Sunday, December 29, 2013

Carrot cake pancakes

The best part about making carrot cake is having a piece of it for breakfast the next morning. Hence the absolute genius of this recipe from one of my favorite bloggers Joy, from It is a carrot cake in healthy breakfast form. It is perfectly divine and my absolute favorite things to make for my family in the morning. The only annoying thing about this recipe is that you have to hand grate the carrots finely. If you use a food processor or the bigger holes on the grater (both of which speed up the process of grating significantly) the resulting larger shreds of carrot will not cook fast enough in the pan. So, it will take you several minutes of tedium to get 2 cups of finely shredded carrot but it is worth it. I usually try to shred the carrots the night before, that way the batter only takes 2 minutes to whip up.

The other great thing about making these for breakfast is the frosting. Out of maple syrup? No worries, you don't need it! The thought of this frosting sustained me through a 5:30am shouting wake-up of "mommy play! Mommy play! Play mommy come play!!"

Carrot Cake Pancakes

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon 
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 large egg
2 tablespoons sugar, white or brown
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups finely grated carrots (about 4 medium carrots)

For the frosting (optional but highly recommended)
4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature 
1/4 cup powdered sugar
2-3 tablespoons buttermilk or milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla 
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon

In a large bowl whisk together the dry ingredients. In a small bowl whisk together the wet ingredients. Pour the wet mixture into the dry and stir until jut combined. Gently fold in carrots. Now preheat a skillet (or two or three), and cook pancakes by the 1/4 cupful with a smidge of butter over medium heat. Flip the pancakes when bubbles appear on surface then cook until golden brown. You might need to adjust the heat to get it just right.

While the pancakes are cooking make the cream cheese frosting. Beat the cream cheese in a small bowl until smooth. Add the sugar, 2 tablespoons of milk, vanilla and cinnamon and beat till smooth and creamy. Add the extra tablespoon of milk if needed. 

Serve pancakes topped with frosting.


Friday, December 27, 2013

Spelt Pumpkin Muffins for a crowd

It's been a while! An international move with a toddler right before holiday/ preschool-applying season does not make for ample time to blog. But what better way to mark my re-entry into my blogbakeworld than an amazingly good, amazingly easy, and moderately good for you pumpkin muffin? Make these on a snowy weekend morning and your family will love you. Make these on a random weekday with your toddler and freeze most of them and you have an instant healthy snack any afternoon of the week!

I used spelt flour because, as I think I may have explained earlier, I am anti-wheat whenever possible. The best part of spelt is that it bakes completely like wheat and is 100% interchangeable with it, so feel free to use whatever flour you like. Half white and half whole wheat would work nicely here too. Substituting in a 1/2 cup of rye might also be nice.

I made this recipe so that it would use exactly 1 29-oz can of pumpkin purée (because I hate having extra) - but I'm sure using homecooked purée would be even more scrumptious. (And environmentally friendly.)

Spelt Pumpkin Muffins
Makes 24 muffins

These muffins are not too sweet. If your family is accustomed to the cloying taste of commercial muffins I might consider adding a 1/2 cup of sugar and/or topping each muffin before baking with a teaspoon or two of white sugar.

These would also be delicious with some chopped walnuts or whole pumpkin seeds, or even chocolate chips. Fold in gently when the flour mixture is almost all folded in but not quite.

3 1/2 cups spelt flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 29-ounce can pumpkin (3 1/2 cups)
5 large eggs
3/4 cup olive oil
2 cups unrefined sugar (looks like brown sugar but is granulated, not soft - although traditional soft brown sugar would work well too)

Preheat the oven to 375. Grease 24 muffin tins with butter or oil, or line with paper muffin liners.

In a very large mixing bowl combine all the dry ingredients (except the sugar) and whisk until well incorporated.

In a large bowl whisk together all the wet ingredients (including the sugar) until well combined.

Make a well in the flour mixture and dump in the pumpkin mixture. Fold together until no pockets of flour remain. Do not over mix; stir just until combined. (Over-stirring causes the gluten in the flour to develop which makes the muffins texturally tough.)

Fill the muffin tins with a 1/3 cup of batter each. Bake for about 20 minutes, until the tops of the muffins spring back lightly when you touch them gently with your finger. As always, do not overbake! (Although if you do, a smothering of cream cheese mixed with lots of powdered sugar will make all well with the world.)

Friday, August 16, 2013

One Bowl Triple Chocolate Zucchini Cake

It's zucchini season!

I picked up the largest zucchini I've ever seen at the farmers market last week, and he only charged me a pound for it. There were lots of tasty little baby zucchinis there too, but I wanted to shred mine up and make some chocolate deliciousness.

The best part about chocolate zucchini cake is you can pretend you are being healthy. I'll just have one more slice, because, heck, there's green stuff in it.

But give a slice to someone and don't tell them what it is and they would never know! If you are desperate, then its a good way to trick your kids into eating their veggies. Just let them have a slice before dinner and then they might even try zucchini in its true form when served their real meal. (That's actually true.... studies have shown kids who are given more control over when they have dessert are MORE likely to eat their veggies!)

Sorry for the tangent. This is about zucchini, and what you should do with the inevitable oversupply...

Three words. Eat. More. Cake.

Easy Chocolate Zucchini Cake

adapted from King Arthur Flour

if you use the chocolate chip frosting method make sure you don't overcook the cake. I prefer to sprinkle the chips on the hot cake and not return the cake to the oven. That way when you serve the cake when cooled you still see the chips on top. I like that look - but it is certainly not as polished as a smooth frosting.

1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 3/4 cups white sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 1/2 cups all-purpose or white spelt flour
3/4 cup cocoa powder
3 cups shredded zucchini
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1 cup chocolate chips for optional frosting

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Lightly grease a 9" x 13" pan.

In a large mixing bowl, beat together the butter, oil, sugar, vanilla, baking soda, baking powder, and salt until smooth. Beat in the eggs.

Add the half the flour, stir until combined. Add half the buttermilk and stir until combined. Add the rest of the flour, stir well, then the rest of the buttermilk and stir well. Add the cocoa powder and mix until smooth. 

Fold in the zucchini and 1/2 cup chocolate chips. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan.

Bake the cake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the top springs back lightly when touched, and it seems set.

To ice the cake: Slide the cake out of the oven, sprinkle it evenly with the 1 cup chocolate chips, and return it to the oven for 5 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.

Remove the cake from the oven, and use a cake spatula or rubber spatula to spread the chocolate chips into a smooth glaze. Cool on a rack.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Revolutionary Roast Chicken

I'm not sure why more bloggers don't blog recipes from Cooks Illustrated. Because seriously, you can never cook a mediocre dish when you follow a recipe of theirs. Foolproof. Godly. Good. Just a few adjectives that come to mind when I think of shelling out $7.95 an issue. Aka, even though that's about 50 cents a recipe, I still find it to be money well spent.

The following recipe is the perfect example of why I love CI so much. Here I was with a free range whole chicken in my fridge and I thought I had roasting a chicken down to a T. Why mess with perfection? My way consistently produced great roast chickens.

Well, I am so glad I trusted my intuition that CI knew something I didn't. Because this way of roasting a chicken, my friends, is REVOLUTIONARY. Like, the BEST (dare I say only), yes the ONLY way to roast a chicken from now until eternity, amen.

Buy a free range whole chicken. Follow the recipe below. And be converted.

