Sunday, March 15, 2009

St. Regis Rocks!

Just in case you haven't heard the buzz in town - we are getting a beautiful new St. Regis Hotel in Buckhead. I had the pleasure of working with the opening team on Friday night, for Iron Chef Battle: Sage. Kicked off by General Manager Simon Rusconi and led by an obviously talented Executive Chef,  the food that this innovative group creates is amazing - even in an hour! Our venue at the Cooks Warehouse Midtown was perfect for the three creative teams to devise their menus. Using beef tenderloin, veggies and potatoes, each band of conspirators produced a beautiful plate and presented it to the judges. The final verdict was made on the basis of Taste, Originality, Presentation and Teamwork. All 3 teams grabbed a high score in at least one category, but the winner who just squeaked by the others was Team 3.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Celebration Cake

I will be the first to admit that this cake is one of those items I just hate to put in my calorie log. But its worth it - and sometimes you just have to celebrate! In my book that means Dark Chocolate Cake with Dark Chocolate Frosting. This is one of my favorite recipes, and after I mentioned it in a cooking class last week, I got so many requests for the recipe, I promised I'd share. (You'll notice that I use ingredients like whole wheat flour, fruit, nuts, skim milk and reduced fat buttermilk along with my butter and sugar. That's because I believe in "Eating Better", substituting ingredients or adding ingredients if it doesn't make a difference in taste - but it helps "Eat Better"). Here it is - hope you enjoy it just as much as I do!

Deep Dark Chocolate Cake with Dark Chocolate Frosting

1 Cup Butter 

2 Cups Sugar 

1 ½ Cups All Purpose Flour
½ Cup Whole Wheat Flour

½ Tsp Baking Soda 

½ Tsp Salt
½ Tsp Espresso Powder
6 ounces Good Unsweetened Chocolate 

1 Tsp Vanilla 

1 Cup Dried Cherries, coarsely chopped and soaked in hot water for 30 minutes, OR Chopped Dried Dates, coarsely chopped and soaked in hot water for 30 minutes
½ Cup Finely Chopped Toasted Pecans
2 Eggs 

1 Cup Reduced Fat Buttermilk
Non Stick Cooking Spray and Parchment
Step One
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Cut out 2 parchment circles for the bottom of two 8 or 9 inch cake pans, and spray the pans – then place the parchment in the bottoms and spray again.
Step Two
Melt the unsweetened chocolate in the top of a double boiler or in a bowl set over simmering water. Remove from the heat.
Step Three
Cream the butter and sugar - beat them in an electric mixer until they are smooth, a pale ivory color, and looks like it has been whipped.
Step Four
Sift the flour, baking soda, espresso powder and salt into a bowl.
Step Five
Add the eggs to the butter/sugar mixture one at a time. Add the melted chocolate. Then add the vanilla.
Step Six
Add the flour mixture and the buttermilk in three additions to the butter sugar/chocolate mixture, beginning and ending with the flour. Drain the dried cherries, (or dates) and add to the cake batter. Add the toasted nuts.
Step Seven
Spoon into the prepared baking pans. Bake for 25 - 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out dry.

Deep Dark Chocolate Frosting

1 ½ Cup Unsalted Butter
1 Cup plus 2 TB Unsweetened Cocoa
½ Tsp Expresso Powder
4 Cups Confectioners Sugar
½ Cup plus 2 TB Skim Milk
1 ½ Tsp Vanilla
¼ Cup Finely Chopped Toasted Pecans

In a standing mixer, or a large bowl with a hand mixer, cream the butter well. Add in the remaining ingredients and beat well. If the frosting is too stiff, add a little more milk. After frosting the cake, sprinkle with the toasted pecans.

Eat Like There's No Tomorrow

Isn't that a great book title? Hans Rueffert, a Georgia Chef and all around wonderful guy has published his first cookbook. If you are a foodie, you may remember him as a contestant on the show "The Next Food Network Star", but he is much more than just another pretty face:) After competing, he returned home to discover that he had stomach cancer, and has been dealing with it and the after effects for several years now. He hasn't let it stop him - he has been hosting a PBS show on the North Georgia affiliate and writing his book among many other culinary pursuits. Here's a picture of me and my "spice-maven" friend, Kristin at a book signing and reception for Hans last week at the Piedmont Cancer Wellness Center. I made the Honey Cumin Shrimp and Okra from his book for the guests - and WOW is it good. Click here to learn all about Hans and his beautiful new cookbook: