Chocolate Mint Poke Cake

Recently I was put in charge of a friend’s birthday party. This lead me to wandering through my cookbooks and Pinterest page looking for something fun and a little different. I ended up combining a few ideas and ending up at this chocolate mint poke cake. This is a fun cake which starts with a box cake mix, though you could apply the idea to your favorite scratch cake too. This is more a matter of method than specific recipe, though I like using my homemade recipes and Ultra Gel to create the best possible cake.

As a note the term poke cake applies to a lot of cakes where you poke holes in the cake while it’s warm and then pour something over the top meant to soak into the holes. Often this is a pudding or warm sauce. You want to be careful with poke cakes to use enough sauce to keep things moist and yummy, but not so much that the cake ends up a soggy mess.

IMG_3985

Chocolate Mint Poke Cake

1 box chocolate cake mix

Ingredients for cake mix + 2 Tablespoons Ultra Gel and 1/3 cup mint chips (opt)

1 batch Ultra Gel Hot Fudge Sauce

1 batch Thick Gel Chocolate Pudding

1 batch Ultra Gel Whipping Cream whipped with 3 drops green food coloring

Mint chips for garnish if desired

Process:

Make chocolate cake as per the box adding 2 Tablespoons Ultra Gel and 1/3 cup mint chips. After it comes out of the oven allow to cool for 10 minutes then punch with holes. I find it easiest to use the tail end of a wooden spoon.

Pour hot fudge sauce over the cake and allow to fill holes. Give 10 minutes to set.

Layer cool pudding on top of hot fudge sauce.

Layer colored whipping cream on top of pudding and garnish.

Keep cake in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

 

Orange Teriyaki sauce

Sometime last year we bought my husband an adorable little Cook Shack smoker. This has been one of the best cooking purchases we’ve made in a looong time. He figures there have only been one or two weekends when we haven’t smoked something and one of our favorites is pork shoulders or butts.

A pork shoulder is a fairly large piece of meat which takes well to slow cooking and smoking. When we smoke this piece we cover it in a sweet and spicy rub and cook it for 12-14 hours. It just falls to pieces and is a thing of beauty. Often we add a barbecue sauce and go for sandwiches or piles of pulled pork, but on the last cook I wanted to do something a little different.

I found this recipe for Orange Teriyaki sauce over on Real Mom Kitchen, and adjusted it to use Thick Gel and for my particular tastes and I really love the result. It was excellent on pork and I think chicken would take to it well as well.

IMG_4009

Orange Teriyaki Sauce

1 Tablespoon Thick Gel

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup brown sugar

2 Tablespoons water

1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce

1/4 cup orange juice

1/4 cup rice wine vinegar

orange zest

1 tsp garlic

1 tsp ginger

Combine Thick Gel and sugars in a medium saucepan and whisk well. Add water, soy sauce, orange juice and rice wine vinegar and whisk together. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Once it thickens add zest, garlic and ginger and remove from the heat. Serve warm over meats or vegetables.

 

Cast Iron Skillet Cornbread

My husband doesn’t love cornbread. However, he adores me and I love cornbread. So for the last several weeks he has been working on creating the best cast iron skillet cornbread recipe possible. I am the taste tester, and I have to admit it’s a wonderful job.🙂

We discovered a few important things in the testing process.

  • Make sure the cast iron is hot when you pour the batter in.
  • Always butter, not lard or shortening.
  • Ultra Gel makes the texture much better and hold moisture but means more buttermilk.
  • Honey or jam is good, but not required for consumption.

Cast Iron Skillet Cornbread

1 cup cornmeal

1/3 cup  flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

¼ teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 Tablespoon UltraGel (maybe a little more)

1 egg, beaten

1 cup buttermilk

1 spoosh vanilla

2.5 Tablespoons brown sugar

Butter for the skillet (or bacon grease!)

 Place 12” skillet in oven and heat to 400 degrees.   Mix dry team together, then mix wet team.  Just as pan is hot combine teams and add around a tablespoon of butter to the skillet.  Move it around to coat evenly.  Pour in batter and put in oven. Cook for 15 – 20 minutes or until lightly browned, the batter pulls away from the sides slightly and a toothpick comes out clean from the center.

Allow to cool for 10-15 minutes before flipping out onto a wooden board. Serve with toppings as desired.

Mango Chutney

Spring is a glorious time for mangos! They’re not a food which I just like to eat by themselves, however, I love it as an ingredient or a topping. Mango has a unique tart and sweet flavor and a soft, but chewy, texture which goes well with other foods. I’ve had mango several times on top of sushi rolls and love the contrast. The mango chutney recipe I’m sharing today is very good on steak, but also delightful on salmon or other fleshy seafood.

