Monday, February 24, 2014

Anniversary Chocolate Pie

A lot can happen in a year. And sometimes that same amount of stuff will happen in six months. That’s where we, (Aaron and I) find ourselves today on our sixth-month wedding anniversary.

I can hardly believe it either. I’ve been married for six months to one pretty spectacular guy. In that same time span Aaron finally got on active duty in the USAF, we moved from Philadelphia to West Texas, I started a job as a librarian, we got a dog, a car, and a Le Creuset Dutch oven. All very significant life accomplishments if I do say myself.

Of course the one thing that has remained constant is our trust in each other. Without Aaron I’d probably still be living in beautiful Philadelphia working minimum wage at a museum and coffee shop simultaneously and be completely miserable. Despite the ups and downs of moving “half cross country,” I know we couldn’t have done any of it without each other and I guess that’s the point of this marriage thing after all.

And even with all the massive life changes, often it’s the little things that count the most. Like when Aaron surprises me with flowers on a Wednesday or hug after a particularly hard day or this chocolate pie.

This is his favorite. Alright, a close tie with carrot cake, but since he got that for his groom’s cake I thought I would try something different.

While not discounting all the help and opportunities we’ve had so far, starting out isn’t easy. We’ve limited our spending and especially our “going out” money so we can pay for that bachelor’s degree of mine, the car, the dog, and the Le Creuset Dutch oven. So instead of going out and dropping $60-100 on an (sixth month) anniversary dinner, I’m surprising him with (small) rib-eye steak, mashed potatoes, peas, homemade bread, and of course: THIS PIE. 

Yes, it’s a Monday, but you’re only in your first month of marriage once. And yes I mean once, America. So might as well enjoy it while you can, embracing the poorness and the Southern specialties. Where good steak is cheaper than chicken and a lot more plentiful.

I made this pie from scratch: meaning homemade filling, fresh whipped cream, and homemade crust. It is honestly the best way to make it and the homemade crust really makes the difference, especially for a special occasion. If you’d rather, you can substitute for the roll-out store bought option which is good in a hurry but a little pricier than the really stuff which costs about $90.

Because this is the Southern baked version versus a Chocolate silk pie, the top gets perfectly caramelized, the inside is smooth, and it doesn’t even need the whipped cream. Either way you cannot get better than this. I wanted an extra chocolately pie without being sickly sweet. I hope you agree-- anniversary or not.

Anniversary Chocolate Pie with Fresh Whipped Cream
(Filling recipe adapted from Food and Wine and crust recipe from The Working Class Foodies Cookbook by Rebecca Lando)

For the Crust:
1 cup all purpose flour, plus more for working
1 stick unsalted butter, cold and cubed
1 egg yolk
2-½ tsp. milk
1 ½ tsp. vanilla extract
½ tbsp. sugar
½ tsp. salt

For the Filling:
2/3 cup plus 1 tbsp. heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup good quality dark chocolate chips, finely chopped into shavings (about 2-3 tbsp. of the whole chips)
4 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup sugar
4 tbsp. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
2 large eggs lightly beaten
1 tsp. good quality vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. salt

For the Whipped Cream:
1 cup heavy whipping cream
3 tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Dark chocolate chips or bar chopped or made into shavings with a vegetable peeler

For a sweeter pie, add 1/4 cup more sugar in the filling and another tablespoon cream.


For the crust, whisk flour, sugar, and salt together in a large bowl or stand mixer. Work in cubed better with your hands or on medium speed with the mixer making coarse crumbs of the flour and butter.

In a small bowl beat the egg yolk, milk, and vanilla together. Mix wet ingredients into the flour mixture until dough just forms.

Take dough out of the bowl, then gently and quickly knead it on a clean, floured surface, forming a ball. Over-kneading will melt the butter.

Wrap dough completely in plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour. Once ready to use, let dough rest on the counter for 15 minutes before rolling out.

Preheat oven to 350°.

