Yummy Creamy Butternut Soup!

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There is nothing I love more than a hot bowl of soup on an drabby day here in Germany. And seeing that we are pretty much still feeling the winter affects, what better than to sooth and warm the tummy than with a creamy bowl of Butternut Squash soup.

To be honest, I’m not much of a recipe follower. Really! I just throw things together that I like and hope for the best. Most times, it works, other times it needs a bit of tweaking here and there. Not with this soup! I think I hit the nail on the head the first time and have been using it ever since (with variations depending on my crowd). Its been a starter at our dinner parties, and just a hearty mean dish on a rainy day for the fam. I’ve tried a few other recipes of this soup, some were good but none satisfies my desire than to just taste the delightful flavor of the butternut squash.

This recipe is pretty simple: all fresh produce, very little sodium, keeping the soup as natual as can be.

Ingredients

  • 2 large pitted butternut squash (skinned and cubed)
  • 2 peeled carrots (chopped)
  • ½ sweet potato (skinned and cubed)
  • 1 cup of heavy cream (or half and half)
  • ¼ tsp nutmeg

Broth (or low sodium store bought)

  • ½ mayan onion roughly cut (these are mild in taste, mostly found in winter/fall) but you can also use 4 pearl onions.
  • half garlic clove
  • 1 stick celery chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ½ roman tomato
  • pinch salt
  • 3 cups water

Here we go:

In a sauce pan, sauté onions, garlic, celery and tomato, with a teaspoon of olive oil for about 3 minutes. This process releases the natural flavors of the vegatables. Add in the pinch of salt and bay leaf to pan. Let simmer for 1 minute then add 3 cups of water. Bring to a boil for about 6-8 minutes covered (covering helps to retain the water. We don’t want more than a half cup to evaporate). Strain the broth.

At this point you are half done!

In another pot, add the chopped butternut, carrots and sweet potato. To this, pour in the broth. Boil until veggies are tender. DO NOT discard the remaining broth. Using an Immersion hand blender, begin to puree the vegetables until smooth. Add in the heavy cream and nutmeg and allow to simmer for about 15 minutes.

WALA! You have a heavenly, thick, creamy butternut squash soup. If you prefer a thinner soup, add more water or cream/milk and season to taste. Top it off with whip cream/cream fresh, sunflower seeds and a dash of pumpkin oil.

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Last Minute Valentine’s Day Ideas

Okay, so I’m not a big Valentines Day fan as much as I am a fan of love in general. But what’s the harm in wanting to show a little extra romance on this special day of the year right? Now if you are like me, then you are very spontaneous and sometimes wait for the very last minute to put something together. Most restaurants will be booked, theaters will be full, and all the traditional to do’s and places to go will be crowded. So here is my go to, sure to enjoy, last minute date night ideas that you will not only find interesting, you can use time and time again. HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY!

Ideas For Families

  1. Order food from your favorite take out spot and have a picnic in your living room.  Let the kids get involved by allowing them to set up the space while you plate the food. No electronics, just great conversations and good clean fun.
  2. Rent a family friendly movie which highlights togetherness and love

For Couples

  1. Instead of just sending the beautiful person in your life red roses, try giving them perhaps their favorite flower or plant. Yes red roses are nice, but so are lilies and a planted Orchid.
  2. Surprise your spouse/partner with a scavenger hunt beginning at the door by placing little notes to the next clue that ends wherever you want. Using chocolate kisses as arrows are cute too.
  3. Leave tails of rose petals leading to a candlelight dinner or bubble bath. Put on your favorite Kenny G album (or romantic music of your choice) to set the mood.
  4. Make a meal that symbolizes your love. Last year I made a heart shaped steak for the hubby. (He loves steak). Write I LOVE YOU with the veggies 😉
  5. Have a glass of wine and strawberries on your patio and watch the stars. Just enjoying each others company.
  6. If you happen to be separated across miles, send a little care package of all things red.
  7. Write a little note and insert it in your husbands work pocket or your wife’s purse telling them 10 reasons why you love them
  8. Create little coupons ,good for 1 free back rub, 2 kisses anywhere, a romantic getaway etc. Let your imagination run wild.

For Singles

  1. Have a game night indoors e.g. scrabble, pictionary, taboo you name it.
  2. Take it out doors to a sporting arena, bowling alley, mini golf, race car driving
  3. Watch a great movie, no tear jerkers, but more on the comedic side.
  4. Meet up at a café, bar, or club and dance the night away
  5. Have potluck, everyone bring a dish and have a great dinner with the friends you love.
  6. Have a great bottle of wine and run through your favorite Netflix series you have been meaning to watch (would be my option if I were single)

Have Fun!

