Sunday, April 12, 2009

Heavenly Cake

This cake is called "Heavenly Cake" for a few reasons. First, it's absolutely heavenly. Truly, it is. Second, you'll feel heavenly about all the complements you get when you take this cake places. Third, if you eat too much of it, you'll go to heaven way too soon - this is NOT a healthy recipe.

C'mon - you know this just looks heavenly.

Heavenly cake is for those with a serious sweet tooth. It's a conglomeration of a few recipes I've been eyeing for a while. First I scoured the web for the perfect chocolate cake recipe. I checked out the sweet and salty cake and the better-than-sex cake. Both looked awesome, but I don't do toffee, and the S'n'S cake looked a little too fussy for my taste. Truth is, after about 6 ingredients, I lose interest and patience. So I used an old recipe I've had for a while. Then I added salted caramel sauce using this recipe as a jumping point. And some chocolate ganache.

Makes: ~ 20 servings



  • bundt cake pan
  • baking spray
  • 1 box of your favorite chocolate cake mix
  • 1 box of instant chocolate pudding
  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 cups chocolate chips (I like 1 cup semi-sweet, 1 cup milk chocolate)
Salted Carmel Sauce:
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 6 tbs. salted butter - yes, the 'salted' is important

Chocolate Ganache:
  • 2 cups chocolate chips (again, I like 1 cup semi-sweet, 1 cup milk chocolate)
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

  2. Grease the inside of the bundt pan using a baking spray or with oil and flour.

  3. See all those cake ingredients? Dump everything but the chocolate chips in a big mixing bowl. If you've got a stand mixer, even better.

  4. Mix everything until the batter is moist all the way through.

  5. Slowly add the chocolate chips to the batter.

  6. Spoon the batter into the bundt pan making sure the batter is even in the pan. You don't want a lop-sided cake, here.

  7. Bake the cake at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes. You can use the toothpick test to see if the cake is done, but remember there are chocolate chips in the cake.

  8. Once the cake is done, cool it on a rack, then invert the pan onto a serving plate.

  9. For the caramel sauce, use a two or three quart sauce pan. Anything smaller, and you risk the sauce bubbling over the sides of the pan and making a colossal mess. Trust me. Oh, and oven mitts are your friend here, this sugar is HOT.

  10. Heat the sauce pan to medium-high heat, and add the sugar. Yes, it seems weird to be adding a solid and no liquid, but the solid will liquify shortly.

  11. As the sugar melts, stir it to keep it from burning. If it does burn, toss it and start over. You can't undo burned sugar.

  12. Once the sugar is completely melted, it should be a nice cozy brown color. Just a note here - the deeper the caramel color, the more bitter the sauce. If you want sweet, use a lower heat setting and melt the sugar slowly. If you like the savory, use higher heat. But be careful, there's a fine line between savory and burned.

  13. This is where you add the butter. Just put the whole 6 tbs in at once. No need to add it gradually.

  14. See how it bubbled up? This is why you are using a large sauce pan. Stir the butter and sugar together.

  15. Now, add the heavy cream. Again, it bubbles. Just stir until the butter and cream are completely incorporated into the sugar. Set the sauce aside for a while to cool (~10 minutes) while you prepare the ganache.

  16. For the ganache, add the two cups of chips to a sauce pan. Begin stirring while you heat the sauce pan over medium heat.

  17. Once most of the chips are melted, stir in the heavy cream in 1/4 cup increments until you reach your desired pouring consistency.

  18. Once your ganache is fully melted, pour it over the cake. You can reserve some for ice cream or coffee later. If you're fancier than me, you'll make a pretty drizzled design. I was hungry and just kind of dumped it all over.

  19. To add the caramel sauce to the cake, simply pour the sauce slowly over the cake. The slower you go, the more sauce ends up on the cake. You'll have some left over, so again, save it for coffee or ice cream toppings.

Tips ‘n’ Tricks:

  • Keep a gallon of milk handy when you serve this cake. And a lot of napkins.
  • As tempting as it is, don't eat the caramel sauce right out of the sauce pan. You'll burn your tongue. Not that I'd know anything about that.
  • Next time, I'm thinking I'll add the caramel sauce to the bottom of the cake before I remove it from the pan so it can soak into the cake (kind of like the glaze for rum cakes). Then I'll just add the ganache to the top of the cake. It might make it a little less messy.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Eating Out - Sean Patrick's

I decided to satisfy my Irish food craving this week at Sean Patrick's, San Marcos' only Irish pub.

I have to say, I am never disappointed when I go here. The food is always awesome. I've had a few of the menu staples - Guinness Stew, Shepherd's Pie, BBQ Sausage sandwich, and hamburgers and they're all good. Always.

I've never had authentic Irish food - the closest I come is Bennigan's on occasion. But this "Irish Pub with Texas Grub" is really good for what it is.

The service is what you expect in San Marcos, slow with a little indifference tossed in, but this is par for the course in this town, and the food tastes too dang good for this to matter much.

