[chocolate cake with chocolate frosting]

This recipe is by far the easiest I've ever made from scratch.  Sure, you can buy the box, but this actually tastes better and is simple to halve if needed.  Enjoy...

2 cups granulated white sugar
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup Cocoa, like Hershey's
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 eggs at room temperature
1 cup milk (I've used 1%, works great)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup boiling water
Chocolate Frosting (recipe below)

Heat the oven to 350 degrees.  Spray two 9-inch round baking pans with Pam Baking Spray, (the genius stuff that has the flour in it).  

Stir together: sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large mixing bowl.  Add the eggs, milk, oil and vanilla.  Beat on medium speed for 2 minutes.  Add a small amount of the boiling water and continue mixing.  Slowly add the rest of the boiling water and continue to mix until well combined.  Pour the batter into the prepared pans.

Bake 30-35 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean from the center of the cakes.  Cool 10 minutes then remove from the pans and continue to cool completely on a wire rack.  Frost with the chocolate frosting and serve.

Other Pans:
13x9x2 Pyrex pan: 35-40 minutes
3 8" round baking pans: 30-35 minutes
12-cup Bundt Pan: 50-55 minutes, cool 15 minutes, then remove
Cupcakes: (makes 30) Fill 2/3 full with batter, bake 22-25 minutes

Chocolate Frosting
1 stick unsalted butter
2/3 cup Cocoa
3 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla extract

Melt the butter.  Mix the butter and cocoa in a mixing bowl.  Slowly add the powdered sugar and milk, alternating between the two.  Continue to beat until it's spreadable.  Add a little more milk if needed.  Add the vanilla and continue to whip until you like the consistency.  (I just keep whipping until it's spreadable, but I like it thick). 

[cilantro grilled chicken breast]

I wanted something simple and foolproof, so I found this.  
Turns out it's damn good.

1 pound (2 large breasts) boneless skinless chicken breast, butterflied
2 tablespoons grapeseed or olive oil
salt & pepper
2 tablespoons Cilantro Herb Butter, recipe follows

Preheat a grill.  Prep the coals (if using charcoal) to indirectly cook the chicken.  Lightly coat chicken with oil and sprinkle each evenly on both sides with salt and pepper. Grill chicken breasts for about 4 to 5 minutes on each side, or until thoroughly cooked; the meat should be solid white throughout and the internal temperature will read 165 degrees F. Remove from grill and immediately cover with foil while the chicken rests.  To serve: top with 1 Tbsp of the cilantro herb butter on each breast.

Cilantro Butter:
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1/2 Tbsp minced garlic
2 Tbsp minced red onion
2 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
Dash Worcestershire sauce
1 lemon, juiced
1 Tbsp white wine
In a bowl or mixer, whisk all ingredients until thoroughly combined. (I prefer to use my stand mixer and whip the butter mixture).  Refrigerate until ready to use.

[australian beer-barbecued wings]

based on 'Austrailian Beer-Barbecued Wings' by Steven Raichlen
wing with sauce
Note: prep takes 4 hours for marinating the wings

12-16 whole chicken wings
1/4 cup peanut oil
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup Foster's Premium Beer
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper

BBQ Sauce
2 Tbsp peanut oil
1 small onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp ground ginger
3/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1 cup ketchup
1/3 cup Foster's Premium Beer
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1 Tbsp packed brown sugar
1 Tbsp honey
2 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp dry mustard
1/2 tsp black pepper

Rinse the wings under cool running tap water.  Drain and blot with paper towels.  Make two or three deep slashes, to the bone, in the meaty part of each wing.  In a large non reactive bowl mix the following: 1/4 cup of peanut oil, 1/4 cup of lemon juice, 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce, 1/4 cup of beer, the salt and the 1 tsp of pepper.  Add the wings to the mixture and toss to coat.  Cover the bowl and marinate in the fridge for 4 hours, turning occasionally.  

About an hour before the chicken is finished marinating, start making the BBQ Sauce.  Heat the 2 Tbsp of peanut oil in a medium-size saucepan over medium heat.  Add the onion, garlic, ginger and hot pepper flakes and cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, about 5 minutes.  Stir in the ketchup, 1/3 cup of beer, 2 Tbsp of lemon juice, 2 Tbsp of Worcestershire sauce, 2 Tbsp of vinegar, brown sugar, honey, soy sauce, mustard, and 1/2 tsp of pepper and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to medium/low and let the sauce simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.   Remove the BBQ sauce from the heat and let sit until ready to use.  

beer barbecued wings
As the chicken is reaching it's 4 hour marinating time, start the grill and get the heat to medium/high.  (We use charcoal - takes about a half hour to prep).  Pull the wings from their marinating sauce, (toss the sauce the chicken was marinating in), and place on the hot grill, trying to spread the wings as much as possible to expose all the skin.  Grill the wings, flipping several times, for 11 minutes.  (Watch for hot spots: grill marks = good, burned skin = bad).  Divide the BBQ sauce and use half for the wings.  Brush the sauce onto the wings and grill for 5 minutes, flipping and brushing on more sauce halfway through.  Chicken should no longer be pink in the center.  Remove the chicken from the grill and place the on a platter.  Cover the platter with foil and let the chicken sit for 5-10 minutes to let juices run clear and the chicken rest.  

Serve with the reserved sauce for dipping.  Cut up some celery and serve with Blue Cheese Vegetable Dip (for the celery and wings).

[crustless spinach quiche]

a full pie of awesome
Yields 6 servings (can easily be chilled and enjoyed in about a week)

1 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped
1 (10 oz) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
5 eggs, beaten
3 cups shredded Muenster Cheese
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly grease a 9 inch pie pan.  
Heat oil  in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are soft.  Stir in spinach and continue cooking until excess moisture has evaporated.
In a large bowl, combine eggs, cheese, salt and pepper.  Add spinach mixture and stir to combine.  Scoop into prepared pie pan.
Bake in the preheated oven until eggs have set, about 30 minutes.  Let cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Note: For individual servings - distribute the spinach mixture into a greased muffin pan.  Each muffin tin should be a little less than half full.  
You can also use any other additional vegetables you want like mushrooms, sliced red pepper, scallions, green olives, tomatoes.  Feel free to mix up the cheese too - it's really just according to your preference.
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