Monday, February 28, 2011

Decadent Chocolate-Hazelnut Torte

I have been busier than usual lately. You may have noticed that a few of the recipes promised on my meal plan are slow to make their way to this site over the past few weeks. And now, this week...I don't even have a meal plan! Soooo out of character for me. Here's my explanation (excuses, excuses): On top of moving into the new house AND attempting to study for a test so that I can transfer my teaching license to the state of Ohio, I have recently taken on a couple of part-time jobs. Beyond that, I was away from home all weekend. As a result, I failed to create a meal plan for this week. I know, with all of this "stuff" going on, a meal plan would serve me well. I should follow my own advice and "recycle" a previous meal plan. (That would work...if I had time to go to the grocery store for ingredients!) However, I am having trouble keeping up with posting the meals that I make lately. So this week I'm taking time off to catch up. For those of you anticipating the meal plan, I apologize. It will be back next week!  I promise. In the meantime, I offer you this fabulous dessert as a consolation prize: "The Nutella Torte"!

Even though our usual Valentine's feast turned into a low-key affair as we dined on pizza in the kitchen, I presented this decadent cake, made easy with a devil's food cake mix, Nutella, and whipped topping for dessert. It looks impressive, but really takes very little effort to create. I choose this particular dessert from The Pampered Chef Fall/Winter 2010 catalogue, not only for the ease and speed in preparation but because my kids are crazy about Nutella! My oldest even asked for the BIG jar on her Christmas list. Apparently Nutella was right up there with Barbie this year.

Here's the step-by-step:

Just combine a small box of devil's food cake mix (or 1-2/3 cups from a regular-sized cake mix), Nutella (or other hazelnut spread), some grated hazelnuts, sour cream, and an egg in a mixing bowl.

Mix well. You'll end up with a thick batter.

Grease and flour a torte pan (I just used a round cake pan) and line the bottom an 8 inch circle of parchment paper. Spread the batter evenly over the bottom.

Bake for 12-14 minutes in a 350 degree oven and then remove and let stand on a cooling rack for 2 minutes.

Invert the cake onto the cooling rack and let stand for 10 minutes before transferring to a cake plate or pedestal. Peel away the parchment too!

While the cake cools, mix together the incredibly simple, yet fabulous topping of Nutella and 1-1/2 cups of whipped topping.

Spread the topping over the cake.

Now for the hazelnut garnish....

The recipe suggested using a rotary grater to finely grate the hazelnuts. I just happen to have a rotary grater. I love this gadget for grating fresh Parmesan over pasta and salads, and NOW I have another reason to adore this clever little tool!

It worked beautifully!

Here, I took pause for a drool-worthy moment. Just look at the topping dripping over the side of the cake! Mmmmm.

I finished off the cake by piping the remainder of the whipped topping onto the top.

So pretty!

Slice it up and serve.

Here's the moment of truth: The First Bite.(Please pardon our moving boxes in the background.)

And the verdict from my "tiny Valentines"....

Yep. It was a WINNER!

Don't wait until Valentine's Day to make this!

Here's the recipe:

Decadent Chocolate Hazelnut Torte from The Pampered Chef

Nonstick cooking spray with flour
3/4 cup whole hazelnuts
1 small pkg (9 oz) Devil's food cake mix (make sure you use a small mix or measure out 1-2/3 cups of the cake mix)
1 jar (13 oz) Nutella
1/2 cup sour cream
1 egg
1 container (8 oz) frozen whipped topping, thawed, divided


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a torte pan with nonstick cooking spray and sprinkle with flour. Place an 8-in. circle of parchment paper over center of pan. Grate 1/2 cup of the hazelnuts into a large mixing bowl. Add cake mix, 1/3 cup of the Nutella, sour cream and egg; mix well. Pour batter into pan; spread evenly. Bake 12-14 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean

2. Remove from oven and let stand 2 minutes. Invert cake onto cake pedestal and cool for 10 minutes

3. Meanwhile, for filling, combine remaining Nutella and 1 1/2 cups of the whipped topping in a bowl and mix until smooth. Spread filling evenly into well of cake.

