No Such Thing as Too Much Chocolate Cake

No Such Thing as Too Much Chocolate Cak

This week is a chocolate cake kind of a week. One of those weeks, post vacation, where I feel like I just need another vacation. I just need to wrap my head around everything happening in my life. Tell me I’m not the only one who when you have no idea what to do, you do something completely unrelated to anything that needs resolution … you know, like baking an extravagant chocolate cake for no reason, and for no one. I’m not worried though, my brothers will happily inhale it.  

I have a lot of work to do on the blog, and I’m hoping to launch a very special addition to MCO in 2018. More to come on that closer to launch date. Additionally, I am juggling my day job, some side projects and kinda-sorta–obviously not with this chocolate cake– trying to go to the gym. Just to make it really fun, in true “welcome to being an adult” fashion, Life went ahead and threw me for a loop (see #1)

No Such Thing as Too Much Chocolate Cak

Chocolate cake is never a bad idea. Neither is bread, but let’s not get off track here. This chocolate cake is my absolute favorite, and it’s a fan favorite as well. I’ve used the cake portion of the recipe for cupcakes, Oreo Cakes, and chocolate caramel cakes and it’s always a winner. Although it’s based on boxed devil’s food cake, I also add in a box of chocolate pudding mix and semi-sweet chocolate chips. It’s really for the chocolate lover, because aside from three kinds of chocolate in the cake batter (yes, I licked the paddle. It’s THAT good), there’s also cocoa powder in the frosting, and you can top it off with chocolate ganache (optional).

No Such Thing as Too Much Chocolate Cak

So when life’s got you down, I hope this chocolate cake makes you smile again, and realize that at least when everything else is out of your control… there’s certainty in chocolate cake! 

No Such Thing as too much Chocolate Cake

Inspired by this recipe

No Such Thing as Too Much Chocolate Cake

Ingredients

    For the Cake
  • 1 package Devils Food Cake
  • 1 chocolate pudding mix
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 2 cups Dark or Milk chocolate chips
  • For the Frosting
  • 3 Sticks Unsalted Butter
  • 1 tablespoon Vanilla Extract
  • 4-5 Cups Powdered Sugar
  • 4 tablespoons Cocoa Powder
  • 2-3 tablespoons milk (if needed for loosening up the frosting)
  • For the Chocolate Ganache (optional)
  • 1 lb semi sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream

Instructions

    For the Cake
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F
  2. In the bowl of your stand mixer, mix together the cake and pudding mixes, sour cream, oil, eggs and water.
  3. Stir in the chocolate chips and pour batter into 2 well-greased cake pans
  4. Bake for 30-45 minutes, until wooden toothpick inserted comes out clean
  5. Cool the cake completely in the pan, then remove and place on a cooling rack. If you plan to frost the next day, wrap the cakes in plastic wrap and refrigerate
  6. For the Frosting
  7. In the bowl of your stand mixer, with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter and vanilla extract until light and fluffy
  8. Add sugar one cup at a time, beating for eat least 1 minute between adding the next cup
  9. Add cocoa powder and beat the frosting for another 3-4 minutes. Add milk, by the tablespoon if you feel it needs to be loosened up.
  10. For the Chocolate Ganache (optional)
  11. Place chocolate chips in a medium bowl
  12. In a small saucepan, heat heavy whipping cream until just before boiling
  13. Pour whipping cream onto chocolate chips and whisk until smooth and creamy
  14. Pour the ganache over the top of the frosted cake, and use a frosting knife to spread evenly and slightly spill over the edges for a dripping effect
  15. Refrigerate for 30 minutes before serving
  16. NOTE: Be sure cakes have cooled completely before frosting.
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Spinach Couscous Salad

Spinach Couscous Salad

It’s T minus 4 days until Noninna, my dearest friend’s Paris wedding. I cannot wait! It’s going to be one of the most magical weddings, I just know it. With her big day just around the corner, I’m struggling to stay away from all the leftover Halloween candy and chestnut praline latte’s – it’s been rough – and getting more greens and protein in. It’s kind of hard to want veggies when .. BREAD! 

