Life Recipes

AJ’s Birthday Supper: Grilled Stuffed Poblano & Jalapeño peppers, Grilled Flank Steak & Red Onion Salad, Ciabatta Bread, Devil’s Food Cake with Whipped Espresso Buttercream

For AJ’s 26th Birthday I surprised him with behind home-bench tickets to DC United vs. AC Milan. (3-2 win!) For his birthday dinner I made Grilled Stuffed Poblano & Jalapeño peppers, Grilled Flank Steak & Red Onion Salad, Ciabatta Bread and a sumptuous, dark chocolate cake with a rich, fluffy coffee frosting sprinkled in slivers of dark chocolate and espresso beans; Devil’s Food Cake with a Whipped Espresso Buttercream.



Smokey Cheesy Stuffed Poblano & Jalapeño Pepper Appetizer

  • Poblano Peppers
  • Jalapeño Peppers
  • Munster Cheese
Cut stem off, wash inside and outside of pepper making sure to get the seeds out.
Stuff with a chunk of Munster cheese
Grill, flipping often until slightly blackened and cheese is ooey-gooey!

Grilled Flank Steak Salad

  • One 1-1 1/2 lb. Flank Steak/London Broil or other lean cut
  • 1/4 cup Soy Sauce
  • 1/4 cup Vinegar (Rice Wine)
  • 1-2 tablespoons fresh Ginger
  • 1 tablespoon fresh Garlic
  • 2 teaspoons Sriracha (hot chili sauce)
  • 4 Scallions sliced thinly, or snipped Chives
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 1-2 Tablespoons of local Honey or Brown Sugar
Marinate in a glass dish at least 1 hour.
  • Flank Steak
  • 1-2 Red Onion, slice into 1/2 inch slices
Grill 4 minutes per side, remove and let rest for a a few minutes (then you won’t lose any of the yummy juices).I assembled my farmer’s market salad greens; red leaf, romaine and bibb, the grilled onions and steak and then added our favorite homemade Creamy Stone Ground dressing.


Wheat Ciabatta Bread

This makes a delicious somewhat sour, crunchy crusted bread with a soft, airy interior.
Sponge *Make the day before
  • 1 1/2 Cup wheat flour
  • 1/8 teaspoon instant yeast
  • 3/4 cups water
Mix about 4-5 minutes or until it is a sticky mass. Cover with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature overnight.
  • 1 1/2 cups wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup regular or soft white wheat flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
  • 1 teaspoons salt
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon local honey
  • 1 tablespoon rosemary (optional)
Uncover sponge, and add all above to mixing bowl. With paddle attachment, mix at lowest speed. First a shaggy dough will form (about 1 minute), stop to scrape down sides and bottom of bowl. Then mix at low speed about 5 more minutes until shiny and uniform.
Place dough in a spray oiled large bowl and cover with plastic wrap for 1 hour.
Uncover dough, use a spatula to lift and fold the edges of the dough toward the middle; making a rough square. Cover again.
Repeat this folding in 1 hour.
Within 2-3 hours, it should have doubled-tripled in size.
As you can see, this attempt was a little TOO wet, so the shaping part didn’t quite work with this loaf, however, it did rise properly and turned out ridiculously YUMMY, despite its Marshmallow-man looks! 
Preheat oven to 500 degrees and put a baking stone on the lowest rack.
Lightly flour a large wood cutting board and your hands. This is a wet dough, so you need to work quickly. Grab both ends of the dough,letting the center rest in the middle of your work surface. Fold the ends over like a business envelope. Gently stretch to about 10 x 5 inches. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let double in size again about 1 hour. (mine was so wet this time I had to place it on a piece of plastic wrap and put two items on either side of it like a hammock to keep it from sneaking away 0: )
Place a pan with 2 cups water into the oven (steam will keep it moist and tender).
Gently transfer the loaf to the baking stone (i just took off the top layer of plastic wrap and flipped the loaf onto the stone, peeling off the bottom plastic (which was now the top).
Bake for about 20 minutes, and flip over to brown other side, about 15 minutes more (will be dark golden brown).
Cool on a wire rack (or tear into as soon as your fingers can take it like we do : )


