Baking · Dessert

Sour Cream Coffee Cake

I have been baking this cake all December for other people to enjoy. I think with Christmas being on a much smaller scale, I am trying to find ways to show appreciation and love to people I hold dear, but can’t necessarily see. Under normal circumstances, I would be sharing this with others, laughing, celebrating the holidays, and feeling rushed. This year is quiet and offers time to be more introspective and appreciative of the relationships that we do have.

This is not my recipe, but one of my absolute favorites I have adapted from Barefoot Contessa. I do several things differently; first, I like to use a bundt pan instead of a loaf pan for presentation. Another is that I don’t add the nuts to the streusel (I left it here in case you prefer it that way). I often use the maple glaze when making this for other people. However, when I want to make this less sweet for home, I skip the glaze and simply dust with powdered sugar.

The result is a very creamy edible coffee cake (or anytime cake) that pleases everyone. We fall back on it for presents to other people, mother’s day, and any occasion that calls for cake. It is a personal family favorite – it is rich, comforting and lovely.

Total Time: one and 1/2 hours

Ease of Recipe: medium

You will need:

For the cake:

  • 12 tablespoons (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1½ cups granulated sugar
  • 3 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1¼ cups sour cream, at room temperature
  • 2½ cups cake flour OR 2 1/4 cup all purpose flour and 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • For the streusel:
  • ¼ cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, diced
  • ¾ cup chopped walnuts or pecans

  • For the glaze:
  • ½ cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup

Step one:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a bundt pan.

Step two:

Cream the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment for 4 to 5 minutes, until light. Add the eggs one at a time, then add the vanilla and sour cream. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture to the batter until just combined. Finish stirring with a spatula to be sure the batter is well mixed.

Step three:

For the streusel, place the brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, salt, and butter in a bowl and pinch together with your fingers until it forms a crumble. Mix in the nuts.

Step four:

Sprinkle half of the streusel in the bottom of the bundt pan. Spoon half the batter into the pan and spread it out with a knife. Sprinkle with the rest of the streusel. Spoon the rest of the batter in the pan, spread it out. Bake for 45 to 55 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean.

Allow to cool on a wire rack for 30 minutes. Carefully transfer the cake. Whisk the confectioners’ sugar and maple syrup together, adding a few drops of water, if necessary, to make the glaze thick but runny. Drizzle the glaze over the cake with a small spoon. Serve at room temperature.

Notes: If you don’t have cake flour, you can substitute 2¼ cups all-purpose flour plus ¼ cup cornstarch.

If the eggs are cold, place the whole eggs in a bowl of warm water for 5 minutes before cracking them.

Side dish

Homemade Whipped Cream

All you need is three ingredients and this incredibly versatile topping. I use this for cakes, pies, and my personal favorite, served alongside fresh strawberries.

Total Time: 15 minutes

You will need:

  • A hand mixer and a bowl (chilled, if you have time)
  • I cup – Heavy Cream or Whipping Cream (cold)
  • Confectioner’s Sugar, to taste (2 tbs – 1/4 cup)
  • Vanilla, to taste (1/2 – 1 tsp)

Begin with cold cream – the colder the cream, the lighter the result. Whip your mixture for about 10-15 minutes, until medium peaks have formed.

Chill in the refrigerator until needed.

Serve with fresh fruit or use to top a cake or pie.

Baking · Dessert · Recipes

Fresh Ginger Cake

My family and I adore all things ginger and gingerbread. Gingerbread and ginger cakes were a specialty of my mother’s family, so baking them creates a nostalgia and peace for me, especially during the holidays. This year, everything seem so displaced and disjointed; we cannot gather the same we used to, and we cannot have all of the faces we wish to see around the table.

So, this morning, I found myself thinking of my grandmother and wanting to make ginger cake. I can tell you that, rolling up my sleeves and sifting the flour on my wooden kitchen table, made me feel more connected – even though she passed away 26 years ago, and even though my Thanksgiving and Christmas are far smaller than what I am used to.

Here is the recipe. It is a little more nuanced than most ginger cakes, in my opinion. Most ginger cakes and bread have a cloying sweetness that I don’t care for. The addition of clove and cinnamon give it a depth. Of course, if you prefer things sweeter, feel free to add an extra half cup of sugar. You can top this with confectioner’s sugar, or a home-made whipped cream. Either are lovely. I hope you like it and that it gives you some comfort during a rough year.

