Elizabeth's "CLEAN" Dirt Cake (with a BONUS Vanilla Pudding recipe)

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

If you have ever lived in, or are from the Midwest, you KNOW about Dirt Cake.  It's pretty much the Midwest staple dessert for any summer backyard get together.  It's almost as well known as Corn Hole. I'm not sure where it got its name seeing as it is neither dirt nor cake but it's still a total indulgence.   Many of you who have been following me for awhile know that I lived in Iowa for 5 years.  In fact, I started writing this blog in Iowa.  The problem with Dirt Cake (also known as  "Dirt Dessert " depending on what part of the midwest you are from, also Worms and Dirt) is that it's HIGHLY processed. The original recipe calls for cool whip, instant pudding, and oreo cookies.  Cool Whip alone scares the poop out of me!  Fortunately,  I have successfully found a way to eliminate most of the highly processed ingredients and clean it up a bit, and frankly, I think it even tastes better!  Please don't confuse "clean" for low fat or low calorie, this dessert is a definite decadence.  I hope you like it!

Elizabeth's CLEAN Dirt Cake
(excuse the picture, I am terrible at taking good pictures!!)

  • 1 pkg. organic cream filled cookies (like Oreos- I used Newman's Own brand- yes these are processed but they have organic ingredients that I can both recognize and pronounce.  Trader Joe's also has a version of a cleaner oreo)
  • 8 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 stick butter, softened
  • 1 cup powdered sugar ( I used organic from Trader Joe's)
  • 2 cups prepared vanilla (or chocolate) pudding- note- I made my own pudding from scratch- see the recipe below)
  • 8 oz whipping cream, whipped (I always whip my own cream, it's SO easy)
Crush the cookies and set aside, I do this in a ziplock bag and crush them up with my hands.  Whip together the butter, cream cheese, and powdered sugar using the paddle attachment on your stand mixer or electric mixer.  Stir in the whipped cream and the pudding.  Layer the crushed cookies on the bottom of a trifle bowl (or you can do it in a 13X9 baking dish) and then add a layer of the pudding mixture on top of the cookies, continue layering with cookies and pudding until you have used it all.  Refrigerate 2 hours.  ENJOY!

Vanilla Pudding
  • 1 1/4 cups milk
  • 1/3 cup sugar (I always use raw sugar)
  • 2 tbsp. cornstarch (I make sure to use NON GMO organic)
  • 2 egg yolks 
  • 1 tbsp. vanilla
  • 3 tbsp butter, sliced
In a medium sized saucepan, whisk together the cornstarch and the sugar.  Heat over medium heat and stir in 1/4 cup of the milk, whisking constantly until smooth.  While whisking, add the egg yolks and whisk quickly so they don't scramble.  Continue whisking and add the rest of the milk.  Continue whisking until the mixture begins to thicken and bubbles, about 5 minutes.  Switch to a rubber spatula and continue stirring until very thick.  Remove from heat, add the vanilla and the butter and stir constantly until butter is melted.  Strain mixture into a bowl using a mesh strainer, cover with plastic wrap that sits on the surface of the pudding (to prevent a skin) and place in the fridge to set up at least two hours.  

Until next time, happy and clean cooking!

Family Breakfast: French Toast made with Sourdough Buttermilk Cinnamon Brioche

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

My 6 year old son loves to have family breakfast, and I try to do it at least twice a month.  Most of the time I make waffles or pancakes because those are my son's favorites but every once in awhile I will change it up.  I LOVE good French toast, and when I say "good," I mean it has to be GOOD.  I am very picky when it comes to French Toast.  It has to be made with the right kind of bread, it has to be thick and chewy, not soggy, and it can't be dry.   I make my French toast with homemade brioche (or sometimes I splurge and get the cinnamon burst loaf from Great Harvest).  Today I decided to experiment and made a sourdough buttermilk cinnamon brioche.  It was AH-MAZING!  So here's the recipe!  