4. Pipe 1-1/2 cups of whipped cream over torte and grate remaining 1/4 cup of hazelnuts over cake.

Yield: 16 servings

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Crab-Filled Crescent Wontons

These yummy bites of crescent roll-wrapped crab were standouts on a buffet of appetizers that I set out for friends on Saturday night. They require very little effort to prepare and were a BIG hit.

Check it out!

Just mix together some chopped crab meat (I used the imitation stuff), cream cheese, mayonnaise, green onion, and cayenne pepper in a bowl.

Unroll a refrigerated tube of crescent roll dough on your work surface. Pinch the seams and roll it out a bit to make an even rectangle.  Cut the dough into 24 squares (6 rows by 4 rows).

Divide the crab mixture evenly among the crescent squares.

Fold one corner of the dough over the filling, then roll the "wonton" over to encase the crab filling in the dough. Place on a baking sheet and brush with egg white. Then, bake at 375 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes or until golden brown.

And that's it!

Quick, easy, and kind of recipe!

Crab Filled Crescent Wontons adapted from

1-8 oz. tube crescent roll dough
3 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup mayonnaise
3/4 cup cooked crabmeat, chopped
2 green onions, chopped
1/8- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
salt and pepper, to taste

Heat oven to 375°F. Spray cookie sheet with cooking spray. Unroll dough on work surface. Pinch seams to seal and roll with a rolling pin to create an even rectangle. Cut into 6 rows by 4 rows to make 24 squares.

In small bowl, mix cream cheese, mayo, crabmeat, onion, and red pepper. Salt and pepper to taste. Divide crab mixture evenly among the squares, dropping it by spoonfulls that are 1/2 inch from 1 corner of each square. Starting with same corner, fold dough over filling, and tuck end tightly underneath filling; continue rolling to within 1/2 inch of opposite corner. Roll opposite corner of dough over roll; press to seal. Place on cookie sheet. Brush with egg white, if desired.

Bake 10 to 15 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from cookie sheet. Serve warm.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Croque-Madame Casserole and the Meal Plan 2/21- 2/26

This Croque-Madame Casserole was a hit at our Sunday brunch a couple of weeks ago. You may be familiar with the Croque Monsieur(the French version of a grilled ham and cheese sandwich) and the Croque Madame (the Croque Monsieur served with a fried or poached egg on top). Well, leave it to Paula Deen to find a way to make this French sandwich into a casserole! I found this recipe in my copy of The Deen Family Cookbook (seen in my left sidebar).

Certainly not on any list of healthy foods, I'd be willing to diet all week for a slice of this! My husband and I loved it. My kindergartner ate about half of her serving, exclaiming how good it tasted. But halfway through she stopped eating abruptly and asked, "Does this have mustard in it? " Before I could answer, she went on. "Yes. Yes it does have mustard. I definitely taste mustard. YUCK! Mustard. I am NOT eating this." As my oldest went on complaining I noticed as her little sister quietly pushed her plate away as a sign of solidarity. Oh well, more for me!

If your children (or you) are not a fan of mustard, just leave it out. But definitely make this!

Here's how:

As with many of Ms. Deen's recipes, we begin with butter. If you have a problem with the amount of butter used in this recipe, I'd like to quote the Queen of Southern Cooking here: "I'm your cook, not your doctor!"

Anyway, melt 6 tablespoons of butter in a large skillet to make the bechamel sauce. From The Deen Family Cookbook: Bechamel sauce- That's just French for plain ol' white sauce.

Cook the butter until it bubbles.

Whisk in flour and cook for one minute.

Slowly whisk in 2-1/2 cups of milk and cook for 3 to 5 minutes until thick and bubbling.

Pour a thin layer of the sauce into a greased baking dish.

Cover with 5-6 slices of bread.

Top with half of the ham.

And half of the cheese.

The recipe called for Gruyere cheese. Gruyere is an excellent melting cheese (ideal for fondues) with a taste that is distinctive but not overpowering. It takes it's name from the town of Gruy√®res in Switzerland. It IS a bit pricey. I think that I paid around $15 for this bag of shredded fondue blend cheese at my local grocery. If you don't want to pay the price, you could always substitute your favorite Swiss cheese instead.

Repeat the layers of bread, ham, and cheese, ending with the sauce.

