Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Simple Spring Strawberry Cake

This was one of those "let's make a special dinner so it should have dessert, but I don't want to do any food shopping" recipes. It is so simple and very similar to my famous blueberry nantucket pie. It's not too sweet. Which is great because anyone who knows me, knows that I love any excuse to eat cake for breakfast. It is best served with a little whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

Simple Spring Strawberry Cake
1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup splenda/sugar mix (or 1 cup of sugar)
1 egg
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
6 tbsp melted butter
3/4 lb of hulled strawberries

1. Preheat oven to 325 F. In large bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, salt, sugar. Add egg, milk, and vanilla extract.

2. Melt butter in a small saucepan. Slowly add butter to flour mixture. Make sure to do this slowly or you will end up cooking the egg in the flour mixture.

3. In a cake pan or 10" pie pan pour cake batter. Slice strawberries in half and arrange on top of the cake batter in a single layer.

4. Bake for 1 hour and test with a toothpick - it should come out clean.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Baked French Toast

Wow! It's been a long time; for which I promise there are plenty of good (and not so good) excuses. But I won't bore you those and instead will offer a delicious and simply way to make breakfast special: Baked French Toast!

We recently started picking up a really nice bread at a local bakery and have slices with dinner, which is more satisfying than reason can explain. But even we often can't finish the loaf before it crosses the threshold from delightfully chewy to just plain too much work to chew. The recipe below is the perfect solution!

On a slightly unrelated note, there are two new - and very welcome - additions to my kitchen! Introducing ...
A beautiful and perfect in every way Le Creuset dutch oven, from my wonderful husband! I've already made carnitas in this bad boy and have plans for ribs in the near future! I think his gift was a little self-interested, no? :o)

And the red OXO cherry pitter from Williams-Sonoma that I have been eying literally for years. My wonderful friends (and amazingly talented wedding photographers) Justin & Mary sent me a W-S gift card, so I really made the best of it! In the past I have used a chopstick to pit cherries, which is fine. But sometimes, a job calls for the perfect tool and the messy business of pitting cherries is definitely one of those. I am armed and ready for this year's sour cherry season!

Baked French Toast

About 1/2 a loaf sliced (to your preferred thickness)

2 eggs

1 1/2 cups whole milk (or skim milk plus a dash of half & half)
1 1/2 tbsp sugar

1/4 tsp salt

1 tsp almond extract


1. Butter a rectangular baking dish and line with bread slices, packing them in tightly.

2. In a separate bowl, whisk milk, eggs, sugar, salt, and almond extract. Pour over bread slices.

3. Sprinkle cinnamon over the bread and let everything sit for about 20 minutes. Preheat your oven to 425 F.

4. Bake for about 30 minutes, until puffy and delicious. Serve with warm maple syrup!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Blueberry Muffins

I'm not sure that the idea of making blueberry muffins in January would have occurred to me had our house guests not left a pint in our fridge. But I'm sure glad they did. Blueberry muffins bring the comfort of more decadent foods without all of the calories and have the added bonus of fruit, which I'm told is better for you that lots of other things I usually gravitate toward for breakfast (read: bacon).

This recipe is from the no-fail blog, Smitten Kitchen, and makes the perfect muffin. Not too big, not too small - just right to have for breakfast and bring to work to share with grateful colleagues. :o)

Blueberry Muffins from Smitten Kitchen

5 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
3/4 cup plain greek yogurt
1/2 tsp grated lemon zest
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup blueberries

1. Preheat oven to 375 F. Line a muffin tin with 10 paper liners or spray each cup with a nonstick spray.

2. Beat butter and sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add egg and beat well, then yogurt and zest.

3. Put flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt into a sifter and sift half of dry ingredients over batter. Mix until combined. Sift remaining dry ingredients into batter and mix just until the flour disappears. Gently fold in your blueberries.

4. Use an ice cream scoop to fill muffin cups about 3/4 full. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until tops are golden and a tester inserted into the center of muffins comes out clean.

Makes 9 to 10 muffins.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Dinner at Blue Hill at Stone Barns

Last week we took our first vacation in almost two years. It wasn't to France or Italy. It wasn't to the Grand Canyon or a beach resort. It was to Tarrytown, NY. Just 1/2 hour north of the city. BUT, the reason we chose Tarrytown was to have a meal just as glamorous and unique as any of the places I just listed. That's right - we had an 8 course dinner at
Blue Hill at Stone Barns.

