Five Ingredient Iced Chocolate Loaf Cake

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My fascination with canned pumpkin and baking continues. And my love affair with butterscotch chips and their versatility is unwavering. The shitty winter weather we have been experiencing in the Northeast is making me churn out recipes like a workhorse. There’s not much else to do with my spare time that won’t cost me much money. Luckily I have plenty of friends ready to come over and be taste testers!

Today I wanted to up the ante from the simple Pinterest-esque pumpkin and cake mix recipes. The goal was tasty and elegant, but still simple and streamlined. Thus a nice pound cake-like loaf cake with a butterscotch icing fit the bill.

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What you’ll need:

  • Standard sized Chocolate Cake Mix (I used Arrowhead Mills)
  • Can of Pure Pumpkin (14-16 ounces)
  • Butterscotch Chips (1 cup for cake, 1/4 cup for icing)
  • Salt
  • Coconut Oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a standard loaf pan with a bit of cooking spray. Using a wooden spoon, mix together cake mix and pumpkin until well incorporated. If mixture is too thick for your liking, mix in up to 1/3 cup water.

Stir in butterscotch chips. Bake at 350 degrees for about 40-45 minutes, or until the cake passes the toothpick test and pick comes out clean. Set allow to cool completely before icing. To make icing, use a small saucepan to melt the remaining chips with about 1 teaspoon of coconut oil and a 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Set the burner on low – chips melt super fast – faster than chocolate – and the icing only takes a minute. Drizzle or frost the top of the cake. Allow time for icing to set, and slice and serve.

Cake is cooling

Cake is cooling

Icing takes no time to make, about a minute!

Icing takes no time to make, about a minute!

Arancini – Italian Style Rice Balls

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Growing up in Northern New Jersey, especially a town like Waldwick, I was exposed to a ton of Italian and Italian American food. It wasn’t until about the time I was in grad school that I discovered Arancini at a casual Italian deli. It is not something I choose to eat all the time, but it did not make me less hooked on its awesomeness.

After poring over some recipes, I decided to give it a shot, especially as I had all the ingredients I needed. I chose to make two types of filling – mozzarella and sausage. For a dipping sauce, I spiced up some Rao’s marinara with sausage, spices, and cheese. I enjoy making my own sauce from scratch, but Rao’s is really a great base in a time crunch.

For the rice, I did not have any arborio or Italian rice. Instead I went for the Thai Jasmine rice that I wasn’t loving in my Pineapple Fried Rice. The texture is very sticky, which I felt would fare well in rice balls. The end result was actually pretty awesome – the texture of the rice ball was less dense and more fragrant than traditional arancini, and they did not feel like a brick in my stomach.

This was a really great Pantry Project recipe – the only refrigerated items were the mozzarella and eggs, which are stuff I usually have on hand. Everything else was in my pantry or freezer. Great recipe to remember for a cold, snowy winter day. This recipe yields 16 rice balls – 8 sausage and 8 cheese.

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Blue Cheese Crackers

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After my debacle with the weevils, I was able to make the Bon Appetit recipe I wanted to replicate. I actually have made many variations of the Roquefort Crackers I read about, as I used to like to make cheese straws and cheese crackers for gifts around the holidays. What I love about the recipe is that it is a 1-1-1 ratio of ingredients: 1 cup flour, 1 stick butter, 1 cup cheese. You can then play around with everything else to essentially create a savory, cheese blasted shortbread.

For the blue cheese crackers, I did just that – 1 cup flour, 1 stick butter, and 1 cup blue cheese crumbles. I let the butter and blue cheese come to room temperature, and I mixed it all together with my hands, similar to kneading dough. I added some cracked pepper and Worcestershire sauce to enhance the flavors, instead of cayenne. I prefer cayenne with cheddar or Parmesan when making these. I then rolled the dough out into a log shape, similar to store-bought cookie dough, and wrapped it in plastic. The Bon Appetit recipe says to leave it in the fridge for 12 hours, but I only did for about 4. I do not see how 12 is necessary unless you want to make the dough ahead of time and let it sit overnight. When I was ready, I preheated the oven to 400 degrees, sliced the log into 1/4″ thick discs, and pressed them into a ramekin of sesame seeds to garnish and add a extra element of flavor and crunch. img_0976

Weevil Rascals

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My pantry project hit a snag as I discovered weevils in a bag of flour I just opened. I’m going to go through my pantry now and make sure they didn’t end up in any other grains or sugars.