Roll pie dough out on your floured surface evenly to make an 11-inch circle. Let rest for a minute, then carefully place in a 9-inch pie plate and crimp the edges of the dough with a fork to the lip of the plate. Press firmly all around the crust so it doesn’t slid when prebaking. Prick the bottom of the crust lightly with a fork.  Bake for 5 minutes, then remove from oven and let it slightly cool for a minute.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk the sugar with the cocoa powder, chocolate butter, eggs, and ¾ cup whipping cream, vanilla, and salt until smooth. Stir until chocolate shavings melt. (This may take a couple minutes so let sit while crust is prebaking.)

Pour the filling into the pie shell and bake for about 45 minutes, until the filling is set around the edges but a little loose in the center when jiggled. Cover the crust with strips of foil halfway through baking.

Transfer the pie to a rack and let cool completely before cutting into wedges. Serve with whipped cream and chocolate shavings. (Pie shown above has only been cooled, for a more set filling, refrigerate at least one hour before serving and texture will vastly improve.)

For the Whipped Cream: Once ready to serve pie, add whipping cream, sugar, and vanilla into a chilled metal bowl. Beat with an electric or stand mixer that have whisk attachments (or by hand with a whisk,) until stiff peaks form in the cream, the whipped cream should be thick enough that when put on a spoon and tipped up side down it shouldn’t drop.

Refrigerate the rest of the pie and only top with whipped cream once ready to serve so the pie doesn’t get soggy.


P.s. Happy Anniversary, honey.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

WIAW #62: White Chicken Veggie Enchiladas

This recipe came out of one of those moments in life when you say to yourself, "I have no idea what to make for dinner."

So naturally I make enchiladas....

I haven't done a "What I Ate Wednesday" in a while so for today I have only these babies to show you. I hope you like them. We've been eating a little carb-heavy lately so I figure this will be the last hoorah before I start exercising again. I just need to focus on the lovely Texas grapefruit I've been eating by the dozen instead of the chocolate rush from last week....

Honestly these aren't the quickest meal to make but they are one of the tastiest. When it comes to enchiladas its important to add what you like as you can really put anything in there within reason.

Because this was improvised, I was low on quantities of each ingredient so I decided to mix them all together to make veggie chicken enchiladas instead of only the latter. I love mushrooms and when properly cooked they add ugmami (savory) without the extra (more expensive) meat. And steamed cauliflower simply mixes in no one the wiser except for you...sneak in those veggies!

Aaron went nuts for these so I decided to record them as much for my own memory's sake as to share them with you. But trust me, your family will be fighting over these as well!

White Chicken Veggie Enchiladas
(Makes 10 enchiladas for 5-7 servings)

10 small flour tortillas (or gluten free corn tortillas)
1 chicken breast or 2 cups cooked shredded chicken
1/2 head cauliflower including edible stock, roughly chopped
8 oz. mini bella mushrooms, 1/4 inch diced
 1 small yellow onion, finely diced
4 oz. can diced green chilies
1/2 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup beer such as corona
1 cup milk (2% or whole)
1 1/2 cup mixed Mexican cheese (optional mix with mozzarella)
1/2 block cream cheese, chopped
1/3 cup chopped cilantro
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper
Garlic powder
1 tbsp. butter
1/2 tbsp. Flour
Olive oil


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Sprinkle salt and pepper on top of the chicken breast along with a drizzle of oil oil. Place on a lined baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes or until no longer pink inside. Allow chicken to cool slightly in order to work with it. Shred meat with a knife and fork into small strips. Set aside.

Set oven to 375 in order to bake the enchiladas.

In a large pan, add 1 tbsp. olive oil begin to sauté chopped onions until soft and translucent. Add garlic and sauté for another minute. Add diced mushrooms and sauté until soft and beginning to brown.