It was a little too cold to take the farm tour, but we arrived for our dinner reservation just in time to watch the sun set over the farm (from the warmth of the car). It was gorgeous. And then there was the food. Such fresh root vegetables, it left you wondering what it was you were eating before ("that's how a carrot tastes?!"). And venison that was delightfully rare. And offal that made Tom utter "barnyardy, but not in a bad way," just like
Andrew Zimmern does!

So without further ado, our delicious, once-in-a-lifetime menu:

1. Raw vegetables from the garden (served as above) including carrots, turnips, cauliflower. And a shot of carrot juice.

2. Sweet potato chip, smoked kale chip, parsnip chip

3. One-bite beet burger on sesame roll and fried pig skin

4. speck with greenhouse greens and pickled vegetables

5. Stained-glass plate of winter fruits and vegetables with mustard seeds

6. Brioche with swiss chard marinade and fresh ricotta

7. Roasted carrot with almond sauce and hazelnut shavings

8. Barely poached egg with mushrooms and spinach emulsion

9. Potato, onion bread served with whipped lard, fresh churned butter, kale and tomato salt

10. Pork belly with rutabaga and walnut salad

11. Venison rack with liver and kidney and salsify rolled in chocolate wheat

12. Squash dumpling with pumpkin seed ice cream with molasses

13. Cheese souffle with coffee ice cream and ginger

14. Chocolate tart with spelt flour and cinnamon ice cream

15. Tiny chocolate milkshake with raspberry & vinegar marshmallow

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Chocolate Truffles x2 and a Ginger Cake

I get that most of you are dieting, so perhaps this post is inappropriate. Or even mean-spirited. Please know it isn't intended that way. See, I'll be joining you on the calorie-count wagon shortly, but not until one last glorious (read butter-laden) meal at Blue Hill at Stone Barns this weekend! I'll be sure to blog about the whole thing so we can all relive it, because when you get to look out the window at the very vegetable patch where, that morning, they picked the carrots hanging out on your plate, you know it has to be divine!

But for now (and since my 2012 diet has yet to begin), not one, but two truffle recipes and a ginger cake for good measure. These are all what I would call "adult desserts." The truffles are rich and the peanut butter truffle rolled in cocoa powder has the perfect amount of bitterness to counter the richness of the creamy center. The ginger cake isn't sweet at all and packs a little punch at the back of your throat all while warming your insides and providing the perfect complement to a cup of after-dinner coffee. So if you want to cheat on your diet, or, if like me you haven't even started yet, give one of these a try!

Peanut Butter Truffles (from Martha Stewart Living, Dec. 2011)
8 ounces semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 cup heavy cream
1/8 tsp coarse salt
1 cup smooth peanut butter
unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder

1. Bring heavy cream to a boil. Pour over chocolate and add salt. Let stand for 10 minutes (don't stir or the mixture will cool too quickly and become grainy).

2. Whisk the mixture until smooth and shiny being sure to scrape the bottom of the bowl to catch any pieces.

3. Add the chocolate little by little to the peanut butter, whisking constantly until smooth. Refrigerate in a 5x8/12 glass loaf pan, covered until cool. About 4 hours.

4. Scoop small, 1 inch balls and roll in the palm of your hands. Refrigerate again for about 20 minutes. Roll in the cocoa powder, tapping gently to remove any excess. Refrigerate in mini baking cups for up to 4 days.

S'mores Truffles (from the comfort of cooking)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 cups (12 oz.) milk chocolate chips
24 mini marshmallows
1 cup finely crushed graham crackers

1. Melt butter in a medium sized saucepan over medium heat; whisk in cream and bring to a boil.

2. Remove pan from heat and stir in chocolate chips until melted and smooth. Chill saucepan in refrigerator for 1 hour, or until chocolate is solid and able to be rolled.

3. Roll chocolate into 24 balls, stuffing each with a mini marshmallow in the center.

4. Chill truffles for about 20 minutes before rolling them in graham cracker crumbs. Chill for a few minutes before serving, or keep for up to 4 days.

Fresh Ginger Cake (from Joy of Cooking)

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup molasses
1/4 cup honey
1 large egg
1/2 cup finely minced fresh ginger
8 tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter
1/2 cup water

1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line 9x9 inch pan with parchment paper.

2. Whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt.

3. In a separate bowl whisk together brown sugar, molasses, honey, and egg. Whisk in ginger.

4. In a saucepan combine butter and water and heat until butter is melted. Add this to the molasses mixture. Stir in flour mixture just until smooth. Scrape the batter into the pan.

5. Bake about 25 to 30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes. Slide a thin knife around the cake to detach it from the pan. Invert the cake and peel off the paper liner.

