Wednesday, February 29, 2012

It starts with a cake mix

I’ve heard all kinds of stories in the last few weeks about my readers searching for an angel food cake mix to make the two-ingredient pineapple cake! I’ve also heard how much everyone likes that recipe and even a variation. Co-worker Sonja Hayes made a cake using mandarin oranges instead of pineapple and said it was delicious.

So I decided to go searching for some more fun and easy recipes that use only a few ingredients. I’ve found two I want to share today. Both omit the oil and eggs but use a boxed cake mix.

The first recipe came from reader Susan Langston, who made the pineapple cake and took it to work where it went over very well. She also shared her quick cake recipe that has just two ingredients: a lemon cake mix and a 20-ounce bottle of Sprite Zero.

Apparently the soda cake is a popular one with cooks and comes in many varieties. You basically choose a cake mix flavor and a diet soda flavor that would complement it. For instance, devil’s food cake mix and a diet cherry cola; yellow cake mix with orange diet soda; strawberry cake mix with a lemony soda, such as Sprite or 7-Up; white cake mix with diet strawberry soda.

Susan’s recipe calls for a 20-ounce bottle of diet soda, but I’ve seen many other recipes that use a can of soda, which is 12 ounces. I made the cake with 20 ounces of diet 7-Up. I chose 7-Up because I couldn’t find a Sprite Zero in the two stores I checked.

The cake mixes up in a few minutes and sort of fizzes as it rises in the bowl. I loved that! It was almost like a science experiment.

Susan described the cake as having the consistency of a lemon bar, especially if you sprinkle powdered sugar on top. I think that’s a good description. It’s more spongy than a cake made with eggs and oil.

In my online research, I found that some people make a glaze for their cake, using the soda as the liquid. Others use whipped topping.

I made the second two-ingredient recipe last night. I had heard people talk about an easy pumpkin muffin, and boy is this easy. In about an hour, I stopped at the grocery store, bought a spice cake mix and a can of pumpkin, went home and made the muffins, cooked and ate one. They are yummy. So flavorful and very moist and perfect for a mid-morning snack.

The recipe, which I found at the Duncan Hines website, suggested adding a few tablespoons of milk if the batter was too stiff. I did that, but it probably would have been fine without it. I also sprinkled some cinnamon sugar on top of my muffins before baking, just for a little added taste and visual appeal.

I will make these muffins again and might add some chopped pecans the next time.

I’m also including the chocolate covered cherry cake from last May. I mentioned it in that same Feb. 15 column, and a number of readers said they had missed it.

If you ever need to find one of my recipes, and you have internet access, go to www.wilsontimes.com. Click Life, then Lisa’s Blog. Or go straight to lisabatts.blogspot.com. Along the side of the blog page is an archive of recipes, arranged by when they appeared in the paper.

I’m hoping I’ve given you enough variety this week so no one has to go searching in vain for a sold-out cake mix!

Chocolate Covered Cherry Cake
  • 1 18.25 oz. box devil’s food cake mix
  • 1 21 oz. can cherry pie filling
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
With a mixer, combine all ingredients in a bowl for 2 minutes until combined.

Pour into a 13X9-inch pan prepared with cooking spray.

Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes.

Chocolate Glaze
  • 3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pour chocolate chips and butter into microwave-safe bowl. Microwave for 1 minute. Stir until chips are blended. Mix in honey and vanilla extract. Frost cake or cupcakes.

Pumpkin Muffins
  • 1 box spice cake mix
  • 1 (15 oz.) can of pure pumpkin
These are the only two ingredients you need. You do not follow the cake instructions on the box. Mix the can of pumpkin and cake mix together. You may add a few tablespoons of milk to help moisten the batter. Put batter in mini muffin pan or regular sized muffin pan sprayed with baking spray.

Bake at 350 for about 15 minutes or when toothpick comes out clean.