Revolutionary Roast Chicken in a Pan

adapted from Bryan Roof of Cooks Illustrated

Use a 3 1/2 to 4 lb chicken. If you must use a larger bird increase the Step 2 time in oven to 35 to 40 minutes. I used an all-clad 12-inch skillet which worked perfectly and was surprisingly a breeze to clean up (no burnt-on bits at all.)

1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 (3 1/2 - 4 lb) whole chicken, giblets discarded
1 tablespoon olive oil

for optional carrot side dish:
about 4 medium carrots, cut into just larger than thumb sized sticks
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon herbes de provence

Adjust oven rack to middle position, place a 12-inch ovenproof skillet on the rack, and turn the oven on to 450 degrees.

Pat chicken dry with paper towels. Rub chicken all over with olive oil, and rub salt in all over. Tie legs together with kitchen twine and tuck wing tips behind back.

Once oven has fully preheated, place chicken, breast side up, on preheated skillet in the oven. Roast chicken until breast registers 120 degrees and thigh registers 135 degrees. Turn oven off and leave chicken in oven until breast registers 160 degrees and thighs register 175 degrees, 25 to 35 minutes.

Transfer chicken to carving board and let rest, uncovered, for 15 minutes. (If you can wait that long.) Carve chicken and serve.

If you want to make the carrot side dish:
Toss together carrots, oil and herbes. Scatter on either side of chicken in pan a few minutes before you turn the oven off. 

Rhubarb Yogurt Cake

This is one of my favorite afternoon "come over and have a slice" cakes. Back when I went through mountains of dairy it was also a good way to use up any leftover yogurt. Now that I've cut back on dairy I now have to purposefully buy yogurt just to make this cake. I freeze rhubarb (pre-cut into 1/2 inch pieces) just so I can throw this cake together in late summer, or early winter, or whenever my spirits need a spring-time kick.

A note about rhubarb. If you have very large, mature stalks then you might need to peel them. You will know if you need to peel them or not if, when you are slicing them into 1/2 inch slices the peel starts to come off on its own. If this happens, then just peel it off like you would on a celery stalk. (They are the same family, after all.)

This recipe is also delicious with 1 teaspoon of vanilla substituted for the almond.  I personally love the almond note, but my husband prefers it with vanilla. I've also substituted in 1/2 cup of cornmeal for some of the flour with great success. (Although it makes the texture more muffin-like.) Lastly, if you like, you can half the sugar, and pour the batter into cupcake tins and - viola - you have rhubarb muffins - perfect for breakfast and brunch.

One last note. Please use full-fat yogurt. First of all, you shouldn't be consuming non-fat dairy anyway because all the vitamins in milk are fat-soluble, which means, you need to eat the fat in order to actually get any nutrients from it, and second of all, there is a time and a place for low-fat baking, but that time and place is not this blog and not this cake! (Besides a little fat will keep you fuller longer. If you need a nutritional enemy, then please feel free to cut back on the SUGAR! Because that's the pound-gaining culprit.)

Rhubarb Yogurt  Cake

makes 1 10-inch round cake or 1 9-inch square cake
adapted from Lunch in Paris by Elizabeth Bard, via the Naptime Chef

1 cup plain full-fat yogurt
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups all-purpose or white spelt flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup chopped rhubarb (1/2 inch pieces)

Preheat the oven to 350F. Lightly oil a 10-inch round cake pan  or a 9-inch square cake pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.
In a large bowl whisk the yogurt, sugar, salt, and almond extract until smooth. Pour the oil into the batter slowly, whisking until smooth. Add the eggs and whisk the batter again until smooth.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, and baking soda in a small bowl and fold it into the wet batter until just combined. Pour the batter into the cake pan and scatter the chopped rhubarb on top.

Bake the cake for about 45 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean and the top springs back lightly when touched.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Chocolate Layer Cake with Peanut Butter Frosting

My husband is so lucky. I made him not one, but TWO chocolate cakes for his birthday. Granted, he did have to share the first one with my son in a joint "it's your 29th and his 1 1/2" birthday party and he did have to have the one served on his actual birthday decorated to the point of girly oblivion by 3 little girls, but still, he got two chocolate cakes in his honor. How many did I get for my birthday? Oh, wait.... I got none.

I was going to do a double-recipe post, showcasing BOTH chocolate cake recipes, but that seems a bit ambitious for such a sunny summer afternoon. So this time around,  I will share with you the second chocolate cake. A dreamy concoction of a moist, dark, delectable sour cream chocolate cake matched with peanut butter frosting.

The cake was the best I've had in ages, but the frosting - in my opinion - was too peanut butter-y. Depending on how much you love PB you might want to cut back a bit. I did an informal polling of all 12 cake eaters at DH's party and got a slight preference for less peanut butteryness. But it was (accidentally) being paired at the time with peanut butter ice cream, so..... that might have tipped things in favor of the too much PB camp, when actually, it might be the most harmonious ratio when paired with vanilla ice cream. (I personally don't think ice cream belongs anywhere near a piece of good homemade cake, but I risk mutiny at birthday parties whenever I suggest banning it.)

This recipe is adapted from a cake cookbook called Sky High but I found it on Smitten Kitchen. She used a chocolate glaze on top which I skipped. I think it would add a decadent third note and will try it next time I make this. I'm giving link credit to Deb from SK because I've left her wonderfully helpful assembly notes in the recipe.

I was baking this on vacation and only had 2 9-inch cake pans. It turned out just as well, with a slightly longer cooking time and just a little bit of leftover frosting. But leftover frosting is never a problem in my book!

Chocolate Layer Cake with Peanut Butter Frosting
from Smitten Kitchen

Makes an 8-inch triple-layer cake; serves 12 to 16

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup sour cream
1 1/2 cups water
2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter the bottoms and sides of three 8-inch round cake pans. Line the bottom of each pan with a round of parchment or waxed paper and butter the paper.

Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl. Whisk to combine them well. Add the oil and sour cream and whisk to blend. Gradually beat in the water. Blend in the vinegar and vanilla. Whisk in the eggs and beat until well blended. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and be sure the batter is well mixed. Divide among the 3 prepared cake pans.

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a cake tester or wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out almost clean. Let cool in the pans for about 20 minutes. Invert onto wire racks, carefully peel off the paper liners, and let cool completely. (Deb note: These cakes are very, very soft. I found them a lot easier to work with after firming them up in the freezer for 30 minutes. They’ll defrost quickly once assembled. You’ll be glad you did this, trust me.)

To frost the cake, place one layer, flat side up, on a cake stand or large serving plate. Spread 2/3 cup cup of the Peanut Butter Frosting evenly over the top. Repeat with the next layer. Place the last layer on top and frost the top and sides of the cake with the remaining frosting. (Deb note 1: Making a crumb coat of frosting–a thin layer that binds the dark crumbs to the cake so they don’t show up in the final outer frosting layer–is a great idea for this cake, or any with a dark cake and lighter-colored frosting. Once you “mask” your cake, let it chill for 15 to 30 minutes until firm, then use the remainder of the frosting to create a smooth final coating. Deb note 2: Once the cake is fully frosted, it helps to chill it again and let it firm up. The cooler and more set the peanut butter frosting is, the better drip effect you’ll get from the Chocolate-Peanut Butter Glaze.)

To decorate with the Chocolate–Peanut Butter Glaze, put the cake plate on a large baking sheet to catch any drips. Simply pour the glaze over the top of the cake, and using an offset spatula, spread it evenly over the top just to the edges so that it runs down the sides of the cake in long drips. Refrigerate, uncovered, for at least 30 minutes to allow the glaze and frosting to set completely. Remove about 1 hour before serving.