I WAS going to make some blue cheese crackers. Stay tuned….

Looks like I may need to buy some flour. Hopefully not much else. 😦

UPDATE – I only found them in a box of grits. I’m not going to replace the grits because I have both cornmeal and polenta.

Paleo Cod Cakes

 

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This is a very similar recipe to the Salmon Cakes I posted about last year. This was a quick recipe, including cooking time. Since I had a lot of almond meal, I decided to up the ante with my fish cakes and make them paleo and gluten free.

Minus the lemon, and egg which falls into the perishable rules of my project, everything was in my pantry and freezer, even the scallions (I had chopped scallions frozen and ready to go).

The cod I poached straight from the freezer in vegetable broth (vegetable bouillon and water) until slightly firm. You can do the same with fresh. I just don’t recommend creating raw cakes.

COD CAKES
Makes 4-5 cakes/2 servings
10 ounces Cod, fresh or frozen
1 Vegetable Bouillon cube
2 tablespoons chopped Scallions
1/2 cup Almond Meal (Flour)
1 Egg
1/2 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
Juice of 1/2 Lemon
1 teaspoon Worcestershire Sauce
Salt and Pepper, to taste
Vegetable Oil, for frying

  1. Using a skillet, dissolve the bouillon cube in 2-3 cups of water. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer.
  2. Add cod to the broth, poach until fish flesh is firm and starts to flake, but is still slightly translucent. In other words, do not overcook, and you will finish off the cooking process later on.
  3. Using a fish spatula or tongs, gently remove fish from broth and place on cutting board to cool to room temperature. Should only take a few minutes.
  4. Transfer fish to a bowl, it should be delicate and crumbly. Add scallions, almond meal, egg – mix until well incorporated. Add the remainder of the seasonings.
  5. Heat about 2 tablespoons of oil in a nonstick skillet. Use a pastry brush to coat the bottom.
  6. Using a 1/3 cup measuring scoop, scoop out fish cake mixture and form into a ball, then press down into a patty and add to frying pan. Work quickly and repeat the process with all cakes. Heat 3-4 minutes on each side, until lightly browned.
  7. Remove from heat and serve immediately. Can be served with salad and an extra squeeze of lemon.

$45 at the Grocery Store – Like Taking a Bullet

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Yesterday I had my first “major” trip to the grocery store since beginning The Accidental Pantry Project. I use the term major loosely because I did not need a lot of items, but I needed perishable things, as well as items for a Super Bowl party I am attending tonight, hence staying within the exceptions of the project (items that are requested by others).

This week I splurged a bit, since I have been trying to keep my food bills down – I went out to dinner twice with friends, went to a friend’s house for dinner, and I treated myself to a Chipotle lunch. I am really trying to limit going out to eat, both financially and that it’s usually not so good for you, but it’s also winter in New Jersey, so there really isn’t much else to do if you want to be social. My splurge probably added up to around $110. Being that I don’t have money coming in at the moment, I feel a little guilty. I promised myself about $100 a week for frivolous spending – eating out, coffee out, a movie, etc. – so I’m already over (for those who do not know me, I am notorious for beating myself up over little things).

Back to shopping, I hit up my local Stop&Shop. Since I am no longer with Whole Foods Market and do not have my employee discount to rely on (I really need to marry someone from there and get it back), I am opening my eyes back up to other grocers (you are still a guilty lowbrow pleasure, Aldi’s). Though few major grocery retailers out there have the atmosphere and aesthetics of a Whole Foods, in my opinion, the experience is not always as pleasant. At the same time, I can usually manage not to walk out with $300 worth of stuff (that pantry did not build itself) when I only needed milk and lettuce. What I like about Stop&Shop is that while you may need to dig a little, they have a huge organic presence in their stores, something I have grown used to the past few years as I am more mindful of what I put in my body.