Sourdough Buttermilk Cinnamon Brioche
This recipe makes one loaf but you can easily double it to make two.
  • 2/3 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup FED sourdough starter
  • 1/2 stick butter, softened
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar, loose (not packed)
  • 1/2 tbsp. cinnamon
  • 3 cups bread flour
  • 2 1/2 tsp. yeast
Place ingredients in your bread machine in the EXACT ORDER LISTED and set to dough cycle.  Once the bread machine has finished (mine takes 1 hour and 30 minutes) preheat your oven to 350 and grease a loaf pan generously with butter.   Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and form into a ball.  Using the heel of your hand, press the dough ball into a rectangle and roll up tightly to prevent air bubble from forming.  Tuck in ends to form a loaf shape.  Place in your loaf pan and cover with a clean kitchen towel.  Allow to rise until doubled in size, about 30 minutes.  Once doubled in size, bake 45 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 191-210 degrees and the loaf sounds hollow when tapped.  Remove the loaf immediately from the loaf pan and brush melted  butter over the top (this keeps the crust from hardening).  Enjoy!

French Toast
  • 1 cup whole milk or buttermilk ( I LOVE Buttermilk)
  • 1/2 cup cream
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp. melted butter
  • 1 tbsp. vanilla
  • 1 loaf good bread, sliced about 1/4 inch thick
Preheat oven to 350 degrees, place bread on a baking sheet and toast in the oven about 5 minutes on each side.  While bread is toasting, whisk together the remaining ingredients. Heat a griddle on medium high heat (or you can do this in a nonstick skillet).  Working in batches, dip the bread in the egg mixture and soak 10-20 seconds per side.  You want to get the bread nice and coated in the mixture but you don't want it to be soggy.  Place the coated bread on the griddle and cook until golden brown on one side, about 10 minutes then flip and cook on the other side until golden brown.  Remove from the griddle back onto the baking sheet and place back in the oven.  

Easy Peasy Frozen Pizza

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Whenever I go out of town with the boys and my husband stays home to work, I always stock the freezer with these easy frozen pizzas.  You can use the dough recipe for fresh baked pizzas as well, it's very universal.  These pizzas freeze really well and bake up crisp in the oven straight from the freezer.  They're also great for a night when you don't feel like cooking or a gift for someone who just had a baby or is going to have surgery.  Each recipe makes four 12 inch pizzas, but you can easily halve the recipe if you want to make less. I make the dough in my bread machine so that saves me a lot of time and effort.  The best part about these is that you know EXACTLY what goes in them!

Easy Peasy Frozen Pizzas
For the Dough

  • 2 cups warm water
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 tbsp sugar or honey
  • 4 tsp. salt
  • 6 cups bread flour (or 00 flour)
  • 4 1/2 tsp. yeast
Place ingredients in your bread machine in the order listed and set to dough cycle.  When the dough is done, remove from bread machine and form into 4 tight balls.  Allow to rest on a floured counter covered with a clean dish towel for about 30 minutes. Preheat your oven to 550 degrees (or the highest setting on your oven). Once the dough has rested lightly flour a pizza peel and roll out your dough to a 12 inch circle.  Slide the dough from the peel onto a preheated pizza stone (or alternatively you can roll your dough out onto a baking sheet) and par bake about 2 minutes on each side.  Allow crusts to cool at room temperature about 30 minutes.

To Assemble the Pizzas
Once the crusts have cooled, assemble your pizzas.  You can top with whatever toppings you like.  This time around I made 2 barbecue chicken pizza and 2 pepperoni pizzas.  Once your pizzas are assembled, wrap them tightly in foil or in a gallon size ziplock freezer bag and write the instructions on the bag or the foil:

Unwrap from bag (or foil) and bake on a baking sheet at 375 degrees for 15-18 minutes or until cheese is melted and pizza is heated through. (DO NOT place frozen pizza directly on a preheated stone as it can cause the stone to crack).

