Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Carrot Tea Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

I'm finally moving on to the "C" recipes. Don't forget about the apron giveaway. I'll be picking a winning name out of a jar this Friday. Winner gets this fun apron:

Let the "C" begin!

Let's face it, I'd rather swim in a cesspool naked without goggles than eat a plateful of carrots. But it felt sacrilegious to feature vegetarian "C" recipes without as much as a nod to the carrot. So, here's my contribution to the nasty orange demon. There is one good thing about this recipe; my kids are eating their carrots in such a sweet way. As for me, I'm only in this for the cream cheese frosting :)

Carrot Tea Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
Serves 8
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pan
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled), plus more for pan
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 cup packed dark-brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup packed grated carrots (from about 2 carrots)
1 bar (8 ounces) cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup confectioners' sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 5-by-9-inch (6-cup) loaf pan. In a bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
Using an electric mixer, beat butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy; beat in eggs and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Beat in carrots. With mixer on low, gradually add flour mixture; beat just until combined. Transfer batter to prepared pan; bake until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 40 to 45 minutes. Let cool in pan 5 minutes. Turn cake out onto a wire rack, and let cool completely.
Make frosting: Using mixer, beat cream cheese, confectioners' sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla until fluffy. Frost top of cooled cake.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Bleu Cheese Macaroni

This is the last "B" recipe for now. Tomorrow I'll be offering you a sweet "C" recipe. How could I let "B" end without glorifying my absolute favorite cheese of all time? I love bleu cheese so much and this dish certainly showcases it perfectly. I'll warn you now that this is not a typical kid-style mac and cheese. If you want to go for something over-the-top decadent, you've simply got to try this. It's rich, super creamy and filling; a little goes a long way. You may be cursing me for the calories, but you'll be thanking me for a forkful of Gorgonzola heaven.

Note: I cut the recipe in half for myself (with plenty leftover) and used whole milk instead of heavy cream. Also, start off with less Bleu Cheese and add acording to taste.

Bleu Cheese Macaroni
2 cups uncooked elbow macaroni
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup sliced green bell pepper
1/2 cup sliced red bell pepper
3/4 cup heavy cream or whole milk
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1 cup crumbled blue cheese (or a little less if you don't want it so strong)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add macaroni and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until al dente; drain.
Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan over medium heat combine butter, salt, pepper and bell peppers. Simmer until heated through. Stir in cream, flour, yogurt, bleu cheese and Parmesan cheese.
Stir cooked macaroni into cheese mixture and serve hot.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Butterscotch Oatmeal with Spiced Pumpkin Butter

I have no idea how you’re going to thank me for this recipe. It’s that heavenly. This past weekend, I found a small jackpot of pumpkin recipes. Since Fall is approaching quickly and the stores are loaded with pumpkins now, I simply couldn't wait to make some pumpkin butter and share it with you. Just one problem: Pumpkin butter starts with the letter P and I’m still on letter B. So I thought to myself, what can I put the pumpkin butter on so that I can still sneak it in now? Oatmeal came to mind but that starts with the letter O. Then, out of NOWHERE, the phrase Butterscotch Oatmeal with Spiced Pumpkin Butter hit me like a bolt of lightning. Butterscotch???? What the Hell? So I Googled it and found one obscure recipe! It turned out so incredibly phenomenal. Imagine the mellow flavor of butterscotch accented with the earthy spice of pumpkin butter. Then add on some toppings like toasted coconut, roasted almonds and crisp Granny Smith apple slivers. Oh my stars! Yes, you’ll find a way to thank me, I’m sure.

Butterscotch Oatmeal (from the collection of

(2 servings)

1 and 3/4 cups milk
1 cup rolled oats
1 egg - beaten
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 Tablespoons butter
In a medium-sized sauce pan at medium-high heat, combine milk, egg and brown sugar. Stir in the oats. Cook until you get a rapid boil. Reduce heat to simmer and cook until thick. When you get your desired consistency, stir in the butter until melted and mixed. Sprinkle with toppings.