Devil’s Dark-Chocolate Cake with

Whipped Espresso Buttercream

This is a sumptuous, dark chocolate cake with a rich, fluffy coffee frosting sprinkled in slivers of dark chocolate and espresso beans. After 10 years, my tastes have finally seeped into AJ’s; he requested a chocolate cake with coffee frosting : ).
Devil’s Food Cake recipe modified from my beloved Baking Illustrated by the Editors of Cook’s Illustrated Magazine
Makes one 2 layer, 6″ cake: Serves 5-6
Frosting must be made about 6 hours ahead of time.
Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and preheat to 350 degrees.
Spray 2 mini 6″ pans (or you could try doubling the recipe and do two 8″ or 9″ pans).
  • 2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
  • 1/8 cup dark cocoa (or dutch process regular cocoa)
  • 2/3 cup boiling water
  • Combine in a small bowl or pyrex cup measure and pour water over, whisking until smooth.
  • 6 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 6 tablespoons cake flour (or Bob’s Red Mill Wheat Pastry Flour)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
Sift together, set aside
  • 1 stick (8 tablespoons) butter softened but still cool (Earth Balance buttery sticks)
  • 6 tablespoons dark brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup sour cream or Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Beat butter at medium high speed until creamy, about 3 minutes. Add brown sugar and beat for 3 minutes, until light and fluffy. Scrape down sides and bottom of bowl. 
With mixure at medium-high add the egg, then reduce speed to medium, add sour cream and vanilla and beat until combined, about 10 seconds.
Scrape down bowl.

At low speed, add about 1/3 of the flour mixture, followed by half of the chocolate mixture, repeat ending with flour; beat until combined just 15 seconds.
Scrape bowl sides and bottom, and gently stir to thoroughly combine.

Divide the batter evenly between the 2 cake pans; spread to the sides of the pan and smooth with rubber spatula. Bake on lower-middle rack until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 20-25 minutes.

Cool on a wire rack 25-30 minutes, run a knife around the edge of pan to loose, invert on rack to cool completely.

Whipped Espresso Buttercream

  • 4 egg whites
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • pinch salt

Combine in the bowl of a standing mixer; set the bowl over a saucepan of barely simmering water, making sure the water does not touch the bottom of the bowl. Whisk constantly until the mixture is opaque and warm to the touch and is 120 degrees on a thermometer (about 2 minutes). (Just note 120 degrees is may not be hot enough to kill any bacteria in the eggs). Beat the whites at medium-high speed until barely warm, glossy and stickey, about 7 minutes.

  • 1 1/2 sticks butter (Earth Balance buttery sticks) softened but still cool and cut into 6 pieces

Reduce speed to medium and beat in butter one piece at a time.

  • 2 tbls. espresso

Beat in the espresso, scrape down the sides and bottom, beat again about a minute.

As I’ve said before with this frosting- I know it looks like a big curdled mess, but please please trust me and cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside at room temp. for up to 6 hours. We make this frosting a lot and for the first 4 times I thought there is no way THAT cottage cheese curdled mess will whip into anything….but it always does : ).

When you are ready, set the bowl in your mixer and whip that stuff until it gets super fluffy and airy, about 5-10 minutes. I don’t think its possible to over whip it (some bakeries do it for up to 30 minutes!), so keep it going until you achieve the consistency you want.To assemble:
Put a dab of buttercream on the plate, put one layer of cake down, dollop a bunch of lucsious buttercream in the center and use a rubber spatula or frosting spreader to spread evenly and over the sides, add your other layer and repeat.On a cutting board, put a pinch of 60% dark chocolate chips/chunks and a pinch of espresso beans. Chop up rustically and then sprinkle over the finished cake….

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