Vodka Blue Velvet Cake with Vodka Cream Cheese Frosting

  • ½ cup Crisco
  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • 2 organic eggs
  • 1 ounce royal blue gel paste food color
  • 2 drops violet gel paste food color
  • 2 tablespoons Hershey’s cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons espresso powder
  • 2 ¼ cups King Arthur all-purpose flour
  • 1 scant teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup organic buttermilk
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar
  • 4 tablespoons vodka
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Grease and flour 3 8-inch round cake pans.
  3. Cream together Crisco, sugar and eggs.
  4. Make a paste of food coloring, espresso and cocoa and add to mixture.
  5. Add salt and flour with buttermilk and vanilla.
  6. Alternately add baking soda vodka and vinegar; just blend, don’t beat hard.
  7. Bake 25 minutes.
  8. Cool cake thoroughly before frosting.



2 eight ounce boxes cream cheese (room temp)

2 sticks salted butter

3 cups confectioner’s sugar


Place all ingredients except the vodka into the mixing bowl and whisk until well blended.  Add vodka 1 tablespoon at a time until thinned to desired spreadable consistency.

(c) 2015 Valerie Renèe

Chocolate Guinness Cake with Guinness Cream Cheese Frosting – St. Patrick’s Day – Recipe

chocolate guinness stout cake


  • 1 cup Guinness extra stout
  • 10 tablespoons organic sweet cream salted butter
  • 3/4 cup Hershey’s unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 1/2 cups superfine sugar
  • 1/2 cups dark brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup organic sour cream
  • 2 organic large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups King Arthur all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt


1 Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 8 or 9-inch springform pan with butter and line the bottom with a round of parchment paper.

2 In a large saucepan place the beer and butter. Cook over medium-high heat until the butter has melted. Add the cocoa powder and sugars and whisk together. Take off heat and allow to come to room temperature.

3 In another bowl beat together the sour cream, eggs, and vanilla extract until very, very well combined. Add to the butter-beer mixture and whisk together.

4 In another bowl whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Add to the beer-butter mixture and whisk together until it just comes together. Pour into the prepared pan and give the pan a few short drops onto the countertop to shake the air pockets in the batter to the surface and out of the cake. Bake for 50-60 minutes. Allow to cool on a wire rack. Run a knife around the edge to separate the cake from the pan and pop the ring off the springform.

5 Spread frosting on the cooled cake and serve.


Guinness Cream Cheese Frosting
1 box Philadelphia Cream Cheese
2 cups Confectioner’s Sugar
1 teaspoon Pure Vanilla Extract
2 tablespoons Guinness Stout Beer (a little more for thinning if necessary)
In a mixing bowl, beat softened, room temperature cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy.  Add vanilla and a tablespoon at a time of the beer until desired consistency.  Frosting should be slightly thick, but spreadable.
(C) Valerie Renèe 2015

Val’s Amazing Skillet Brownies – Recipe

skillet brownies

Ingredients:(1 stick) salted organic sweet cream butter
4 ounces plus 1/2 cup Hershey’s semi-sweet chocolate chips, divided
1 1/2 ounces Baker’s unsweetened chocolate
2 extra organic large eggs
2 teaspoons instant coffee granules ( I use Maxwell House)
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon King Arthur all-purpose flour, divided
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
** 1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans – optional
1 pint vanilla chocolate swirl ice cream
Directions:Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Melt the butter, 4 ounces of chocolate chips, and the unsweetened chocolate together in a medium bowl set over simmering water. Set aside for 15 minutes. In a large bowl, stir (do not beat) together the eggs, coffee, vanilla and sugar. Stir the chocolate mixture into the egg mixture and allow to cool to room temperature.

In a medium bowl, sift together 1/4 cup of the flour, the baking powder and salt and add to the chocolate mixture. Toss together the remaining 1/2 cup of chocolate chips and one tablespoon of flour in a medium bowl and add them to the chocolate mixture. Spoon the mixture into a cast iron skillet and place on a sheet pan. Bake for 25 minutes. Don’t over bake!