Spiced Pumpkin Butter

2 cups canned pumpkin
3/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup apple juice
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt

In large heavy saucepan, combine all ingredients. Bring to boil, reduce heat. Cook uncovered, over medium heat for about 20 minutes or until thick, stirring frequently. Careful for mixture splattering. Let it cool and spoon in to an airtight container. Store in refrigerator for 1 week; freezer for 6 months.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Banana Chip Cookies

These are one of my favorite cookie recipes. I admit that I've been disenchanted with vegetarian desert recipes. But I've been a big fan of 101 Cookbooks blog for quite some time. Heidi finds a way to take very healthy, wholesome ingredients and turn them into delicious dishes. I've been making these cookies for my husband for a while now. He's got quite the sweet tooth and I feel better that he's eating cookies with whole wheat flour and natural raw sugar. Trust me when I write that these cookies are bursting with flavor and yummy goodness! The trick to baking these cookies is to NOT overcook them (7 minutes total). They might not seem fully cooked when you initially pull them out of the oven but, once they cool down, they are the perfect consistency. If you overcook them, they will turn out like rocks. Also, always use parchment paper when you're baking. I think it helps to turn out the perfect cookie every time (easy to find in the supermarket with the aluminum foil and saran wrap).

Banana Chip Cookie Recipe

If you can't find whole wheat pastry flour, regular all-purpose white flour will work. If you can't find wheat germ, substitute an equal amount of flour. I look for organic banana chips - the ones I like are made with organic coconut oil and bananas.
1 3/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour (see head notes)
1/2 cup (toasted) wheat germ
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
scant 1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 cup natural cane sugar (or brown sugar)
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2/3 cup banana chips, loosely chopped
1 cup chocolate chips
2/3 cup toasted walnuts, chopped
Preheat oven to 375 degrees, racks in middle/upper middle. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
Whisk together the flour, wheat germ, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
In a large bowl, or stand mixer, beat the butter until lightly and fluffy, then beat in the sugar until it is the consistency of a thick frosting. Beat in the eggs one at a time, incorporating each fully before adding the next, and scraping down the sides of the bowl a few times along the way (important!). Stir in the vanilla. Add the reserved flour mix in two increments, stirring/mixing a bit between each addition (but not too much). By hand, stir in the banana chips, chocolate chips and walnuts - mix just until everything is evenly distributed.
Drop 1 heaping tablespoon of dough for each cookie onto the prepared baking sheets 2 inches apart and bake for about 7 - 8 minutes, until barely golden on top and bottom. Resist over baking, they will come out dry and not as tasty. Cook on racks.
Make about 24 cookies.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Basil Pesto

Basil pesto has been a long standing favorite of mine. I love the flavors of olive oil, garlic, Parmesan cheese and pine nuts. Basil is such a nice herb to work with. You can snip it off and add it to sauces for subtle flavor or you can go on basil overload and whip up some pesto. I've been known to slather pesto on my veggies and tofu slices while they're grilling. Simply said, basil pesto adds a wonderful flavor to just about anything you're cooking from pasta to bruschetta. The recipe for basil pesto is very simple and pretty much the same from cookbook to cookbook. This one comes from Giada De Laurentiis's "Giada's Family Dinners."

It all starts with this:

Try it on french bread slices with a little blue cheese and roasted red pepper:

Here it is over gnocci with fresh chopped summer tomato:

Basil Pesto (makes 1 cup)

2 cups packed fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
1 large garlic clove
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2/3 cup olive oil
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

In a food processor, pulse the basil, pine nuts, garlic, 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper until finely chopped. With the food processor still running, gradually add enough olive oil to form a smooth and thick consistency. Transfer the pesto to a medium bowl and stir in the cheese. Season the pesto with more salt and pepper to taste. Pesto can be made 2 days ahead. Cover and refrigerate.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Bow ties and kasha

It’s kosher time in the neighborhood.