Triple Chocolate Mousse Cake

Some people wait for special occasions or holidays to try new decadent recipes when there is a crowd to appreciate it. Well not for me. When the craving for chocolate hits, then its an occasion to indulge in a rich piece of chocolate heaven. Sure, I could settle for some Häagen-Dazs or Ben & Jerry’s Ice cream or curb my sweet tooth with half a dozen chocolate chip cookies and a tall glass of milk. But why settle for store bought when you have all the ingredients to whip up something more satisfying.

This triple threat is much easier than it looks. It just takes a bit more patience, but in the end will be worthwhile. Its kind of hard to resist all this chocolate goodness. The bottom layer is an oh so moist dark chocolate cake, the middle layer is smooth chocolate mousse and the top layer is a very light creamy white chocolate.

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Ingredients

Bottom layer ( If you have a favorite chocolate cake recipe, then you can opted for that)

1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
1 cups  sugar
1 stick unsalted butter
2 medium eggs, room temperature
3 ounces  dark chocolate, melted
½ cup  cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon  salt
½ cup  strong coffee
½ cup  milk

Middle Layer ( you can opt to using an instant mousse. 2 pkg will be enough. It will taste just as good).

7 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
6 tablespoons hot water
2 cups whipping cream (heavy cream)
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
pinch of salt

Top Layer (sorry, I haven’t found a substitute for this yet)

1 ¼ teaspoon powdered gelatin (unflavored)
2  tablespoon water
8 ounces  white chocolate
1¾ cups heavy whipping cream, divided
¼ cup powdered sugar
Preparation
Preheat oven to 350° and grease and flour a 9″ spring form pan. Set aside
Beginning with the bottom layer, prepare cake as you would any other cake. Whisk the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, salt, baking soda) together in one bowl, and in another cream the butter and sugar until lite and fluffy. Then add eggs one at a time to the mixture. Next add in the cocoa powder. Mix until blended.
Combine milk and coffee and heat in the microwave for 30 seconds. In another bowl, melt the chocolate in the microwave for 45 seconds. Begin to blend all ingredients together. Alternate between the flour mixture and the milk coffee, adding to the already creamed butter mix. Next pour in the melted chocolate and blend well. Pour the mixture into prepared pan and bake for 20 t0 25 minutes or until toothpick a clean or have a few crumbs.
The middle layer is a bit easier. Combine hot water and cocoa powder in small bowl. In a heat proof bowl, melt chocolate in microwave for 45 seconds. stir until smooth (you can use the tempering method by placing the bowl over a saucepan filled with  a bit of simmering water, stirring occasionally until chocolate is melted). Using a stand mixed, use the whisk attachment and blend on low speed the sugar, whip cream, and salt until blended. Increase to medium speed until  mixture begins to thicken, about 20 seconds then increase speed to whip until peaks are formed.
Add the cocoa powder mixture to melted chocolate. Blend until smooth. Using a hand whisk, fold part of whipped cream into chocolate mixture to lighten. The use a spatula to fold in remaining whipped cream until no white streaks remain. Spoon the mixture into spring form pan over cooled cake (before I did this, I evened off the top of the cake and placed in back into the pan). Taking your time, smooth the top of the mousse with spatula. Clean any stray drips inside the side of the pan. Refrigerate for  at least 20 minutes. In the meanwhile begin preparing top layer.
For the top layer, add gelatin to a small bowl of water; stir and let stand at least 4 to 5 minutes. In a saucepan bring ½ cup cream to simmer over medium heat. In another bowl, place white chocolate. Remove the cream from heat, allow to cooled 2 minute, then add the gelatin mixture and stir until dissolved and no lumps exist. Next, pour cream mixture over white chocolate and whisk until mixture is smooth. Allow to cool at room temperature. The mixture will become very thick. No worries, simply stir frequently.

Using a stand mixer with a whisk attachment, whip remaining cream at medium speed adding powder sugar as you go until it starts to thicken. As it begins to thicken, increase the speed and whip until soft peaks start to form. Check the whisk after about 30 seconds for soft peaks when whisk is lifted. Using a hand whisk, fold some of whipped cream into white chocolate mixture to lighten it up. Then use a spatula to fold remaining whipped cream into the chocolate mixture until there are no streaks. Gently spoon white chocolate mousse onto the middle layer of mousse. Smooth to the sides to avoid bubbles. Placed cake back in the refrigerator and allow to set for at least 3 hours or until ready to serve.

20170208_0836491I hope you enjoy it as must as I enjoyed making it! I just love when a plan comes together!

Happy Baking!

PERCHED

You have perched in my soul

And engraved in my heart

A sonnet.

An eternal truth that cannot be surpassed

By the westward winds that blow through my mind

From time to time.

Singing a tune without words.

Yet still…

It cannot outweigh a love filled heart

One that only the consort of a perched soul

Finds refuge.

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THE CHOCOLATE CAGE CAKE

Happy First of February!!!!!