Bake the casserole for 30 minutes. Then remove from the oven and cut into 6 equal pieces.

Fry eggs in a skillet heated with the remaining butter.

Plate the slices of casserole and top each with a fried egg.

Time to dig in! I served mine with an Artisanal Blend of salad greens, which was added a nice crisp, refreshing taste in between bites of this rich, delicious casserole.

Here's the recipe:

Croque-Madame Casserole from Paula Deen's Deen Family Cookbook

Prep Time:20 min
Cook Time:40 min
Serves: 6

•6 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, plus 2 tablespoons for eggs
•1/4 cup all-purpose flour
•2 cups milk
•2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
•3/4 teaspoon salt, plus more for seasoning
•1/2 teaspoon pepper, plus more for seasoning
•1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
•10 to 12 slices white bread
•3/4 pound deli ham
•1 1/2 cups (6 ounces) grated Gruyere, reserve some for top of casserole
•6 eggs
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Grease an 8-inch square baking dish.

Melt 6 tablespoons of butter in a large skillet over low heat until bubbling. Whisk in the flour and cook for 1 minute. Slowly whisk in the milk and cook until thick and bubbling, 3 to 5 minutes more. Whisk in the mustard, salt, pepper, and nutmeg.

Pour a thin layer of the sauce into the prepared baking dish and cover it with 5 or 6 slices of the bread, then slices of the ham and an even layer of the Gruyere. Repeat the layers once more, ending with a third layer of sauce to cover all. Bake the casserole for 30 minutes. Remove it from the oven and cut into 6 equal pieces.

Working in 2 batches, melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Crack 3 eggs into the skillet and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Cook until the whites are nearly set, about 3 minutes. Carefully flip the eggs and continue cooking until the whites are completely set, about 1 minute more. You're going to top each portion of the casserole with a fried egg. Repeat with the remaining 3 eggs and 1 tablespoon butter. Top with Gruyere and it in the oven for a few minutes until cheese melts.

And now for the meal plan...this week I'm only trying one new recipe, "Crafty Lasagna". The rest of the meals featured in the plan below have already been posted on Krista's Kitchen. Just click the links to see the posts with step by step instructions.

Monday February 21st

Beef and Barley Soup

Tuesday February 22nd

Spicy Tuna Linguine

Wednesday February 23rd

Crafty Lasagna

Thursday February 24th


Friday February 25th

Make Your Own Pizza Night

Saturday February 26th

Creamy Roasted Tomato Soup with Mini Focaccias

Sunday February 27th

Chili Cheese Dogs

Grocery List


2-3 onions
4 heads garlic
2-3 leeks
pine nuts
pizza toppings of choice: mushrooms, onion, peppers
3 lbs. plum tomatoes


3-4 cups cooked beef roast
1/2 lb. lean ground beef
hot dogs
12 oz. canned tuna packed in water
pizza toppings: pepperoni, sausage, bacon, ham


shredded cheese for pizza
sour cream
1 (11 oz.) tube breadsticks
grated parmesan
shredded cheddar

Dry Goods

quick cooking barley
Italian seasoning
red pepper flakes
9 oz. dry linguine
quick rise yeast
all purpose flour
wheat flour
hot dog buns
brown sugar
chili powder
garlic powder

Canned Goods

olive oil
64 oz. beef broth
3 cans diced tomatoes
46 oz. chicken broth
pizza sauce
3- 6 oz. cans tomato paste
12 oz. evaporated milk

Friday, February 18, 2011

Chicken and Tortellini Salad

We spent last Saturday moving the boxes from our garage into the rooms that they belonged to. ALL. DAY. LONG. Moving is so fun... Knowing that this colossal task lay ahead of us, I started this tortellini salad on Friday night so that we could have a quick, self-serve lunch in between trips up and down the stairs on Saturday.

This colorful, tasty salad made for a delicious and filling lunch. It would also be a great recipe to take to a summertime pitch-in. You know, when summer finally gets here...

Here's what I did:

Heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet, then add two large boneless, skinless chicken breast that have been cut into strips. Stir in a couple cloves of minced garlic and season with salt and pepper too. I stir-fried the chicken just until it was no longer pink.