Mangoes are an odd fruit with a large flat seed in the middle. When preparing mangos you want to peel them and slice a small piece off the top and the bottom so you have a flat surface to set it on. Then carve the two large cheeks of fruit off each side and the smaller slices from the edges. Mangoes are slippery and a little sticky, so be careful. You don’t want to lose fingers doing this! Once you have the cheeks off then you can easily work them into slices or cubes. A more traditional way to do this is to skip the peeling and just slice the cheeks off with the skin intact. Then you make a grid pattern through the fruit and flip the skin wrong side out to make the fruit easy to harvest. Either way is fine, but both take a little practice. Look for mangos without soft spots or blemishes and that are relatively heavy for their size. They’ll be the sweetest.

IMG_3922

Mango Chutney

1 mango, peeled and cubbed

2 roma tomatoes, cubbed

juice from one lime

1/2 tsp chili powder

1/2 tsp ground cumin

salt and pepper to taste

1-2 Tablespoons Ultra Gel (This will be determined by just how juicy your fruit is. Start with 1 Tablespoon and allow the mixture to sit before adding more.)

(A splash of Cornaby’s Peach Habanero Sauce is amazing in this too!)

Combine all ingredients and allow to sit for at least 15 minutes for flavors to mesh. Serve with salmon or steak, or with tortilla chips. My son loves this as an option for nachos!

Easy Leftover Rice Pudding

A few days back we had Thai Basil for dinner. I’m certain that sometimes happens in everyone’s house and we really like their food. Shortly thereafter I had a craving for rice pudding. I  hadn’t ever tried a left over rice pudding recipe before, but figured why not?

I compared a few recipes and finally came up with one which I really liked. I used Thick Gel to go with the rice for a silky smooth finish and I was very pleased with the results. It’s not quite as rich as rice pudding when you cook the rice and use arborio however for a fast pudding which also uses up my leftovers? I’ll totally take it.

Easy Leftover Rice Pudding

2 cups cooked rice

3 cups milk

1/3 cup sugar + 2 Tablespoons Thick Gel – mixed together

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice (opt)

1 Tablespoon butter

In a heavy sauce pan combine rice, milk, sugar/Thick Gel mixture and salt and stir well. Bring to a boil on medium heat, stirring consistently. It will thicken quickly as it approaches boiling. Remove from heat and add vanilla, spice and butter. Serve warm or refrigerate and serve cold. Over time the pudding may continue to thicken as the rice releases more starch. I like to eat it the next day with a splash of additional milk or cream and some craisins. It’s also excellent with a dab of whipped cream.

Easy Guacamole

This week is both Cinco De Mayo and Mother’s Day! It’s a good week with some great food available. One of my favorite very easy Mexican dishes is Guacamole, but like many other dips as it sits guacamole tends to go very brown and can start weeping, and you just can’t keep it for more than a few hours. A combination of lime juice and Ultra Gel brings both flavor and fridgability.

Now, I’m not claiming this will totally keep your guac from browning a bit. Avocado just oxidizes at the drop of a hat and the only way to stop that is to eat it fast. However, the combination of the juice and the Ultra Gel really does help and it will keep it from weeping in the fridge, provided no one double dips and contaminates your dip!

IMG_3894

Easy Guacamole

4 medium avocados

Juice from 1 lime

1-2 Tablespoons Ultra Gel

salt

pepper

garlic powder

onion powder

Remove the flesh from the avocados and crush lightly. Mix in lime juice and Ultra Gel until well mixed. Add spices to taste. Eat. To refrigerate: Cover tightly. I press a layer of plastic wrap right onto the dip which does a lot to keep the air way.

Lime Crinkle Cookies

I looove lemon crinkle cookies. I’ve made and eaten a lot of them. A few days ago I wanted to make them, but all I had in my fruit bowl was limes. Undaunted I decided I’d just adjust my favorite lemon crinkle cookie recipe to make a lime one.

You’ll be happy to know that lime crinkle cookies are amazing. They’re not quite as bright as the lemon ones, but I think lime crinkle cookies are more flavorful and a little more mellow. Besides…they’re green, and you can’t go wrong with green cookies!

IMG_3836

Lime Crinkle Cookies

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened

1 cup sugar

2 Tablespoons Ultra Gel

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1 egg

Zest of one large or two medium limes

1 Tablespoon fresh lime juice

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/8 teaspoon baking soda

1 1/2 cups flour

1/2 cup powdered sugar

In the bowl of a stand mixer combine butter and sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Add Ultra Gel and beat to combine. Whip in vanilla, egg, lime zest and lime juice. In a separate bowl combine dry ingredients except powdered sugar. Fold into creamed mixture. Scrape sides of bowl and mix again. Pour powdered sugar onto a plate. Roll teaspoons of dough into balls and roll in the powdered sugar. Place on baking sheet.

Bake at 350 degrees for 9-11 minutes until bottoms begin to brown. Remove from oven and cool for 2-3 minutes before moving to a cooling rack.