Andrew’s Birthday Cake

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My hubby’s birthday is coming up and I am making him this:

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I took this photo of his birthday cake last year, which is Giada de Laurentiis’ Hazelnut Crunch Cake with Mascarpone & Chocolate. And I am making the cake again because:

1. The cake is heaven in every bite. Light mascarpone frosting, moist chocolate cake, fresh chocolate orange zest and crunch hazelnut candy = perfection.

2. My hubby LOVES Giada.

3. My hubby requested I make it again.

4. Presentation is to die for and makes me feel like I am a cake artist (even though I am far from one).

5. The cake is surprisingly EASY to make.

You are probably thinking, yeah right, how could a cake that looks like that be easy? Well, it is boxed cake. Yes, you heard me right. Giada’s recipe calls for boxed cake, and I am all about the short cuts if it doesn’t take away from flavor. I used Duncan Hines Dark Chocolate Fudge Cake and the cake was so moist and delicious with this mix. And the hazelnut crunch, while it looks intimidating, wasn’t hard to make at all. Simply boil sugar and water for 10 minutes then pour the mixture over hazelnuts on parchment paper.

So the next time you want to impress guests or that special someone with an amazing cake that will cause them to crown you king/queen and bow at your feet, try this cake. And enjoy!

Recipe on the Food Network’s Website: Hazelnut Crunch Cake with Mascarpone & Chocolate

Israeli Couscous with Apples, Cranberries and Herbs

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Hello friends! We hope everyone had a scrumptious holiday season and a happy new year. After taking a little bit of a hiatus we are back and armed with delicious recipes, some even life changing, that we cannot wait to share with you. A percentage of these are family recipes, others we have discovered online or through word of mouth, and a few are a result of experimenting in our own kitchens.

So without further ado, let’s get cookin’ :).

Served at room temperature, this Israeli couscous recipe is the perfect side dish for a potluck or get together with friends. It also makes for great leftovers. Add some grilled chicken to it and,  voila!, you have a delicious and healthy lunch. A Giada de Laurentiis recipe with a few tweaks, I’ve made this dish several times for friends and have only received rave reviews.

NOTE: Giada says the dish serves between 4 to 6 people but I find it really serves up to 20 as a side dish. Unless you are cooking for an army, there is no need to double this recipe.

Ingredients

Couscous:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups Israeli couscous (Do not substitute regular couscous for Israeli couscous. Trader Joes  sells Israeli couscous and most grocery stores sell it in their kosher or international section. If you cannot find Israeli couscous you can use barley or orzo.)
  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary leaves
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 medium green apple, diced
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup toasted almonds slices

Vinaigrette:

  • 1/8 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1/2 tablespoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup olive oil

For the couscous: In a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil on medium-high heat. Add the couscous and cook, stirring occasionally until slightly browned and aromatic, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Simmer for 10 to 12 minutes or until the liquid has evaporated. Transfer the cooked couscous to a large bowl and set aside to cool. Once cooled, add the parsley, rosemary, thyme, apple, dried cranberries, and almonds.

For the vinaigrette: In a small bowl, combine the vinegar, maple syrup, honey, salt, and pepper. Whisk in the olive oil until smooth. Pour the vinaigrette over the couscous and toss to coat evenly. Let sit for at least 1 hour before serving.