Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cake


What? You forgot about pumpkin after Thanksgiving?

I love pumpkin. Mostly, I love all the spices that are associated with it: cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, allspice… Tonight after a Moroccan-inspired dinner, a spiced cake with dark chocolate chips was just what we needed. And who says pumpkin isn’t February food?

This recipe is a variation of the New York Times’ chocolate-pumpkin layer cake. We needed dessert fast, so layers weren’t an option and neither was making frosting. I basically cut the recipe in half, skipped the nuts, added my own touches (cardamom and orange zest) and 30 minutes later, we were enjoying spicy, pumpkinny, dark chocolatey goodness. This is really dense and moist, and that’s what makes it good.

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Goat Meatball Pitas

Goat meatballs, in a pita with tzatziki

I know, who buys ground goat, right?

Well, we did. The Mizzou Meat Market is an amazing place run by students in the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources. They butcher high quality meat and sell it at great prices. One time they had ground goat, and we said ‘Yes, please.’ (If you eat lamb, you will like goat just as much.)

This is a meal that can be a lot easier than I made it, but I wanted to treat that goat right so I made my own hummus, tzatziki and pita bread. I didn’t have classes that day, what can I say?

I was most inspired by a New Zealand Herald recipe because I figured Kiwis know what’s up with lamb/goat. Then I added dried coriander and mint because the flavors seemed to match, and bulked up the meatballs with breadcrumbs and egg, as you would Italian meatballs.

Goat is great, and the spices stood up to the meat. Hummus and tzatziki go so naturally with the Greek/Middle Eastern spices, and well, let’s call the addition of fresh pico de gallo “fusion.”

Goat Meatballs on Side

While I had trouble getting air pockets in some of the pita, the meatballs taste just as good on top, eaten with a knife and fork.

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Andouille Sausage and Roasted Poblano Peppers

“Sweetness. Saltiness. Sourness. Bitterness. Every delicious bite you’ve ever tasted has been a result of these four tastes coming together on your taste buds. We taste them as individual notes, and in concert.”

The Flavor Bible

Poblano Andouille

This particular meal is a symphony. Not only in flavors, but in textures and all other senses. I’ve started to think about how food is always improved by creating a better balance of tastes and textures. What’s better than a salty, crunchy tortilla chip? A salty, crunchy tortilla chip with a glob of cool, smooth, slightly spicy guacamole.

The Flavor Bible offers the following formula:


Taste being those four feelings experienced by the taste buds. Mouthfeel being the texture experienced by the rest of the mouth. Aroma being what the nose perceives. And X-Factor being everything else you experience from the dish (visual, mental, emotional, spiritual).

But back to the almost-musical andouille and roasted poblano recipe I found at Bitchin Camero

The plate is covered with cold, crunchy lettuce and bitter cilantro. It’s drizzled with olive oil. On top of that is a smoky roasted poblano pepper (soft, slightly spicy, but also a little bitter). Then we put a layer of soft brown rice mixed with salsa (spicy). On top of that is a warm medley of andouille sausage (salty, meaty and spicy), corn (sweet), onions (sweet) and salsa (spicy). Then we put chunks of quesadilla cheese (warm, creamy) and sour cream (cold, creamy). We took a bite, and instantly remembered what we forgot: a good squeeze of fresh lime (sour).

Every bite of this dish has the four tastes and a varied mouthfeel. You can hear the lettuce crunch in your mouth. You see several colors on the plate. You sniffle a little from the piquancy. And the kitchen smells great for hours.

I had leftovers probably four times during the week, and each time my tastebuds were equally happy. Make your tastebuds happy too. Make this dish.

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Gumbo Pot

This is the meal inspired by a sausage and a song. When the campus meat market started offering andouille sausage, I knew we had to make gumbo. Then our friend Kat discovered a song listed under the genre “gumbo funk,” and we had a soundtrack.

We cooked up a big ol’ pot of gumbo for Michael’s parents when we went to visit, and maybe Michael’s mom just loves us, but she couldn’t stop talking about how good it was. I can’t say I’ve had a ton of gumbo in my day, but this was the best one I’ve tasted. The vegetables maintained their form and taste, instead of becoming a pot of mush. The chicken, sausage and shrimp each brought their own flavors too.