Peanut Butter Frosting
Makes about 5 cups

10 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
5 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
2/3 cup smooth peanut butter, preferably a commercial brand (because oil doesn’t separate out)

In a large bowl with an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy. Gradually add the confectioners’ sugar 1 cup at a time, mixing thoroughly after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl often. Continue to beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes.

Add the peanut butter and beat until thoroughly blended.

Chocolate-Peanut Butter Glaze
Makes about 1 1/2 cups

8 ounces semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons smooth peanut butter
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/2 cup half-and-half

In the top of a double boiler or in a bowl set over simmering water, combine the chocolate, peanut butter, and corn syrup. Cook, whisking often, until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth.

Remove from the heat and whisk in the half-and-half, beating until smooth. Use while still warm.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Whole wheat pumpkin muffins

1 1/2 cup whole wheat or whole grain spelt flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup canned pumpkin purée
2 large eggs
1/3 cup olive oil
3/4 cup white or light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds

Whisk first seven ingredients together in a medium bowl. In a separate large bowl whisk together everything else except the pumpkin seeds. Dump the flour moisture into the poking mixture and ate together until just combined. Ladle by 1/4 cupfuls into greased muffin tins and sprinkle with pumpkinseeds. Bake in a 350 oven for about 20 minutes. Makes a dozen muffins.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Sweet Zucchini Pancakes

My husband always complains that I make extravagant breakfasts. Why can't we just have cereal? he whines. Well, perhaps some might call him crazy, but I do understand his woes. I would HATE to wake up every morning to a fresh cooked delicious hot breakfast to which I contributed nothing! He has a tough life.

But the truth is, I hate cereal. Perhaps he should blame my mother (bless her) who cooked me a hot breakfast every morning before the school run. Usually chocolate-chip pancakes, with a side of bananas & nutella. (I kid you not. I had a tough childhood.) Clearly, her traditions have been passed on.

These are one breakfast that my husband particularly likes to complain about because he says he doesn't like having veggies in the morning. I think after the fifth batch I've finally made a convert of him. But even if not I won't stop making them. I LOVE them, and so does our toddler! You win some, you lose some, but when you have a win that involves a toddler eating green things before 8am then you take that win and you TREASURE it.


Sweet Zucchini Pancakes
adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Sometimes I have to throw these puppies in the oven to cook through all the way, and sometimes I win the batter thickness to pan heat lottery and come out with perfectly cooked through and perfectly toasty brown pancakes. Preheat the oven just to be on the safe side.

Shredded zucchini freezes really well so if you find yourself with extra, throw it in the freezer to use for another batch another morning.

2 cups all-purpose or white spelt flour1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
6 tablespoons sugar
3-4 cups shredded zucchini
4 large eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk (or 4 tablespoons plain yogurt mixed with 4 tablespoons of whole milk)

Preheat oven to 200 degrees F.

Whisk together dry ingredients in a large bowl. Whisk together wet ingredients (minus the zucchini) in a medium bowl. Add the wet ingredients to the dry, and stir until just combined. Stir in the zucchini. Batter will be thick and seem to consist mostly of zucchini!

Heat a fry pan on medium heat, and add some butter. Pour batter by 1/4 cupfuls and flatten them out a bit with the back of a spoon. Flip when bubbles appear on the surface, then cook for the same amount of time on the other side. Pop them in the warm oven to keep warm. If they are not cooked through (sometimes this happens because this batter is extra thick), then keep in the oven until they are completely cooked through, about 10-15 minutes.

Morning Glory muffins

You must excuse the picture. That sub-par photography is courtesy of my husband, who failed to capture the GLORY that is these muffins. (He was too busy scarfing them down to really pay attention to what the camera was doing.) And he thinks this muffin has a weird name. I'm not really sure why, because eating one (or three) of these for breakfast is the easiest way I know of making your morning glorious.

The three vegetables in these muffins make it seem like you are biting into a rainbow - and they are healthy too! So what are you waiting for? Go bake yourself some glory.

Morning Glory Muffins
adapted from King Arthur Flour via Pam McKinstry

1/2 cup raisins
2 cups flour (a combo of white, wheat and spelt)
2/3 cup brown or white sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda*
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 cups grated carrot and yellow & green zucchini
1/2 cup shredded coconut, unsweetened
1/3 cup sunflower seeds
3 large eggs
2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/4 cup orange juice

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Lightly grease a 12-cup muffin tin, or line it with muffin papers.

In a small bowl, cover the raisins with hot water, and set them aside to soak.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda, spices, and salt. Stir in the carrots, apple, coconut, nuts, and sunflower seeds.

In a medium bowl, beat together the eggs, oil, vanilla, and orange juice. Make a well in the flour mixture, then dump in the wet ingredients and stir until evenly moistened. Then drain the raisins and stir them in.

Divide the batter among the wells of the prepared pan (they'll be full almost to the top; that's OK). Bake the muffins for about 20 minutes, until they're nicely domed and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.

Yield: about 16 muffins.

*I used 1 teaspoon. I have a theory about baking soda... since baking in England I have found that my American recipes turn out much better when I halve the baking soda. I'm pretty sure this is because baking soda comes in teeny tiny little jars here that I use up in two months' time. At home, I have a ginarmous container of Arm and Hammer that lasts months. I think American recipes use too much baking soda to compensate for said baking soda's inefficiency. (It's inefficiency increases the longer the container has been opened.) Just a theory, but I'd use 1 teaspoon if you're using fresh baking soda, and 2 if yours has been open for several months. (And I'd throw it out and buy a new one if its been opened longer than 6 months.)

Friday, June 14, 2013

Bisquik's bane: aka easy homemade waffles

I can't find the original link for the blog I got this recipe from, but there are variations all over the place if you just google "best waffle". 

I wanted to make some yeasted overnight waffles which Deb from Smitten Kitchen says are the best. But last night at 8:30 I was so exhausted that I decided to go to sleep. 3 hours of restless tossing and iPhone pinterest photo searching found me still awake. I finally was able to go to sleep around 11:30 and then was woken by my toddler at 3am. A toddler who refused to go back to sleep again until 5am. 

And so it was a bleary- eyed sleep-walking version of myself who made waffles this morning. But even half-functioning it only took me 12 minutes from the time I looked up the recipe till the first batch went on the waffle iron.

Hence Bisquik's bane. Why on earth would you make waffles from a yellow box when you can make the most delicious ones free from preservatives and packaging? Here is the recipe to deliver you and your family from yellow box bondage.

1 3/4 cup flour (white or white spelt)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 3/4 cup milk (not skim)
1/2 cup vegetable oil or olive oil 
1 teaspoon vanilla 
2 eggs, separated 

Preheat the waffle iron. Whisk the dry ingredients together in a large mixing bowl. Measure out the milk in a 4-cup measuring cup (or pour into a small mixing bowl), and add the yolks, oil and vanilla. Whisk together until well combined. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and dump the milk mixture in, whisking until thoroughly combined.

Put the egg whites into a medium bowl and whip by hand or beat with a mixer until soft peaks form. Fold this mixture into the batter. (you can skip this step and just add the whites in with the yolks - makes one less step and only a slightly inferior texture. The whipped egg whites do make the waffles light and airy when folded in properly.)