Total Time: 2 hours; one hour to prepare and bake and one hour to cool

You will need:

  • 6-8 ounces fresh ginger, peeled and minced.
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 and 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup (8 oz) unsulfured molasses
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) melted butter
  • 1/3 cup water
  • Confectioner’s sugar, for dusting

Step one:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a food processor, pulse ginger until finely chopped. This should generate about one cup. Grease a bundt cake pan and set aside.

Step two:

In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and cloves. In another bowl, whisk together sugar and eggs.

Step three:

On a stove top, heat the butter over medium-low heat. Stir in molasses, water and fresh ginger until fully blended. Add the molasses mixture to the bowl with sugar and eggs. Combine. Gently fold in flour mixture until just combined.

Step four:

Pour cake batter into pan and bake until a toothpick comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Transfer pan to a wire rack and let it cool completely for an hour. Then, run a knife around the edge of the cake and invert. Dust with confectioner’s sugar or homemade whipped cream.

Italian · Mediterranean · Recipes

Asiago & Spinach Steak

This is a great recipe for those who love steak and spinach. With the exception of tying the meat, the recipe is very quick to throw together and to cook overall.

Although I prefer Asiago cheese for this recipe, you can certainly substitute Pecorino-Romano or Parmesan if you prefer.

You will need:

  • 2 packages frozen, chopped spinach – thawed and drained (10 oz each).
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley
  • 1/4 cup fresh grated Asiago cheese
  • 2 Tbs capers, rinsed and drained
  • 2 tbs balsamic vinegar
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 small flank steak (1 lb)
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • twine

Step one:

Line baking sheet with aluminum foil. Heat broiler with rack set 4 inches from heat source. Place spinach in a kitchen towel and squeeze out excess moisture.

Step two:

In a medium boil, mix spinach, capers, garlic, cheese, parsley, balsamic vinegar, and red pepper. Season with salt and pepper and mix to combine.

Step three:

Cut open steak. Rub with olive oil.

Cut several pieces of kitchen twine. Spread spinach mixture down the center of the meat. Roll steak over mixture and press firmly to compact the filling. Tie twine to secure the roll. Cut roll in half crosswise, seam side down. Rub outer part with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

Step four:

Broil until browned, 8-10 minutes for medium rare. Let rest for 10 minutes. Remove string and slice steak into 1/2 inc pieces.

Recipes

Drunken Noodles

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Recipe Ease: easy

Length: 25 minutes

I’m a big fan of Thai Food. My personal favorites are Tom Yum Soup and Red Curry; however, I will never turn down a bowl of Drunken Noodles. The spice, the aroma comforts me instantly.

When I did my research (okay, just googled) the name, I found many theories. Some say you have to be drunk to eat all of that spice, or that the chef must be drunk to throw in such a variety of ingredients, or that it is a famous hangover cure. Regardless, the dish didn’t seem that difficult to make.

While you could find most of the ingredients at a typical grocery store, I opted to go to an international market which had a huge variety of soy sauce, fish sauce and the like. The recipe calls for thick soy sauce, and this is far more thick than the soy sauce we are used to. You could add molasses or honey to regular or use Hoisin in a pinch. I pointed out in the ingredient list where you can use a substitute if you have trouble tracking down the ingredients.

The beauty of the dish is you can put in whatever you like. Many recipes called for egg or tofu. I added in some baby bok choy because it looked so fresh and nice at the supermarket. We served it with beer, and it was the perfect dish for a cold, snowy night.

You will need:

  • 12 oz bag rice flake noodles, soaked in warm water for 8 -10 minutes and drained.
  • 2-3Tbsp. Thai chili garlic oil (you can use sriracha)
  • 4 Tbsp thick soy sauce
  • 4 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 Tbsp Oyster sauce
  • 4 Tbsp Fish sauce
  • 3 tbs sesame oil (you can use canola)
    3 cloves garlic, minced.
    1 shallot, sliced
  • 2 green onions, sliced
    12 medium sized shrimp, cleaned
  • 1/2 1lb chicken breast, sliced thinly
    1 red bell pepper cut into bite-sized pieces.
    1 Cup packed fresh thai basil leaves. (you can use regular basil)

 

What gorgeous veggies

I found some great sauces at the local international mart

 

One package easily fed 5 people
Steps:
1. Whisk Thick soy, soy sauce, oyster sauce, chili oil and fish sauce together and set aside.

2. Heat a large wok or the biggest skillet you have over medium heat. Add oil to skillet and cook garlic, onions and shallots until light brown.