I live in a highly populated Jewish area. In the local supermarket, there’s an entire section of the store dedicated to the kosher community. I used to be married to a Jewish man, so I know the culture. If I may be so bold to give myself snaps, my matzo balls were legendary in these parts. Many a Jewish maven picked my brain for the recipe. Who knew the shiksa could make a killer ball?! But today’s recipe is not the Matzo Ball (unless I want to feature it as “Ball, Matzo” under my “B” category). But I digress. Bow Ties with Kasha is something I’ve always wanted to try but never got around to making. It’s also a recipe steeped in Jewish tradition. So, today I decided to go to my local supermarket and hang out in the kosher department with a bewildered look on my face. You see, there’s a high holiday being celebrated in the Jewish community and I suspected the supermarket would be swarming with good Jewish women doing their food shopping for the big dinner on Saturday night. And I was right. Of course I could just Google the recipe for Bow Ties and Kasha but it’s much more rewarding to get the best recipe straight from the horse’s mouth. All it took was a few inquiries and I had a handful of mavens offering suggestions. It took a little playing and adjusting, but it was well worth it. Kasha, if you aren’t aware, is actually buckwheat grains. I love the nutty flavor. I did something completely unorthodox and splashed it with a little Panang Curry sauce from Whole Foods for some extra zip. Yummy!!!

Bow Ties and Kasha
3 oz. bow tie pasta (about 1/4 of a full 12 oz. box)
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
one large onion, chopped
3 large cloves of garlic, minced
one cup sliced mushrooms
salt and black pepper to taste
one egg, beaten
1/2 cup of kasha (whole roasted buckwheat groats)
1 cup vegetable broth
1/4 cup of panang curry sauce (this is very mild and OPTIONAL)

1. Heat olive oil in a large non-stick skillet. Add onions, garlic, mushrooms and salt and pepper to taste. Cook until the onions and mushrooms are nice and tender. Remove and set aside in a bowl.

2. In a pot, cook the bow tie pasta until tender and done (about 15-20 minutes). Drain and toss with the onion/mushroom mixture.

2. In a small bowl, beat the egg and add the kasha until it is well coated. Add them to the skillet that you cooked the onion/mushroom mixture in. Cook them on high for about 2-3 minutes until the grains are toasted and separated. Reduce the heat to low and add the vegetable broth. Cover and cook for about 7 minutes until the broth is absorbed. Add the pasta, onion/mushroom mixture and the panang curry sauce. Heat it through and serve in bowls.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Bruschetta; two ways

Today marks the beginning of "B" recipes. Today's feature is embarrassingly simple but sometimes simple does the trick. I've always been a BIG fan of "little dishes". Anything ranging from Dim Sum to Tapas. If life were perfect, I would eat 5 or 6 little meals instead of 3 each day. Bruschetta is a perfect way to enjoy crusty french bread and a few favorite toppings. So easy to put together too! For lunch today, I made some traditional bruschetta with tomato and basil and another variety using blue cheese, toasted pine nuts and black olives.

1. a few hours before making the bruschetta, chop a big ripe tomato and add 1/4 cup of chopped basil and one minced garlic clove. Drizzle with a tiny bit of olive oil, cover and marinate. The longer you let it marinate, the yummier it tastes!

2. Buy a loaf of fresh crusty French bread. Slice it in to 1/4 inch slices and toast lightly. Rub each slice with a garlic clove and drizzle olive oil. Top the toasted bread with a heaping spoonful of the tomato and basil mixture. For the blue cheese bruschetta, follow the same steps but top with a slab of blue cheese, toasted pinenuts and black olives.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Ridiculously simple "A" recipes

I'm nearing the end of the "A" recipes and I'll be a busy bee researching some "B" foods, which will start next week. Today, my "A" choices hardly need any explanations; I think they speak for themselves!

