Tuesday, December 16, 2014

One Great . . . easy slow cooker dessert

Last week, I shared a easy dessert for one that you make in a microwave. This week? An easy dessert for a crowd that you make in a slow cooker.

Notice the theme here? Dessert, made easily. It’s the season when easy is the way to go.

This recipe is floating all around the internet, but I had it when a friend hosted a dinner group recently. It’s perfect for a winter night. And because it needs to sit for a while after it cooks, it's handy for a dinner party. Turn off the slow cooker just before you serve dinner and dessert will be ready when dinner is finished.

Slow Cooker Gingerbread Pudding Cake
Nonstick cooking spray

1 (14.5-ounce) package gingerbread mix

1/2 cup milk

1/2 cup raisins

2 1/4 cups water

3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter

Vanilla ice cream or whipped cream

SPRAY the inside of a slow cooker lightly with cooking spray.

COMBINE the gingerbread mix and milk together in a mixing bowl until moistened. Stir in the raisins. (The batter will be thick.) Spread the batter evenly in the slow cooker.

COMBINE the water, brown sugar and butter in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil. Remove from heat and pour over the batter in the slow cooker. Cover and cook on the high power (don’t use the low power setting) for 2 hours. The center will appear moist, but it will firm up as it stands. Turn off the cooker and let stand for 45 minutes to an hour.

SPOON into dessert dishes and serve with ice cream or whipped cream.

YIELD: 8 to 10 servings.

Monday, December 8, 2014

One Great . . . small chocolate dessert

In the season of excess, it's hard to believe we might crave dessert. Sometimes, though, just a little bit of chocolate is what you need. Some of us don't like to have the temptation of a whole cake or a big batch of something.

That's when the mug cake comes in handy. It's a single serving of cake, made in a coffee mug. You can make it in a couple of minutes in a microwave. And it lends itself to endless experimentation.

Messing around with several recipes, I hit on the perfect combination: Nutella and raspberry jam. You can swap the Nutella for peanut butter, skip the raspberry jam. It's up to you. It's your very own personal cake, after all.

Chocolate Raspberry Mug Cake

1/4 cup all-purpose flour
5 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 egg
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons semisweet chocolate chips
1 tablespoons Nutella (or peanut butter)
2 tablespoons raspberry jam (optional, or use another flavor)

WHISK the flour, sugar, cocoa and salt in a small bowl. Whisk in the egg, oil and Nutella (or peanut butter). Stir in the chocolate chips.

SPREAD about half the batter in the bottom of a large coffee mug. Top with the raspberry jam, then top with the remaining batter.

MICROWAVE on high (100% power) for about 2 minutes, until it's puffed up. Serve immediately, topped with a little whipped cream or vanilla ice cream if you absolutely insist.

YIELD: 1 serving. 

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Come and talk about cookbooks today

Today's event is a real page-turner: The Observer's ever-energetic Jennifer Rothacker has set up a huge event with local authors ready to sell and sign (sign and sell?) their books at the Mint Museum uptown, 500 S. Tryon St.

It's a pretty high-flying group of authors, including novelists Kathy Reich and Jason Mott, And it includes a few food books: Lisa Leake will be there with "100 Days of Real Food," and I'll be there with "Pecans" and "Bourbon" from the Savor the South cookbook series.

At noon in the Mint auditorium, Dannye Romine Powell will moderate a chat on what it takes to become a best-selling author with Leake, Reichs ("Bones Never Lie"), Mott ("The Wonder of All Things") and Charla Muller ("Pretty Takes Practice.")

The authors and their books are all available from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. in the Mint's atrium. The whole event is free, except for the cost of all those books you buy; seating for the noon talk is first-come, first-seated. And if you buy a book, you get a one-day 50% discount on museum admission and a 10 percent discount on lunch at Halcyon, the museum restaurant.

Details and the full list of authors: Right here.