Spinach Couscous Salad

Yes, that’s how my brain works. Bread always wins. In most cases, I would say eat the bread (see #8), but this is a special occasion we’re talking about. It’s not every day that Nonnina gets married. And that’s why I’ve been on the soup and salad diet. Basically I’ve been actively choosing soups, salads and lean protein for lunch and dinner, which means I have to get creative. If you haven’t already, check out my soups section, there are some really good, vegetable-based soup ideas in there. 

Spinach Couscous Salad

 

My salad game, on the other hand, is slightly weaker. Some of my better salad are  Roasted Garlic Potatoes and Arugula Salad, Skinny Chicken Salad, Grilled Salmon Salad with Chipotle Ranch Dressing, Roast Veggie and Freekeh Salad, Roasted Cauliflower and Lentil Salad, and Calamari Salad. Now I’m adding a new one to my long list of favorite salads and that is, Spinach Couscous Salad. 

Spinach Couscous Salad

Spinach Couscous Salad

Yield: 4 Servings

Ingredients

  • 1 package Baby Spinach
  • 1 cup couscous
  • 1 clove Garlic
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts
  • 1-2oz crumbled Goat Cheese
  • 1/4 cup olive Olive Oil
  • Juice from 1 lemon
  • Salt, to taste

Instructions

  1. To prepare the couscous, bring 1 cup water to a boil, add 1 tablespoon butter and stir in the couscous, turn off heat and cover for 5 minutes.
  2. In a small skillet, sauce garlic with 2 tablespoon olive oil
  3. Add the pine nuts and fry until lightly browned. Use a slotted spoon to remove from oil and place on a paper towel (you can toast the pine nuts in the oven for a healthier alternative)
  4. In a large bowl, mix together the baby spinach, prepared couscous, garlic, pine nuts and goat cheese
  5. Toss with 2 tablespoons Olive oil, lemon juice and salt
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Basmati Stuffed Pumpkin

Basmati Stuffed Pumpkin

It’s fall! Officially pumpkin season. And no, I did not jump on the pumpkin spice latte bandwagon back in September. Pumpkins, in my personal opinion, should be enjoyed once the weather gets crisp and just a little chilly. Sweater weather, if you will. So when we were hitting 90 degree temps in September, I was still rocking my sleeveless tops and French vanilla coffee.

Sweater weather has arrived, and with it everything pumpkin flavored. I may or may not be a little obsessed, seeing that I have a plethora of pumpkin themed recipes on the blog. Some of my favorites include: BBQ and Spiced Pumpkin Seeds, Pumpkin Pecan Cheesecake,  Pumpkin Brownies, Pumpkin Spice Pancakes, Pumpkin Cheesecake with Cinnamon Pecans and Pumpkin Jam.

Basmati Stuffed Pumpkin

Last year, my mom made a wild rice stuffed pumpkin for a dinner party she was hosting. The recipe was given to us by my friend Raz. She swore by it and when we made the wild rice stuffed pumpkin, it did not disappoint. It also made for a great visual addition to the dinner spread. This time around, I wanted to try something similar — that is, a rice stuffed pumpkin. I ditched the wild rice and went with a mix of something Palestinian and Moroccan. I went with long grain Basmati rice, ground beef and Arabic spices for a Palestinian touch, and golden raisins and fried almonds for a Moroccan feel.

Basmati Stuffed Pumpkin

Now… who’s ready for thanksgiving?!

Basmati Stuffed Pumpkin

Basmati Stuffed Pumpkin

Yield: 4 Servings

Ingredients

  • 2 cups Basmati Rice
  • 4 cups water, for boiling
  • 3 tablespoons olive
  • 1 medium Onion, chopped
  • ¼ cup golden raisins
  • 1 lb Ground Beef
  • 1 Cinnamon stick
  • 2-3 tablespoons Seven spice
  • 2-4 cardamom pods
  • 1/4 tablespoons Almonds, shelled, and toasted in the oven.
  • 1 medium pumpkin, cleaned and seeds removed