Meanwhile mix cauliflower, punch salt, and 1 tbsp. water in a microwave-safe dish and cook for about 5 minutes until cauliflower is soft. Cook for additional 1-2 minutes if necessary. Once finished, mash cauliflower and add to pan with mushrooms once cooked. Sauté mixture for an additional minute. Add seasoning to taste (1/2 tsp. cumin, pinch chili powder, 1/2 tsp. garlic powder) add about 2 tbsp. of the cilantro, half of the green chilies, and add salt and pepper to taste. Remove mixture from pan, stir in a 2 tbsp. cheese and reserved chicken, set aside.

Wipe pan clean to begin the sauce. Return pan to heat and add butter. Once butter is bubbly, add flour and stir together until thick and pasty. Over low heat, Add milk, beer, and cream cheese and whisk together until thick. Lightly cook until beer taste is no longer forefront.

 Add tomatoes and stir to incorporate letting them wilt a little until the skins become loose. Take off heat and add the rest of the chilies, some of the cilantro, and red pepper flakes. Taste and season with salt, pepper, and garlic powder to taste. Stir in about 2 tbsp. cheese.

When ready to assemble enchiladas, spoon about 1/2 cup of the sauce to cover the bottom of a greased large baking dish. Working with one tortilla at a time, spoon equal amounts of the filling into the middle. (About 1/4-1/3 cup should do.) Carefully roll each tortilla tightly and place seam-side down into the baking dish. Make sure to make room for all ten enchiladas in the dish.

Cover the tortillas with the rest of the sauce, until all the corners are covered. Top with remaining cilantro and cheese along with more black pepper. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 15 minutes. Remove foil and bake until cheese is bubbly, about 10 more minutes.

Allow enchiladas to set for about 5 minutes before serving with rice, beans etc..


Monday, February 10, 2014

Vegan Truffled Chocolate Covered Cherries and Mousse

Hey guess what? Valentine's Day is coming up on Friday. Oh you didn’t know? Well then you’ll need something special to make.

Whether you are looking for something special for you and your significant other, for a girls' night in, or a dinner party, they will all be impressed. But it's another thing if you have allergies, are gluten-free, or vegan. No matter your diet, you deserve some decadence too.

So when Enjoy Life Foods sent me a bag of their Dark Chocolate morsels for baking, I knew it was time to make a treat everyone could enjoy. Pun.

The morsels not only contribute to my chocolate coconut cream mousse but also to my chocolate covered cherries. They can be made separately or be put together. Either way you have enough decadence to last you the whole season.

You know I love Enjoy Life's products and since their 69% cocoa chips are gluten-free, vegan, and free of the eight most common allergens, you don’t have to be afraid to have your mousse and eat it too. Oh, and they melt perfectly. 

Likewise, cordial chocolate covered cherries were one of my favorites growing up. But if you don't buy carefully, they can taste quite artificial. So instead, I used fresh Bing cherries that are only in season for a couple weeks in Chile. I know, but forgive me it’s Valentine’s Day. Here, Enjoy Life’s dark chocolate morsels were essential.

I wanted to combine fresh, sweet cherries with decadent dark chocolate so you have a nice crunch with the soft flesh of the cherries. And hey, this is America so might as well stuff the cherry with vegan chocolate coconut cream mousse. This step while totally worth it can be skipped for time’s sake. I do hope you make the chocolate mousse. It is so rich and creamy you won’t believe it is actually vegan…but I promise it is!

Coconut cream is an extra thick version of coconut milk, basically without the water and really cannot be substituted. You can find it at Trader Joe’s (of course,) Whole Food’s, and probably any Asian markets or well stocked grocery will carry it. Just make sure you refrigerate the can overnight so it remains thick and won’t melt as much while you are working with it.

FYI: this mousse is very decadent, so small amounts go a long way. This recipe should be enough for 4 small portions. If you aren’t used to coconut cream, you don’t want to over eat or you might get a tummy ache!

This is perfect for a the modern Valentine’s Day dinner party as you won’t get any complaints from your vegan or gluten-free guests. Get ready to impress some people with this! And you will have a lot of cherries left over….but not for long.

