Friday, July 24, 2009

Heaven in a Sheet Cake

My Co-Worker couldn't have put it better, "It's like heaven." My mom's Coca Cola Cake is something out of this world. A chocolatey, ooey gooey morsel from heaven. It's about time I share the recipe!

Speaking of sharing, a couple days ago, I thought it'd be fitting that I introduce this heavenly sheet cake to my new co-workers. What better way to put a smile on people's faces? Or test their will power ;-)

Below is the secret recipe that is not so secret anymore... I bet you can't have just one slice!

Mom's Coca Cola Cake
2 cups flour
2 cups granulated sugar
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
2 sticks unsalted butter
1 cup Coca Cola
1/2 cup Buttermilk
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 beaten eggs
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups Miniature Marshmallows
1 teaspoon Vanilla

For the Frosting
1 stick unsalted butter
6 tablespoons Coca Cola
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
1 box powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
Slivered Almonds (Optional)

Preheat oven to 350 F

In a bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder & salt. Over medium heat, in a saucepan melt the butter with the Coca Cola and cocoa until mixture begins to boil. Pour over the flour mixture. In another bowl, beat the eggs, buttermilk and vanilla. Pour this egg mixture into the flour/chocolate mixture. Add the marshmallows and stir. The marshmallows will float to the top.

Pour and spread evenly over a sheet cake pan. Bake for about 20 minutes. Or until a toothpick test comes out clean.

In the meantime, in a saucepan over medium heat, combine the 1 stick of butter, Coca Cola and cocoa. Once melted, remove from heat and stir in the powdered sugar and vanilla. Immediately pour frosting over cake once cake is removed from the oven. Sprinkle some slivered almonds over the top and voila! Serve once cooled... even better the next day!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Namaste, Mary's Secret Garden

Eating raw, unrefined food is a way of life I try to embrace as much as possible. As an ex collegiate athlete, I look for foods that nourish my soul and give me a natural boost to take on the day. Although I love to eat out and indulge, it’s nice to have accessible indulgences that taste just as good as they are for your body.

Mary’s Secret Garden is Ventura’s local Vegan restaurant offering the community some of the freshest and tastiest vegan dishes. Mary is positively passionate about her food, paying attention to every detail in presentation and quality of ingredients she puts in each dish.

Now I’m definitely not a vegan, but I most definitely enjoy my fresh fruits and veggies. That’s why Mary’s is my go to place for that perfect salad, vegan entree and some of the best smoothies in town… I’m nuts about their smoothies. Packed with raw, organic and tropical nutrients, they taste amazing! "Pure energy food" all of her smoothies contain no soy or processed ingredients and are 100% raw. Our society is so accustomed to the typical Jamba that we forget natural can taste good.

One of my all time fav's is their Pistachio Mint Smoothie. Yes, I said Pistachio and Mint! However, the Purple Sky has a lot more to offer… Its ingredients may surprise any smoothie aficionado. Check it out! And if you are inspired, give it a shot!

Purple Sky Smoothie

1/4 cup or small handful of fresh or frozen blueberries
1 whole banana
1 heaping teaspoon of Hemp seeds
1 small handful of Mint leaves
1 large scoop of ice cubes
1/4 to 1/2 cup Raw Almond mylk*
2 tablespoons Raw Agave Nectar

Combine all in a very powerful blender (Vita Mix is definitely worth the investment). Serve right away and enjoy!

*For the Raw Almond Mylk
1 cup sprouted almonds
8 dates w/o pits
4 cups high quality Water

Blend all ingredients until warm to touch, about 1 minute. Strain. Raw Almond mylk will keep in the fridge for up to 4 days.

Food plays so many roles and fills so many needs in our society. A restaurant, like Mary’s Secret Garden, that cares about their food and service beyond its revenue makes better offerings to the individual and to the community, and that’s something I strongly advocate.

Mary's Secret Garden
100 S. Fir Street
Ventura, CA

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Easy Crumble

As a kid I was never too fond of baked fruits, but I've come around. Now I enjoy homemade pies, tarts, galettes and, today, a crumble! But it really isn't just the baked fruit I enjoy, its the ease of preparation for baked fruits... As long as the fruits are ripe and in season and you use quality flour and sugars, your baked cobbler, galette or crumble will turn out delicious. Served in a bowl with ice cream or homemade whipped cream, it will be a hit with everyone!

Tonight is our first dinner party in ages and the new kitchen is in full force! For dessert we made a no fuss crumble from the Barefoot Contessa At Home cookbook. Ina never ceases to amaze me! I love her recipes as they are so simple yet so delicious. A recipe for any cook, this Peach & Blueberry Crumble is easy to assemble and doesn't require a grandiose presentation. You simply plop the mixture into a ramekin and bake... let the oven do the work for you.

Peach & Blueberry Crumble
from Barefoot Contessa At Home

For the fruit
2 pounds firm, ripe peaches (6-8 peaches)
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 cup fresh blueberries (1 pint)

For the Crumble

1 cup all purpose flour
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 pound (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, diced

First preheat your oven to 350 degrees

Immerse peaches in boiling water for 30 seconds to a minute, just until their skins peel off easily. Place them immediately in a bowl of cold water. Peel the peaches, slice into thick wedges, and place in a large bowl. Add the lemon zest, lemon juice, granulated sugar, and flour. Toss well. Gently mix in the blueberries. Allow the mixture to marinate for about 5 minutes. Spoon the mixture into ramekins or custard cups.

For the topping, combine the flour, granulated sugar, brown sugar, salt, cinnamon, and the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitter with a paddle attachment. Mix on low speed until the butter is the size of peas. Rub the mixture with your fingertips until it's in big crumbles, then sprinkle evenly over the fruit. Place the ramekins on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper and bake for 40 to 45 minutes, until the tops are browned and crisp and the juices are bubbly. Serve warm or at room temperature.

I made mine earlier in the day and stored them unbaked until dinner time.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Going Local

Change is always a good thing; unfortunately I feel as though I’ve been changing something every year. Ehem, locationally speaking.

However, with each new City I’ve gained a sense of curiosity and discovery, making each City my own. These new traits have inspired me to discover Ventura, the small, quiet town I grew up in. This was a City that never wavered to change, that is, until I moved away.

One place in particular is Main Street. Downtown housed only a highly flammable costume shop (how could anyone forget Bonnies), which did in fact almost burn down. Now, Downtown Main Street stretches a couple blocks showcasing clothing boutiques, wine bars, restaurants and spas! Que paso!? Gotta love progress.

Some of my new favorite places are Mary’s Secret Garden, Paradise Pantry, Brook’s Restaurant & Sidecar Restaurant.

I hope to use this blog as a place of reference for anyone interested in visiting Ventura. Reviews are so fun to write!