Texas Sheet Cake

Texas Sheet Cake - whole

We moved to Texas in August 2005, and until this August I just didn’t understand Texas Sheet Cake. To me it was simply chocolate cake with frosting. No big deal. It showed up at parties sometimes, and I saw it at the grocery store, but nothing drew me to it. I furrowed my brow in confusion every time a friend talked about how wonderful it was. It’s just cake.

But then, I made it for myself. Y’all. There are certain things in life that can only be fully comprehended once you experience them for yourself, and I now believe that Texas Sheet Cake is one of those things.

Maybe it’s because I went through the process myself, or maybe it’s because I was able to taste that first piece, still warm from the oven, with ever-so-slightly gooey frosting dripping down the side. This cake is both fluffy and moist, not at all like the mushy ones I’ve had before. This is still cake-cake, and perhaps it’s because I used a smaller pan than the standard sheet-cake pan, but I think it’s better this way.

Don’t confuse this with a healthy cake, of course — it’s still a special-occasion cake, something you will want to share with others lest you be tempted to eat a square here and a square there, each one successively larger. Be sure to serve it up with a tall glass of cold milk (a scoop of vanilla ice cream wouldn’t be remiss here) to cut through the chocolate flavor.

Be sure to pour the icing on while everything is still warm, or it will be harder to spread and you’ll miss out on that softened layer of cake that is created when the icing coats it.

And, for all you pecan haters, trust me when I say you can’t skip them in this cake. I mean, you could, but then it wouldn’t really be Texas Sheet Cake, and then what’s the point?

Texas Sheet Cake - slice

Check out my post for Texas Sheet Cake and grab the recipe over at Recipe.com

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Banh Mi Bowls with Pickled Radishes

This post is brought to you thanks to Duda Farm Fresh Foods and Kitchen PLAY as part of Team Fresh Summit.

Banh Mi Bowl with Pickled Radishes

When I decided to go to Fresh Summit, one of the things I was most excited about was getting to meet the people behind the foods I see on the grocery shelves every day. I don’t think many shoppers realize how many different companies come together to create a full produce aisle — the number of vendors I saw was truly astonishing and I came away with a new respect for the food industry.

One of the companies I had a chance to spend time with was Duda Farm Fresh Foods (you might know their products with the Dandy name). The company began in 1909 with founder Andrew Duda, and is still run today by the Duda family. They’re known for their signature celery product, providing celery to Campbell’s Soups and the Darden Restaurant Group in addition to the public market. They also grow citrus like mandarins and Meyer lemons, and this year at Fresh Summit they were showcasing the launch of their new ready-to-eat radish line.

Dandy collage

Duda’s radishes are pre-cut so they’re easy to add to virtually any recipe for a little kick, or pile onto a veggie platter for entertaining. Pre-cutting the radishes helps “release” some of the spice, which means these radishes are ideal for the little ones in your family or those who are just starting to experiment with vegetables.

These little ministicks are great for adding to salads, sandwiches or even a light soup. I don’t know about you, but my knife skills fall into the “slow and steady” category, so anything that helps reduce dinner prep, while still being a fresh ingredient, is a win.

While at Fresh Summit I tasted a variety of bites at the Duda booth, and I was inspired by their take on a banh mi to create this banh mi bowl with pickled radishes.

Banh Mi Bowl with Pickled Radishes

Using marinated pork tenderloin, forbidden black rice, and crisp veggies makes this bowl a standout for dinner. The pork takes the longest to cook, but you’ll be prepping the rest of the recipe as it roasts, so it doesn’t seem quite so long to make. Plus, depending on how much meat you like at dinner, you can easily double the rice and vegetables to provide plenty of leftovers for lunches!

Pickling the radishes for this recipe is a must — they add just that little bit of tang that brightens up the entire dish. Any leftover radishes will keep for a few days in a covered container, and can be used anywhere you’d put regular radishes or pickled onions.

Banh Mi Bowls with Pickled Radishes

Ingredients

  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon Chinese five spice
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce or tamari
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 3 tablespoons hoisin
  • 1 pound pork tenderloin
  • 1 cup black rice
  • 1/2 cup white vinegar
  • 1/2 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tablespoon whole peppercorns
  • 1/4 teaspoon mustard seed
  • 1/4 teaspoon celery seed
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 ounces radish matchsticks
  • 2 large carrots
  • 1-2 jalapeños
  • Fresh cilantro

Instructions

  1. Whisk together garlic, Chinese five spice, sesame oil, soy sauce, tomato paste, honey, and hoisin. Reserve 1/4 cup of marinade.
  2. Place the tenderloin in a shallow baking dish and pour remaining marinade over, turning to coat. Cover and let rest for at least an hour, or in the fridge for 8 hours/overnight.
  3. When ready to cook, preheat oven to 350°F. Roast tenderloin for 45 minutes to an hour, until it reaches an internal temperature of 145°F. Let it rest 10 minutes before carving.
  4. While the pork is cooking, prepare the rest of the recipe.
  5. Rinse black rise in cold water and add it to a saucepan with 2 cups water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and let simmer on low, covered, for about 30 minutes.
  6. In a small saucepan, combine vinegar, sugar, peppercorns, mustard seed, celery seed, and salt, and heat over medium until sugar is dissolved.
  7. Remove from heat and add radishes, stirring to coat. Cover and let rest.
  8. Slice carrots into matchsticks or coins, and slice jalapeño thinly.
  9. Once all ingredients are ready, assemble bowls with rice on the bottom then slices of pork. Drain radishes from brine and arrange vegetables in the bowl. Drizzle reserved marinade over the top and serve.