Duncan Hines

Soda Cake
  • 1 box cake mix
  • 20-ounces soda*
Mix these ingredients only. Do not follow ingredient list on cake mix box.

Choose cake size, temperature and cooking time from the cake box. Pour into prepared pan.

You can use any combination of cake and soda you prefer. I used a lemon cake mix and 20 ounces of Diet 7-Up. I cooked my cake in a prepared 9X13 pan at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Once the cake was cooled, I sprinkled powdered sugar on top.

*Many online recipes call for a can of soda, which is 12 ounces. I used the equivalent of a 20-ounce bottle as did Susan Langston, who shared the recipe.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Easy pizza

I have recipes that I make often — such as an easy chicken Parmesan and ham and cheese muffins — and recipes that I only make occasionally. It’s so easy to fall into a routine of set menus month after month that I tend to forget the new dishes I throw in from time to time.

My daughter mentioned a few weeks after Christmas that it had been a long time since I’d made one of her favorite pizza dishes; she was right. It had probably been a year or more since I made 1-Dish Meat Lover’s Pizza from Fleishmann’s Yeast.

This is one of those super-simple recipes that takes about 20 minutes to assemble, and that includes the time it takes to brown the meat.

Fleishman’s has a number of what they call “1-Dish” recipes, which involve mixing a yeast crust in the baking dish and adding the filling. Some of the recipes are desserts, including apple or banana walnut streusel, but there are also main dishes from chicken enchilada and Philly cheesesteak to sausage and French toast and taco bake.

There are a number of pizza recipes, but I made mine with a hamburger and green pepper filling.

I mixed the crust with a fork and used the fork and my hands to form the crust in the pan. Over the years, I’ve used both a round and a square pan for this pizza. Once the crust is made, just spoon the filling on top and place the pan into a cold oven.

As the oven warms, the RapidRise yeast — two envelopes — works its magic, and the crust rises. And boy does that yeasty smell mixed with the fragrant tomato sauce and seasonings make everyone in the house hungry!

While the pizza cooks for 30 minutes, clean up whatever mess you’ve made, then toss a salad, and dinner will be ready — less than an hour from when you got started.

NOTE: A few people have asked me how much pineapple I used in the angel food cake last week. In looking back through my notes, I think the can size was probably 20 ounces. But my readers have used both 14.5 and 20 ounces and had good results with both. Sorry for any confusion.

1-Dish Hamburger Pizza
  • Cooking spray
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 envelopes RapidRise yeast
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup water (very warm, around 120-130 degrees)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 pound lean ground beef (or 1/2 pound ground beef and half pound Italian sausage) cooked and drained
  • 8 oz. pizza sauce
  • Chopped green pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 cup shredded Mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
Prepare 8x8-inch baking dish or pie plate with cooking spray.

Cook green pepper and meat in skillet until meat is cooked through. Mix in pizza sauce and oregano. Set aside.

Mix flour, yeast, sugar, salt, water and olive oil in pan. A fork works well for this. Using fingers, press dough on bottom and up sides of dish to make a crust.

Pour meat mixture into crush. Spread cheeses on top.

Place pan in cold oven. Set temperature to 350 degrees and bake for 30 minutes or until done.

Adapted from Fleischman’s Yeast

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Simple cake

Last year, my readers told me how much they like the simple cake made with a chocolate cake mix and a can of cherries.

Well, I’ve got another one for you that’s even easier. It’s a pineapple cake with two ingredients: an angel food cake mix, which is naturally fat free, and a can of crushed pineapple in its own juice. I’m not kidding. That’s all you put in this delicious cake.

While looking for a “light” dessert recipe, I ran across this super-simple dessert recipe. I couldn’t wait to try it, because, as I’ve said before, I love to experiment with recipes that intrigue me. And I was intrigued by a two-ingredient cake!

I made the cake for dinner one night and topped it with a dollop of light whipped topping, and we loved it! My husband, Reggie, and I are pineapple fans anyway, so I knew it would be a hit. My 3-year-old granddaughter even had a slice and liked it!

