Recipe: Extra-Yummy Chocolate Box Cake

As you all know by now, I’m a lady of convenience. Yes, I like fresh food and yes, I try to be healthy, but sometimes there’s nothing better than opening up a box of packaged food, adding one or two ingredients, heating it up, and calling it a day.

Martha Stewart I am not.

So when my cousin asked me to bring a dessert for Christmas dinner, I wanted to make something special for my family, but easy. So! I took a box of chocolate cake mix and jazzed it up a bit (it was for Christmas, after all – can’t just serve regular ol’ boxed cake! I do have some standards).

Extra-Yummy Chocolate Cake | Arlington DarlingIngredients:
1 box of dark chocolate cake mix (like Duncan Hines or Betty Crocker)
Ingredients to make a boxed cake mix (usually 3 eggs, 1/3 cup oil, and 1/4 cup water)
Butter
Milk

To Make:
1. Empty the dry cake mix into a bowl.
2. Add the usual number of eggs.
3. Substitute half of the oil with melted butter (so if the box calls for 1/3 cup of oil, do 1/6 cup of oil and 1/6 cup of melted butter).
4. Substitute milk for water (so if the box calls for 1/4 cup of water, use 1/4 cup of milk instead).
5. Mix together until blended well (use a hand mixer for a fluffier texture).
6. Bake according to box directions.

I think it tasted much richer than boxed cake usually does and it had a nice gooey quality. As you can see from the picture above, I then frosted it using about a can and a half of regular vanilla frosting and added some festive Christmas sprinkles. Whatever floats your boat. I also used a bundt pan which added to the festive-ness.

No one in my family asked if I had made it from scratch, so I guess I wasn’t truly fooling anyone, but… after all was said and done about half of the cake was eaten so I think that’s quite an accomplishment. Definitely making my boxed cakes this way from now on.

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Recipe: “White Trash” Christmas Snack Bark

Yeah, you read that right: “White Trash”. It is an unfortunate name for a superbly delicious treat. I guess it got the name from the white chocolate coating and because it is made up of a jumble of things that could look like “trash”? Who knows.

It is my Christmas dessert staple – I make it for coworkers, secret Santa parties, family gatherings, and for myself. Everyone loves it. Now that I think about it, nothing about it (ingredients, colors, name) is very Christmas-y but I guess it’s one of those traditions that just happened. It is so easy to make (takes less than 10 minutes) and all of the ingredients are shelf-stable (you know that’s a requirement for me!) and easily found in most grocery stores.

Arlington Darling | White Trash Christmas Treat Recipe

This year I made some for coworkers and wrapped it up in ziploc bags stapled together with scraps of wrapping paper. Not the most elegant presentation, but it is festive and shows a modicum of effort greater than just throwing a tin into the communal kitchen and emailing out to the office, “share!”

Ingredients:
2.25 cups rice chex
2 cups thin salted pretzels, broken
1 cup pecans, crumbled, toasted
1.5 cups white chocolate chips (or an entire 12oz. bag)
0.5 cups semisweet or dark chocolate chips

To Make:
1. Toast the pecans lightly on a cookie tray in an oven on low heat, being very careful not to burn them.
2. Mix the chex, pretzels, and toasted pecans into a large bowl.
3. Melt the white chocolate chips (using a double boiler or by carefully microwaving in 15-second increments).
4. Quickly stir the melted white chocolate into the chex, pretzels, and pecans. Mix quickly.
5. Once everything is evenly coated, pour the mixture onto a cookie sheet that has been covered with wax paper. Spread it flat as best you can, while making sure that it forms a continuous sheet.
6. Then, melt the semi-sweet chocolate chips and drizzle the melted chocolate over the mixture on the cookie sheet.
7. Let cool for an hour or so in the fridge, and then break into pieces and serve.

Arlington Darling | White Trash Christmas Treat Recipe

Arlington Darling | White Trash Christmas Treat RecipeEnjoy! New name suggestions for this delicious treat are welcome :).

Decisions, Decisions – of the Dessert Variety

My cousin is hosting our family Christmas this year, and I am so excited. Lots of firsts: her first apartment, her first time hosting a big party, and the first family Christmas hosted by someone in our generation. Definite excitement!

For her, though, it’s excitement mixed with nerves. She keeps texting me, alternating between happiness and panic. To help the girl out (and be the good cousin that I am), I offered to make an appetizer, a vegetable, and a dessert.

I think I’m set on appetizers: I’m going to do Greek Salad Bites and Lemon-Pepper Pecorino Dip. Maybe I’ll throw in some cheese and crackers, too – just for kicks. My family likes to eat. And for the vegetable, I’m sticking with a simple classic, roasted broccoli. It’s my own recipe which I’ll try to post soon so you can see it.

But now the big decision: what do I make for dessert? Sam is pulling together apple pie, pecan pie, pumpkin roll, and kiffles. My spidey sense tells me that what is missing from that roundup is chocolate. So my options are:

Okay, okay, I know none of those is super-chocolatey. Too bad because they all sound delicious. I think I’m leaning toward the Chocolate Pudding Cake or the Peanut Butter Pie. The Chocolate Pudding Cake would be more of an adventure, and could potentially be made ahead of time (that would be helpful). But so could the Peanut Butter Pie – no doubt a family favorite, but the safe choice.
Help! What should I make? Any other suggestions?

Recipe: Three-Ingredient Cocoa Pumpkin Brownies

Given that I eat a lot of ready-to-eat/raw food like veggies, hummus, avocados, yogurt, and fruit (oh, and cheese), I don’t do a lot of “real” cooking. It’s mostly…assembly. As such, I don’t keep perishables like milk and eggs in the house because I don’t really use them that often. This works out fine except for the times when I want to bake. Oh, baking. When I want to bake, I have to plan ahead and make sure I have milk and eggs in the house.

Sigh.

So when I found a two-ingredient recipe that called for only canned/non-perishable ingredients, I was hooked! That’s the perfect recipe for me – no planning ahead or last-minute grocery store runs! Of course, I modified it to make it my own and added a third ingredient. More chocolate.

Arlington Darling | cocoa pumpkin brownies

Ingredients:
1 box brownie mix (I prefer the dark chocolate/fudge kind)
1 can pure pumpkin (Libby’s or Whole Foods brand)
2 tbsp 100% pure cocoa powder

To Make:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Mix brownie mix, cocoa powder, and pumpkin in a large mixing bowl (that’s it!).
3. Spray or grease a 9×9 (or equivalent size) glass pan with baking spray.
4. Pour mix into the pan.
5. Bake for 30 minutes.

Note about baking time: I baked my brownies for 30 minutes, and the edge pieces were cooked but the middle pieces still had a batter-like consistency. So I removed the edge pieces and continued to bake the middle pieces on their own in the pan for another 15 minutes. A little ad hoc but it worked :). I need one of these:

The brownies don’t taste exactly like regular brownies – you can definitely tell that they don’t contain any oil, butter, or eggs. But they are ooey-gooey and very chocolatey in flavor (thanks to the cocoa powder), and they hit the spot when you’re in the mood for some last-minute unplanned baking. Enjoy!