3.  Add chicken and cook for about 5 minutes. Add shrimp and cook for an additional 2 minutes.

4. Add drained noodles, bell pepper, sauce mixture, and stir fry five minutes

5. Add basil and cook for a bout two minutes or until some of the noodles are a bit crisp on the edges

Italian · Recipes

Classic Lasagna

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I love lasagna, whether it is your typical Italian-American affair or something a little more experimental. This version is one of my favorites – the fresh ingredients give it a lighter, more delicate quality that you would not normally expect with lasagna. Of course, you can switch out the herbs and cheese for the dried or shredded variety, but the taste will be lost in translation.

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Fresh Parmesan makes all of the difference

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup chopped yellow or white onion (1 small)
  • 1 pound sweet Italian turkey sausage (casings removed)
  • 1 can (28 oz) crushed tomatoes
  • 1 can (6 oz) tomato paste
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • ½ cup chopped fresh basil leaves
  • Kosher salt
  • Black pepper
  • ½ pound lasagna noodles (oven ready)
  • 1 cup fresh grated parmesan cheese, plus additional for sprinkling
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1 pound fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced

Step one:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet. Add the onion and cook for 5 minutes until translucent over medium-low heat. Add the garlic and cook for one more minute.

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Add the sausage and cook over medium-low heat, breaking it up with a fork until no longer pink.

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Step two:

Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, 2 tbs of the parsley, all of the basil, 1 ½ tsp salt, ½ tsp pepper. Simmer over medium-low heat for 15-20 minutes, until thickened.

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Step three:

In a large bowl, combine ricotta, 1 cup parmesan, and the remaining parsley, ½ tsp of salt and ¼ tsp pepper.

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Step four: The Layering!

Spoon 1/3 of the sauce into a 9 x 13 pan and spread it over the bottom. Add ½ of the noodles, half the mozzarella, half the ricotta mixture and 1/3 of the sauce.

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First layer, before adding the ricotta
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After the ricotta

Next – add the rest of the noodles, mozzarella, ricotta and finally the sauce. Top with bout ¼ of Parmesan. Bake for 30 minutes until the sauce is bubbling.

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Before I put it in the oven
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The end result:)

Notes:

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I like to press the garlic clove with the flat end of my knife, then cut and mince.

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 The herbs can be chopped with a knife or cut/ribboned with kitchen scissors.

 

 

 

Italian · Recipes

Meatballs with fresh oregano

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Meatballs aren’t very glamorous, but they sure are comforting. Making them from scratch with fresh ingredients makes a huge difference in taste and really brings out the flavor – because so many people are used to greasy, store bought versions, they will think you have legendary skills when you share them.

I like the versatility – you can make it with poultry, use it in a garlic roll ( for maximum comfort food), serve it as a stand alone dish or top it over a steaming bowl of pasta. For busy folks like me, you can make extra and freeze ( they keep well), or take short cuts and still have a good dish.

My mom, who is my favorite cook, points out that it’s all in the technique- something I am glad to share with you. I use the 96% lean beef because I have to watch my cholesterol and I am not a big fan of grease. Most people would want to use a variety with more fat. As you know, fat = lots of flavor.

The Ingredients

  • 1lb of ground chuck
  • 1 large egg
  • 3 tsp minced garlic
  • salt & pepper
  • fresh oregano & parsley (* you can use dried)
  • olive oil
  • 1 can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 can whole peeled tomatoes
  • I roll (*you can use breadcrumbs)

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Tear the bread into pieces and process until fine. Assemble the beef, egg, bread, 1 tsp garlic, 1 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp pepper, oregano, parsley and blend well. The consistency should be sticky. If the mixture is too slimy, add more bread.

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The texture should be easy to roll between your two hands. Shape 12 meatballs. Make sure they are well-rolled to avoid them falling apart, but make sure not to be too rough as you want them to be juicy.

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Add 1 tsp of olive oil to the pan and swirl it around. Remember the oil here is for flavor only, so you don’t want to go overboard. The meat will create enough juice in the pan. You can use a non-stick like I did or use a regular pan if you prefer the meatballs to have a crunchier crust. Often, I will add a tiny bit of garlic here, as well.

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Brown the meatballs for about 7 minutes. I turn them gently with a fork or spoon. A common mistake is to squeeze the meatballs in order to get them to cook faster, but this destroys the juiciness and makes them tough. You barely want to touch them.

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Add the tomatoes (breaking them up with your spoon if desired), a little more oregano (1/4 tsp), 1 tsp garlic and salt & pepper to taste. You can add a pinch of sugar if you want to the sauce. Then, bring the sauce to a rapid boil and then reduce to a rolling simmer for 15 minutes or until the meatballs are done.