Vegan Chocolate Covered Cherries with Vegan Chocolate Mousse

Makes 4 small cups of mouse and 40 cherries

For the Mousse
1 cup coconut cream or about ½ of a can, (refrigerate can overnight before use so it hardens)
3 tbsp. vegan sugar
3 tbsp. Cocoa powder
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 cup Enjoy Life dark chocolate morsels
Coconut or other vegan milk in case you need to adjust the consistency

For the Truffled Chocolate Covered Cherries
40 fresh bing cherries, carefully pitted
1 cup Enjoy Life dark chocolate morsels
Coconut chips or flaked coconut for garnish
About 1/2 cup chocolate mousse
1 plastic bag
40 toothpicks


Use a double broiler or sauce pan and glass bowl for melting.

Fill a saucepan with about 2 inches of water and bring to a boil. Place glass bowl over top trapping the steam and take off heat immediately.

Add 1/4 cup chocolate morsels into the bowl and continue stirring until all morsel chips are melted and chocolate is smooth. If it isn't melting, cover with lid for a minute and the chips should start to melt around the edges.

Meanwhile add all ingredients including the melted chocolate, for the mousse into a stand mixer or bowl with beaters until completely mixed and air enters mixture making light and creamy. Spoon into individual glasses for serving, reserving about 1/2 cup mousse. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least two hours up to one day.

Separately arrange pitted cherries on a plate and carefully spoon reserved mousse into the plastic bag. Cut the edge of the bag to make a very small slit.

Using the opening of each cherry made by pitting, pipe a very small amount of mousse into each cherry and a little on the opposite side. (This may be a bit messy, so keep a paper towel handy.)

Refrigerate stuffed cherries for about 30 minutes to 1 hour before dipping in chocolate. Before dipping them into the chocolate, carefully place 1 toothpick into the side of each cherry without squeezing mousse out of the cherry.

Meanwhile bring your saucepan with water back to a boil and remove from heat once boiled. Melt the remaining cup of chocolate morsels over your double broiler or bowl and saucepan. Continue stirring until all morsel chips are melted and chocolate is smooth. If it isn't melting, cover with lid for a minute and the chips should start to melt around the edges.

(If you are a slower worker like me, it might be easier only to work with a 1/2 cup of morsels at a time as the chocolate will re-harden very quickly.)

Working very quickly dip each skewered cherry into the melted cherry to cover completely and scrape any drip off the side with a spoon. Place each dipped cherry onto a baking sheet lined with parchment or wax paper.

Refrigerate the dipped cherries for at least 30 minutes and don’t remove until ready to serve.

Before serving, carefully remove the toothpicks from each cherry. Once ready to serve, place several cherries on top of the mousse and top with coconut flakes. Serve immediately.

Variation: Use a little bit of the melted chocolate to attach coconut flakes to cover the hole made by the toothpick in the chocolate shell.


Monday, February 3, 2014

Mexican Tortilla Soup

Today in West Texas it is cold. I mean almost snowing cold. I can’t complain since back home in PA they’ve been dealing with record breaking snow amounts for weeks. So I thought making soup would be the perfect solution. Since we are in Texas now until June, I’ve tried to embrace the types of food you can get here. Mexican and Latin American are about the only options if you don’t count the British Hob Nobs and the Asian section at the Commissary on base. Here I can get handmade tortillas fresh from the ladies that make them, masa, queso fresco, corn husks, tamales, epazote, and homemade tortilla chips like nobodies business. If you love homemade gulf Mexican, this is your place. 

So making this soup felt like the best of both worlds-chilly weather, and a nod to the flavors of our new area.

It just so happened that making a roast chicken earlier in the week allowed me to have homemade stock, and an abundance of meat perfect for this recipe. The rich homemade stock made the soup and the meat contributed both to soup and sweet potato chicken empanadas on the side.