Notes

Marinade adapted from The Banh Mi Handbook

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Disclaimer: This post is part of my Team Fresh Summit ambassadorship. I received radishes for the purposes of review and recipe development and was compensated for this post.

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Tea-Poached Pears with Soba Noodles

Tea-Poached Pears with Soba Noodles

Last weekend I had the opportunity to stop by the USA Pears booth at Fresh Summit. Rows and rows of perfect pears, and I forgot to take a photo. Bad blogger. I did, however, have the opportunity to sample a few pear varieties out of the 10 that are in season right now, which really helped me realize how versatile they can be.

I don’t know about you, but I often forget about pears in favor of apples. Apples are what I grew up with, and I confess that until recently I didn’t know much about selecting a great pear. I’ve been burned by rock-hard pears before, purchased in error when I was really hoping for a pear that was ready to eat. It turns out that all you need to do to figure out if a pear is ready to eat is to gently press your thumb near the stem, and if it gives in, it’s ripe!

Tea-Poached Pears with Soba Noodles

Of course, it turns out there are still uses for those hard pears if you get too antsy waiting around for them to be perfect. Aside from cooking down for a lovely pie or grating for a cake, firm pears are ideal for poaching.

Have you poached fruit before? It’s crazy simple — just let your fruit simmer in liquid for a while, then serve however you like! Easy-peasy. Red wine is traditionally used for poaching pears, but there’s so many other options out there, from coffee to alcohol to coconut milk.

I wanted to turn poaching into something for any meal, so I chose to use ginger tea as my poaching liquid. Then I tossed the poached pears with soba noodles, carrots, cucumber, and a simple Asian-inspired dressing for a lunch that can be served warm or cold. It’s so easy that you really have no excuse for boring lunches; just make it the night before and parcel into containers for the week ahead.

Tea-Poached Pears with Soba Noodles

You can use whatever flavor of tea you like for this recipe, but I recommend one that has plenty of ginger or spicy pepper. When poaching, be sure to use a pan that allows for enough room for the pears to be completely submerged.

Tea-Poached Pears with Soba Noodles

Ingredients

  • 4 cups water
  • 5 ginger tea bags
  • 2 pears, peeled, halved, and seeded
  • 1 package soba noodles
  • 1 medium carrot
  • 1/2 cucumber
  • 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar or brown rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 2 teaspoons tamari or soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons sambal oelek / chili sauce

Instructions

  1. In a saucepan, bring water to a boil, then add tea bags and let brew for 5-7 minutes. Discard tea bags.
  2. Place pears cut-side down in saucepan and let simmer for 15-20 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool.
  3. Cook soba noodles according to package directions. Drain and let cool.
  4. Grate carrot or cut into matchsticks. Dice cucumber.
  5. Whisk together vinegar, sesame oil, tamari, and sambal oelek in a large bowl. Taste and adjust seasoning, if needed.
  6. Add soba noodles, carrots, and cucumber to bowl.
  7. Remove pears from poaching liquid and dice, and add to bowl. Toss everything together to coat with dressing.
  8. Serve immediately or chill until ready to eat.
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I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

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Taco Meatloaf

Taco Meatloaf

How many of you grew up with meatloaf as a standard part of your dinner routine? How many of you have made meatloaf since emerging from your parents’ care and establishing your own kitchen?

Kudos if meatloaf has made an appearance at your dinner table more than a handful of times. For me, I had eaten it so often that when it comes to preparing dinner, I hardly ever think of a big hunk of meat aside from steak. While there are few comfort foods that compare to a slice of meatloaf and a pile of mashed potatoes, it’s not a food that gets me excited.

Let’s take meatloaf back.

Let’s start throwing stuff into it like we do with burgers. Roasted chiles, shredded cheeses, dried fruits, or plenty of spices. Consider chopped cooked greens like spinach, or flavored sauces that have a kick.

Many of us turn to meatloaf for the economical aspect, so adding those special ingredients helps change things up from the standard not-so-fun dish. Just because you’re saving money your tastebuds shouldn’t have to suffer, right? We also like to make meatloaf new again by serving it in different ways, from slicing and adding to a taco or sandwich, to crumbling it for rough meatballs in marinara sauce. The crumbles are great for rice-based dishes as well — essentially, the sky’s the limit when it comes to meatloaf, and everyone’s tastes are different.

Now, the crazy thing about this particular meatloaf is that it’s made in the slow cooker. I know. While this doesn’t necessarily result in the most perfectly glazed and crispy-edged meatloaf, you can’t beat how simple it makes the cooking process.

