showing my inner anglophile – chocolate chip traybake

chocolate chip traybake with peanut butter and chocolate fudge icing

Chocolate chip traybake cake
Chocolate chip traybake cake

like most people who have netflix, i am obsessed with great british bake off. i was actually obsessed with it before it was on netflix, and we also had the box set of the mighty boosh which i used to watch regularly with my brother. holla if you are familiar with this show… most people know of old greg, but have never really watched it past that. super weird, super british, absolutely hilarious, and definitely noel fielding’s best role. if you are into weird stuff or have a weird sense of humor defnitely check it out. i also have uk television shows on our cable, and will regularly relax with my glass of wine and watch antiques roadtrip, and obsessed with victorian farm. kind of on a tangent here, but you see where i’m going?

i’ve been working on my semi-homemade chocolate chip cake recipe, and for some reason i cannot make a regular cake to save my life. so this is why i always stick to traybakes (as the british call them, or a cake baked in a pan, not turned out and eaten in squares right out of the pan) or cupcakes. i feel like they are harder for me to ruin, there is no turning out the cake, trimming it, worrying about the icing looking perfect, etc. this traybaked poke cake is great because it reminds me of those tasty cake kandy kakes, but better because it’s homemade. and bigger. the fudge icing is from life above the cafe and i originally saw it on her instagram. she has the most amazing dessert recipes! definitely check out her blog. the cake recipe is modified from the wasc cake recipe from sugar geek show, and is super easy because it’s semi-homemade, and all you do is throw everything in the mixer together and turn it on. let me know if you try this chocolate chip traybake and what you think!

ingredients

cake
1 yellow box cake mix
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup white sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup plain whole milk yogurt – mountain high yogurt is delicious for baking or just by itself with some fruit or honey
1 cup milk
1/2 cup melted unsalted butter (1 stick)
3 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
splash (1/8-1/4 tsp) almond extract
1 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups peanut butter – i love the simply nature organic peanut butter from aldi, it has no added sugar

frosting
2 cups granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 heaping tablespoons cocoa powder
5 oz evaporated milk
1 stick of unsalted butter

instructions

preheat your oven to 350, and prepare a 9×13 glass baking dish by spraying with cooking spray or coating with a stick of butter. in an electric stand mixer, or large bowl, combine the cake mix, flour, sugar, salt, yogurt, milk, butter, eggs, vanilla and almond extracts. with the paddle attachment or a whisk (if you’re using a regular bowl) beat at medium speed for 2 minutes. fold in the chocolate chips. pour into your prepared pan and bake 40-50 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. i checked mine at 30 minutes and it was still completely not set in the middle. i ended up adding about 12 more minutes of baking time, for a total of 42 minutes. it will depend on your oven. just ignore the instructions/ingredients on the back of the box and only use the ingredients listed here.

after the cake comes out of the oven and cools completely, poke holes all over the top of it using a straw. microwave your peanut butter for 30-40 seconds so it’s very pourable, and spread it all over the top of the cake. after this, start the icing. in a medium-large nonstick pot, whisk together the dry ingredients (sugar, salt, and cocoa powder). add the evaporated milk, whisk everything together and bring it to a rolling boil, whisking the entire time. set a timer for 2 minutes and let the mixture boil for exactly 2 minutes, whisking constantly. when the timer goes off, turn off the heat and whisk in the stick of butter. continue whisking for one more minute after the butter is completely incorporated to cool the mixture slightly.

then take the hot icing and pour it over top the peanut butter and spread evenly over the top of the cake. i usually take mine and tap the bottom on a wooden surface (so i don’t break the glass pan) until i see that the fudge frosting starts to go down into the holes in the cake. wait until it has cooled completely before cutting into it! the top will become crusty and crackly and delicious and this is a perfect snacking cake. you can tell i definitely didn’t let mine cool all the way before cutting into it, but it’s so tempting when the frosting is still warm and gooey and fudgy. sooooo delicious. let me know if you try it! the method for the icing is on my reels on instagram if you want to check it out 🙂

