Thursday, August 23, 2012

Pie + Cake = Pake

There's a silly little show I watch on the Lifetime channel called Drop Dead Diva. The main character's friend tried to make a pie, but the cookbook pages stuck together and she made a cake in a pie shell. Thus was born the pake. A lot of people expressed interest in making their own pakes, so they came up with a recipe (originally posted here):

Classic Pake Recipe

2 Store bought frozen pie crusts
Store bought cake mix of your choice (we recommend Red Velvet)
Store bought frosting of your choice (we recommend Cream Cheese)
Eggs (as needed on cake box)
Vegetable Oil (as needed on cake box)
1/2 cup White or Dark chocolate chips (if desired)

1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. Leave the frozen pie crust out to thaw while you are mixing the cake batter. [I made 2 pie crusts from scratch; they worked just fine.]
3. Prepare the cake batter per the instructions on the box.*Note: This will make enough filling for two Pakes. [I made a chocolate cake from scratch, adding 1 box of instant chocolate pudding so it wouldn't be too dry.]
4. Gently poke a few small holes in the bottom of the pie crust, being careful not to poke through the tin.
5. Pour half of the cake batter into each pie crust, approx. 1/2” below the edge. *Note: the cake mix will raise above the edge of the pie crust during baking.
6. Mix in chocolate chips if desired. [I wish I had done this.]
7. Place the Pake on a cookie sheet, and place in the oven on a middle rack.
8. Bake for approx. 35 minutes at 350°F. After 35 minutes, turn oven down to 325°F and continue baking for another 12-15 minutes or until cake is finished. (You can test the cake by sticking a toothpick in the center and pulling it out. It should be relatively clean with very little cake crumbs stuck to it.) [My pake needed another 10 minutes, totaling 25 minutes at 325° F]
9. Let the pake cool completely.
10. If desired, cut the top section of the cake off and place a layer of frosting (or filling of your choice) on the lower half of the cake. Replace the top section. [I did not do this and didn't miss it.]
11. Scoop the remaining frosting onto the cake and frost to the edge of the pie crust. [1 can of frosting is the perfect amount for 2 pakes.]
12. Garnish with dollops of whipped cream around the edges, sprinkles, candy pieces or a cherry (as desired). [Whipped cream would have been good on it. I used sprinkles on one, and pecans, mint chocolate chips, and drizzled caramel on the other.]

Here are my results:
One plain, one frosted
Samuel said, "Delicious!"

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Jalepeno Popper Chicken

I had pinned this recipe on Pinterest and finally got around to making it the other day - it just sounded so good as, hungry, we made our menu for the week.  I always enjoyed jalepeno poppers from Jack-n-the-Box (the only poppers I've had) and this was WORLDS better.  It was full of flavor without being too spicy (because we are spice-heat wimps).  Ben says it was pretty easy to make, too.

Serves 2
Highly adapted from Allrecipes, via Sunny Side Up in San Diego
1/2 cup panko
2 tsp. canola oil
1.5 – 2 tsp. taco seasoning or mixture in notes*
1 egg
2 oz. reduced fat cream cheese
1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese (we used 2%)
1-2 jalapeƱo peppers, seeds and ribs removed, minced
2 chicken breasts
Preheat the oven to 375 and place an ovenproof rack onto a rimmed baking dish. Spray with cooking oil.
In a small skillet over medium heat, combine the panko with the canola oil. Cook, stirring often, until the panko is golden and crispy. Place in a shallow bowl or dish. To the panko, add the taco seasoning* and stir to combine.
In another shallow bowl or dish, lightly beat an egg. In a small bowl, combine the cream cheese, cheddar cheese, and jalapeƱos.
Using a small utility knife, cut a pocket into the side of each chicken breast, or horizontally slice the chicken through the center, until it is almost butterflied. Season the chicken lightly with salt and pepper, and then divide the cream cheese mixture evenly between each chicken breast’s pocket. Use toothpicks to secure, if necessary.
Dip the chicken pieces one at a time first into the egg, and then into the panko mixture, making sure to coat the chicken completely. Place the chicken on the prepared baking rack and cook for about 25-30 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through.

*Note: To make your own taco seasoning mixture, combine 1/2 tsp. chili powder, 1/4 tsp. cumin, 1/8 tsp. garlic powder, 1/8 tsp. onion powder, 1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper, 1/8 tsp. oregano, 1/8 tsp. paprika, and salt and black pepper to taste.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Chicken Zucchini Casserole

I recently made a huge discovery. The past couple of weeks have been really hot - over 100 every day. I like to grill when it's that hot so that I don't heat up the house even more with the oven, but there are days when I just want something baked for dinner. Like pizza. I make pizza at least every other week. So I got out my pizza stone and cooked it on the grill. I had heard of other people doing it, and it worked great. I put it right over the flames (it was taking too long on indirect heat, and I had 3 pizzas to cook), and it didn't burn at all. Then I had a thought - why not "bake" other things on the grill? I bought several stones from Pampered Chef years ago and rarely used them. So far I've successfully cooked zucchini casserole (which my family loves so much they literally lick the pan - see recipe below), eggplant parmesan, and even a beef pot pie with leftover roast beef, veggies and gravy. I wasn't sure if that one would work out, since it had a pie crust on top, but it came out flaky and perfect. Who knew? I just periodically adjust the flames to get the right temperature and rotate it several times; it takes about the same amount of time to cook, maybe even less. Dave said I shouldn't do all my baking on the grill because it costs more for the propane. But on these super hot days, it's an awesome alternative.