Spoon the batter into the hot irons by the 1/3 or 1/4 cupful (depending on your iron). Cook until steam stops rising from the sides. Keep in a warm oven or eat them as they come off. Serve with maple syrup and a dusting of powdered sugar.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Almond lemon cake

This is a wonderful cake. It turns out moist and lemony with a slight texture from the cornmeal and a nutty trace of almond. It is perfect for afternoon tea and can stand alone as a crowd-pleasing star of the show. I made it for some old friends who came for afternoon tea a few sundays ago, and I've wanted to make it every week since. I don't often pine for something I've just made, so this is saying something.

Another star recipe from baking goddess Nigella Lawson. Sorry this in grams because I used an English cookbook. On the up side, if you have a kitchen scale, it's actually really easy to use grams. Put your bowl on the scale, zero it out, and weigh each ingredient as you add it! Easy peasy.

Almond Lemon Cake
Adapted from Nigella's great cookbook Kitchen

200 grams unsalted butter, softened
200 grams sugar, preferably caster (superfine)
200 grams ground almonds
100 grams cornmeal
2 teaspoons baking powder
3 large eggs
zest and juice of 2 lemon
125 grams confectioners sugar

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Generously butter the bottom and sides of a 9-inch springform pan.

In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy - either by hand in a bowl with a wooden spoon, or using a freestanding mixer.

Whisk together the ground almond, cornmeal nd baking powder in a medium bowl, and beat some of this into the butter-sugar mixture, followed by 1 egg, then alternate dry ingredients and eggs, beating continuously.

Finally, beat in the lemon zest and pour the mixture into your prepared pan. Bake in the oven for about 35 minutes. You can tell when the cake is done when the sides of the cake begin to shrink away from the sides of the tin. A tester will come out with moist crumbs.

While the cake is baking make the syrup. Bring the lemon juice and confectioners sugar just barely to a boil in a small saucepan. Turn off the heat and stir until the sugar dissolves.

Once the cake is out of the oven, prick the top of it all over with a toothpick, then pour the warm syrup over it, and leave to cool completely on a wire rack before taking it out of the pan.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Easiest Chocolate Cake... and Chorizo and Chickpea Ragu

I love that the blogger whom I got this recipe from states that this chocolate cake is enough for two chocoholics, or  six regular people. I made this yesterday afternoon and there is only one small piece left. There were only three of us at dinner! Well there were six, but three were toddlers who were not partaking of the chocolate-coffee goodness. Although I must admit that my toddler had a small piece when he got up this morning at 5:30. (His mommy needed the cake - it was the only thing tethering my sanity to the obscenely early hour.) He stuffed the whole thing in his mouth. I've never seen him devour anything so quickly! I can't say I blame him.

This cake is so easy and so good! I was highly skeptical that a chocolate cake without dairy or eggs would turn out. But it vaulted over my expectations. Another dangerous weapon in my arsenal against 3pm chocolate cravings!

Easy Chocolate Stout Cake
adapted from mrslarkin on

1 1/2 cups all-purpose, or white spelt, flour 
1 cup granulated sugar 
7 tablespoons cocoa powder, not dutched
 1/2 teaspoon baking soda 
1/2 teaspoon salt 
1/2 cup Guinness Stout 
1/2 cup espresso or strong coffee 
1/4 cup water 
2 teaspoons vanilla 
1 teaspoon apple cider or white vinegar 
1/2 cup vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Set oven rack to middle. Grease an 8” cake pan.

Whisk flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda and salt in a large bowl.

In a measuring cup, measure out the coffee, guinness and water. Stir in the vanilla and vinegar. Dump into the flour mixture and stir until almost all combined. Then add the vegetable oil and mix until smooth and silky.

Pour into prepared pan and bake for about 30 minutes. Check with cake tester, which should come out very slightly moist. Remove from oven and let cool on rack.

Dust cake with powdered sugar and serve.


At baby dinner last night, I also served some non-dessert food (honest). And it was this recipe that my two friends both asked for. So, S and E, here it is!

I served this with pasta but I think it would be better over boiled new potatoes or brown basmati rice. This was a hit with my toddler and my husband too - although the other two toddlers at dinner were not as into it; it does have strong wonderful flavors! Yum.

We didn't have any leftovers, but I have a feeling this is a dish that would taste even better the next day.

Chorizo and Chickpea Ragu
adapted from Joanna Weinberg on

300g fresh cooking chorizo (or any good pork sausage, plus 4 extra cloves of garlic and 1 tbsp sweet smoked paprika)
250g pancetta, chopped
1 large red or yellow onion, finely chopped
1 red pepper, deseeded and coarsely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped or pressed
1 tbsp dried oregano
400g passata (salted tomato puree)
2 cans chickpeas in salted water

In a large saucepan over medium heat saute the pancetta in a little bit of olive oil until just turning crispy. Add the onions and red peppers and saute until the onion is soft.

Meanwhile, take the sausages and cut them with a sharp knife down the center lengthwise. Peel off the sausage casing so that you have a bunch of ground up sausage and no casings. When the onion is soft, put the sausage meat in the pan and cook until cooked through,  breaking up the sausage with a wooden spoon.

Add the garlic and oregano and saute one minute. Stir in the passata and the chickpeas, one can drained and one can with the water. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat to low and simmer gently for about 20 minutes.

Serve over new potatoes, rice or pasta, garnish with some chopped parsley, and enjoy!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Olive Oil One-Bowl Brownies

I was going to title this: best butter-less brownies but then I took into account the proportion of the pan that I had personally consumed in the last two days and decided that - based upon that fact alone - they are BETTER than their buttery counterparts.

In my mission to ban butter from all dishes, I had been searching the Internet for butter less brownies and olive oil brownies. Hence the recipe from the week before last. Which is a good recipe and makes what it says it does: pudding-textured brownies. But I desire (dare I say demand?) the only TRUE brownie - dense and fudgey. (I won't even talk to you if you insist a brownie should be cakey. You aren't worth the debate. And you are probably English.) So in my mission to create a butter less fudgey piece of chocolatey heaven I finally did what I should have done in the first place. I simply took my simple, go-to brownie recipe (bakers-one-bowl, amen) and substituted extra virgin olive oil for butter. And oh how it worked! A dream. A diary-free dream.

If you live in England and can't get unsweetened bar chocolate then don't attempt to make these. I'm telling you just adding less sugar will NOT work the same way. Lindt makes a 99% bar but it's a bit hard to find. Speciality stores like panzers import Bakers unsweetened chocolate from America. (wish they imported ghiradelli instead!)

Best Brownies
Adapted from Baker's One-Bowl Brownies

Do try and use cake flour... It really makes a big difference.

4 oz unsweetened chocolate (bar not powder!)
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 cups white sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
3 medium eggs
Scant 1 cup cake (ultra-fine) flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup coarsely chopped pecans (optional)

Put the chocolate and oil in a large sauce pot over low heat until chocolate is melted, stirring occasionally. Take off the heat and let cool several minutes. Stir in the sugar then the vanilla and almond extract. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Fold in the flour and salt, stop when flour is just incorporated. Fold in the pecans, if using. Spread into a 9x9 inch pan and bake at 350 degree F until just set and tester comes out with very damp crumbs, about 20 minutes. Do not overbake. Brownies are much better under done than over done!

