallop from a fish market but you can get some just fine from most supermarkets these days.

I found the risotto recipe HERE , and the seared scallop recipe HERE.

{The second shell coming off}

{And then, the risotto.  As long as you stay close to the stove you shouldn’t have too many issues with the risotto}

{As the rice absorbs the chicken stock, the rice will cook and the mixture will get slightly thicker and will develop the notorious creamy consistency of risotto}

{So at this point is where there should be pictures of scallops being cooked, however, I feel like raw scallops are not that pretty so I didn’t take any.  But the recipe I linked has great step by steps}

{The finished plate!}

Fried Goat Cheese Stuffed Squash Blossoms

So, there are few ingredients that I anticipate as much as squash blossoms.  With current farming and greenhouse practices there are many many ingredients that are available year round.  But squash blossoms are an ingredient that I know come towards the end of summer and only shows up briefly at the farmers market so I try to swoop on them whenever I can.

This was the first recipe I tried with these blossoms and since they were so freaking delicious I was an instant believer.  Since then, I have used them fresh in salads and of course again as fried squash blossoms. Since the batter for this recipe is so easy the whole process and end product seems much more complicated than in really is.

The recipe is from one of Giada de Laurentiis’s cookbooks that came out a couple summers ago.  I was living then in Santa Barbara and happened to see one day that at a local William Sonoma, she was going to come for a book signing!! Well, I’ve never been to a book signing let along a cookbook signing so therefore I HAD to go.  I went with a friend and waiting in the line around the store along with the fancy Santa Barbara housewives and got my cookbook signed by the one and only Giada. I’ve made a bunch of recipes from that cookbook so far and have some of them posted on this blog.  But whenever I feel like some italian I make a bee line for that bright pink cookbook.

This appetizer really just means summer to me, give me a crisp glass of white wine and I am in seventh heaven.  Give them a try and ENJOY!

I used this recipe from Giada 

{Me waiting in line for the signing!– 2010}

{Beautiful squash blossoms}

{All you have to do is slightly twist the tops and the cheese will stay in fine}

{Things I want to eat right now…these}

Summer Panzanella Salad

So I grew up in northern california, which most of you know, and let me just say it gets blazing hot in the summer.  When it gets to be over 100 degrees multiple days in a row there is not many types of food your body will willingly consume besides heavily iced drinks.  Well, salad happens to be one of them.  I’ve described the nostalgia of salads like my chinese chicken salad recipe in a previous post, but there really is nothing that makes it feel like summer to be than actually craving a salad multiple days in a row due to the overwhelming heat.

I’m going to be quite honest with all of you, I have absolutely zero idea where I got the idea of making a panzanella salad.  Seriously, sometimes people ask how I decide what to make and in all seriousness I think some it I think up in dreams.  So after deciding I wanted to make a panzanella salad, which for the record is a salad with fresh vegetables and big cubes of toasted bread…no leaves, I began scouring my favorite food blogs and of course pinterest to find a good recipe to follow.  Well after my thorough research I came to the conclusion that there really is no recipe for a panzanella salad, ok there obviously is if I found it on food blogs and such but what I mean by that is, you just throw whatever fresh vegetables you want together with some bread and voila!

*Sidenote*: I discovered squash blossoms about a year ago and love adding them to salads.  I also have a         fantastic post to come for goat cheese stuffed, fried squash blossoms…but thats for later.  The whole blossom is edible and I also added the mini zucchini that you see at the end of the blossom in the picture to this salad.  I have never seen the blossom in a market (maybe a specialty market) but they are reliably at the farmers market until mid august.

This salad, being so easy and more ‘hearty’ with the chunks of bread is a recipe you must make this summer. Whether you make it as a main course of a side salad is up to you but with a salad so fresh and light but also filling, youll start dreaming about it too.  And if by some change I havn’t convinced you….just look at the pictures.