Here's the Chicken Zucchini Casserole recipe from Taste of Home. I made a few changes.

  • 1 package (6 ounces) chicken stuffing mix
  • 3/4 cup butter, melted (I use 1/2 cup butter and 1/4 cup milk)
  • 3 cups zucchini, diced 
  • medium carrot, shredded
  • 1-2 stalks celery, diced
  • 1 small onion, chopped 
  • 2 cups cubed cooked chicken breast
  • 1 can (10-3/4 ounces) condensed cream of chicken soup, undiluted
  • 1/2 cup sour cream


  • In a large bowl, combine stuffing mix and butter and milk. Set aside 1/2 cup for topping. 
  • Saute the zucchini, carrot, onion and celery. Mix with chicken, cream of chicken soup, sour cream and remaining stuffing mixture.
  • Transfer to a greased 2-qt. baking dish. Sprinkle with reserved stuffing mixture. Bake, uncovered, at 350° for 40-45 minutes or until golden brown and bubbly. Yield: 6 servings.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Happy 100th B-Day Julia

August 15th is Julia Child's 100th birthday.  I really admire and like her as a person.  Her autobiography, My Life in France, was a fun read.  (But, I wouldn't recommend Julie and Julia, the book.  I liked the movie, but I stopped reading the book in the first chapter.  Julia was right, Julie was rather vulgar.)  I haven't read any of her cook books, but I'm sure they're great, too.  Her views on cooking changed the way that we in America look at food.  She inspired a generation of chefs and home cooks.  She was revolutionary and personable.  In honor of her birthday, I thought I would publish probably the only "French" recipe I know.  It also happens to be one of my cooking triumphs.  I think Julia would have been proud of me.  A few years ago, Aaron and I went to the French buffet at the Parisian in Vegas.  I had the creme brulee, okay, it was so good, I had two.  I had always wanted to recreate it at home, because you can't pick that up at your local Walmart, but I didn't have individual ramekins (who does?).  So, one night I decided to just go for it and make a family sized creme brulee.  Amazingly, it turned out!  It was delicious and creamy.  I enjoyed it for several days, hoarding the leftovers in the fridge, hiding them from the kids.  So, in honor of Julia, I share this recipe with you.  It's from America's Test Kitchen, but I did change the pan size and, of course, the cooking time.

Creme Brulee Family Style

4 c. heavy cream, chilled
2/3 c. granulated sugar
pinch salt
2 tsp. vanilla extract
10 large egg yolks
1/4 c. turbinado sugar (you can also use regular sugar)

1. Adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position and heat the oven to 300 degrees.  You will need two pans--one slightly smaller than the other.  I used my extra large 9x13 pan and a slightly smaller oval casserole dish.  Cover the bottom of the 9x13 pan with a dish towel.  Place the smaller casserole inside--make sure there is 1/2 to 1 inch space between the two pans all the way around.  Bring a kettle of water to a boil.

2.  Combine 2 c. cream, granulated sugar, and salt in a medium saucepan.  Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar.  Take the pan off the heat, cover and let rest for 15 minutes.

3.  Stir in the remaining 2 c. cream.  Place the yolks in a large bowl and pour in 1 c. of the cream mixture in a slow stream, whisking constantly, until smooth.  Whisk in the remaining cream mixture until thoroughly combined.  Strain through a fine-mesh strainer into a large measuring cup or pitcher.  (Don't skip this step, you want to make sure there are no bits of cooked egg in your creme brulee--just silky goodness.)  Pour the custard into the casserole.

4.  Place the pan in the oven and carefully pour enough boiling water into the pan to reach two-thirds of the way up the sides of the casserole.  Bake until the center of the custard is just barely set and is no longer sloshy.  I think I baked it for 35-40 minutes.

5. Transfer the casserole to a wire rack and let cool to room temperature, about 2 hours.  Cover the casserole with plastic wrap and refrigerate until cold, about 4 hours.

6. Just before serving, uncover the casserole and gently blot the top dry with a paper towel.  Sprinkle the turbinado sugar over the top of the casserole.  Shake it to distribute the sugar evenly.  Ignite a torch and caramelize the sugar.  Refrigerate, uncovered, to rechill the custard, 30-45 minutes.  Serves 8.

If you don't have a torch, you can caramelize the sugar in your oven.  Adjust oven rack to uppermost position.  Preheat oven on hi broil setting.  Place sugar topped custard in oven and broil until sugar is caramelized.  Watch this carefully, it shouldn't take longer than 5 minutes, but burnt sugar is terrible, so again watch carefully.  And you will definitely need to rechill the custard after doing this.

We had this for Family Home Evening.  I had made it the night before and chilled it all day.  We put the sugar on, got my dad's industrial blow torch, and Aaron caramelized the sugar while the kids watched.  It was very dramatic.  Then we dug right in without chilling it again.  Oh man, just thinking about it is making me salivate.

The recipe actually calls for a vanilla bean, but again, who's got that?  If you want those instructions, email me.  You will have 10 egg whites left over from making this, you could make an egg white omelet or an angel food cake.

I hope you will try this recipe in honor of Julia.  She would want you to cook something interesting, to have fun in your kitchen, and to enjoy eating.   Bon appetit!