Where does the $45 come in? Well, about half of that was stuff I needed, a quarter was splurge, and the final quarter was for my Super Bowl dish. I needed milk, Greek yogurt, produce (fruit and salad fixings), and coffee, so I figured it would be about $25. Then comes the Super Bowl dish. This recipe I am actually looking forward to. They are Bacon, Cheddar, and Jalapeno Pinwheels that I found on through another food blogger on Pinterest. The recipe sang to my project because I had everything I needed at home – bacon, cream cheese, cheddar – except fresh jalapeno and crescent roll dough. The dough is what did me in, and I may have to look for a copycat recipe to do it myself sometime. It was not on sale and $3.19 a can. I bought three as I am looking to double or triple the recipe (my friend is expecting 30+ guests for the party). So okay, I am really on track, spending a little over my estimated budget.

Then was my moment of weakness, the items that put me over the edge and I am confessing like an addict that just fell off the wagon – Cadbury Creme Eggs and Hershey’s Chocolate Spread. Two junk laden items that I cannot replicate because I am not a chemist, but are so sugary and chocolatey and delicious nonetheless. I do eventually want to test creating a similar spread to the Hershey’s stuff, but all the recipes I am finding online are more Nutella copycat than straight up chocolate. If you love lowbrow chocolate and need a fix, I highly recommend these spreads. They are relatively new and my newest junk food addiction. Unfortunately both of these treats were on sale, so it made it harder to resist, but also hard when the cashier rang me up for $45.36.

What can I say? The project is a journey…

Inventory, Part 4 – Freezer and Fridge Condiments

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Finally! I have counted all this “inventory” in my home. The last phase of counting and calculation took place this evening. I wanted to work on it earlier in the week, but since the Snowmaggeden bust kept me out of my home the day that I was best suited to do it, I got around to it tonight.

So, using the same loose formula I used for my dry goods (gifts have zero value, stuff from Whole Foods bought under retail with my discount, etc.), I calculated the freezer contents and my refrigerated condiments (i.e., perishable but long shelf life in fridge) came to about $240, so the grand total cost of all my food is $1140.

Since starting this project a little over a week ago, I have not gone grocery shopping for myself. The only exception is I stopped and bought a dessert as a hostess gift for a friend who was having me for dinner. I have gone out with friends to eat a couple of times, but otherwise, I have just been depleting my pantry. I will have to make a trip soon for some fresh produce and dairy, but I know I’m saving a lot of money being resourceful. Next phase, of course, is to figure out what I would spend on average in the past and how I am helping my current cause.

Here is what I have to work with from my freezer and refrigerator… Continue reading

Friday Night Hummus

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Every time I make hummus I am reminded how foolish it is to buy it. The ROI on store-bought hummus simply is not there. There are plenty of things I can make that I can buy because of time constraints, or that my version is not as good, but hummus just does not fit into that category.

In about five minutes, less time that it takes to go to the store, you can have hummus. And of course, what I love, is I know exactly what I am putting in my body and I have control over smoothness, sodium, preservatives, etc.

For this version, I used tahini, lemon, parsley, and garlic, but you can experiment with all sorts of ingredients and mix-ins, but I recommend at least chickpeas and olive oil.

This is MORE than what you need for a simple hummus.

This is MORE than what you need for a simple hummus. From left to right – parsley, tahini, garlic, chickpeas, lemon, olive oil, salt, pepper.

HUMMUS
1 can (14.5 ounces) Chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup Tahini
2 tablespoons Olive Oil
3 cloves Garlic
Juice of 1 Lemon
1 tablespoon Lemon Zest
2 tablespoons fresh Parsley
1/4 – 1/2 cup water

For a quick meal, serve with salad and pita bread or naan. For this dinner, I combined arugula and tuna with Curry Dressing.

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COSTS:
$2.80 for 1 1/2 cups (12 oz.)
Chickpeas – $1
Tahini – $.75
Lemon – $.80
Olive Oil and Seasonings – $.25

Butterscotch Brownie Bites

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No secret here – I love butterscotch chips. I also had an unopened box of No Pudge! Brownie Mix that was burning a hole in my chocolate craving, so I wanted to make brownies with the mix and use up some of my three bags of chips. Since making the Curry Aioli I was out of yogurt that the box’s recipe calls for. Surprisingly, I have no applesauce in the pantry, either, but I did have pumpkin and butternut squash. I decided to improvise and make little bites. So cute! (In my opinion…)

BUTTERSCOTCH BROWNIE BITES
Makes 20 bites

1 box No Pudge! Brownie Mix
1 cup canned Pumpkin
1 tablespoon Vanilla Extract
1 teaspoon Salt
1 cup Butterscotch Chips

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Grease mini muffin tin, set aside
  3. In a medium sized bowl, pour out brownie mix and add pumpkin. Mix with a large spoon until well incorporated
  4. Mix in vanilla extract and salt
  5. Stir in butterscotch chips
  6. Using a large spoon or ice cream scoop, scoop out batter into 20 of the muffin tin cups
  7. Bake for 10-12 minutes, do not over bake
  8. Allow to cool and enjoy!