Sometimes in the afternoon, I crave a nice healthy snack with my green smoothie. I can think of nothing better than red delicious apple slices slathered with triple cream Castello Blue Cheese. You want the recipe? Simple. Slice an apple and spread on the blue cheese. There are all kinds of yummy, buttery blue cheeses ranging from Castello to Saga. Pears work well with the cheese too. So do Asian Pears, which are a funky hybrid of pear and apple.

Another favorite for me is the Avocado. I could eat them right out of their skins with a little shaker of sea salt and garlic powder. But this week, I've been slicing them and making whole wheat pita sandwiches for lunch. For an added special treat, I take a few tablespoons of light mayonnaise and blend it with crushed garlic, sea salt and pepper. It makes a lovely spread that really enhances the flavor of the avocado. I toast my pita bread, open it up and stuff it with avocado slices, fresh tomatoes and lettuce. Serve it up with some kale chips!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Apple filled crepes with granola and roasted almonds

It was only fair to include a fruit recipe in my alphabetical cooking. Today, it's all about the apple. I had this for a very late breakfast but I imagine it could also turn a few heads as a dessert too! I decided to add some homemade granola and chopped roasted almonds as a topping.

Sauteed Apples
1/4 cup butter
4 large tart apples - peeled, cored and sliced 1/4 inch thick
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/2 cup cold water
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

In a large skillet or saucepan, melt butter over medium heat; add apples. Cook, stirring constantly, until apples are almost tender, about 6 to 7 minutes.
Dissolve cornstarch in water; add to skillet. Stir in brown sugar and cinnamon. Boil for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and serve warm.

Simple Crepes
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup water
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter, melted

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour and the eggs. Gradually add in the milk and water, stirring to combine. Add the salt and butter; beat until smooth.
Heat a lightly oiled griddle or frying pan over medium high heat. Pour or scoop the batter onto the griddle, using approximately 1/4 cup for each crepe. Tilt the pan with a circular motion so that the batter coats the surface evenly.
Cook the crepe for about 2 minutes, until the bottom is light brown. Loosen with a spatula, turn and cook the other side. Serve hot.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Artichoke sauce over linguine

I admit that artichokes have always been a mystery to me. My mother never made them once when I was growing up and even if she did, I wouldn't have touched them with a ten foot pole; corn was the only vegetable that passed my lips back then. Nowadays when I go to the Farmers Market, I eye them as a thing of beauty. Just the form of an artichoke is something to behold. But, I'm still too intimidated to buy the fresh ones and figure out how to prepare them. So yesterday, I bought canned artichokes and used them in to a delicious sauce for linguine. I'm sure that one day I will tackle a fresh one but for now, I'm happy to used the ones that come marinated in a jar or a can. I now offer up recipe number two in the "A" category. This pasta was just awesome. I think the fresh lemon juice and addition of tomato really brought it to life!

Artichoke Sauce with Linguine

¼ cup butter
¼ cup olive oil
1 tablespoon flour
1 cup vegetable broth (or chicken for meat eaters)
1 clove garlic, minced
Juice of one fresh lemon
Salt and white pepper to taste
One 14-ounce can artichoke hearts packed in water, drained
2 tablespoons parmesan cheese
2 teaspoons capers, rinsed, drained
2 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley

1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon parmesan cheese
¼ teaspoon salt
1 pound linguine, cooked, drained
1 large, ripe tomato, chopped

Melt ¼ cup of butter with ¼ cup olive oil in saucepan over medium heat. Stir in flour until thickened, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to low. Add garlic, lemon juice and salt & pepper to taste. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Cut artichokes in to slices. Add with 2 tablespoons cheese, capers and parsley to sauce. Simmer, covered, for 8 minutes. Melt one tablespoon butter with 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Stir in remaining cheese and a teaspoon of salt. Add linguine and chopped tomato, tossing lightly. Arrange linguine and tomato on a platter. Cover with artichoke sauce.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Tomato Gravy

I know that Italians refer to their tomato sauce as "gravy" but, trust me, this is not the Italian version. I'm breaking protocol here today with my alphabetical cooking, since I'm still on the letter "A". But there was no way I could wait until the letter "T" to give you this mouthwatering recipe. I believe it will quite possibly be the easiest thing you've made since toast and I think you'll thank me for finding such a delicious way to use up all of those tomatoes.