Friday, May 10, 2013

Olivia's banana bread

I told a friend recently that I wasn't trying to attract a readership to this blog because I couldn't be bothered with readers who didn't know how to cream butter. Her response was - or course - how do you cream butter? I'm still not backtracking on this one - I will not be one of those bloggers who teaches baking picture by picture (I have neither the time nor the inclination) but creaming butter is of importance in this recipe. You can just melt the butter and the bread will taste just fine, but not fantastic. Here's a basic guide: how to cream butter. If you find your butter is still too solid, then put it in the microwave for 10 seconds at a time on the lowest heat setting possible. To bring your eggs to room temperature quickly immerse them in a bowl of hot tap water for a few minutes.

The only other thing to be absolute sure of is that you use OVERRIPE bananas. I cannot stress enough how important this is! I'm talking black bananas. Bananas that have brown spots on the inside too. Too often I taste banana bread that has an artificial banana taste to it. This is the result of using ripe-for-eating bananas. Just.... trust me on this one. Here's a picture of how ripe I mean:

A good trick is to put over-ripe bananas in the freezer. I usually end up with one banana per bunch that end up getting over-ripe enough, and I just plunk it in the freezer. When I have three I just defrost overnight in the frig and make banana bread in the morning!

Historically, I use 1/3 whole wheat flour and 2/3 white flour. More recently I've been using 2/3 whole grain spelt and 1/3 buckwheat.  And for sugar: historically I just used white sugar but more recently have been using agave syrup or unrefined sugar (which is a bit coarser than normal sugar.) All work great so use whatever you have to hand.

While I've posted other recipes that I've tweaked and twisted from the original, this recipe truly is mine. I've adapted it over time from so many different sources and made it so many dozens of times that it merits my moniker.

Olivia's Banana Bread

1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, soft room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup mashed over-ripe banana (usually about 3 bananas)

Preheat the oven to 350 F and generously butter a loaf pan or 12 muffin tins.

In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.

In a large bowl, with a handheld mixer or a wooden spoon, cream the butter and the sugar. (See above.) Add the eggs one at a time and beat well after each addition. Stir in the vanilla. Stir in the banana. Dump in the flour mixture and stir just until combined.

Pour into buttered tins and spread evenly. Bake until the top just springs back from your fingertip's touch, or until a tester comes out with moist crumbs. (About 45 min - 1 hour for the loaf, 15-20 minutes for the muffins. All depends on your particular oven, your altitude, your baking container and the weather. Not necessarily in that order, and not joking.)

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Spelt brownies

My 17 month old son has been waking up every morning at 4:30 am the past few days. I don't mean waking up, crying and then going back to sleep. I mean, waking up, crying, and then deciding that it's time to start the day. This is so not okay and makes for some cranky babies and parents. Cranky pants need chocolate. And so, in my sleep-deprived delirium yesterday, I made brownies. When first out of the oven I wasn't too impressed. But overnight they cooled, and the flavors developed, and oh my - they are GOOD. I adapted them from a recipe whose author described her aim of making brownies that had the texture of those made from a mix but without the chemical aftertaste. These do indeed have the texture of mix brownies - more pudding-like than fudgey - but the flavors of the olive oil, dark brown sugar and quality chocolate make for a much more gourmet experience. And with no wheat, no diary and no refined sugar they could even go for a label of healthy.... ish.

The dark brown sugar and agave can easily be swapped out for white sugar or light brown sugar. The olive oil can be replaced by any other oil, but keep in mind that vegetable oil (or any other flavorless oil) will make the brownies more bland. Spelt is easily replaced by white or whole-wheat flours. Next time I am going to try buckwheat instead of spelt (making them gluten-free), and all agave as a sweetener. One thing to keep in mind.... do NOT over-bake these. My oven heats unevenly and one half of my pan of brownies was a tad overcooked. The overcooked ones are not good. The other side is divine. Remember.... an undercooked brownie still tastes good. An overcooked one is ruined.

Spelt Brownies
adapted from Melissa Clark via the NYTimes

 Don't overbake these pudding-textured treats!

1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup plus two tablespoons boiling water
2 oz unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup agave syrup
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cup spelt flour
2 1/2 oz bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped

Preheat the oven to 350 and grease a 9x13 baking pan.

Put the cocoa powder in a large bowl. Add the boiling water and whisk together until smooth. Add the finely chopped chocolate and whisk until smooth. Next whisk in the oil, then the eggs - one at a time, then the vanilla and lastly the sugars and salt. Whisk well after each addition, and when adding the brown sugar make sure you whisk out all the lumps. Gently fold the flour into the chocolate mixture. Stir in the chocolate bits.

Bake for about 25 minutes - or until just set. A toothpick will not come out clean; these brownies set as they cool and so might still look underdone when they are actually done. Do NOT overbake. It will ruin the texture, making them dry and coarse.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Turkey meatloaf

This is one of my go-to recipes for dinner. Hubbie loves it, baby loves it, and me? Well, I like it too. To be honest, I am getting a bit sick of it, but it's the best all-in-one type of recipe that I have. You really can serve just it for dinner - meat, veggies, bread - it's all in there! It's a perfect recipe for picky eaters.

This is a recipe that adapts well to variations and additions. Got some leftover green beans and new potatoes from last night? Chop 'em up and throw 'em in! The only thing to be wary of is the meat. If you use only breast meat it can get dry very quickly if you don't take it out of the oven the very moment it reaches 170. This mistake can always be rectified by extra squirts of ketchup at the dinner table, but I prefer to use a mix of white and dark, or just dark. Preferably the latter, as it gives a lot more wiggle room if I forget that I have dinner in the oven because my toddler and I are having a dance party in the living room.

Turkey Meatloaf
adapted from Gourmet magazine

The mixture will be very wet - don't let it alarm you and don't try to "fix" it! Also, the amount of bread crumbs needed is about the amount you'd get from two pieces of regular sandwich bread. I prefer to use quality bread because I think it makes a difference. But if your household eaters tend to take meatloaf as an excuse to slather their plates in ketchup then don't bother. (Bitter? Moi?)
  • 1 1/2 cups finely chopped onion
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 medium carrot, cut into 1/8-inch dice
  • 3/4 pound cremini mushrooms, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon ketchup
  • 1 cup fine fresh bread crumbs
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 2 whole large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 1/4 pound ground turkey (mix of dark and light meat)

Preheat oven to 400°F. 

Cook onion and garlic in oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over moderate heat, stirring, until onion is softened. Add carrot and cook, stirring, until softened. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid mushrooms give off is evaporated and they are very tender, about 10 to 15 minutes. Stir in Worcestershire sauce, parsley, and 3 tablespoons ketchup, then transfer vegetables to a large bowl and cool. 

Stir together bread crumbs and milk in a small bowl and let stand 5 minutes. Stir in beaten eggs, then add to vegetables. Add turkey to vegetable mixture and mix well with your hands. (Mixture will be very moist.) 

Form into a 9- by 5-inch oval loaf in a lightly oiled 13- by 9- by 2-inch metal baking pan and brush meatloaf evenly with remaining 2 tablespoons ketchup. Bake in middle of oven until thermometer inserted into meatloaf registers 170°F, about 50 to 55 minutes. 

Let meatloaf stand 5 minutes before serving.

Serves 3-4 adults.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Buckwheat Pancakes (dairy free!)

I've been meaning to publish this recipe for ages. In the past month of (relatively) no-dairy, I have successfully subsititued coconut milk substitute (this), for milk in most recipes. It worked particularly well for porridge, and also for buckwheat pancakes! These are actually so good that I won't switch back to my dairy version ever, I don't think. (Unless I'm out of coconut milk!)