Summer Panzanella Salad 

Ingredients

  • 3 c diced baguette or rustic loaf
  • 15 mini yellow squash  cut in half
  • 15 mini zucchini (see picture of squash blossom above) sliced lengthwise
  • 15 squash blossoms (from the mini zucchini) chopped
  • 2 medium sized tomatoes (you can substitute cherry tomatoes too)
  • 1/2 shallot sliced thin
  • 1-2 tbl capers
  • 2 tbl olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • Lemon mustard vinaigrette 

Recipe

  1. Preheat oven to 350
  2. Place cubed bread on cookie sheet, drizzle with olive oil and put in the oven to toast, about 20 min.  Rotate halfway to make sure the bread is toasted evenly.  Remove from oven when toasted, set aside.
  3. In 1 tbl olive oil saute the mini zucchini and mini yellow squash until just under fork tender, about 10 min. Remove and set in large bowl to cool.
  4. Chop the tomatoes into chunks or slice the cherry tomatoes in half if you are substituting.  Add the the cooled squash.
  5. Slice the shallot thin and add to the large bowl.
  6. Add the capers to the bowl.
  7. Mix up the vinaigrette and add to the large bowl, toss to coat.
  8. When you are ready to serve, mix in the toasted bread and toss again to coat the bread in the vinaigrette.  Top with chopped squash blossoms and enjoy!

{I got both of these mini squash at the farmers market but I have seen the mini zucchini alone and the mini yellow squash at the supermarket}

{Slightly blurry saute action}

{The finished plate!}

Salmon with Panko Crust and Salmon Burger with Pickled Veggies

I know I probably mention this every time I post about a seafood recipe I made, but I cannot believe I used to dislike fish.  I mean, its understandable..the fishy smell can be quite off putting, especially for younger children who seemed to be pre-programmed to dislike anything green or that smells different than chicken…which has no smell.   Regardless, sushi was my turning point and after I became ok with seaweed the rest of my fish eating habits is history.

A couple years ago I had a roommate who also enjoyed cooking and she would make a similar panko crusted salmon which is where I got the idea.  Let’s face it, anything beautifully coated in a crunchy golden panko with a little butter and even garlic is quite irresistible, not to mention extremely easy to make.  If I was feeding more than just myself I would get the salmon filets from costco where you can get a good amount of bang for your buck as they say.  But my alternative is the frozen fish from Trader Joes.  Usually they come in freezer sealed packs of two or three filets and you can get salmon, tilapia, marinated ahi and other things but that’s usually what I get there.  Just think about how many you are feeding and choose a package with a weight accordingly (obviously the lighter the cutlets the cheaper it is).  You can keep it in your freezer for a week or two even before cooking it, which is always appealing when you get too many fresh vegetables that will go bad quicker.

When I made the panko crusted salmon I made both the pieces but knew I would only eat one.  So for a leftover meal I came up with the idea of making a salmon burger! The finished product resembled more of a crab cake-like patty but was absolutely delicious.  I even soaked sliced cucumbers and carrots in some rice vinegar for a couple hours before I made the burger and topped the patty with those along with a quick sriracha mayo…but honestly sriracha has been going on most things in this apartment lately.

HERE is a good recipe for panko crusted salmon.  And below is how I made the leftover into a salmon burger.

** I also made goat cheese and pesto smashed red potatoes. To make those boil the potato until fork tender, cut in half, smash with a potato masher and top with pesto and goat cheese then bake in a 400 degree oven until cheese gets slightly brown.