Here's the story. When I was growing up, my dad made tomato gravy every summer. Usually at the end of the summer when the fat, juicy, overripe tomatoes were falling off the vines. He served his over a bed of white rice. Oh, my god how I loved his tomato gravy! So this weekend, I met my friend Wayne at the Farmers Market. Outside, while waiting for him, I spotted big white boxes of huge, juicy tomatoes. I immediately took out my camera and began snapping away. When I got home, I called my dad to find out what his recipe was for tomato gravy. I couldn't reach him so I went on with my day. A few hours later, my mother called to tell me that she and my dad had been out shopping and saw two bags of big, juicy tomatoes. My dad immediately snatched them up thinking about his tomato gravy. He bought one bag for me and one bag for him. Call it Kismet. Call it clairvoyant. I call it a reason to make one of the best damn comfort foods I can ever remember. This tomato gravy is so simple. Only 3 main ingredients: butter, flour and tomatoes. That's it. I've made it for my lunch today just the way dad did; over a bed of white rice. I've just enough left over to heat it up tomorrow and mix it in with some linguine or shells and some fresh Parmesan cheese.

Tomato Gravy
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
3 large, ripe tomatoes
salt, pepper, garlic powder and fresh basil, if you have it.

Melt the butter in a large skillet. Add the flour and wisk until thick and smooth. Chop up all of the tomatoes and add them to the roux. Make sure to add the pulp of the tomato too (the juice of the tomato is what makes the gravy). You will see the tomatoes begin to cook and turn in to a nice, thick gravy. There is no need to add any liquid! Season the gravy with salt, cracked black pepper, garlic powder and freh snipped basil. Turn it down to a low simmer while the rice cooks. Spoon it over a bed of rice and enjoy!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Asparagus quiche and some sweet redemption

I believe I have redeemed myself since the Alsatian Tart fiasco. Last night, determined to be successful with dessert, I whipped up a Peanut Butter Pie with Chocolate Shavings. Just the kind my mother used to make and trust me, that woman doesn't make any kind of low fat dessert! Here is a secret I'll reveal: I have always wanted to have a pie thrown in my face. It's true. I don't want it staged either. I want to ambushed with a Boston Cream or blueberry pie. Key Lime I don't care for, so don't ring on my door bell with that in hand. Last night's pie has definitely made it to my list of "acceptable pies to be thrown in my face". is about my first letter A recipe.

I had a craving for a quiche last night. I love quiche on so many levels: it can be served for breakfast, it's great leftover and it's damn easy to put together. I opted for an asparagus quiche with tomatoes and a nice quirky addition of Tabasco sauce and Dijon mustard for a nice little kick. I'll be eating it for lunch today with a nice little spring salad. Don't forget to leave a comment here for a chance to win a funky apron! In your comment, let me know of something meatless that you like to eat. It's that simple.

Asparagus Quiche

1/2 cup chopped onion
1 pound fresh asparagus, trimmed
1 medium tomato, chopped
1 cup shredded Swiss cheese
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
a few dashes of Tabasco sauce
1 (9 inch) unbaked pastry shell
3 eggs
1/2 cup half-and-half cream

In a skillet, saute onion in a little bit of butter or olive oil until browned;
Cut eight asparagus spears into 4-in.-long spears for garnish. Cut remaining asparagus into 1-in. pieces. In a steaming basket, cook all of the asparagus until crisp-tender; drain.
In a bowl, toss the onion, asparagus pieces, tomato, cheese, flour, salt and pepper. Pour into pastry shell. In a bowl, beat eggs, cream, Dijon mustard and Tabasco sauce; pour over asparagus mixture. Top with asparagus spears. Bake at 400 degrees F for 30-35 minutes or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean and crust is golden brown. Let stand for 10 minutes before cutting.