One thing to keep in mind about these though.... DO NOT OVER-MIX THE BATTER. You know how in traditional pancake making (even if you are cheating and using Bisquik), you are supposed to leave a few lumps in the batter? This is SO important to remember. A few lumps does not result in bites of flour, but over-mixing does result in tough pancakes.

Dairy-Free Buckwheat Pancakes
adapted from the buttermilk buckwheat pancakes in The Joy of Cooking

You can use regular milk instead of coconut milk, and butter instead of coconut oil if being dairy free isn't of concern to you. But I must say that the slight hint of coconut does add to these being uber-delicious. 

Do not over-mix the batter!

2 cups buckwheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon flaxseed (optional)
3 medium eggs, beaten
2 cups coconut milk substitute
2-3 tablespoons melted coconut oil plus more for the pan
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons agave (or sugar)

Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Place a baking tray in oven.

Whisk together the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Whisk together the rest of the ingredients in a medium bowl until well combined. Add the wet mixture to the flour mixture and whisk until just combined. There will be lumps.

Heat a pan over medium heat, add some coconut oil. Pour pancake batter into pan by 1/4 cupfuls. Flip when bubbles appear on the surface, then cook for the same amount of time on the other side. As pancakes are finished, place on the tray in the oven to keep warm.

Serves 4-6 adults.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Sweet olive pistachio flapjacks

I've finally done it! I've found and made the most delicious sweet flapjack made without any artificially-sweet syrup and with all-natural healthy ingredients. The olive oil imparts an elegant undertone and the tang of the currants plays against the earthy pistachios. Divinity in snack form.

If you haven't made flapjacks before then don't worry if they don't turn out right the very first time. Since the only thing binding the oats is the oil and agave they can crumble if the right proportions aren't used or if they aren't cooked enough. And don't try to eat then right out of the pan! (it doesn't work, trust me.)

I use Flavanan's organic porridge oats and have had much better success with it than with my previous brand, Jordan's organic. Flavanan's oats are more, for lack of a better word, "broken up" and I think this makes the oats coalesce more easily. If I were making these at home, stateside, I would take some Quaker oats and throw them in the blender for a minute before using them in this recipe.

Feel free to take the basic oil, agave, oat ratio and add in other flavors. Any chopped dried fruit or nut would work nicely here. Other oils should work too. As should honey or other natural sweeteners. I found date-syrup at whole foods yesterday and I can't wait to try that with some walnuts next time!

Sweet olive pistachio flapjacks

1 cup olive oil
1 cup agave
1/2 cup chopped pistachios
1/4 cup currants
About 5 cups porridge oats

Preheat oven to 350 with rack in the center of the oven.

Put olive oil and agave in a large pot on stove and stir and bring to a boil. Take pot off heat and add the pistachios and the currants. Gradually stir in the oats. You might need a little more or a little less than 5 cups of oats. The mixture should be more damp than wet, but none of the oats should look dry.

Turn mixture into a greased 8x8 pan and pat it down evenly and firmly. Bake for about 20 minutes.

Let stand for 5 minutes then cut into bars. Do NOT attempt to remove them from the pan until they are FULLY cooled, about an hour.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Dairy-free, wheat-free Chocolate Chip Cookies

These past few days I have just been craving chocolate chip cookies. It's been that kind of a week here in London.... when the weather turns from "spring is in the air!" to.... snow (in a place where it never snows!)... well, that kinda dulls the dance a bit for you. Hence, chocolate. chip. cookies! Soft, creamy butter whipped together with brown and white sugar, add eggs, flour, chocolate... Toll House perfection.

BUT. I have recently decided to eliminate dairy from my diet. (Originally for my skin, but since delving into Dr. Google some more, now I think I'm going to eliminate it for life. For an explanation, read this.) Hence my dilemma: strong need for chocolate chip cookies on one hand, shaky resolve to eliminate a beloved food group on the other.

Cue: delicious memory from high school of the vegan tahini chocolate chip cookies from an obscure oasis of a food market staffed by hippies off a mildly scary avenue in New Haven.

I had never tried to recreate those, but if ever there was a time it was this time. Some more use of my friend Google and I had a recipe cobbled together from a few sources. And oh. Oh. OH. Wow. Can I just say, I have really been missing these in my life. They are SO good.  I know I say that about a lot of things, but seriously folks, these are da bomb.

They are a dangerous thing to make. Because you will want to have, not one or two of them, but three, four, maybe even five. And they have no dairy, no wheat, and only natural sweeteners - so you will feel like it's okay with the world if you, er, maybe do have one last (fifth) one. Go ahead. Make them. I DARE you not to eat that fifth one.

The only problem is, they would go really well with a glass of milk.


Tahini Chocolate Chip Cookies
adapted from here and there

You can use a mix of any kind of natural nut butters that you have on hand. But do bear in mind that tahini has 5x more calcium than milk! Also, feel free to play around with the honey and agave - you can use only one or the other, but honey packs a much bigger sweet punch so your cookies will be a lot sweeter if you use all honey.

These can be vegan if you use 2 tablespoons ground chia mixed with a 1/3 cup water instead of the egg. You can also make these prettier by baking them in silicone muffin tins (bottom picture) instead of on a baking tray.

2/3 cup tahini
1/3 cup all natural, no salt peanut butter
1/4 cup agave
1/4 cup honey
1 egg, beaten
1 cup quick-cooking oats (porridge oats)
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350 and lightly grease a cookie sheet.

Put the nut butters in a bowl, and mix until they are combined and very smooth. Add the agave and the honey and stir until well-combined. Add the egg and mix well. Stir in the oats and then the chocolate chips. If mixture is very runny, add a 1/4 cup more oats, or refrigerate for a half-hour.

Form the dough into golf ball size balls and place on cookie sheet. Bake for about 15 minutes.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Baby's Oat Bars

I have been asked for this recipe more times than any recipe EVER. And I've only been making these for a few months now! If you do not currently have any progeny to feed, don't let the title fool you. These are not just for baby. They are so good. And very healthy! I should re-name them "Power Snacks for Hikers, Bikers and Skiers." It just doesn't have the same ring.

I must admit. I'm blogging about these mostly so that I can stop forwarding the same email to other moms over and over again. I can just give them this link! But this is a recipe to make and to share. It makes a ton of bars, they freeze very well, and they are the perfect, healthy on-the-go snack. Most importantly, every baby loves them. (Well, except when you give them as a snack for three days running, like I did... toddlers, well, at least my toddler, demands var-ie-ty!)

These are a riff on the popular British sweet snack "flapjacks." If you are reading this stateside you might wonder - aren't flapjacks just pancakes? And well, yes, they are over there, but over here, they are mightily delcious, cloyingly over-sweet bars comprised only of oats, butter and a disgusting, very sweet, very sticky syrup called "golden syrup."  (Very similar to our modified corn syrup; they both have sugar molecules chemically altered to make it taste sweeter.) The end result is that flapjacks are actually very delicious, but very, very bad for you. I am working on a way to make sweet flapjacks that do not use any chemically-altered sweeteners, but the only way I can find to make the oats bind together without using golden syrup is to use eggs, like these savory ones do.

While these flapjacks may not sate your sweet-tooth, they will fill you up with wholesome oaty and veg-y goodness! I hope you and your family enjoy this one!