Salmon Burger with Picked Vegetables

Ingredients

  • 1 filet of cooked panko crusted salmon
  • 4 tbl light mayo
  • 1 egg lightly beaten
  • 3 tbl panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 tsp red chile flakes
  • 1/2 tbl capers
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Whole wheat bun
  • 1/2 cucumber sliced lengthwise
  • 1 whole large carrot sliced lengthwise
  • 1/2 c rice vinegar
  • 1 tbl sugar

Recipe

  1. A couple hours before eating or a day ahead combine the sliced carrot, cucumber, rice vinegar and sugar in a container, shake to mix and let sit in the fridge to marinate.
  2. In a food processer or by hand in a bowl combine the cooked salmon, 3 tbl mayo, egg, breadcrumbs, red chile flakes, capers and salt and pepper.  Mix thoroughly, you should be able to form a patty with the mixture.  If it is not holding together add more mayo.
  3. Heat 2 tbl olive oil in a nonstick pan over medium heat.  When hot add the pre-formed salmon patty.  Sear each side until golden brown, about 3 min each.
  4. While the patty is cooking, combine 1 tbl mayo with 1/2-1 tbl sriracha depending on your spice tolerance.
  5. At this point you can also toast the buns if you wish either in a toaster or in a preheated oven.
  6. When the patty is seared on each side (remember, the salmon is already cooked so you are just looking for a good golden brown crust, you don’t want to overcook it) remove from heat.
  7. Smear some sriracha mayo on bottom and top hamburger bun and place the salmon patty on the bottom bun.
  8. Top with the rice vinegar marinated vegetables and place top bun on, ENJOY!

*feel free to adjust the burger toppings to your liking.

{This is how I sliced the veggies, feel free to slice differently}

{The Finished Plate!}

{This is a jump in the directions but I didn’t get any in between pics}

{Pesto Smashed Potatoes}

{Leftover Salmon Patty Makings}

{The Finished Burger}

Creamy Spring Pasta with Paprika Shrimp

Nothing makes me more giddy than going out to check the mail and seeing a brand spankin’ new ‘Cooking Light’ magazine.  Some buy People magazine regularly, others have shelves and shelves full of National Geographic magazines…I have years worth of Cooking Light magazines built up.  At some point, I know it will be the smart thing to throw out some older ones or simply stop subscribing.  But it is such a joy to spend an afternoon flipping through the different recipes and planning new dinner menus.   I also just have a great love for this particular food magazine.  The recipes are always delicious but at the same time always on the lighter side (nutritionally).  They have a way of transforming recipes that everyone wants to eat into healthier versions so beautifully.  So if you’re thinking of picking up a food magazine, my recommendation is definitely Cooking Light.  Food Network mag is also good but not on the healthier side, and Bon Appetit is a little on the swankier side (aka not as versatile and easy to make all the recipes).    So there is my low down on various publications that are oh so important to everyones well being, but I know there are a few out there that feel the same way about food magazines, or even a different type…at least you understand my reaction to seeing the mag in the mailbox.

On another note, a lot of people ask me if I follow recipes or if I make them up as I go.  Well, it’s a little of both.  Most of the time I will see a recipe and either figure out how I can follow the basic premise of it but alter it to my delight (or based on what I have around).  Other times, I know I should follow it word for word.  But to be honest the ability to change it up is why I love cooking so much, as opposed to baking.  This post is one of those moments where I altered…most of it.  But when I saw a healthier version of a creamy pasta I knew I had to try it.  And because Cooking Light is so great about keeping the delicious taste of recipes while substituting lighter ingredients, you don’t have to worry about this cream sauce not living up to your favorite alfredo.

THIS is the recipe that I followed to make the cream sauce.  And the following are the ways I altered it based on what I had around.

1. I eliminated the asparagus and green peas.

2. I forgot to add the breadcrumbs, but wish I had.  So make sure to include those if you want.

3.  I toped the pasta with shrimp sauteed in 1 tbl olive oil until cooked through with 1 tsp paprika and 1 tsp ground black pepper.

4. I substituted shells for fettuccine because that’s what I had around.

{Cooking Light love}

{1/3 less fat cream cheese is the perfect way to get a creamy sauce while keeping it healthy}

{Finished plate, garnished with capers and fresh parsley}

** I trust that you know how to boil pasta so I eliminated that instruction