6. Once cooled completely, serve with a dusting of powdered sugar.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Bobalki - a Slovak Xmas Eve Tradition

Growing up my family didn't have too many holiday traditions. Sometimes we had a Christmas tree, and sometimes we didn't. Sometimes we lit a menorah, and sometimes we didn't. But one thing you could count on was the Christmas eve meal: mushroom soup, fish, peas and onions, orange slices, walnuts, and bobalki. All paying homage to my mother's 100% Slovak heritage.

Honestly, bobalki was not something we really loved growing up. But a few years ago my mother realized that she had been skipping a weird step at the end, which ended up making all the difference and now bobalki is something we ask for even when it's not Christmas eve. For those who don't know, bobalki are little dough balls, that are not themselves very sweet, but are covered in honey and poppy seeds. Be forewarned that there are A LOT of poppy seeds, so if you're eating in mixed company, you may want to serve them with a side of floss. :o)

I hope everyone has a wonderful new year's eve and a fulfilling and healthy 2012!

Note: pouring boiling water over the dough balls in point #5 is the weird step often forgotten, but is vital to ensure the balls are not dry and dense.

1 cup water
1 1/2 tbsp plus 1/2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
2 1/2 tbsp butter
1 pkg dry, active yeast
3 cups flour

1/4 cup poppy seeds
1 tbsp milk
1/4 cup honey

1. Boil 1 cup water, 1 1/2 tbsp sugar, and salt. Cool until room temperature. Meanwhile, dissolve yeast and 1/2 tbsp of sugar in 1/4 cup warm water.

2. Place flour in a large bowl and add water/sugar mixture and yeast mixture. Mix thoroughly and knead for about 10 minutes. Adding a little more flour to ensure the dough isn't sticking to your fingers. Cover for about an hour, until dough has doubled.

3. Punch down the dough and turn out onto a floured surface. Tear off pieces of dough and form them into 1/2 inch balls.

4. Place balls on a parchment lined cookie sheet, so they are touching each other. Heat oven to 375 F and cover the cookie sheet with a piece of oiled plastic wrap, wait about 30 minutes until balls have almost doubled. Bake 15-20 minutes until balls are light brown.

5. Set sheet on a cooling rack and let balls cool completely; pull balls apart. Place balls in a colander and pour a little boiling water over them—not so much that they become mush.

6. Grind poppy seeds and milk in a food processor. Add poppy seed mixture to honey and pour over the dough balls, stirring to ensure even coverage. Serve immediately.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Pecan Tassies & Pfeffernussen

It's been over a month since my last post. With good reason, because for the majority of that time I was without a working stove. But now I'm back and while the renovation is not fully completed yet, I have a kitchen that is in complete working order!

So in celebration, and in time for the holidays, here are two delicious cookie recipes that I served at our inaugural cocktail party! Both come from the inimitable Martha Stewart, who certainly comes in handy this time of year. :o) Enjoy!

Pecan Tassies from Martha Sewart
For the dough:
1/2 cup pecans
1/2 cup mascarpone cheese
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
Pinch of salt

For the filling:
1 large egg
1/4 cup packed light-brown sugar
2 tbsp pure maple syrup
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup pecans, toasted and coarsely chopped

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Process pecans in a food processor until finely ground; set aside. In an electric mixer, combine mascarpone and butter on medium-high speed until well blended. Add flour, ground pecans, and salt; mix just until dough comes together.

2. Roll dough into sixteen 1-inch balls, and press into bottoms and up sides of cups of mini-muffin tins.

3. Whisk the egg, sugar, maple syrup, vanilla, butter, and salt in a small bowl. Stir in pecans. Spoon about 1 1/2 teaspoons filling into each muffin cup.

4. Bake pecan tassies until crust begins to turn golden, about 15 minutes. Let cool completely in tins on wire rack before you unmold.

Pfeffernussen from Martha Stewart
1 1/4 cups confectioners' sugar
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup firmly packed light-brown sugar
1 large egg
1/4 cup unsulfured molasses
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Place the confectioners' sugar in a brown paper bag.

2. In a medium bowl, combine flour, pepper, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, cloves, and baking soda. Set aside.

3. Place butter, brown sugar, and molasses in an electric mixer beat on medium speed until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in egg and vanilla. With mixer on low speed, add flour mixture; beat until just combined. Pinch off dough in tablespoon amounts; roll into 1 1/4-inch balls. Arrange balls 1 1/2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets.

4. Bake until cookies are golden and firm to the touch with slight cracking, about 15 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through. Transfer sheets to a wire rack to cool slightly, about 10 minutes. Working in batches, place cookies in paper bag; shake until well coated. Let cool completely on wire rack.