Sunday, March 11, 2018

Chocolate Mocha Refrigerator Cake and a Visit to Joshua Tree National Park, CA

If you're entertaining this Easter and don't have a lot of time to make dessert, I have the perfect solution for you!  This Chocolate Mocha Refrigerator Cake is not only delicious but also simple to make.  It needs to be made a day ahead so one less thing to stress about on the big day. 

And, did I mention versatile? All you have to do to make it your own is use a different flavor cookie and a different flavoring in the whipped filling.  See my suggestions below in the recipe. 

It's adapted from Ina Garten's Mocha Chocolate Ice Box Cake and we all know Ina's recipes are the best!  I hope you give this one a try.

At the end of February and first few days of March, my husband and I joined a group of friends for a week-long getaway in Southern California.  Toasty warm it was not, but we were able to do all of the activities we had hoped to do.  One of which was a side trip to Joshua Tree National Park, which I have to say is spectacular!

These photos were taken while hiking the Hidden Valley trail, one of the easier hikes within the park.  The towering rock formations were formed millions of years ago by the tremendous heat and energy from two of earth's plates colliding and thrusting molten rock up from below.  Then, the forces of a erosion brought them to the surface.  They attract world-class rock climbers from all over the world. If you look carefully, you can see a lone climber in the center photo on the right side of the rock wall and in the far right photo, above, there are several climbers sitting atop the formation. Click image for a larger view.

Forests of the iconic Joshua Tree (which is actually a form of yucca plant) dot the lower levels.  Because Hidden Valley is naturally encased by rock formations, it has a unique, micro-habitat of plants and animals not found together anywhere else in the park. It's a truly awe-inspiring area which I highly recommend should you ever have the opportunity to visit.

Chocolate-Mocha Refrigerator Cake

Printable Recipe

2 cups heavy cream
12 ounces Mascarpone cheese (found in tubs in the cheese section of the store)
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup coffee liqueur or Kahlua
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Ghirardelli)
1 teaspoon instant espresso, instant coffee powder or other coffee flavoring
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 (8-ounce) packages chocolate chip cookies, such as Tate's Bake Shop *see note
Shaved semisweet chocolate, for garnish

In the bowl of an electric mixer with the whisk attachment, combine the heavy cream, mascarpone, sugar, coffee liqueur, cocoa powder, espresso powder, and vanilla. Mix on low to combine and then slowly raise the speed, until it forms stiff peaks.

To assemble the cake, arrange chocolate chip cookies flat in an 8-inch spring-form pan, covering the bottom as much as possible. (break some cookies to fill in the spaces.) Spread one-fourth of the mocha whipped cream evenly over the cookies. Place another layer of cookies on top, lying flat and touching (breaking some again to fit the spaces, followed by another fourth of the cream. Continue layering cookies and cream until there are 4 layers of each, ending with a layer of cream. Smooth the top with a spatula, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight.

Run a small sharp knife around the outside of the cake and remove the sides of the pan and place cake (along with bottom of spring-form pan) on a serving plate. Sprinkle the top with the shaved chocolate and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Cut in wedges, and serve cold.

*Any flat, "crispy" cookie will work.

Additional Suggestions:

Bailey's Irish Cream instead of Kahlua with Nabisco Chocolate Wafer Cookies
Amaretto Liqueur with Amaretti Cookies
Chambord Liqueur with Nabisco Chocolate Wafer Cookies

Adapted from Ina's Garten's Mocha Chocolate Ice Box Cake

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Oven-Roasted Baby Bok Choy

Getting tired of the same old vegetables for dinner and kale just isn't your thing?

Doing some research on nutrient-rich vegetables recently,  I found that bok choy was quite the nutrient powerhouse! It's a great source of vitamin A, vitamin C and Vitamin K and also provides folate, B6 and a moderate amount of calcium!  It was ranked 2nd for nutrient density out of 41 nutrient-rich plant foods!

Thankfully, baby bok choy is easy to find and most major grocery stores today.

Since so many vegetables taste better when roasted,  I decided to try roasting baby Bok Choy.  All I can say is, Wow!  I'm not sure I'll prepare it any other way from now on!

I sliced some baby bok choy in half lengthwise, tossed the halves with a little olive oil, salt, pepper and my latest favorite ingredient, Togarashi.  Also called schichimi Togarashi or nanami Togarashi, (the words nanami and schichimi both mean 7, which is the number of ingredients that go into the togarashi).  Mine includes chili pepper, orange peel, black sesame seed, seaweed, white sesame seed, Japanese pepper and ginger.  A delightful blend with just the right amount of 'heat'.

Also, check out my recipe for Won Ton Soup with Noodles and Bok Choy!

Oven Roasted Baby Bok Choy

Printable Recipe

Baby bok choy (allow at least 1 per person)
Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper
Togarashi Seasoning*
Soy sauce and sesame oil to garnish (optional)

Preheat oven to 425 F.

Cut each baby bok choy in half lengthwise.  Rinse and pat dry with paper toweling.

Place the halves in a large bowl, and sprinkle with a couple of tablespoons of olive oil, salt and pepper, and togarashi to taste (about 1/2 to 1 teaspoon).  Toss until well-coated.  Add more oil and seasonings if needed.

Arrange the bok choy on a baking sheet with sides and roast in the preheated oven for 8-10 minutes (depending on your oven) or until a shart knife can easily be inserted into the thickest end of the bok choy.

*The Togarashi seasoning I use is S & B brand