weeknight skillet dinner

chicken broccoli skillet with rice-a-roni

this semi-homemade skillet is so so easy and quick for a weeknight dinner, and it’s definitely a new family favorite. chicken and broccoli are perfect add ins for the wild rice rice-a-roni mix, and it’s ramped up with white wine, garlic, heavy cream, and cheese. chicken thighs would also be really good in this, and i think would retain a little more of their moisture. instead of the white wine, you could use a white wine vinegar or sherry vinegar (about 2 tablespoons), which i’ve also tried in the past and it turns out delicious. feel free to use any shredded cheese you prefer, but i tried the grated gruyere and swiss from aldi and it’s amazing! this meal is also totally toddler and baby approved, but my kids both love broccoli, it’s definitely their favorite vegetable. you could also add some mushrooms which emmett also loves but hubby isn’t a huge fan so i left them out here. hope your fam enjoys this one pan skillet meal as much as mine does!

ingredients

2 chicken breasts, cut into bite sized pieces
1 large head of fresh broccoli, cut into bite sized pieces (or 2 smaller ones)
2 cloves of minced garlic
1/2-3/4 cup of shredded cheese (depending on how cheesy you like it)
1/3 cup white wine (or a couple tablespoons white wine vinegar or sherry vinegar)
1/3 cup of heavy cream (or half and half)
1 2/3 cups of chicken broth
1 box rice-a-roni wild rice mix
1 tablespoon of butter
salt & pepper
smoked paprika
onion powder
2 tablespoons of olive oil + 1 tablespoon olive oil, separated

instructions

preheat the oven to 400 degrees, and then start by cutting the chicken breast into bit sized pieces. if you’re using thighs i think you could also just leave them whole and arrange the broccoli and rice around them. cut up the broccoli into bite sized pieces and set aside in a bowl. if you are mincing your own garlic i would also prep this and set aside in a small bowl. but if you’re lazy like me and use pre-minced garlic… you don’t have to worry about this. heat an oven safe skillet to medium-high heat, and add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and half the chicken pieces. sprinkle the chicken with salt, pepper, onion powder, and the smoked paprika. just a pinch of each. brown on all sides, then transfer to a plate and do the same with the next batch. i do it in batches so it doesn’t crowd the pan and to make sure it browns instead of steaming. lower the heat to medium and add the last tablespoon of olive oil and broccoli into the pan for about 3-4 minutes just to get a little color on it, then add the garlic and cook for about another minute. transfer this all onto the plate with the chicken. with the pan on medium-low heat, add in the wine to deglaze and scrape all the brown bits up using a wooden spoon or rubber spatula. then stir in the heavy cream until everything is combined, and then the cheese. add the chicken and broccoli back into the cheese mixture and coat everything. you can turn off the heat or leave it on very low while preparing the rice. prepare the ricearoni by adding the rice, the seasoning packet, the tablespoon of butter, and 1 2/3 cup chicken broth to a medium sized pot and bring to a boil. once it has come to a boil, pour the entire thing over the broccoli and chicken mixture in the oven safe pan. use your wooden spoon or spatula to evenly distribute the rice around the pan, and then pop into the oven for 30 minutes. the rice should come out perfectly cooked, but if there were any pieces of rice on top of the chicken and broccoli, and not in the cooking liquid they may be crunchy. if you don’t like crunchy rice, just make sure it is all pushed down in the crevices in the cooking liquid. then enjoy your one pot meal! this would also be good served with a nice, crusty piece of bread 🙂


easy peasy chicken dinner – spanish chicken skillet

easy two-pan spanish chicken with rice and peas

i wasn’t sure if this would turn out how i imagined it in my head, but basically i threw this semi-homemade “spanish” chicken together from random things i found in the freezer and pantry since we traveled to buffalo for christmas and didn’t want to buy a bunch of crap for meals at the store. soooo it was delicious. and i used rice-a-roni. yes. rice-a-roni. that i dug out of the very back of our pantry, standing on a chair to reach it. so easy and so quick to pull together for a weeknight dinner, especially if you have kids running around. love a meal you can just throw into a skillet, pop in the oven, and it’s ready. so much less cleanup for mom 🙂

ingredients

6 bone in, skin on chicken thighs
1 box rice-a-roni spanish rice
14 oz whole peeled tomatoes – the boxed rice calls for diced tomatoes, but i love the cento whole peeled italian style tomatoes so i used these instead
1 tsp sugar
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp butter
2 cups of water
1 1/2 cups frozen peas
salt
pepper
paprika or smoked paprika
ground coriander
ground cumin
1 tbsp sherry vinegar (you could also use balsamic or white wine vinegar)