This is the first time I've made this recipe and I must say I plan to make it a part of my regular recipe repertoire. Say that five times fast! 

I love how this so flavorful and hearty without being heavy. I wanted this to be a meal soup with the beans and carrots. It’s also incredibly easy.

I consulted the Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook from America’s Test Kitchen for the best method. Their recipe was aiming for simplicity so I chose to simmer my soup much longer than their 15 minutes. We like ours a bit on the spicy-medium salsa side. If you like it mild, reduce the amount of green chilies and use regular diced tomatoes.

I made this soup my own with an array of toppings and so can you. Just know that the tortillas, cheese, and cilantro are really not optional as they make the dish “tortilla soup.”

Mexican Tortilla Soup 
(Partially adapted from Cook's Illustrated Cookbook by America's Test Kitchen)
                                                         makes 6-8 servings

6 cups homemade chicken stock
1 large white or yellow onion, peeled and quartered
3 cloves garlic
1 can tomatoes with green chilies (14.5 oz.)
1 can green chilies (4 oz.)
1 can cannellini, black, or pinto beans (14.5 oz.), rinsed
2 cups leftover shredded breast meat chicken
2 large carrots, peeled and cut into rounds about 1/2 inch thick
5 oz. beer (I used Corona)
5 oz. white wine
3 stems cilantro, separate stems and leaves
1 tsp. chopped fresh oregano
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. chili powder
1-2 tsp. soy sauce, to taste (use Tamari for gluten-free)
2 tbsp. tomato paste
Salt and black pepper

Red pepper flakes
1 tbsp. Olive oil

3 cups homemade or high quality Corn tortilla chips broken into pieces
Lime wedges
Cheddar or Monterey jack cheese
Cilantro, plus 1 tsp. chopped
Sliced avocado
Fresh tomatoes
Sour cream

Cut 6 corn tortillas into 1/2 inch wide strips, drizzle with vegetable oil over pieces on a lines baking sheet. Bake at 425 degrees for 14 minutes. Shake halfway through and season lightly with salt.

If you aren't using homemade stock, use quality store-bought chicken stock and simmer with 1 half yellow onion, 1 cilantro stem, 1 oregano stock, and 1 garlic clove cut in half, and 1/2 tsp. salt. Simmer for 20 minutes.

If you don't have leftover chicken meat, simply add a uncooked chicken breast during the first broth step and remove once cooked through. Allow to cool slightly and shred. Add at the last 10 minutes of cooking time.


In a large stock pot, bring stock, 1 onion quarter, 1 garlic clove cut in half, cilantro stems and 1/2 tsp. sea salt to a light simmer on medium high heat for 20-30 minutes. Once finished, strain and set broth aside in a large bowl.

Meanwhile, add tomatoes, chilies, 2 remaining garlic cloves, cilantro leaves and 1 tsp. fresh oregano and the rest of the onion into a food processor and pulse only until just smooth. The consistency should be still be think but with no noticeable chunks.

Reheat pot with 1 tbsp. oil over high heat. Transfer mixture to the pot, add wine, chili powder, cumin, and cook for 10 minutes until the mixture darkens in color. Add a pinch of salt and stir minute frequently to avoid burning or bubbling.

Once tomato mixture darkens, carefully stir in strained broth, carrots, and bring to a boil. Then reduce heat to low heat and simmer. Add beer, tomato paste, and soy sauce. You can simmer soup from 30 minutes to 1 hour depending on how much time you have. The longer the soup simmers, the more blended the flavors will be. Add pepper and red pepper flakes to taste.

In the last 10 minutes, add rinsed beans and stir. In the last 5 minutes of cooking, add shredded chicken. Make sure beans and chicken are heated through.

Note: If broth is watery, add a chicken bouillon cube to the soup.

Add 1/4 cup chips to the bottom of each bowl. Ladle soup into bowls and top with more tortilla chips, cheese, cilantro, and any other toppings. Dig in!