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400F
  2. Wash the rice 3-4 times, discarding the water every time. Cover with lukewarm water and set aside for 30 minutes. When ready to use, drain the water
  3. In a medium pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat and sauté the onion until translucent
  4. To toast the almonds, place on a baking sheet and broil until lightly browned, flip and continue on the other side (about 3 minutes on each side)
  5. Add ground beef and cook until browned
  6. Spice with seven spice and salt
  7. Stir in the almonds until they are golden
  8. Add the raisins sauté until they are plump
  9. Stir in the rice, cardamom pods and cinnamon stick
  10. Add 4 cups water and bring to a boil
  11. Once boiling, reduce to low, cover and simmer for 20 minutes (this would be a good time to get your pumpkin ready).
  12. When the rice has cooked for 20 minutes. Adjust seasoning to taste
  13. Line a heavy duty baking sheet with aluminum foil (you can also use a roaster)
  14. Place the pumpkin on top in a roaster, or deep baking sheet
  15. Scoop the rice into the pumpkin and press lid firmly on top
  16. Cover the pumpkin with aluminum foil
  17. Bake for about 90 minutes, until the pumpkin can be pierced with a fork
  18. Serve warm
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Oven Baked Sweet Potato Za’atar Fries

Oven Baked Sweet Potato Za’atar Fries

I had the most amazing za’atar fries at Falafel Inc. in DC over the summer. If you haven’t been there, this small place off M street also has delicious falafel sandwiches, for the affordable price of $3. Not only are their falafel sandwiches $3, but get this … for every $10 earned by Falafel Inc., the restaurant feeds a refugee for a day through its donations to the World Food Programme. (This is not an ad, I just really love the food, the mission, and well, who doesn’t love falafel?). You have to get the za’atar fries. You will not regret it.

Admittedly, I got my inspiration from Falafel Inc. for Oven Baked Sweet Potato Za’atar Fries.

Oven Baked Sweet Potato Za’atar Fries

Oven Baked Sweet Potato Za’atar Fries

So what is za’atar exactly?

Za’atar, heavy on the A, (زَعْتَر‎‎) is an herb blend consisting of dried oregano, dried thyme, dried savory, (sometimes powdered coriander and cumin), sumac and white sesame seeds. It’s one of those basic food staples that every Palestinian household can’t live without. Za’atar is to Palestinian pantries as peanut butter is to american pantries. Admittedly, we always have both. I am, Arab-American afterall.

How do you use za’atar?

Simply, you can pour some in small dish, and fill another small dish with olive oil, then use pita bread to first dip into the olive oil, then the za’atar.

You can spread some Labaneh into a pita pocket, or toast bread, and sprinkle with za’atar.

Or you can make manaeesh, a traditional Palestinian pizza, if you will, consisting of bread topped with a za’atar and olive oil mixture then baked. No bread? no problem, try my Mini Manaeesh.

And of course, you can make Oven Baked Sweet Potato Za’atar Fries!

Oven Baked Sweet Potato Za’atar Fries

Oven Baked Sweet Potato Za’atar Fries

Yield: 4 Servings

Ingredients

  • 4 Sweet Potatoes, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons za’atar (you can find the herb mix at any Middle Eastern/ Arabic market or use the recipe below)
  • ¼ cup olive oil +1 tablespoon
  • salt, to taste
  • For the za'atar herb mix (you can substitute chopped fresh thyme and oregano):
  • 1 tablespoon dried thyme
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried savory
  • 2 teaspoon ground sumac
  • 1 tablespoon white sesame seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Instructions

  1. Preheat Oven to 450 F
  2. Peel, wash and cut the sweet potatoes into long slices
  3. Toss with ¼ cup olive oil and salt, to taste
  4. Place the cut sweet potatoes in a single layer on a baking sheet
  5. Bake for 35-40 minutes, flipping the fries halfway through
  6. Take the sweet potatoes out of the oven, place in a large bowl and toss with 1 tablespoon olive oil and za'atar spice blend (recipe included), and toss until coated
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Roasted Eggplant Tahini Soup

Roasted Eggplant Tahini Soup

It’s (finally) sweater weather!

There are two seasons I love more than any other — Spring and Fall. And for good reason. My reasons may or may not be entirely fashion-based. No judgment, right? But really, I’ve been waiting all September and October to start wearing my cozy layers and chic boots.

Roasted Eggplant Tahini Soup

Ask me what my other reason for loving fall is … Soup! Yes, soup. It’s socially acceptable to have a steaming bowl of soup for lunch and dinner every day and it just makes me so happy. I have no shame having soup every single day all Fall/Winter long. As my love for soup has grown, so did my need to find a way to transport my soup to work and still be able to heat it up to almost-but-not-quite-burning-your-mouth temperature. I tried almost everything– Even bringing soup in a coffee thermos. About a year or so ago, I found this lightweight, portable, microwavable, Campbell’s soup mug at Bed Bath and Beyond. It has changed my life ever since. P.S. it even comes with a breathable lid. 