My slow cooker has a lift-out rack that is ideal for cooking things that need to drain like whole chickens or meatloaf, but you can easily re-create the same system with strips of foil. Make dinner even easier by forming the meatloaf the night before and letting it hang out in the fridge overnight until you’re ready.

This taco meatloaf features favorite taco toppings like roast corn, melty cheese, and chopped peppers, and then we threw it onto tortillas with even more taco toppings. (There’s no such thing as taco overload when you live in Austin.) Proof positive that meatloaf doesn’t have to be boring.

Check out my post on Taco Meatloaf over on Recipe.com.

 

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Indulging in Life

Eden East Cocktail

Working in food generally means you eat well, and you eat well a lot. Never trust a skinny chef, right? Granted, I don’t consider myself a chef, but the past month my calendar has seen quite the juxtaposition of foodie events and healthy living events.

My eye has been turning toward a healthier lifestyle in general, and this recent trend was started by participating in the Fit Foodie 5k, which I wrote about already. It not only reinvigorated my enjoyment of running, but let me to seek out another race to run. That search led me to sign up as a Zooma race ambassador for the 2015 race. I’ll be running my first-ever half marathon. Yikes! You can join me at Zooma (don’t worry, they also have a 10k) and get a discount by using the code MEGAN15 at checkout.

I also attended a few special dinners, the healthy living bread to my Byte of Texas weekend sandwich. First up was the Prevention R3 Summit preview dinner at Eden East, celebrating the second R3 event that happened last weekend. The food was lovely, but the conversation was even more invigorating as I sat next to one of the PR representatives for Prevention and we chatted all about event planning.

Eden East dishesA few days later I headed to a secret venue for a dinner created by chef Fiore Tedesco of L’Oca D’Oro. Wearing a lace dress and some fun boots, I felt very Austin as I walked into the unmarked door, and then had all my expectations demolished as I surveyed the rest of the crowd. For the most part, this was an Austin I had not experienced — the affluent, extremely stylish Austin. The California-import Austin.

I’m not sure what they were expecting either, because the dinner was in partnership with Weight Watchers. I actually knew about that twist, having been invited by the PR company, but I was keen to see how it would all play out. Weight Watchers’ current campaign is called “Bite into Life” and focuses on how enjoyable food can be, even when on a weight-loss plan. I’m an expert in failing at weight-loss plans, but the menu we experienced under the sparkling, romantic lights of Palazzo Lavaca was enough to enchant anyone.

Palazzo Lavaca

Bite into Life Dinner at Palazzo Lavaca – Photo Courtesy Knox Photographics/Ketchum

While I felt out of place among the crowd, I had a great conversation with Stacy from Weight Watchers, and I went home with a renewed sense of how I wanted to be living my life.

My goal is not weight loss. It’s not to restrict my diet. My goal is to feel better within my skin, to be able to chase my sons around without needing a rest after a few minutes. To move more. To eat more veggies. To be more, and not worry about the less.

Join me.


Disclaimer: I was invited as a guest to the Prevention R3 Dinner and the Weight Watchers Bite Into Life dinner. I applied and was accepted as a Zooma race ambassador, which means I’ll be posting about the event and running the race free of charge.

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Milestones Matter

This post is brought to you by Netflix.

When we were getting ready for our second baby to be born, I was hyperaware of my older son’s feelings, probably indulging in his whims a little more than I should have. I knew that as he had been the only child for six years, his life was going to be changed tremendously. Once Max arrived, I did what I could to ease the transition, sharing stories of brothers and siblings and how we learn from life changes.

I’m happy to live in a world where I have lots of tools at my disposal to ease my children through these milestones. We not only learn through books and family activities, but through our family screen time. In fact, when my older son is feeling frustrated and unable to put his feelings into words, he often requests to watch one of the shows that deals with feelings. Sometimes, it’s easier for him to relate to the kids (or talking animals; go figure) on the screen than it is to me.

I let him use Netflix Streaming as a way to find shows that are appropriate for his age and fit his current life experiences. Here’s a few titles to explore if your kids are going through milestones:

  • New Sibling: The Hive: S01E01, Babee’s Room
  • Losing Your First Tooth: Super WHY: S01E10, The Story of the Tooth Fairy
  • Getting Glasses: Arthur: S15E09, Through the Looking Glasses
  • First Sleepover: Bratz Kidz: Sleep-over Adventure
  • First Trick-or-Treat: Julius Jr.: S01E06, Dressed for Spook-cess
  • First Pet: Beethoven
  • First Move: The Croods
  • First Big Game: D2: The Mighty Ducks

Netflix OctoberMilestones matter in our house, because for the kids, everything is big. Remember being a kid and buying something with your own money for the first time, or getting your first great report card? Milestones, both good and bad, should be things we look to, to celebrate and learn from.

What do you do to celebrate milestones?

Disclaimer: This post is the first in a year-long partnership with Netflix as part of the Netflix Stream Team.  All opinions are my own.

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