Baby's Oat Bars (aka Savory Flapjacks)
adapted from The Baby-Led Weaning Cookbook

I usually use 200 grams grated carrot and 100 grams grated sweet potato. A friend has used grated apple but her bars fell apart, so I would use caution if attempting to substitute a fruit or vegetable with more water content. If you are making these for adults, feel free to use salted butter, and to experiment wildly with different cheeses. For babies, I use half mild cheddar, half mozzarella. Use a very, very large mixing bowl (unless you are not adding vegetables.) I have to use a specialty 7-litre bad boy that I picked up at my favorite store in the world, but a large pasta pot would work too. Also, do not use a mixed-grain porridge. Oats only!

100 grams (7 tablespoons) unsalted butter
300 grams porridge oats (quick rolled oats are fine)
350 grams grated cheese
200-300 grams grated firm vegetables such as: carrot, sweet potato, zucchini (courgette), red onion, parsnip
2 large eggs, beaten

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Generously butter a 10x15(ish) jelly-roll pan (swiss roll tin). Melt the butter in a small saucepan over low heat.

Place your very large mixing bowl on a scale and grate in your vegetables. Zero out, and measure and add the oats, then the cheese. Mix all this together well (hands work best!) Pour in the slightly cooled butter and mix well. Stir in the eggs and mix well.

Turn out the mixture onto the greased pan; press and mould it down evenly.

Bake for about 20 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbly, the edges are slightly brown and the veggies are cooked. Let cool for 5 minutes then cut into squares. Then let cool completely before removing the squares. (They will break apart if you try to do this when warm.)

One batch makes about 30 small bars. These freeze very well.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Brown Butter Chocolate Pear Cake

Happy Valentine's Day!

I got this recipe from one of my absolute favorite bloggers. I bake something new from her recipe archives at least once a month. I had been wanting to try a pear and chocolate combination and this recipe looked simple at first glance. If you actually read the instructions though it is not that straightforward. The first step involves whisking the eggs until they are "pale and very thick" and Deb (of smitten kitchen) said it took five minutes on her professional grade kitchen aid to gain sufficient volume. I wish she had said by how much the egg volume should increase. I beat mine with regular beaters on a handheld machine for about five minutes and felt like the mixture was very pale and not getting any thicker. My cakes turned out great BUT the batter did not rise up to enfold the chocolate and pear pieces as Deb said it would- those beautiful chunks remained stubbornly afloat. Now I'm not sure if that happened because I didn't whisk the eggs enough or if it was because I made mini-cakes instead of a single large cake. I think it was the latter. This cake is delicious even with that one hitch. (which wasn't even that much of a hitch because it made the cake-lets even more beautiful.)

I highly recommend making this for your valentine tonight. And treat yourself to some cute silicone moulds too - its a great way to make your cakes more shareable, more pretty and easier to take out if the pan! (if that isn't a winning combination then I don't know what is.)

Brown Butter Chocolate Pear Cake

Adapted from Al Di La restaurant in Park Slope via Smitten Kitchen

I used Anjou pears and thought they worked great. This recipe did not take me nearly as long to make as I thought it would - don't let the butter browning or egg whipping intimidate you away from enjoying a subtle, delicate award-winning flavor combination!

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 eggs, at room-temperature
4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter
3/4 cup sugar
3-4 pears, ripe but firm, peeled, in a small dice
3/4 cup bittersweet chocolate chunks

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter a 9-inch springform pan and dust with flour (or butter some silicone mini-cake moulds), set aside.

Whisk the flour, baking powder and salt together, set aside.

Using a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the eggs on high speed until pale and very thick. (Takes at least five minutes.) While the eggs are whipping, brown the butter. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan and cook it until the butter browns and smells nutty (about 6 to 8 minutes). It helps to frequently scrape the solids off the bottom of the pan in the last couple minutes to ensure even browning. Remove from the heat to allow it to cool slightly.

Add the sugar to the eggs and whip a few minutes more. Just as the egg-sugar mixture is starting to loose volume, turn off the mixer. Fold in the flour mixture and the cooled browned butter in three parts, starting and ending with the flour. (Add one third of the flour mixture, then half of the butter, a third of the flour, the remaining butter, and the rest of flour.) Do not over-fold the batter or it will lose volume.

Pour into prepared pan. Sprinkle the pear and chocolate chunks over the top, and bake until the cake is golden brown and springs back to the touch, about 40 to 50 minutes, or a tester comes out with moist crumbs.

Carrot and Fennel Soup

There's been a chill to the air here in London. And after being slightly jealous of all the snow New England received from Nemo, we even had a snowfall! So, in honor of winter, here's a nice warming pot of soup for you to cook up and keep warm with. Not only is it quite delicious, it's healthy too!

If you're like me and make a double batch just because you had a lot of carrots on hand, never fear, it freezes like a dream.

Not only that but my son, who eschews carrots in their native state (what is that orange circle defiling my plate?! I shall throw all of them on the floor!), loves this soup! That's saying something.

Carrot and Fennel Soup

adapted from The Essential New York Time Cook Book by Amanda Hesser

2 tbsp unsalted butter
1 medium fennel blub, trimmed, fronds reserved, and thinly sliced
1 1/2 lbs carrots, peeled and thickly sliced
1 large clove garlic, thinly sliced
6 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup fresh orange juice
1/4 cup sour cream
freshly ground black pepper

Heat butter in a 3-quart heavy saucepan over medium heat until foamy. Add the fennel slices and cook, stirring, until softened, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the carrots and garlic and cook for another minute. Pour in the water and season with the salt. Bring to a simmer and simmer, covered, until the carrots are very tender, about 20 minutes

Remove the soup from the heat and stir in the orange juice, sour cream, and reserved fennel fronds. Pour 2/3 of the mixture into a food processor and blend. Mash the remaining 1/3 with the back of a spoon leaving it chunky. Pour the pureed mixture back in. Season with salt and pepper and serve.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Apple cornmeal muffins

It has been a lazy morning. After a long week of toddler-wrangling (that sounds like a new extreme sport!) all I wanted to do this morning was read a good book in peace and bake. I left the boys to go enjoy some (rare) bright sunshine on the Heath, and I've successfully completed my two stated goals, as well as managing to make it until 1pm before contemplating rocking something other than pyjamas.

I'm still in those pjs but I really just wanted to share this recipe before rectifying that. I was inspired by a friend's amazing apple coffee cake, but this recipe here is what you bake when you want the taste of an amazing cake without getting a sugar-high and with some actual nutritional value. And now that baby boy is over one and out of the honey danger zone - this has the best kind of sweetener.

Apple Cornmeal Muffins

A sweeter baking apple, such as Gala (or Bramley if you are in British-based like me) would work well here because the batter is not very sweet. Also, feel free to play with the ratios of flour, and add in while wheat or spelt in place of some or all of the all-purpose.

1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup agave syrup
1/8 cup fresh orange juice
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
2-3 apples, peeled, cored and diced

Whisk together honey, agave, and oil in a large bowl until well combined. Whisk in the eggs one at a time, whisking thoroughly after each addition.

In a separate small bowl whisk together the dry ingredients. Add the dry ingredients to the wet as stir just until combined. Fold in the apples. Fill muffin tins 2/3 the way full and bake in a 350 degree oven for about 12-15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of a muffin comes out with moist crumbs.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

The best brunch dish you've never had

If you want to make your weekend truly spectacular, then make this saturday night and bake it up sunday for brunch, lunch or even dinner. I've been sitting on this recipe for weeks now; I made it for some friends for brunch several weekends ago and it was such a hit that I have been waiting for inspirational words that adequately describe this dish's awesomeness. None have come. So I guess you'll just have to trust my hyperbole, and go ahead and make it. Use some good quality bread (day-old, or fresh bread dried out in a warm oven), use good mushrooms, keep the stems out of your kale or escarole, and you'll have the best brunch dish ever. Promise.