Roasted Eggplant Tahini Soup

I’m especially partial to homemade soups. I know exactly what I’m putting in there, and can make them as healthy or hearty as I’m feeling. My favorites include: Loaded Baked Potato Soup, Carrot Curry Soup, Chicken Noodle Soup, Roasted Cauliflower and Green Pea Soup, Nacho Corn Soup and French Onion Soup in no particular order. Most recently though, I’m in Love with Roasted Eggplant Tahini Soup. Love with a capital L. I mean, eggplant is my jam. Roasted to perfection, mixed with onions, coriander and smooth tahini then blended down. I’m drooling just thinking about it.

Roasted Eggplant Tahini Soup

Roasted Eggplant Tahini Soup

Yield: 4 Servings

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon Olive oil +1 tablespoons for roasting
  • 4 whole eggplants, cut into quarters
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1-2 garlic cloves
  • 4 cups Low Sodium chicken or Vegetable Broth
  • 1 teaspoon Coriander (optional)
  • 1/4 cup tahini paste
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • Fresh, chopped parsley

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 425 F
  2. Pierce the eggplants with a knife 3-4 times and place on a large baking sheet
  3. Brush with olive oil and bake for 30 minutes, until they can be easily pierced with a fork
  4. Using a spoon, scoop out the eggplant flesh and set aside. Discard the skin
  5. In a medium soup pot, heat one tablespoon olive oil over medium-high heat
  6. Add the onions and sauté until translucent
  7. Stir in the garlic and cook for 2 minutes, until fragrant
  8. Add the eggplant flesh and stir (add optional coriander here)
  9. Pour in the chicken broth and bring to a boil
  10. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 10 minutes
  11. Use an immersion blender to smooth to your desired consistency. NOTE: You can also blend the soup using a standing blender. Have another empty pot available. Using a ladle, spoon the soup into the blender and blend until smooth. Then return to the pot. Use the additional pot if you have too much liquid for the standing blender.
  12. Stir in tahini and lemon juice and heat on low for 5 minutes
  13. Serve warm topped with toasted pine nuts and chopped parsley or cilantro
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Caramel Apple Upside Down Cake

Caramel Apple Upside Down Cake

This month, I’m super excited to announce that I’m collaborating with some fabulous food bloggers and food-stagramers to bring you recipes inspired by our favorite fall fruit, Apples!

Can I just say, I love caramel apples. Seriously love them. Not when they’re hard and borderline pull your teeth out. Not those caramel apples. No, I’m talking about the ones where with the perfect caramel to apple ratio, where the caramel only slightly sticks to your teeth and the apples are perfectly crisp. I did share one of my favorite caramel apple recipes in the past. 

Caramel Apple Upside Down Cake

My friend Lulu has three adorable children, who I’ve watched grow over the last few years. We make it out to Cox’s Farm once a year for the Fall festival, where the kiddos enjoy the games, slides, hay ride and warm apple donuts. Lulu and I, on the other hand, we’re in it for the giant caramel apples. I guess the slides are fun too. Priorities, people. 

Based on our love for all things caramel apples, I’m sharing this Caramel Apple Upside Down Cake. It’s got all the basics, apples, caramel, sugar — and a few other ingredients needed to turn caramel apples into caramel apple cake. Add a scoop on vanilla ice cream and your life is complete. 

Caramel Apple Upside Down Cake

Caramel Apple Upside Down Cake

Don’t forget to look at other apple recipes from these fabulous food bloggers below, and check #AisforAlltheApples on Instagram.