Serve warm with a scoop of ice cream on top.

(c) Valerie Renèe 2015

Tea- Smoked Chicken – Recipe

tea smoked chicken

Tea-Smoked Chicken



  • One chicken about 4 pounds, Wings detached backbone removed
  • 1 tablespoon Szechuan peppercorns
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 6 ginger slices, smashed
  • 4 green onions, cut into short lengths
  • 5 index-finger lengths dried strips of tangerine peel, broken into small pieces
  • 3 cinnamon sticks broken into small pieces
  • 1/3 cup light or dark brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup parboiled Canilla raw rice
  • 1/3 cup loose leaf tea (one kind or a mixture)


  1. Detach the wings from the chicken then remove the backbone. Chop off the knees. Splay the chicken open as if it was butterflied. Set aside.
  2. In a wok or heavy skillet over medium low heat, toast the peppercorns and salt for about 3 to 5 minutes until the peppercorns are slightly smoking in the salt has discolored of it almost off-white. Grind to a powder.
  3. Rub two-thirds of the peppercorn salt on the chicken, getting some under the skin too. Put into a bowl, cover, and refrigerate overnight.
  4. Return the chicken to room temperature. Put the ginger, chicken and green onion on a plate or reuse the bowl that the chicken marinated in, if it fits in the steamer. Set up a Chinese steamer with water to boil and steam the chicken for 20 minutes. Turn off the heat, remove the lid and let the chicken cool naturally. (Chill the chicken up to 2 days before smoking it. Return it to room temperature before smoking.)
  5. To smoke the chicken, use a wok or large pot. Line the vessel and lid with aluminum foil. Add the tangerine peel, cinnamon, sugar, rice, and tea. Mix well. Put a rack on top so it sits about 1 inch (2.5 cm) above the mixture. Put the chicken, breast side up on the rack.
  6. Cover with the foil-lined lid. Turn the heat to high heat. Once you see smoke coming from under the lid, lower the heat to about medium-high to maintain faint wisps of smoke coming out. Smoke the chicken for 20 minutes. Slide off the hot burner and let sit for 3 to 5 minutes before removing the lid. If the chicken is not a dark, gorgeous brown, add more rice and sugar and smoke for another 5 to 10 minutes.
  7. Cool the chicken on a rack before cutting and serving with the remaining Sichuan peppercorn salt and maybe a pickle or two.

(c) Valerie Renèe 2015

Authentic Pho Beef Soup – Recipe

Pho Beef Soup

Pho Beef Soup 2


  • 4 pounds beef soup bones
  • 1 onion, unpeeled and cut in half
  • 5 slices fresh ginger
  • 6 whole cloves
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 2 pods star anise
  • 2 large containers of Chicken Stock
  • 4 quarts water
  • 1 (8 ounce) package dried linguine style rice noodles
  • 1 1/2 pounds beef top sirloin, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro (optional)
  • 1 chopped green onion
  • 1 1/2 cups bean sprouts
  • 1 bunch Thai basil
  • 1 bunch Mint
  • 1 lime, cut into 4 wedges
  • 1 Serrano pepper – sliced
  • 1/4 cup chile-garlic sauce such as Sriracha (add to taste)


  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C).
  2. Place beef bones on a baking sheet and roast in the preheated oven until browned, about 1 hour.
  3. Place onion on a baking sheet and roast in the preheated oven until blackened and soft, about 45 minutes.
  4. Place bones, stock, onion, ginger, salt, star anise, garlic and cloves in a large stockpot and cover with 4 quarts of water. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to low. Simmer on low for 6 to 10 hours. Strain the broth into a saucepan and set aside.
  5. Place rice noodles in large bowl filled with room temperature water and allow to soak for 1 hour. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and after the noodles have soaked, place them in the boiling water for 1 minute. Bring stock to a simmer. Remove noodles into a rice colander and rinse with cold water.  Place bean sprouts in the hot water and blanch for 10 mins.
  6. Divide noodles among 4 serving bowls; top with sirloin, cilantro, and green onion. Pour boiling hot broth over the top. Stir and let sit until the beef is partially cooked and no longer pink, 1 to 2 minutes. Serve with bean sprouts, Thai basil, lime wedges, mint, Serrano peppers and chile-garlic sauce on the side.  I also shred up the onion and beef from the bones and put it in the soup as well.

