Monday, January 27, 2014

Zuppa Toscana

Here's another favourite recipe.  If you don't recognize the name, this is one of the soups you can get at Olive Garden.  It has sausage, potatoes and kale in a light creamy broth.  Hubby loves it and he doesn't like soup.  I was thrilled when I found this copy-cat recipe that was very similar in taste but doesn't require any special ingredients.  I love how hearty it is so it's great for lunch or dinner if you pair with some warm, crusty bread (preferably covered in some sort of cheese).  You could even try to make breadsticks and pretend you're at Olive Garden.  I have a not-so-secret ingredient that wasn't in the original recipe that I've added.  I also add the kale last because I don't like kale overcooked.  I've made this with all Italian sausage, all turkey sausage, and half and half.  They all taste great but our favourite is using all Italian sausage.  If you buy the links, remove the sausage from the casing.  Enjoy!

Oops, this picture is missing garlic.
My not-so-secret ingredient: Original or Low Sodium

Zuppa Toscana 
Prep Time: 10 min. Cook Time: 30 min
Serves 4 as dinner or more as a starter
Adapted from Annie's Eats

1 lb. mild Italian sausage
1 large onion, chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup white wine to deglaze the pan
2 russett potatoes, washed and scrubbed, cut into discs
900 ml (1 tetra pack) your favourite chicken broth
1 cup water
1 pack of homestyle chicken stock (in jelly form)
1 cup heavy cream
3 cups fresh kale, chopped

Over medium heat, crumble the sausage into the pan and cook until well browned.  Remove the cooked sausage from the pot with a slotted spoon and transfer to a bowl; set aside.  Add the chopped onion to the pan and sauté until tender, about 5-7 minutes.  Add the garlic to the pan and cook for a minute more, just until fragrant.  Add the wine to the pot and stir, scraping the bottom of the pan to loosen any browned bits.  Add the potatoes, chicken broth, water and chicken stock jelly to the pot.  Return the sausage to the pot and stir.  Increase the heat to medium-high to bring to a boil them reduce heat to low-med.  Cover and simmer until potatoes are fork tender and cooked, about 20 mins.  Add cream and kale and stir together.  Cover and simmer for 5 more minutes to wilt the kale. Serve and enjoy!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Red Velvet Cheesecake Cake

Red Velvet Cheesecake Cake

Yes, the word cake is there twice.  Yes, there are 2 cakes in this cake.

This is my first baking of 2014.  It's one of my favourite recipes.

I fell in love with red velvet a long time ago, about 10 years ago.  Before it "arrived" in Canada.  Before it was available as a cake mix, in ice cream, yogurt, as cookies or whatever else they're making red velvet these days.  What hooked me was The Cheesecake Factory's Ultimate Red Velvet Cake Cheesecake.  This is a copycat recipe of that. I tried many red velvet cake recipes and this is the one I liked best and I've made it many, many times. My key to success is to make the cheesecake and cake 1 day ahead and freeze it so it's easy to handle and apply frosting.

It's fairly easy to make.  Step 1: Make cheesecake.  Step 2: Make red velvet cake.  Once cooled completely, pop both in the freezer.  Step 3: Make cream cheese frosting.  Layer the cakes and slather it with frosting.

I made this for an Elmo themed birthday.  It's red and white, a perfect match.

Red Velvet Cheesecake Cake
Yield:12 to 14 servings
Prep Time: 1hr + cooling and chill times  Cook Time: I hr 15 min
Adapted from a recipe by Recipe Girl


2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, at room temperature
2/3 cup granulated white sugar
2 large eggs
1/3 cup sour cream
1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

RED VELVET CAKE (*See notes)
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 l/2 cups granulated white sugar
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs at room temperature
1/2 cup vegetable or Canola oil
1 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup (2 - 1 ounce bottles) red food colouring
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 teaspoons white vinegar

1 (8 ounce) package of cream cheese, softened
1/4 c butter, softened
4 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract



Prepare the cheesecake layer. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Place a large roasting pan on the lower third rack of the oven.  Place a kettle of water on the stove to boil.  Line the bottom of a 9” springform pan with parchment paper.  Wrap a double layer of foil around the bottom and up the sides of the pan.  You want to seal it so the water from the water bath does not seep into the pan.

Using the paddle attachment on your mixer, mix the cream cheese until it’s smooth, and creamy (about 1 min).  Add the sugar and salt  and mix for 2 mins.  Scrape the bowl down and add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition.  Finally, mix in sour cream, whipping cream and vanilla until smooth.