instructions

preheat your oven to 400 degrees. season both sides of the chicken thighs with a sprinkle of the salt, pepper, paprika, ground cumin, and ground coriander. heat a high sided skillet or dutch oven (must be oven safe!) to medium-high heat, add the olive oil, and sear both sides of the chicken until browned, about 3-5 minutes each side. meanwhile, prepare the rice-a-roni in a separate medium sized pot according to the directions on the package. first, take about half the can of whole peeled tomatoes (mine came in a 28oz can), plus the sauce and cut them up, or break them up with your hands. then melt the 2 tablespoons of butter in your pot over medium heat, and cook the rice mixture until toasted. add the water, spice package, tomatoes, peas, and the teaspoon of sugar and bring this to a boil. once the chicken is done browning, turn down the heat to low, discard about 2-3 tablespoons of the grease, and add the vinegar to the pan. once the rice mixture is boiling, pour it over the chicken, and spread out the rice and peas around the chicken so they’re not all clumped together in the middle. put the whole skillet in the preheated oven and cook uncovered for 30 minutes. enjoy!

semi-homemade baking

triple-chocolate salted caramel brownies

do you guys remember sandra lee on food network? well semi-homemade food is my jam 🙂 more importantly, the lady loved a cocktail. anyway, these are super easy, since a boxed brownie mix takes the work out of measuring out all the ingredients, but homemade caramel from sally’s baking addiction, extra white chocolate chips, and some maldon sea salt add a little extra flair. great for busy moms or anyone who aint got time for making homemade brownies. the caramel can also be made in advance which saves you being in the kitchen too long. my husband said he couldn’t stop eating them, so fudgy and addicting. enjoy!

ingredients

your favorite boxed brownie mix (i used the specially selected “double chocolate” boxed mix from aldi)
1/2 cup white chocolate chips (recommend ghirardelli)
1 egg
1/4 cup water
1/3 cup vegetable oil (or any other oil of choice)
maldon sea salt (or any other flaked sea salt for sprinkling)
caramel
1 cup sugar
6 tablespoons salted butter, cut into pieces and at room temperature
1/2 cup heavy cream, room temperature
1/2 tsp kosher salt (sally’s recipe calls for 1 teaspoon, but i’m also sprinkling sea salt on top of the brownies, so didn’t want to overdo it)
1/2 tsp vanilla (sally’s recipe doesn’t call for this but i like the flavor it adds to the caramel)

instructions

make the caramel first by heating the sugar over medium heat in a medium sized pan, constantly stirring. the recipe here calls to use a wooden spoon or rubber spatula but when i make it again i’ll probably use a whisk, because i feel like it worked better. keep working the sugar until it is completely melted and a golden brown color. be careful not to burn it! as soon as the sugar is completely melted and golden brown, immediately stir in the butter and keep whisking to combine it. if the butter separates from the caramel, follow sally’s instructions, and take it off the heat and whisk vigorously until it comes back together. honestly, i always just thought caramel was ruined if this happened, but it actually worked for me. then return it to the heat and once the butter and sugar is all combined let it cook for 2 more minutes. slowly whisk in the heavy cream, it will bubble up since the cream is colder than the caramel mixture. let it boil for one more minute, then remove it from the heat and stir in the salt and vanilla. pour the caramel into a heat safe bowl to cool a little before using, it will also thicken up. her website also has a great video if you are confused by any of the instructions.

then, start preparing the brownies according to the directions on the box. preheat oven to 325 degrees, and mix together the brownie mix, 1/2 cup of white chocolate chips (hence the triple chocolate), water, egg, and oil until all combined. spray a 9×13 or 8×8 pan with cooking spray (your preference, or just follow the instructions on your box mix), and pour the brownie mix in and spread it evenly into the pan. drizzle desired amount of caramel over the top of the brownie mix and then take a toothpick and swirl it around. bake the brownies according the package directions for the size pan you are using. this will also vary depending on if you like your brownies to be more done, or more gooey. mine were in for about 30 minutes and i used a 9×13 baking dish. sprinkle them with sea salt after taking them out of the oven, let them cool then slice and serve.