Rainbow Chip Sheet Cake

Posted by on Monday Jun 9th, 2014

The rain is coming down this Monday morning. This recipe for Rainbow Chip Sheet Cake was already on the docket, but now that I’ve looked out the window, I hope the bright cake will bode as well for the weather later (a rainbow, followed by sunshine?!?!) as it will for all the future birthdays at which sugar coma-inducing slices will delight partygoers and party-givers alike.

This cake is part of neither my sweets-eating nor sweets-baking history, but I’d venture a guess that some of you grew up with rainbow chip cake and icing (that or Funfetti). Rainbow chip cake mix prevails, but the frosting got axed last year, to great sadness among the rainbow chip-loving set, which includes my friend Kenny–at whose 2013 party I first witnessed true love for rainbow chips, but whose 2014 Prospect Park birthday picnic was threatening to be disastrous, thanks to the discontinuation of the sprinkle-spangled icing from a can.

Anika (Kenny’s girlfriend) to the rescue. She found a source of rainbow chips, and I volunteered to make the cake. I used my trusty yellow cake recipe, which is flavored with lemon zest, and baked the batter in a sheet pan. (I find sheet cakes particularly accessible, and they save time. Plus, when you cut squares, you end up with cupcake-like proportions of icing to cake, which I love.)

I stirred together a classic cream cheese icing, adding extra sweetener to mock the stuff that comes in a can, then poured in the rainbow chips. I piled the icing on top, then set the whole cake on my slate board and carried it (biceps burning) to the park. When we’d eaten all of Anika’s grilled green chili turkey burgers and tasty guacamole, we finally brought out the cake. As the birthday guys blew out the candles, I was suddenly kind of worried. Would the cake meet Kenny’s expectations?

Fortunately, all the guests ate plenty of cake. Kenny led the way in doling out extra icing from a container I’d brought when the whole bowl I’d mixed up didn’t fit on top of the cake. This was success. Sweet success.

Mocha Choco Loco

Posted by on Wednesday Jun 4th, 2014

I’m going to trust you with this recipe, goofy title and all. Do you have sisters? I have two, and when all three of us put our heads (and cravings) together, amazing recipes emerge. This is one.

Of course, I can’t pinpoint exactly when it started, but it was a long time ago. I definitely remember a sunny Saturday in high school. Katie, my younger sister, and I were reading on the deck, and we experienced that late-afternoon desire that comes from neither hunger nor tiredness nor thirst alone, but a combination of all three. Those, and the call of our sweet teeth. We set down our books and raced into the kitchen.

Was that the first Mocha Choco Loco of all time? I can’t say. The evolution from plain chocolate milk to Mocha Choco is subtle indeed–but crucial. The update comes in the form of espresso powder, an ingredient we always had on hand for making mom’s famous chocolate cake but never used for actual drinking coffee. That day, and many after, we dissolved cocoa, espresso powder, and sugar in hot water in our glasses, then poured in cups of milk, added ice cubes, drank up. This miniature cooking session was followed by us running around the house for the rest of the day yelling about Mocha Choco Locos.

You, on the other hand, might be wise to think of this as a simple, not-too-sweet, homemade version of the Frappucino. That makes a lot more sense than the internal sister name.

There’s such a premium on creative output these days, with an atmosphere of obsession over the new, the better, and the surprising. Sometimes, after all the pushing to come up with ideas, I stop being able to think of any more, and sometimes, when it comes to dinner, that means the usual.

10 Meals to Stretch the Meat

Posted by on Thursday May 29th, 2014

Meat-lite is my mantra. I don’t eat steak at every meal, and chicken graces our pot no more than once every 10 days. I’m hardly a vegetarian though, and my favorite cooking quiz show (in my head) is to see how little meat I can get away with in what’s otherwise a non-vegetarian meal. Buying meat in smaller quantity keeps your wallet full, while adding a bit of bacon, sausage, or brisket to your healthful, inexpensive meal helps the vegetables go down.

1. Quinoa, Avocado & Apple Salad with Crispy Bacon & Honey-Dijon Vinaigrette. Bacon is the cherry on top of an otherwise virtuous, vegan salad.