Cloudy Kitchen’s Salted Caramel and Apple Babka

Square Meal Round Table’s Chai Spiced Tarte Tatin

The Wood and Spoon’s Maple Apple Cake

The Cooking of Joy’s Deep Fried Apple Dumplings with Miso Caramel Dipping Sauce

Pensive Foodie’s Mini Bacon Crusted Apple Pies

My Kitchen Love’s Bird’s Nest Caramel Apple Cake  

More Icing Than Cake’s Apple Butter Pretzels with Rosemary Cheddar Dip

Casey Joy Lister’s Waldorf Salad’s Twisted Sister

The Kitchen Sink’s Apple Cheddar Loaf

What Should I Make For’s Apple Puff Pastry Tarts

Jessie Sheehan Bakes’ Apple Fritters

Smart in the Kitchen’s Gluten Free Apple Cranberry Crisp

This Healthy Table’s Cardamom Apple Tart

Figs & Flour’s Apple Purple Potato Pizza

Something New for Dinner’s Savory Bread Pudding with Apples, Sausage, and Pecan

Always Eat Dessert’s Apple Spice Scones with Maple Bourbon Glaze

Rezel Kealoha’s Rose Poached Apples with Rosewater Reduction

The Soup Solution’s Fennel Sausage and and Apple Dressing (Stuffing)

Lemon Thyme and Ginger’s Smoky Maple Apple Dutch Baby

Gobble the Cook’s One Pan Pork Chops and Sausages with Apples

Hola Jalapeno’s Fluffy Apple Chili Biscuits

Salt and Wind’s Pomegranate Ginger Apple Cider Punch

What Annie’s Eating’s Butternut Squash/Apple Soup with Asiago and Sage Croutons

Flours in Your Hair’s Brown Butter Bourbon Apple Pie

Confetti Kitchen’s Kale Salad with Chicken and Apple

Salted Plains’ Gluten-Free Apple Crumb Cake

Easy and Delish’s Fun Candy Corn Apple Pops

This Mess is Ours’ Easy Baked Apple Custard

Butter Loves Company’s Gingerbread with Brandied Apples

Zestful Kitchen’s Puffed Apple Pancake

Sweet Pillar Food’s Apple Honey Brie

A Farmgirl’s Dabbles Peanut Butter Apple Cookies

Amee’s Savory Dish’s Peanut Butter Protein Dip

Especially Southern Dishes’ Apple Pie Egg Rolls

Pie Girl Bakes’ Salted Caramel Apple Pie

Cocoa and Salt’s Vegan Apple Stuffin’ Muffins

Saltnpepperhere’s Honey Apple Muffins

Worthy Pause’s Thanksgiving-in-Your-Mouth Paleo Stuffing

Baking The Goods’ Apple Cheddar and Thyme Scones

Smart in the Kitchen’s Gluten Free Apple Cranberry Crisp

Inspired by the Seasons’ Brussels Sprout & Apple Slaw

Sprouting Radiance’s White Bean and Apple Soup

Feed the Swimmer’s Apple Buckwheat Galette with Halva and Maple Tahini

It’s a Veg World After All’s Individual Microwave Apple Crisp

Farm and Coast Cookery’s Apple Cider Donut “French Toast”

Champagne and Cookies’ Apple Cheddar Galette

What’s Karen Cooking’s Country Apple Cake with Cardamom Apple Compote

The Foodie and the Fit’s Venetian Bread Pudding with Apples

Ful-filled’s Milopita – Greek Apple Cake

 

Caramel Apple Upside Down Cake

Ingredients

    For the Apple Layer
  • 4-5 Apples peeled, and cut into slices
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • For the Caramel Cake
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 to 1 1/4 cups milk (depending on the consistency of your batter)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup caramel sauce, I used store-bought + Caramel for drizzling

Instructions

    For the Apple Layer
  1. Place apples, cinnamon, nutmeg and butter in a medium sauce pan and stir until combines
  2. Cook on medium heat, stirring occasionally until the apples begin to soften
  3. transfer the apples into the bottom of a butter-greased bunt pan, arranging them one layer at a time
  4. Discard the syrup
  5. For the Caramel Cake
  6. Preheat oven to 350 F
  7. Beat together butter and brown sugar until creamed
  8. Add eggs, vanilla extract and milk, beat on low speed until combined
  9. Slowly add in the four, increasing the speed
  10. If your batter is too thick, add more milk
  11. Pour in your caramel sauce and beat until smooth
  12. Pour the batter over the apples in an even layer, smoothing out with a spoon
  13. Bake at 350 for 45-50 minutes
  14. Remove from oven and place onto a cooling rack and allow to cool completely before flipping onto your serving plate
  15. Drizzle with caramel sauce
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