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  • Have a Spooky Halloween!

    Cheddar Witches Fingers - Cheese straws in the shape of fingers, complete with a black almond "finger nail." Delicious and totally spooky.

    Candy Apples - You don't need to go to the fair to get my favorite treat because you can make these at home. Black food coloring gives them a festive touch.

    Pumpkin Caramel Sauce - Having a not-so-scary Halloween party? Serve ice cream with this pumpkin infused caramel sauce on top.

Monthly Archives: June 2012

Vanilla Bean Rainbow Layer Cake with Vanilla Bean Frosting

Vanilla Bean Rainbow Layer Cake

You wouldn’t know it by looking at this blog, but cakes are one of my favorite things to make. I’ve made several decorated cakes for family and friends, and I love watching their faces when they see the cake for the first time. Clara’s not even four months old, and I’m already brainstorming ideas for her first birthday cake. I didn’t think I’d have an occasion to make a cake anytime soon, so I was elated when my friend and neighbor Kristi asked me to make her daughter’s first birthday cake. She wanted a rainbow cake but gave me free reign on flavors and decoration.

This is a standard cake recipe that is slightly more time consuming than normal due to the fact that it has to be divided into six portions and tinted before being baked. The more cake pans you have, the faster this process will go. Other than tinting the batter, this recipe is straight forward and yields a delicious vanilla cake. It uses only egg whites, making the cake incredibly light. So many people think flavor is lacking in white cake, but that is certainly not the case with this one. Instead of using the tablespoon of vanilla extract the recipe calls for, I substituted vanilla bean paste and almond extract. The almond isn’t strong, but it gives this cake that fresh from a bakery flavor. I struggled with what type of frosting to use – Swiss meringue, seven minute or buttercream. I ultimately decided to use a vanilla bean buttercream, and it complemented this cake perfectly. I wanted to give the cake that fluffy cloud look on the outside, and the buttercream was perfect for that technique. Even though the birthday girl wasn’t really into the cake, all the guests seemed to love it. Kristi, thanks for letting me help celebrate Isla’s birthday in such a special way!

Vanilla Bean Rainbow Layer Cake

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Chocolate Peanut Butter Torte

Chocolate Peanut Butter Torte
I’ve had this torte on my to-make list for what seems like forever, but the right event just never seemed to pop up. I don’t necessarily need a reason to bake something, but making something like this for only Eric and I is dangerous. Can you imagine having this whole thing in the house, for you to get a piece of whenever you like? (Actually that sounds nice, but I really would have no self control around this torte.) Thankfully, our friend Dan gave us a reason to celebrate recently when he finished his master’s program. I found out from his girlfriend that he loves the chocolate peanut butter combo, and I knew right away that this would be my contribution to his graduation party. So thanks, Dan, for giving me a reason/excuse to finally make this.

Peanut butter and chocolate are good enough on their own and pretty unbeatable when they’re together. It’s a classic combination taken to the next level with this torte. It’s the definition of decadent – a thick Oreo crust surrounds a light and fluffy peanut butter mousse that’s studded with chocolate chips and peanuts. The whole thing is covered in dark, rich chocolate ganache and finished with even more peanuts. I mean seriously, how much more awesome could it get? This dessert is sure to be a crowd pleaser, and it definitely went over well with Dan’s party guests. Eric and I snuck a taste before the party, you know, just to make sure it was as delicious as it looked. ;) I had another (smaller) slice at the party because it was just that good. I tried to resist, but ultimately ended up giving in. Writing this post has made me crave this like you wouldn’t believe, so I may be making another one soon.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Torte

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Brussels Sprouts and Bacon Pizza

Brussels Sprouts and Bacon Pizza

I remember a time when Eric and I were quite unadventurous when it came to trying new foods. I don’t remember when it changed, but my guess is that it was so gradual we didn’t notice it happening. Brussels sprouts have intrigued me for some time, but Eric wasn’t totally convinced he would like them. I bought some recently, and we weren’t totally in love with our simple roasting of them. We both liked the flavor enough to try again, and I’m so glad we did. Apparently bacon is all we needed to turn these little vegetables into something magical. The moral of the story is – if at first you don’t like the taste of something, try adding bacon. ;)

This pizza is one of the easiest and most delicious meals we’ve made recently. First off, there’s no sauce – just vegetables, bacon and cheese. It’s simple in the best of ways. The brussels sprouts are tossed in olive oil and balsamic vinegar, which gives them a rich, slightly sweet flavor after cooking. They cook just enough to be tender but still crunchy. Add crisp bacon, garlic, shallot and three types of cheese to the mix, and you’ve got yourself a seriously awesome pizza. This is a no-fuss recipe with great results, and we will definitely be adding this to our pizza rotation.

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Beef and Bean Baked Burritos with Sour Cream-Poblano Sauce


I’ve lamented before about the lack of good Tex-Mex food outside of Texas. Even though Eric and I only lived there just over six months, we were completely spoiled by all the fabulous Tex-Mex food. Since we rarely eat out at that type of restaurant these days (what’s the use?), I’m always on the hunt for good recipes to satisfy our cravings for it. Thankfully, my friend Elly shares this love of Tex-Mex cuisine and has now given me another recipe to enjoy (here’s my previous favorite, also from her).

This recipe wins on so many levels. These burritos are loaded with the Tex-Mex flavor I always crave. Not only do they taste fantastic the day they’re made, they also make excellent leftovers (this is coming from someone who is generally wary of leftovers that have meat). The sauce is incredible. It’s creamy enough to offset the heat of the poblanos but retain the smokiness. Since the burritos are baked, the tops get nice and crisp and prevent them from becoming soggy even when loaded with sauce. If you want to change things up a bit, you can try these with ground chicken or turkey and pinto beans. I had considered making rice or some other side to go with these, and I’m actually glad I didn’t. They were a meal on their own, and not having a side meant I didn’t have to feel guilty for eating two.

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Chewy Chocolate Almond Cookies

Cookies are one of my favorite things to make on a whim. They’re simple and usually make a lot (this is both a good and bad thing). If I have a craving for something sweet, chances are I have everything I need to make a batch of cookies. I was searching for ideas for something to make for a neighbor that just had a baby when I remembered this recipe. I first tried it almost two years ago, but I had completely forgotten about it since then. I think the reason is because these cookies require an overnight chill before being baked. When I get the urge to bake cookies, that usually means I want to eat them as soon as they’re done baking. They don’t have the nearly instant gratification that comes with other cookie recipes. Thankfully I thought about this ahead of time, which gave me something to look forward to the next day.

These cookies are different than others I’ve made because they’re gluten free. The recipe uses finely ground almonds in place of flour. Being a lover of all things almond and almond flavored, that aspect appealed to me immediately. I haven’t tried it yet, but I think they’d also be great with ground hazelnuts. These cookies are incredibly rich and chocolaty, almost like a brownie. They only use five ingredients, and if your pantry is well stocked, you’ve probably got all of them on hand. I did increase the heat from the original recipe, finding the higher heat to yield a better cookie. I also made these slightly larger than the original recipe, and I think this size is perfect.

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