When ready to bake the pizzas, simply remove from the freezer and follow the directions above!  Voila, homemade frozen pizzas!  Yum!

Until next time, happy and clean cooking!

Clean Chocolate Cake with CLEAN Chocolate Buttercream Frosting (NO POWDERED SUGAR)

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Cakes.  I have always completely sucked at baking cakes.  That's blunt I know, but I totally suck at it.  Lately though, I have really found the need to really work on my cake baking skills.  The reason is that my older son, who is 6, is Autistic and has some very severe food Autism related food sensitivities to processed sugar and food dyes.  We have even gone so far as to have it written in his IEP because even if he has a little bit of something, the reaction lasts for DAYS.  It is definitely getting harder as he gets older because of birthday parties.  Anywhere you get a cake, it's going to be decorated with copious amounts of unnatural food dyes and tons of processed sugar.  Let me be clear, processed sugar is completely different than all natural raw sugar.  Processed sugar has been messed with, bleached, had stuff added to it, changed in a lab somehow from its natural state.  In my house, I either use honey, or when making treats I use organic, fair trade raw sugar.  Anyway, I started doing research on how to make a cake using all natural, organic ingredients, raw sugar, and zero food dyes.  I did happen to come across a line of all natural, organic food dyes in my research, but will save those for another project at a later date.  In true Elizabeth fashion, I combined the best of several different recipes to come up with this delicious cake.  The best part is that it does not have ANY unnatural ingredients, it is made with completely raw sugar- not even the buttercream has any powdered sugar!  SCORE!  

One note before sharing the recipe is that I used dark chocolate cocoa powder because I love dark chocolate, but you can use any type of cocoa powder you like.  Now...onto the recipe...because we all love birthday cake!

CLEAN Chocolate Cake with CLEAN Whipped Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

For the cake

  • 1 1/2 cups cake flour (I used Bob's Red Mill)
  • 1 1/2 cups organic fine raw sugar (or granulated sugar)
  • 1 cup cocoa powder (I used Dagoba)
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup vanilla yogurt (I used organic Greek vanilla)
  • 2 eggs (it is best to use eggs at room temperature)
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
  • 1 tbsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 3/4 decaf coffee or hot chocolate, HOT (I used organic hot chocolate)
Preheat oven to 350, generously grease two round cake pans with butter and set aside. Sift together the dry ingredients (the first 6) into a medium bowl and set aside.  In a stand mixer with a paddle attachment (or you could use a hand mixer too), mix together the buttermilk, yogurt, eggs, oil, and vanilla until very smooth.  Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet and beat for a full 2 minutes once incorporated.  Add the coffee or hot chocolate and mix until just combined.  Pour batter evenly into prepared cake pans and bake for 30-35 minutes until set in the middle and a cake tester comes out clean.  Allow to cool 30 minutes, then carefully remove cakes to a wire rack to finish cooling. Allow to cool completely before frosting.

For the frosting
  • 1/4 cup cake flour (I used Bob's Red Mill)
  • 2/3 cup cocoa powder (I used Dagoba)
  • 1 1/2 cups milk (or you can use cream if you want it extra rich)
  • 3 sticks butter, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups fine raw sugar (or granulated)
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
In a small saucepan, whisk together the flour and cocoa powder over medium heat until very thick (like pancake batter thick) and glossy.  Add the vanilla and whisk to incorporate.  Remove from heat and allow to cool completely.  In a stand mixer (or with a hand mixer), beat the butter and the sugar together for a full 5 minutes, until light and fluffy.  Add the cooled chocolate mixture to the butter and sugar mixture and beat for a full 5 minutes, scraping down the sides to make sure it all gets whipped together.  The mixture will turn light and glossy.  Place in the refrigerator for 10 minutes.  You are ready to frost your cake!