Five Cheese Skillet Mac and Cheese – Recipe

Skillet Mac n Cheese


  • 8 ounces Barilla elbow pasta
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups organic whole milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • salt and black pepper, to taste
  • 3 ounces mild white cheddar cheese, shredded (about 1 cup shredded)
  • 1 lb shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 3 ounces Gruyere cheese, shredded (about 1 cup shredded)
  • 2 ounces Pecorino cheese, finely shredded (about 3/4 cup shredded)
  • 1 ounce (2 slices) yellow American cheese, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup Panko bread crumbs


  1. Place an oven rack in the top half of the oven. Heat oven to 450.
  2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil on the stovetop.
  3. Add macaroni and cook for 5 minutes or until just barely al dente. Strain and set aside.
  4. Heat butter in a 10-inch cast iron skillet or oven-safe saucepan set over medium-high heat. When butter is melted and foamy, sprinkle over flour, whisking to incorporate into a smooth paste. Continue to whisk until frothy and light golden brown, about 2 to 3 minutes. Slowly drizzle in milk, whisking vigorously. If at any point the mixture clumps, continue to whisk until smooth before adding more milk. Continue whisking until all the milk has been added. Cook, whisking regularly, for 7 to 8 minutes or until sauce has thickened to the consistency of heavy cream and just barely starts to simmer around the edges. Whisk in cayenne, paprika, and salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat.
  5. Set aside 1/4 cup of cheese (a mix of cheddar, gruyere, and pecorino). Slowly add remaining cheese to skillet, one handful at a time, whisking well until melted and smooth. If the sauce still has noticeable chunks in it, return pan to low heat and continue whisking for no more than 1 to 2 minutes or until cheese is completely melted.
  6. Fold cooked macaroni into cheese sauce until evenly coated. Sprinkle with reserved shredded cheese and bread crumbs and broil on high for 4 to 5 minutes or until cheese is bubbly and breadcrumbs are golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool for 5 minutes before serving.

Dr. Pepper Pulled Pork – Recipe

Dr Pepper Pulled Pork

Dr. Pepper Pulled Pork


4-7 lb pork butt (also known as a pork shoulder)
24 oz.- 32 oz. Dr. Pepper
1 large onion, cut in quarters and then again in half
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons dry ground mustard
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Kosher Salt and black pepper to taste
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
3 tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce
Barbecue Sauce of choice (BullsEye)

(Adobo with Pepper, Granulated Garlic, Apple Cider Vinegar, Liquid Smoke – to add after chopping meat)


Place the chopped onions in the bottom of the slow cooker. Place the pork butt on top of the onions and add the garlic, ground mustard, cayenne pepper, salt, pepper, apple cider vinegar and Worcestershire sauce. Pour the Dr. Pepper on top and cook on high for 4-5 hours (or on low for 8 hours).

Very carefully, because the pork will be hot, remove the meat from the slow cooker and place on a large cutting board. Using two forks, shred the pork by pulling away from each other. The meat should be very tender by this point. Place the shredded pork back into the slow cooker and continue to cook for an additional hour.

Drain the remaining juices and toss the meat and onion mixture in the 1/2 cup barbecue sauce of choice (I like BullsEye), Adobo seasoning, granulated garlic, pepper, salt, a few drops of liquid smoke and two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar. Add more bbq sauce to get the meat to the desired sauciness you prefer.

Enjoy !!!   I am serving this with my five cheese skillet mac and cheese and some veggies. 🙂

Skillet Mac n Cheese