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I like to add fresh grated parmesan to the sauce.

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Voila. Steam not included:)

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*If you want to make a meatball sub, I would heat up the oven to 400 degrees. Split a few hoagie rolls and brush with olive oil and sprinkle with minced garlic, salt and pepper. Bake ten minutes and then add the meatballs and sauce.

Dessert · Mexican · Recipes

Arroz con Leche

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Arroz con leche recipes vary widely depending on what country you are dealing with. This one is based off a Costa Rican version that I searched long and hard for. I was trying to replicate my guy’s grandmother’s recipe, and with a few tweaks, it was a success. As a boy, he loved to eat it straight from the pan while it was hot and sweet- but it can be refrigerated and will last for days.

You need:

  1. 1 cup rice
  2. 4 1/2 cups water
  3. 2 cinnamon sticks
  4. 3 cloves
  5. 1 can evaporated milk
  6. 2 cans condensed milk
  7. 1 tsp vanilla
  8. 1 egg yolk
  9. 1/2 tbs grated orange skin
  10. pinch of salt

Step one: add orange peel, h20, cinnamon sticks and cloves to a sauce pan.

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Bring to a boil and then add rice. When the rice has absorbed all of the water, add evaporated milk.

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This is the consistency you are gunning for.

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Step two: Bring to a boil again, and then add condensed milk, salt and vanilla.

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Step three: Boil for 10-15 minutes.

Step four: Add the yolk and mix well.

Enjoy:)

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Baking · Italian

Rosemary Ciabatta Bread

I have been stress baking lately, and looking to truly get more knowledgeable with my baking. I have always considered myself a much stronger cook than baker, although I have some solid basic skills, thanks to my mother). My mother’s family used to own a bakery, and had the ability to hand make (and slice) dobos tortes and other delicacies. I have, like so many of us, warm memories playing in dough and creating joy for others. So, getting more skilled at baking, in many ways, is a return to my roots.

This recipe is adapted from Paul Hollywood (The Great British Bake Off). It uses a free-standing mixture. Ciabatta is normally very wet, so using the freestanding mixer simplifies the process. This recipe calls for a long, steady rise. Resist the temptation to add more flour or rush things along.

I added in rosemary, because it is my favorite herb to add to bread. It has so many healing properties (anti-inflammatory, soothing your stomach, relief from cramps) that I can’t help but use it for my foccaccia, ciabatta and rustic breads. I have two large bushes that grow in my yard, so the rosemary I use is organic and fresh.

You will need:

  • 4 cups white bread flour
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp instant yeast
  • A freestanding mixer
  • A square plastic tupperware (with lid) lightly oiled with olive oil. The square helps shape the loaf.
  • Semolina (for dusting)
Side dish

Thin Mint Cupcakes

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My daughter wanted to enter a baking contest so we decided to embrace the Girl Scout cookie season. We tweaked a standard mint cupcake recipe – source (www.yourcupofcake.com), and added Thin Mints to the mix.

Yield: 24 Cupcakes

The Verdict? These were absolutely delicious. They were time consuming, but so worth it!

What you need:

 
1 cup sour cream
½ cup oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 eggs
¼ cup water
½ cup buttermilk
Devil’s Food Cake Mix
Chocolate Mint Filling:
1/3 cup chocolate chips
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 teaspoon peppermint extract
¼ cup powdered sugar
Mint Buttercream Frosting:
8 oz cream cheese
6 tablespoons butter
3-4 cups powdered sugar
1 tablespoon heavy cream or milk
1 teaspoon peppermint extract
green food coloring
Thin Mint Cookies – one box (break cookies in half)
Step one:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line two cupcake pans with paper liners.
Step two:
2. Using a whisk, mix sour cream, oil and vanilla extract together. Add eggs one at a time, stirring well in between each addition.
3. Alternate adding the cake mix and liquids (buttermilk and water), starting and ending with the cake mix.
4. Fill liners 2/3 full and bake for 14-18 minutes, or until and inserted knife come out clean.
Step three
1. Chocolate Mint Filling: Melt chocolate chips and heavy cream together in the microwave or on the stovetop over medium heat. Stir in peppermint extract and powdered sugar.
2. When cupcake come out of the oven, use a squeeze bottle to fill the cupcake with the filling, or use the filling as a ganache and dip the tops of the cakes into it.
3. Mint Buttercream: Beat cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy. Add powdered sugar, heavy cream and peppermint extract and beat well. Add green food coloring and stir well
4. Pipe buttercream onto cooled cupcakes and top with a broken thin mint cookie.
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The finished product
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