Pour batter into spring form and set the pan in the roasting pan in the oven.  Carefully pour the hot water into the roasting pan, surrounding the cheesecake.  Pour enough water so it comes up to about 1” along the sides of the cheesecake.  Bake for about 45 mins.  It should be set to the touch and not jiggly.

Remove the cheesecake from the roasting pan and let cool on a wire rack for at least an hour.

Red Velvet Cake

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Line the bottom of two 9" cake pans with parchment paper.  

In a large bowl, whisk together dry ingredients (flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt).  Add the eggs, oil, buttermilk, food colouring, vanilla and vinegar.  With the mixer on the lowest speed, beat for 1 minute until blended.  Scrape the sides down using a spatula.  Beat for 2 minutes at med-high speed until thick and smooth.  

Divide evenly between the 2 cake pans.  Bake 30-35 mins.  Cool in pan on wire rack  for about 10 mins then remove from pan and cool on wire rack completely.

Wrap cakes in plastic wrap and place on top of the cooled cheesecake still in the pan.  Place the 3 cake layers in the freezer and freeze over night or at least 3 hours.

Cream Cheese Frosting
Mix together cream cheese, butter and vanilla until well blended.  Add powdered sugar and mix on low until fully incorporated.  Beat on med-high for 3-4 minutes until light and fluffy. 


Remove the cakes from the freezer.  Remove the cheesecake from the pan and place a wrapped red velvet layer on top.  Trim the cheesecake to size.  It's easier while it's still frozen.  Once the layers are all the same size, layer red velvet then cheesecake then red velvet.  Cover in frosting.  


*This cake recipe is fabulous on its own.  It yields 12-15 cupcakes, 24 mini cupcakes.  I've also substituted blue colouring instead of red without a problem.

**This cream cheese frosting recipe is different from the one posted on Recipe Girl.  This one is from the fabulous Serendipity 3's recipe book Sweet Serendipity.  I don't bother with a crumb coat because I like a few red velvet crumbs to show.  If I have intentions to frost it in a particular way like the pink ombre above, I double the frosting recipe and apply a crumb coat.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Korean-Style Ribs (Crock Pot)

I have never made ribs before and I love them.  There are so many recipes on Pinterest that I want to try.  When I came across this recipe from The Crepes of Wrath, I promptly added the ingredients to my grocery list and made them for dinner the next day.  It was too easy.  It was too tasty.  I will be adding this to our regular rotation for dinner.  These ribs literally fell apart as I moved them from the crock pot to the baking sheet.  I loved the sauce!  The only thing I would probably do if I can help it is to not cook them as long.  Ours was on high for 5 hours so they were very, very tender.  Regardless, it was delicious.

Korean-Style Ribs (Crock Pot)
Tender pork ribs cooked in a sweet and tangy Korean style sauce in the crock pot.

Prep Time 20 Cook Time 4-6 Hours
Serves: 3-4

4 pounds pork ribs
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup ponzu sauce (if you do not have ponzu sauce, use an
additional 1/4 cup of soy sauce + the juice of 1/2 an orange)
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
6 cloves of garlic, finely grated or minced
1 2-inch piece fresh ginger, finely grated or minced (I forgot to buy ginger so I used 1/4 tsp of ground ginger)
1 teaspoon Sriracha or hot chili oil
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (I omitted because I didn't want it to be too spicy for the girls)
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 green onions, thinly sliced, for garnish
sesame seeds, for garnish

1. Grease the inside of your crock pot with non-stick spray or oil. Add in the ribs. Whisk together the soy
sauce, ponzu sauce, brown sugar, vinegar, garlic, ginger, Sriracha and chili flakes, then pour over the
ribs. Cook on high for 4-5 hours or on low for 7-8 hours.
2. When ready to eat, remove the ribs from the pot (they will be fall-apart tender, so do this gently) and
place them on a baking sheet. Preheat your oven to broil.
3.  Whisk together the corn starch and water in a sauce pan until combined. Pour the sauce through a sieve into the pan.  Whisk the sauce over medium-high heat until thickened and bubbling, then baste the ribs in the sauce. Broil the ribs for 5 minutes or so, until bubbling and slightly caramelized. Serve garnished with sliced green onions and sesame seeds.

Serve with rice or potatoes and your favourite veggies.  Corn and salad would be great in the summer time.

Adapted from a recipe by The Crepes of Wrath