We kept the cake on the counter for several days, and Reggie and I didn’t feel guilty about having a slice of it for a snack.

If you like pineapple and want a quick and easy treat, give this recipe a try!

Pineapple Angel Food Cake
  • Angel Food cake mix (I used Betty Crocker)
  • 14.5 oz. can of crushed pineapple in its own juice (un-drained)
Add cake mix and pineapple to bowl and combine with a mixer for about 2 minutes.

Use back of box instructions for type of greased pan you use and bake accordingly. The cake box might say to use ungreased pan, but I greased the pan for this recipe.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Valentine's Day treat

The big day for sweethearts is just around the corner. Have you ordered flowers, picked out a card, bought a shiny piece of jewelry?

At my house, there will probably be a special meal this weekend to mark an early Valentine’s. I love to pamper my family with food and dessert, especially on special occasions. I even bring out my pretty, floral china for my Valentine’s meal.

I’m not sure what I’ll cook this year, but I’m leaning toward a delicious lasagna prepared with a homemade sauce.

Any special meal should end with a lovely dessert, I think. And if it’s for Valentine’s Day, most of us expect chocolate!

There are so many options from cakes and tarts to pies and mousses. But today, I’m sharing a very simple recipe that’s always a big hit with my family.

We love strawberries at my house and have a special affinity for strawberry desserts. The kids especially love strawberries dipped in chocolate.

Over the weekend, my daughter Anna decided for me that this should be the recipe I write about this week and even volunteered to melt the chocolate and dip and decorate the strawberries. How could I say no?

We’ve made this recipe a few times and dip not just strawberries but also pretzels, bananas and graham crackers. At least once, I omitted the shortening, and the recipe worked fine, but the shortening does seem to make the chocolate smoother.

Before you get started with this recipe, make sure to wash the berries, leaving the stems and leaves intact, and place them on paper towels to dry. Pat them dry if they haven’t air-dried by the time you are ready to dip.

Semi-sweet chocolate chips are our favorite for this recipe, but milk chocolate is also delicious.

Anna dipped more than a dozen strawberries Sunday and decorated them with drizzled white chocolate. She did not add shortening to the white chocolate chips before melting. She used pink food dye to color half of the white chocolate and drizzled both colors on the dipped berries. To make drizzling easier, place the melted chocolate in a zippered plastic bag and cut the tip from one corner. The chocolate should squeeze out easily from your make-shift pastry bag.

With some of the leftover chocolate, Anna decorated pretzel twists. I love sweet/ salty desserts and will be munching on the pretzels all week!

Depending on the size of your strawberries, you should be able to dip several dozen strawberries with one bag of chocolate chips.

There are plenty of beautiful strawberries at grocery stores this time of year, so pick up a quart of berries and a bag of chocolate chips and make something special for those you love.

Chocolate-Dipped Strawberries
  • 16 oz. bag of chocolate chips (semi-sweet or milk chocolate)
  • 2 tablespoons shortening
  • Strawberries*
  • White chocolate chips for decorating (optional)
Wash berries. Do not remove leaves. Place berries on paper towels or pat with paper towels to dry.

Place chocolate chips and shortening in a microwave safe bowl. I like to use my 4-cup batter bowl for this recipe. Microwave for 30 seconds and stir. Repeat until the chips are melted. They still retain their shape as they melt, but stir to smooth them. Don’t over cook.

Hold onto the leaves and dip strawberries, leaving a little bit of the red showing. Place on parchment paper or wax paper. Decorate with melted white chocolate drizzle if desired.

I think the berries are best within a few hours of dipping. Store remaining berries in the refrigerator. Let the chill wear off before serving.

* I have never used all of my chocolate dip for berries when making this recipe, but, depending on the size of the berries, you should be able to make two to three dozen. I also dip pretzels, bananas and graham crackers in this dip.