I served it with a salad of local organic greens with a lemon mustard dressing and a wintry citrus fruit salad. And for dessert I made meringue kisses with the leftover egg whites from the strata.

Wild Mushroom, Winter Greens and Parmesan Strata

adapted from Sara Moulton

Serves 6 - 8 

6 cups 1/2 inch cubes of day-old bread
6 large egg yolks
2 large eggs
1/4 cup flour
2 cups milk
2 cups heavy cream
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
1 clove garlic, smashed
2 cups lightly packed escarole or kale, inner ribs removed, leaves roughly chopped
2 medium shallots, sliced
3/4 cup shiitake mushrooms, small ones left whole, larger ones cut in half or thirds
3/4 cup oyster mushrooms, small ones left whole, larger ones cut in half or thirds
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan

Place bread in a 13-by-9-inch baking dish or roasting pan. Whisk together yolks, eggs and flour in a medium bowl. Whisk in milk, cream and thyme. Pour mixture over the bread. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet on medium-high heat. Add garlic and greens. Cook, stirring, until greens are wilted, about 5 minutes. Remove greens from skillet and discard garlic clove. Set aside. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil to the pan. Add the shallots and mushrooms. Cook, stirring, until the mushrooms are browned, about 5 minutes.

Stir greens, mushrooms, shallots and 3/4 cup of the Parmesan cheese into the soaked bread. Sprinkle top evenly with remaining 1/4 cup of the Parmesan cheese. Bake until browned and set, 35-40 minutes. Let rest for 15 minutes at room temperature. Cut into squares and serve warm.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Pretty darn good chili

I must start this with a confession. I normally hate chili. With the grand exception of my mom's white bean turkey chili, I have always managed to avoid eating it whenever it has been forced upon me. I'm not sure where my aversion comes from. Perhaps it's the tendency for it to appear as a topping for anything from hot dogs to nachos? Perhaps the oil that pools on its surface? I am usually just not ever a fan.

So when baby boy sat at the restaurant table devouring chili off my mom's plate, it was with not a little bit of hesitation that I ordered chili-making accoutrements last week. The kidney beans were staring me in the face all week long whenever I opened the cupboard, just daring me to take them down and introduce them to some chili powder. I successfully ignored their existence. Finally, with a dwindling fridge and a strong desire to avoid grocery shopping, I made chili today. And it was GOOD! And SO easy. So easy and so good that I feel compelled to share.

Olivia's pretty darn good, simple Chili

I used water because DH had drank all the Guinness that I stock for baking/cooking (how dare he!) Next time I am going to try 1 bottle of dark beer and also am going to grate a tablespoon or so of unsweetened chocolate in to the mix. I think the whole point and joy of chili is that anything goes!

Loosely based on a recipe from the bible, aka Joy of Cooking, 2006 edition

Serves 3-4

1 500-gram (18 oz) pack ground beef, not lean
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 400-gram (16 oz) can chopped tomatoes
1 400-gram (16 oz) can kidney beans, with liquid
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground chilpolte
10 black peppercorns
1 cup water or 1 small bottle of dark beer

In a small Dutch oven over medium-high heat, brown the beef and cook until cooked through. Add the onion and cook for two minutes. Add the tomatoes and the beans (with the liquid - do not drain!), cook for a minute. Add the rest of the ingredients and combine thoroughly. Bring to a simmer, then turn the heat to low, put the lid on, and simmer for 2 hours. Serve with skillet cornbread.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The best Mac and Cheese, period.

Growing up I never really cooked. I baked, and I baked a lot, but I wasn't too interested in roasting chickens or making pasta sauce. I did know how to poach, fry and scramble an egg by age 12 (that's a story for another time), but my true love in the kitchen was anything sweet.

But when I graduated college a semester early to move out to Tahoe with my (then) boyfriend (now husband), and moved into a house he shared with two other guys, I decided I needed to learn to cook. So he and his friends became my guinea pigs. The mac and cheese I first made for them (my first ever) was the baked mac and cheese out of The Joy of Cooking. (Then, as now, my Bible.) It involves making roux to make a white sauce, which needs to be simmered forever, to which is then added cheese, then cooked pasta. It's fairly simple and good stuff, but when you're making mac and cheese.... it really should be simpler.

Cue a marriage, a cross-Atlantic move, and then a pregnancy. When I was five months along I discovered this recipe in a back-issue of Bon Appetit. (The same issue that has my favorite Shepard's pie. I digress.) I discovered this recipe, and like every pregnant woman who ever read a recipe for mac and cheese, I made said recipe. And thank goodness I did, because it. is. awesome. It rocks everybody's world. Including mac and cheese haters. (They do exist. I had one over for dinner a few nights ago, served her this, and converted her.)

Not only is it divine, it is also super easy to make - you do kind of have to make a roux, but it is a rough one that goes straight into everything else, and it's not hard or scary so why even throw that intimidating french term in there?

If you want to make this tonight but don't have the marscapone, then hold off. This needs the marscapone. It also really needs some good, strong cheddar. Save the half cheddar, half mozzarella mix for your English muffin pizzas, and give this dish the real deal. However, if you want to substitute the pancetta for, say, some Vermont maple cured applewood smoked bacon - then go ahead and be my guest. It's just as delicious. I know.

Baked Mac and Cheese with Pancetta and Leek

adapted from Matthew Porco

Make sure you use a large and deep skillet to make the cheese sauce in - the skillet should be able to hold the contents of a 13x9x2 inch dish. And remember, the most important part of mac and cheese is the cheese - don't skimp on quality or quantity for this dish!

Serves 4-6 as a main dish, 8-10 as a side dish

8 tablespoons butter, divided 
4 ounces thinly sliced pancetta or very good-quality bacon, coarsely chopped 
3 large leeks, washed well, sliced lengthwise, then horizontally into 1/8 inch slices, white and pale green parts only
3/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper 
1 garlic clove, minced 
1/4 cup all purpose flour 
3 1/2 cups (or more) whole milk 
2 1/2 cups coarsely grated sharp cheddar cheese 
1 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese 
1 8- to 8.8-ounce container marscapone cheese
1 1/2 cups panko
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley 
1 pound orecchiette 

Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly butter 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish. 

Melt 1 tablespoon butter in large deep skillet over medium-high heat. Add pancetta or bacon; sauté until crisp. Add leeks to the same pan; sauté until tender, about 5-10 minutes. Add crushed red pepper and garlic; stir 1 minute. Stir in 3 tablespoons butter; allow to melt, then add flour and whisk it into everything for about 1 minute. Gradually whisk in 3 1/2 cups milk; simmer until thick enough to coat spoon thickly, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Whisk in cheeses. If necessary (it never has been for me), whisk in more milk by 1/4 cupfuls until sauce is thick but pourable. Season with salt and pepper.

Melt 4 tablespoons butter in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add panko and stir until very light golden, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in parsley.

Cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until just tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally. Drain well. Add pasta to the warm cheese mixture. Transfer mixture to prepared baking dish. Sprinkle crumb mixture evenly over. Bake mac and cheese until heated through and topping is golden brown, about 30 minutes.