The best canned tomatoes available.  Don't even try to argue otherwise.
According to Michael, the best canned tomatoes available. Don't even try to argue otherwise.

This Food Network recipe just called for chicken and andouille, but I felt like there should be some seafood. You can do scallops too. The only other change we made to the recipe was adding a combination of Cajun spices to the flour in which we dredged the chicken. In addition to salt and pepper, I added paprika, chili powder, celery salt and oregano. If you have a packaged blend, that works too.

Gumbo Dish

Change whatever you want in the recipe, but make sure you have some gumbo funk on the playlist.

Britt and Kat Gumbo

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Get your sexy on with Nutella

There’s something seductive about the chocolate hazelnut spread, Nutella. Just say it, Nutellaaaaahhhhh. It’s no wonder the LA Times focused on the stuff for its Valentine’s edition food section.

Photo by Jordan Smith

Luckily I’d gotten my Nutella fix before seeing the Times’ centerpiece on Wednesday. Who knows how long ago (we’re talking 2 years probably), I saw Giada de Laurentiis envelop Nutella in wonton squares and then fry them golden brown. She called them chocolate-hazelnut ravioli, but she would, of course.

For no good reason, it took me until this Monday to make these luscious little pockets of chocolate. They are indeed as amazing as you’d want deep fried Nutella to be.

Photo by Jordan Smith

If you’re not good at making desserts — or even if you are — and you want to make an impression on Feb. 14 — or any day — this recipe is as easy as your Valentine will be after trying one.

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Cook a Perfect Ribeye for Valentine’s Day

Brittany mentioned that besides chocolate of course, a perfectly cooked steak is quite romantic.  I have to agree, I don’t know if the color of the pink juicy cut of beef does it, seared just enough to give it flavor, or the little bit of crimson that flows out when you rested it 5 minutes after taking it off grill/broiler.  Personally, I think its a crime and waste of good meat to cook it anything beyond medium.  I’ve only had food poisoning twice in my life (thanks, Costa Rica) and I undercook food way too often, so I say let it be rare.

costa rica steak

So to cook a steak without a grill, first lets start with the cut.  My personal favorite is the ribeye cause in addition to all the fatty flavor you get a little piece of tenderloin on the side, its a nice surprise.  Now, I should point out that the fat in ribeye should be marbled.  If you know this already, great, if you don’t, marbling is when fat is equally dispersed throughout the muscle, like little white specks and fibers.  The more of this there is, the more it melts into the fibers of muscle when cooking, enhancing the flavor and mouthfeel (god, i love that word).

But not everyone likes ribeye, I get that.  A NY strip cut also works just fine, maybe more tender, but I feel has less flavor, and if you can’t tell, thats kinda what we’re all about here.  Also, don’t just pick up a pack of meat from the grocery store thats vaccuum sealed, or bright, food-dye red.  You want the meat to look natural, not feel slimy, it should be somewhat tacky, a natural red color (brown means it’s starting to go) and not smell foul in any way.  If you don’t live near a butcher, go to the grocery store deli at least, but I would HIGHLY RECOMMEND the Mizzou Meat Market.  It’s where we buy all our meat. It’s locally raised, locally slaughtered, and hung for 21 days.

Many of you are probably asking why that’s important.  First off, its respectful to cows and the environment to not have to truck the meat across the country, second, it’s promoting local food.  As for the hanging, I’m not going to go into the details, but the longer meat hangs, (preferably two weeks, but three to four is better), the better it tastes, just believe me on that.  I can almost guarantee every piece of meat you’ve bought from the grocery store has not been hung, and if it says aged “for up to” a certain number of days, it probably means aged in the packaging.  The sheer economics of it make it much cheaper to just butcher it up and not waste the time.  Hence, why we love butchers.  If you want to learn much more about all this, I also highly recommend
The River Cottage Meat Bookby Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.  It’s a fantastic read and insight into the world of meat, and where I learned most of this information first.

Anyway, on to the recipe.  This is for cooking indoors, as I find it keeps the flavor of the steak natural, and gives an even distribution of searing, not charring (some people hate the taste of char, and find it bitter).  If you must cook your steak on a grill, the instructions are almost identical, you just won’t use a pan.

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