To assemble the cake

Place one cake round on a large plate or cake pedestal.  I like to cut off the top to make it more even, so the second round will lay flat on the bottom round.  Spread the top of the cake round with frosting then place the second round on top of the first with the dome side up.  Frost the rest of the cake, tops and sides.  Decorate as you see fit!  

And there you have it!  A CLEAN birthday cake!  Enjoy!

Until next time, happy and healthy cooking!


Tuna Burgers

Sunday, January 18, 2015

I absolutely LOVE Tuna.  It's a great source of protein and it is super cheap compared to other fish.  You can buy cans of high quality tuna at Costco for a good price.  Some people are worried about tuna consumption because of mercury.  The truth is, you have to consume an insane amount of tuna in order to get a dangerous amount of mercury in your system, so unless you are pregnant, a small amount once a week isn't going to hurt you.  The benefits of tuna really outweigh the risks.  That being said, this week I made these tuna burgers and my kids DEVOURED them.  Daniel ate two and then asked for a third, then next day, he asked for a tuna burger in his lunchbox!  I serve these on my homemade wheat buns topped with homemade tartar sauce.  YUM YUM!

Tuna Burgers

  • 2 (7 oz) cans chunk light tuna
  • zest and juice from 1/2 lemon
  • 2 tsp. dried dill weed
  • 1 tsp. dried onion flakes
  • 2 green onions, white and green parts, finely chopped 
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 cup breadcrumbs
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tbsp butter or cooking oil for cooking
In a large bowl, mix together the ingredients until thick and they hold together (if you are having trouble getting it to hold together you can add a little more bread crumbs).  Form into 4 round patties.  Heat oil or butter in a nonstick skillet and swirl around to coat the bottom.  Cook the patties in the skillet for about 5 minutes on each side or until very brown.  Serve on a bun of your choice with tartar sauce and a crispy leaf of romaine if desired.  

Honey Wheat Buns

  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 stick butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 cups bread flour
  • 1 cup wheat flour (wheat bread flour is even better)
  • 1 1/2 tsp. yeast
  • 1 tbsp. melted butter (optional)
Place ingredients in the bread machine -EXCEPT THE MELTED BUTTER- in the order they are listed and set to dough cycle.  When the cycle is done divide dough into 8 equal pieces (12 if you want to make slider sized buns) being careful not to punch it down too much.  Form each piece in to a tight ball and place on a baking sheet (I use my stone baking sheet- if you use metal cover with parchment paper first).  Flatten each ball into a disk to the desired size you want your buns.  Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.  Cover your buns with a dish cloth and allow to prove until doubled in size about 30 minutes (I do this on top of the preheating oven).  Bake 15-18 minutes or until buns are brown and puffed up.  Brush tops of buns with melted butter once they come out of the oven if desired- this is not a required step but this will definitely make your buns softer and help them from getting tough.

Tartar Sauce
  • 1/2 cup high quality mayonnaise (I make my own cooked egg mayonnaise and it is YUM-MY)
  • 1 tbsp. high quality dijon mustard
  • 1 tbsp. dill pickle relish (watch out for Yellow food dye!)
  • 2 tsp. dill
  • 1/2 tsp. dried minced onion
  • juice and zest of 1/2 lemon
  • salt and pepper to taste
In a medium sized bowl, whisk the ingredients together until well combined.  Refrigerate at least 30 minutes to allow the flavors to come together. 

Happy and clean cooking everyone!

Meatball Sub Casserole

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Once a week I take my older son Daniel to his Autism therapy and get home around 5:30 pm.  I need dinner ideas that are super easy to throw together during my baby's nap time and throw in the oven or in the crock pot.  This recipe is awesome because I can prep it during nap and have the sitter put it in the oven so it is ready to eat when we get home from therapy.  You can use whatever meatballs you like for this recipe- if I have time I make mine quickly from scratch, or I also like to use the Aidelle's meatballs you can get at Costco.  You can also use frozen meatballs.  I always have meatballs on hand in the freezer because they are so versatile and easy to prepare ahead of time and freeze.  There are lots of different versions of this casserole out there on the Internet.  Here's my version!  Every time I make this it gets eaten up quickly!