While the chicken cooked, I combined vinegar, honey, basil, parsley, dry mustard, and Dijon mustard in a small bowl to make the dressing.

Add the cooked chicken to the dressing and stir to combine. Then cover and put it into the fridge to marinate for several hours.

First thing on Saturday morning, I gathered some veggies and...

sliced them into a big salad bowl.

While I sliced the veggies, I also boiled a 9 oz. package of tortellini according to the package directions. When the tortellini was ready, I rinsed it with cold water to stop the cooking process and the let it drain.

Add the chicken and dressing to the veggies.

Stir in the tortellini too. Add salt and pepper to taste. I ended up adding grated Parmesan cheese at the end as well. Definitely a good call! Served up with some breadsticks, this meal fueled a whole afternoon of box-lugging.

Here's the recipe:

Chicken and Tortellini Salad adapted by me from the CHS Favorite PTO Luncheon Recipes

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into strips
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3 tablespoons honey
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1-1/2 tablespoons dried parsley
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
9-10 oz. fresh tortellini
1/2 medium red bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
1/2 medium green bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
1 stalk celery, chopped
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper, to taste

Heat olive oil in a large skillet. Add chicken and garlic. Stir-fry until the chicken is no longer pink.

Combine the vinegar, oil, honey, basil, parsley, garlic powder, and mustards in a small bowl. Whisk until the dressing is creamy.

Add the chicken to the dressing and toss to coat. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight.

Cook tortellini according the the package directions and rinse with cold water. Drain. Slice and chop veggies. Toss the tortellini, vegetables, chicken, dressing, and Parmesan cheese together in a salad bowl. Salt and pepper to taste. Chill for at least 2 hours before serving.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Chicken Lasagna Florentine

This creamy, delicious chicken lasagna looks, sounds, and tastes like it takes a lot of effort to create but is really pretty simple to throw together. Bonus: you can make it ahead when you have time and then simply bake it up for an effortless dinner.

Here's the how-to:

First heat olive oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Cut up two boneless, skinless chicken breast halves into bite-sized pieces and season with salt and pepper. Add chicken to the heated skillet with garlic. Then stir-fry the chicken until no longer pink.

Remove the skillet from heat and stir in shredded Cheddar, spinach, mushrooms, cream of mushroom soup, and sour cream.

Prepare lasagna noodles according to package directions.

Then arrange three noodles in the bottom of a greased rectangular baking dish. Top with 1/3 of the chicken mixture. Repeat layers 2 more times.

Finish with the filling, then top with grated Parmesan and finely chopped pecans. I only put pecans on half, to avoid complaints from the kiddos.

Cover and bake for 45 minutes. Then uncover and bake for 15 minutes more or until bubbly and golden brown on top. Let stand for 15 minutes before serving. Enjoy!

Chicken Lasagna Florentine

2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into small bite-sized pieces

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons olive oil

Salt and pepper

2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese

2 cups spinach leaves, chopped

1 cup button mushrooms, sliced

10 ¾ oz. can cream of mushroom soup

1 cup sour cream

9 lasagna noodles, cooked and drained

1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

½ cup pecans, finely chopped

1.Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Add to heated skilled with garlic. Stir-fry the chicken until no longer pink. Remove skillet from heat and stir in the Cheddar, spinach, mushrooms, soup, and sour cream.
2.Lightly coat a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with non-stick cooking spray. Arrange 3 of the lasagna noodles in the dish. Top with chicken mixture. Spread evenly over the noodles. Repeat layers, ending with the chicken mixture on top. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and pecans.
3.Cover and bake for 45 minutes. Uncover and bake 15 minutes more or until bubbly and golden brown on top. Let stand for 15 minutes before serving.
To make ahead: Assemble lasagna, then cover and refrigerate. Before baking, remove from refrigerator and let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. Bake according to the recipe directions.

If you're in a rush, try these time saving tricks:

*Pick up a rotisserie chicken from your grocer’s deli and chop 2 cups of the white meat, instead of cooking chicken breasts.

*Substitute frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained and canned mushrooms, also drained to cut time spent chopping fresh vegetables.

A taste tip:

*If you have an aversion or allergy to mushrooms, try adding cut-up, oil-packed, sun-dried tomatoes instead.
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