If you like sports bars, you'll love the TVs all over this place. Yes, the music can get a little loud, but after the second beer you can ignore that. The atmosphere is your typical sports bar, just with an Irish flare. It's nice, clean, and again, you really don't care once you taste the food.

San Marcos needs more restaurants like Sean Patrick's - good food every  time you go!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Stuffed Bell Peppers

These are yummy and easy. They are always a crowd pleaser, and make you look like a great cook! Serve with a side salad and some squash fries for an easy meal. You can also do this same recipe with zucchini, eggplant, yellow squash, tomatoes, you get the idea.


Makes: ~ 6 servings


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

  • 1 lb. ground meat 93% fat free

  • ½ cup onion, diced

  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder

  • 6 medium bell peppers, tops removed and seeds removed (reserve tops)

  • 2 cups spaghetti sauce



  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

  2. Wash bell peppers. Cut off the tops and remove the seeds from the peppers. Save the tops.

  3. Chop up the tops of the peppers.

  4. Heat sauce pan on medium-high heat. Add olive oil to pan.

  5. Brown meat, peppers, and onions for about 15 minutes, or until the meat is browned and onions are translucent.

  6. Add garlic powder to the pan and mix together.

  7. Mix about 1 cup of spaghetti sauce into meat mixture.

  8. Place bell peppers in a baking dish.

  9. Spoon the meat mixture into the peppers.

  10. Bake the peppers at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes.

  11. Just before serving, heat the remaining spaghetti sauce, and serve the peppers topped with the remaining spaghetti sauce. Each pepper is one serving.

Tips ‘n’ Tricks:

  • Don't let the number of steps fool you here - this recipe is EASY. Give it a try!

  • This is another recipe that’s easy to customize to your family’s tastes. Pick a vegetabe - any vegetable, and you can probably stuff it.

  • If the tops of the peppers start cooking too fast or looking dried out, just cover the baking dish with foil and keep baking.

Crystal's Turkey Sausage

This is an awesome make-ahead breakfast sausage. It’s easy to adapt to the spices you like, too. I like to cook mine crumbled instead of patties and almost burned. (But that’s the Cajun in me…) Oh, I also add mushrooms to mine, but I’m weird like that.

Makes: ~ 4 servings


  • 1 lb. ground meat 93% fat free

  • 1/3 onion, shredded

  • 1 carrot, shredded

  • 1 medium apple, shredded

  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder

  • 1 teaspoon dried parsley


  1. Mix all ingredients together in a bowl. Divide into four equal patties.

  2. Heat sauce pan on medium-high heat.

  3. Brown patties for about 7 minutes on each side, or until they are cooked through. Each patty is one serving.

Tips ‘n’ Tricks:

  • Make these up on the weekend, and store them in individual sized baggies for a grab-n-go breakfast.

  • You can completely customize the spices and vegetables to what your family prefers - try a Mexican themed sausage with cumin, chili powder, jalapeno peppers, and tomatoes.

  • Need a non-paleo idea? Chop one of these bad boys up and stuff it in a pita or tortilla with a little cheese - instant bliss.

Baked Cabbage Rolls


Yummy and easy to make!

Makes: ~ 6 servings


1 lb ground meat (turkey, beef or pork) 93% fat free

1 jar Bertolli spaghetti sauce (I use the olive oil, basil, garlic organic kind)

1 head of cabbage

½ teaspoon garlic powder



  1. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.

  2. Wash the cabbage thoroughly.

  3. Steam the cabbage. Place cabbage in large pot with lid and fill with about 1 inch of water. Heat pot on high heat until water boils. Keep the lid on the pot to make sure the steam really works. Steam for about 7 minutes.

  4. While the cabbage is steaming, spray a 9x13 baking pan with cooking spray.

  5. Place ground meat in a medium-sized bowl.

  6. Add about ¾ cup of the spaghetti sauce and the garlic powder into the ground meat.

  7. Mix the meat mixture.

  8. Remove cabbage from pot (carefully – cabbage will be hot).

  9. Remove the limp cabbage leaves and set aside. You will need to cut the leaves near the core on the bottom of the cabbage head. If you cannot remove 12-15 leaves, then remove as many as you can and re-steam the rest of the cabbage head until you get about 12-15 leaves.

  10. Take one cabbage leaf and place about 2 tablespoons of the meat mixture into the leaf. Roll the leaf like a taco or burrito, tucking in the sides of the leaf.

  11. Place the cabbage roll into the greased baking dish with the seam side down.

  12. Continue making cabbage rolls until the pan is full.

  13. Pour about ½ cup of spaghetti sauce over the cabbage rolls.

  14. Place foil tightly over the pan and bake at 350 degrees for about 1 hour.

  15. Just before serving, heat the remaining spaghetti sauce, and serve it with the baked cabbage rolls. Each serving is about two cabbage rolls.

Tips ‘n’ Tricks:

  • Don't be intimidated by the number of steps here - this is really easy to make!