2. Chicken Soba Soup with Miso & Spinach.A skimpy piece of chicken to feed two or more? Unheard of, til you bulk out the poultry with vegetables, broth, and noodles.

3. Homemade Baked Beans on Toast. The Brits figured out how to make a meal of beans taste amazing: add bacon!

Welcome to my new monthly series: the five-ingredient sandwich. Coming up, you’ll find delicious but really simple sandwiches with just five ingredients in the filling, or sometimes fewer, in surprising and delightful combinations.

Sandwiches exemplify exactly what we’re trying to do here: make cooking at home no big deal. A sandwich lets even a busy/busy/busy quarter-lifer with a million things she has to do (or thinks she has to do) skip takeout and freezer meals and eat something wholesome and useful instead. Because we’re not talking about mediocre, unoriginal sandwiches here. We’re going to feature sandwiches so good they easily feel like a gourmet meal–not a meal of last resort, like cereal or beans from the can. Case in point: the egg sandwich.

The first sandwich only has three ingredients in its filling: goat cheese, honey, and thyme. And, rather than an official two-bread sandwich, this offering is open-faced, so I’m calling your newest breakfast, lunch, AND dinner a tartine.

Some of the sandwiches will be my creations, but this one comes to us from Carly Diaz, a photographer who lives out in Portland, OR. You’re seen Carly’s beautiful photos on the site before (here, here, and here), and I’m so glad she’s sharing her sandwich here today.

Here’s what Carly says:

This recipe reminds me of my years living in Amsterdam, where you can find this simple sandwich in many of the cafés. The combination of sweet honey and creamy goat cheese makes it a satisfying midday meal and I quickly found myself recreating it at home and, eventually, bringing it back with me to Portland. I switch out fluffy Dutch rolls for thick, hearty slices of wheat and slather a layer of butter to melt into the freshly toasted bread if I’m feeling decadent. One bite, and I’m transported back to the city of canals and bicycles.

Have a sandwich you love? Tell me in the comments and I’ll try it as soon as I can.

Kitchen Stuff: The Large Slate Board

Posted by on Friday May 23rd, 2014

In a small kitchen, you don’t need a lot of equipment to cook great food. Still, you do need some pots, pans, utensils, and dishes–obviously. In the BGSK book, you’ll find a bare bones list of necessary tools, but I’ve long wanted to bring you a similar resource on the web.

So we’re going one by one, stocking up our virtual pantries and maybe our real ones too. You can see the whole “set” here.

Over the weekend, I brought a rainbow chip cake to a birthday party (recipe soon, of course). At the last minute, I decided to carry it to the park on my large slate cheese board. An odd choice, you might think, for a cake! But no: since I got the board over a year ago, I’ve used it to serve cheese, crostini, cake, and much, much more. (Food bloggers: it also makes a great photo backdrop.) Having a flat surface, rather than a plate or platter with edges, is part of what gives the board its versatility to suit anything from cheese to your spread of party cocktails. Of course if you host a lot of wine and cheese parties, you’l find the board particularly valuable.

Unlike the salad spinner, the board’s flatness also means you’ll have good luck finding a place to stow the rectangle away, even in a small kitchen. (I rest it on the floor, wedged between a shelf and the wall.)

Here are a few ways you’ll use the board:

Coffee Granita

Posted by on Wednesday May 21st, 2014

Natalie of Good Girl Style is back today to share a summer dessert you’ll love if one of the following applies to you: you don’t eat dairy, you don’t eat gluten, you don’t have an ice cream maker, and you don’t love eating crazy rich desserts during bikini season. Natalie joins us each month to share incredible desserts with Big Girls, Small Kitchen readers–desserts that are entirely gluten-free, but not like obviously gluten-free. That means no specialty flours or hard-to-find ingredients, just good old-fashioned butter, sugar, chocolate, cream, and almonds. Don’t miss her most recent posts, about Lemon Bars and Almond Horns.

Coffee granita is one of my go-to summer desserts. It sounds impressive but couldn’t be easier to make. However it might leave you wondering what in the world a granita actually IS! It is similar to a fancy slushie or a flavored, grainy ice–like Italian ice. While some liquids lose flavor when frozen, this coffee flavor actually intensifies. Frozen coffee slushie with whipped cream to end a cookout on a warm night? Nothing more refreshing.