Love is already in the air. This month host the day of hearts, all things red, lots of glam and chocolates galore. So what better way to start the sweetest month than with a favorite of mine: The Chocolate Cage Cake. My favorite thing about this cake is the contrast of colors and flavor. The way the chocolate cage encase the vanilla buttercream icing while the red fruits and green flowers play peek-a-boo through the whimsical windows.

I never really need an excuse to get in the kitchen. I love baking and creating something special. With it being the anniversary of my only brother in-law, what better way to celebrate than with a beautiful edible gift from me. After all, who doesn’t like cake?

The cake itself is pretty basic. It’s a white vanilla cake which I substituted with almond flavor. Almond has such a sweet aroma to it, I just love it. The icing is my go vanilla buttercream. It’s the old faithful that many bakers use. Plus I normally always have butter and sugar so it’s the most convenient for me.

So here it goes:

White Vanilla Cake

  • 2 ¾ cups all-purpose flour + a little more for pans
  • 1 stick butter at room temperature + some for the pans
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • ½  cup vegetable oil
  • 5 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup milk

Frosting

  • 3 sticks butter
  • 5 cups sifted confectioners sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoon heavy cream

Chocolate Cage

  • 7 ounces dark chocolate

Yield: two 9 inch cakes ¦ Prep: 30 min ¦ Cook: 30 min

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350º F (120ºC). Butter and flour the pans tapping off the extra flour.

Combine the flour, salt and baking powder in a bowl; whisk and set aside. In another bowl beat sugar, butter and oil together on medium speed until nice and fluffy. The mixture will get lighter, the fluffier it becomes. Then beat in one egg at a time. No worries if the mixture looks like it’s separating. You’re on track, don’t panic. I added my almond extract and continue mixing for another minute (I substituted the vanilla for almond extract, but use vanilla if it is your prefered taste of cake).

Now alternate adding the flour mixture and the milk starting and ending with the flour until everything is combined and smooth. You don’t want to over beat the mixture or the cake will have a few air pockets. I normally let my batter sit for about 15 minutes to let the ingredients mingle a bit.

Divide the mixture evenly into the pans. Bake for 30 minutes or until the cakes are golden brown. Use a toothpick to ensure it is done. Remove from pans and set on racks to cool. Trim the tops of the cakes to make them even. Set aside until ready to put together.

On to the frosting. . .

The frosting is simple and very easy to make. When using a stand mixer its less work too. WORK SMARTER, NOT HARDER!!!!

Some people prefer using a paddle attachment for mixing, but i find that the whisk paddle adds more air in and gives the icing a lighter and fluffier look. In the bowl, add the butter and confectioner’s sugar until combined. Add in the heavy cream as needed and continue to beat until it looks clouds my daughter says. But what she means is very fluffy. Then add the vanilla and until combined.

Time for the fun part. . .

Okay, so another great thing I love of about the Chocolate Cage Cake is that the application of the buttercream doesn’t have to be perfect. Just smooth enough for the cage to sit around the cake.

So first thing is to place one of the cakes on to a secure platter. Then smooth a layer of the buttercream on the top of this bottom cake and then add the second cake directly on top. Push down lighty so that it is secured. But not to much. You dont want all that delicious cream to come out. Make sure it is evenly placed to avoid having to trim a lot of the cake off. Spread a thin layer of the buttercream around the sides and top of the cake. This will hide any stray crumbs when you do your second layer of icing. Place in the refrigerator for about 1 hour. During this time I prepare my chocolate for the cage.

The quickest way to melt the chocolate is to microwave for about 30 seconds. I usually use the tempering method with a boiler when handing chocolate. But this process is quicker.  Once the chocolate has melted, I pour into a homemade piping bag (made with wax paper or you can use a piping bag with a small round tip) and cut a small hole at the end. Roll out a piece of parchment paper onto the table. In a quick circular motioning, squeeze the chocolate onto the parchment paper a few layers (just a note, I measured to paper to the exact size of the cake) . Be careful not to apply to much pressure to the pipping bag as to avoid a big mess. It can get messy. Set aside to let air dry partially . At least until the second coating is of the cake.

Remove the cake from the refrigerator and begin applying a thick coat of buttercream to the sides and top of the cake. It does not have to be perfect, but try to get it as smooth and even as possible. Place in the freezer for about 10 minutes, just enough to set.

At this time your chocolate should be dry but still flexible enough to bend. Begin to smooth around the cake gently pressing the chocolate onto the buttercream. Give it a few rubs on the side and place in the refrigerator for about 2 hours.

Carefully remove the cake from the refrigerator not to break the top of the chocolate cage. Slowly unwrap the parchment paper from the chocolate. A few pieces may fall of, but not to worry. Once you have removed the paper, you can assemble the fruits or decor of your choice on top and around the cake.20170201_1512451

And there you have it! I hope the directions were easy to follow. But if not, dont hestitate to ask anything and I will do my best to assist.

ENJOY!!!!