Tip: Better to under bake a little than over bake, makes for an ooey-gooey treat! 🙂IMG_3872IMG_3873

Lentil Cakes with Curry Aioli – Snowmagedden

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So we had this major snowstorm bust here in the NYC metro area. I thought we would have been snowed in for a few days, so I took my pantry project on the road to my sister’s house. Since I live alone, figured it would be more fun to be snowed in with my nephews (who are 7 and 5) in a big house than cooped up in my apartment. Not wanting to lose steam on my project, I grabbed red lentils, chopped onion, super grains (a mix of quinoa, buckwheat, and millet), yogurt, and curry powder. I had a vision of Lentil Cakes with Curry Aioli, and it was going down at her house.

I am so happy I made this recipe “on the road” and had more people to feed than myself. My nephews would not go near the food (though they did stir the sauce), but my sister and brother in law were thrilled with the meal, especially how it got them thinking of ways they can vary this dish.

Even before we ate, we already did one variation, which was using the aioli as a base for salad dressing, and combining heads we created a simple, snowed-in feast.

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The Meal – Lentil Cakes, Curry Aioli, Mixed Green Salad with Curry Dressing, Two Types of Naan (whole wheat and garlic), Apple Chicken Sausage, and a couple of leftover Pretzels

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“Meatless Monday” Serving Suggestion – Open Faced Lentil Cake Naan-wich and Salad

LENTIL CAKES
1 1/2 cups dried red lentils
1/2 cup super grains
1- 1 1/2 cups chopped onion
Olive oil, for sauteing
1 egg
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
salt and pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon pizza seasoning
1 teaspoon garlic powder

  1. Cook lentils and super grains in separate pots according to package directions, drain and allow to cool to room temperature or chill
  2. Lightly saute onions about two minutes with about 1-2 tablespoons oil, season with salt and pepper. You want to maintain the texture of the onions, but soften them a bit so they are not completely raw. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature or chill
  3. Using a potato masher, mash lentils in a large bowl. Stir in grains and onion
  4. Crack egg into bowl and mix in thoroughly
  5. Mix in flour and seasonings. Mixture should be moist but not wet, similar to raw meatloaf. Add more flour if it is too wet/soft
  6. To cook – lightly spray a nonstick pan with cooking spray and place over high heat to medium heat
  7. Once pan is hot, but not scorching, scoop about 1/4-1/3 a cup of the mixture and form a patty. You can cook 4-5 cakes in one pan. Do not overcrowd or make more than that at once, so not to burn the cakes, since you are shaping the patties as you go. Cook each patty 2-3 minutes on each side. Cakes can be transferred to an oven safe dish and kept warm in your oven (200 degrees or less) until ready to serve
  8. To serve, add a dollop of aioli to each cake. Cakes work well with flatbreads for a sandwich, or they can be eaten on their own
  9. Cakes can be refrigerated or frozen and reheated, but they taste best freshly made

Note: Seasonings were what was on hand. The pizza seasoning was comprised of oregano, marjoram, basil, onion powder, garlic powder. Had I made this at home, I would have used thyme and marjoram. Feel free to season the mixture as you would like.

CURRY AIOLI (and dressing)
1/2 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
1/4 cup light mayonnaise
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons curry powder
salt and pepper
extra olive oil and white wine vinegar (for dressing)

Whisk all the ingredients in a bowl until well incorporated. Aioli should be a nice buttercream yellow color. Taste and adjust seasonings as need.

To make a salad dressing, combine 1/4 cup dressing, 1-2 tablespoons olive oil, and 1-2 tablespoons white wine vinegar. Thin the mixture out with a little bit of water, to desired flavor and viscosity (I used about a tablespoon). Taste and season with additional curry powder, salt, and pepper if necessary. Toss with your favorite greens.