Meatball Sub Casserole

  • 4-6 slices of French bread (depending on size of the slices- I use the same bread that I use for my bbq sloppy joes on garlic toasts - but you could use a French loaf from the grocery store or whatever you like)
  • 2 cups spaghetti sauce
  • 1 lb meatballs (about 30 meatballs) - (as mentioned earlier you can use whatever meatballs you like- homemade, frozen, refrigerated, turkey, chicken, beef, whatever you have on hand...I like to make meatballs in large batches and freeze them, I also like the Aidelle's chicken meatballs that are in the refrigerated section at Costco).
  • 1 cup ricotta
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp. dried Italian herbs, crushed
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan 
  • 1 cup grated mozzarella
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray a 13 X 9 inch baking dish with cooking spray (or grease with butter).  If your meatballs are frozen, defrost them.  Arrange the bread in a single layer in your baking dish.  In a small bowl, mix together the ricotta with half of the parmesan, dried herbs, garlic, salt, and pepper.  Spread ricotta mixture evenly over the bread.  Arrange the meatballs evenly over the bread and ricotta mixture.  Pour the sauce evenly over the meatballs and spread to cover them.  Top with the rest of the parmesan and mozzarella.  Cover with foil and bake 25 minutes, then uncover and bake an additional 5 minutes or until the cheese is bubbly.  

Slow Cooker Italian Lemon Chicken over "French" Oven Rice

Monday, January 05, 2015

Here's a recipe that appears frequently in my dinner rotation.  I found a similar recipe on Pinterest and of course I messed with it a little :).  It's really easy, flavorful, and excellent if you LOVE lemon like I do.  I serve it frequently over my "French " Oven Rice that one of my best friends in France makes quite a bit (it's not really a French recipe, I just call it French oven rice because my French friend taught me how to make it). I should also add that my  husband LOVE LOVE LOVES the oven rice.  Every time I make rice he asks me, "is this the oven rice?" It's SO good and SO easy!  Enjoy!

Slow Cooker Italian Lemon Chicken

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 4 tbsp. butter
  • 1 packet Italian dressing mix (I use an Organic brand I like- you can also easily make it yourself)
  • zest and juice of one lemon
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
Mix the flour and pepper together in a shallow dish.  Dredge each chicken breast in the flour so that both sides are evenly coated. Melt the butter in a large skillet and brown the chicken breasts, about 2 minutes on each side.  You don't need to cook the chicken though because it's going in the crock pot.  Place the browned chicken in the crock pot and sprinkle the Italian dressing mix evenly over the tops of the chicken breasts.  In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, zest, and chicken stock.  Pour over the chicken breasts.  Cook on low for 4 hours.  

"French" Oven Rice
  • 1 cup high quality long grain white rice - I use organic basmati.  (I've never tried this recipe with brown rice...if I ever do, I will let you know).
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp. dried herbes de provence (or thyme), crushed
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine (I like to use pinot gris or pinot grigio )
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 2 tbsp butter
Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Rinse your rice for two minutes under cold water using a mesh strainer.  This is important because it releases the starch.  In a large deep sided, oven proof pot or dutch oven saute the shallot and garlic in the butter until very soft.  Add the rice and herbes de provence,  and saute another two minutes, coating the rice with butter, until very fragrant and beginning to toast.  Add in the white wine, and cook down another two minutes, stirring frequently.  Add in the chicken stock, bring to a boil, cover the pot with the lid and stick in the oven.  Bake 15 minutes, remove from the oven, fluff rice with a fork, cover, and let stand 5 more minutes.  Serve hot. YUM!

Until next time, happy and clean cooking!

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