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Chocolate Sheet Cake

Group 1
1 cup water
1/4 cup oil
1 stick margarine
4 tablespoons (heaping) cocoa

Group 2
2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
6-7 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt

Group 3
2 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup buttermilk

5-6 tablespoons milk
1 stick margarine
4 tablespoons cocoa
(I also added 1 1-ounce square of baking chocolate)
1 box (1 pound) powdered sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 cup chopped pecans (optional)

Heat Group 1 in a small saucepan over medium heat just until hot and butter is melted. Remove from heat.

Combine Group 2 in mixing bowl. Add Group 1 and mix just enough to incorporate all ingredients.

Combine Group 3 ingredients and whisk together. Add Group 3 and beat moderately. Pour into greased & floured jelly roll or sheet cake pan.

Bake at 370 - 20 minutes for jelly roll pan or 30 minutes for sheet cake pan.

While the cake is baking make the Frosting using these instructions:

Heat milk, margarine, cocoa (& baking square if you use it) until hot and everything is melted. Remove from heat and add vanilla & powdered sugar. Whisk or beat until smooth. Add nuts if desired.

Pour and spread over cake (still in the pan) while both are hot.

Orange Cranberry Loaf

(This one is actually original. However, I did adapt it from a pound cake recipe from Cook's Illustrated.)

Makes 4 mini loaves (or probably 1 regular sized loaf).

1 1/2 cups cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 sticks butter (melted)
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 tablespoons orange zest*
2 teaspoons orange juice*
4 large eggs
1 1/2 - 2 teaspoons vanilla
1 tablespoon orange extract
1 1/2 cups fresh cranberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a smallish bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

Melt butter in microwave. Whisk melted butter thoroughly to reincorporate milk solids.

In food processor, process sugar and zest until combined, about 5 1-second pulses. Add juice, eggs, vanilla, & orange extract and process until combined, about 5 seconds. With machine running, add melted butter through feed tube in a steady stream. Transfer to batter bowl. Sift flour mixture over lizuid in 3 steps, whisking gently after each addition.

Pour a little batter into the pan to form a base. Then add cranberries to remaining batter and pour into pan. Bake at 350 for 10 minutes, then lower to 325 for 30 minutes.

*I usually use zest and juice fresh from a single orange. However, there is the jarred orange peel and juice from a carton as an alternative.

Lemon Icing

from Better Homes and Gardens Christmas Baking publication (2008, pg 105)

For use with Gingerbread Loaves or whatever else you may come up with.

In a bowl, combine 1 cup powdered sugar and 1 teaspoon lemon juice or vanilla. Stir in enough milk, 1 teaspoon at a time, to make an icing of drizzling consistency.

Gingerbread Loaves

from the Better Homes & Gardens Christmas Baking publication (2008, pg 105)
(with a few changes by yours truly)

This recipe was designed for 2 small loaf pans. However, I use the Pampered Chef Stoneware Mini Loaf Pan, so I double it.

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1/3 cup cooking oil
1/3 cup molasses (I use "Full Flavor")
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease bottoms and halfway up the sides of two mini loaf pans.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, baking soda, and salt. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture; set aside. In another medium bowl, beat egg with a whisk or rotary beater; stir in oil, molasses, brown sugar, and milk. Add egg mixture all at once to the flour mixture. Stir just until moistened (batter will be a little lumpy). Divide batter between the prepared pans, spreading evenly.

Bake 25 - 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the centers comes out clean. Cool in pans on wire racks for 10 minutes. Remove from pans. Cool completely on wire racks.

You may choose to drizzle the tops with Lemon Icing, but we prefer it straight up or maybe along with some vanilla or cinnamon ice cream.

Chocolate Covered Cherry Cookies

1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup cocoa
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup margarine (softened)
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
10-16 oz jar marachino cherries (about 48)
1 6-ounce package semisweet chocolate pieces
1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In large bowl, stir together flour cocoa, salt, baking powder & baking soda. Separately, beat together butter & sugar until fluffy. Add egg & vanilla. Gradually add dry ingredients & beat until well blended. Shape dough into 1 inch balls and place on ungreased cookie sheet. Press down center of each ball with thumb.

Drain cherries and reserve the juice. Place 1-2 cherries in center of each cookie.

In small sauce pan, combine chocolate pieces and sweetened condensed milk. Heat until chocolate melts. Stir in 4 teaspoons of reserved cherry juice. Spoon about 1 teaspoon of frosting over each cherry to cover.

Bake 10-12 minutes & let cool completely.

**It seems a little counter-intuitive to fully assemble these before baking, but that is how it's done.

Seared Deep Sea Scallops

Herb Ratatouille and Potato Noisettes

from Courses: A Culinary Journey (pg 58)

Serves 6

36 large sea scallops
salt and pepper
vegetable oil for searing
1 lemon, halved

1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup onion, large dice
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 red bell pepper, large dice
1 green bell pepper, large dice
1 yellow bell pepper, large dice
1 cup zucchini, large dice
3/4 cup eggplant, large dice
1/2 cup black cured olives, pitted
2 cups tomato concasse
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 teaspoon rosemary, chopped
1 teaspoon oregano, chopped
1/2 teaspoon thyme, chopped
1/2 cinnamon stick
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3 bay leaves
salt and pepper

3 large potatoes

chopped fresh parsley

Prepare the ratatouille by heating the olive oil in a large heavy pan over high heat. Add the onions and saute. Add the garlic and peppers and saute 4 minutes more. Add the remaining ingredients and stir well. Reduce the heat, cover and stew. Check the seasoning after 15 minutes and adjust (the cinnamon stick may need to be removed at this stage). Continue to cook for approximately 15 minutes more or until all of the vegetables are tender and the flavors ahve combined well.

Meanwhile, peel the potatoes and cut into qauarters. Using a small sharp knife, shape the potato quarters to resemble Brazil nuts. (Seriously, don't you think this is going a bit overboard?) Place the potato noisettes in a small pan, cover with salted water and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook until the potatoes are tender, approximately 12 minutes. Drain and season.

In saute pan, heat a few tablespoons of oil over high heat. Season the scallops well with salt and pepper. Sear the scallops on both sides until well-browned. Reduce the heat moderately and continue to cook until the scallops are just cooked, approximately 6 minutes. Squeeze the fresh lemon juice over the scallops when done. The scallops should be plump and juicy when cooked. If over-cooked, they will become dry and tough.

Serve the scallops with the ratatouille and potato noisettes and garnish generously with chopped fresh parsley.