~ "By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established; Through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures." ~ "Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing" ~ "But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy." ~ "Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths."~

Monday, May 4, 2015

Easy Moist Chocolate Cake ... with chocolate ganache.

Easy Moist Chocolate Cake ... with chocolate ganache. I know this isn't something new... it's just chocolate cake. BUT... it's a moist cake with deep chocolate flavor. Ok, maybe most chocolate cakes can vouch for that. However, I like this cake for it's simplicity... and well, for the fact that it doesn't use 2 cups of sugar... nor does it use lots of eggs, because sometimes you only have a single egg in the fridge. I like it because it reminds me of those box cake mixes... and yet it's made from scratch. The cake is light, tender and fluffy, but with enough structure to take on a chocolate ganache.... and somehow, a slice doesn't feel too heavy when eaten with a cup of coffee.

You can make this cake using simple ingredients, but the outcome can be anything but simple... depending on how you adapt it. It's super delicious with the addition of a chocolate ganache. While I posted the basic recipe, feel free to add all sorts of flavorings to the cake or ganache (orange peel, mint, Irish cream, etc.)... a sprinkle of chopped nuts would be good too. For Christmas, crushed mint candies would be nice on top of the ganache. For Thanksgiving, you could add some warm spices to the cake batter and top the ganache with some chopped dried cranberries and maybe some crushed nuts.  The cake is simple to make and can be "stretched" to feed quite a few people....

I made this cake awhile back... a few times... and found the cake adaptable to many uses. This cake is great as a simple snack cake with powdered sugar(no ganache), also good crumbled to make cake pops... or served elegantly with ganache along with a scoop of ice cream, whipped cream or even a drizzle of raspberry coulis. However it's served, I found it worthy to post:). Hope you enjoy...

You will need: adapted from Food and Wine

Chocolate Cake
2 oz chopped chocolate, or chips
3/4 cup oil, I used extra light olive oil
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 TBS vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup Dutch-process cocoa powder, I used Hershey's dark
1 tablespoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup strong-brewed coffee, cooled
1 1/3 cup sour cream, original recipe uses 1 cup buttermilk

Ganache
1/3 cup heavy cream
3 ounces bittersweet chopped chocolate/ or chips

Optional, 
mini chocolate chips for topping

Directions:
  • Preheat the oven to 350° F. 
  • Oil a 12-cup Bundt pan.... I oiled and floured mine
1. In a small saucepan, melt 2 ounces of the chopped chocolate over low heat, stirring constantly. 
2. Scrape the chocolate into a medium bowl and let cool slightly. 
3. Whisk in the oil and sugar until smooth, then whisk in the egg and the vanilla extract.
4. In a small bowl, whisk the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt. 
5. Add half of the dry ingredients to the chocolate mixture along with 1/2 cup of the coffee and 1/2  of the sour cream(or buttermilk, if using); whisk until smooth. 
6. Add the remaining dry ingredients, coffee and sour cream(or buttermilk, if using)  and whisk until smooth.
7. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake in the lower third of the oven for about 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out with a few moist crumbs attached. 
8. Let the cake cool on a rack for 10 minutes, then turn it out and let cool completely.
9. In a small saucepan, bring the cream to a boil. Remove from heat and add the 3 ounces of chopped chocolate.  Let stand until melted, about 5 minutes. Whisk until smooth. Let the ganache glaze cool until thick but still pourable, about 5 minutes.
10. Pour the ganache over the cooled cake... sprinkle mini chips, if desired. Let the cake stand until the glaze is set, at least 30 minutes, before serving.


Friday, April 3, 2015

Raw Cauliflower Salad... with a tangy vinaigrette.

Raw Cauliflower Salad... with a tangy vinaigrette. When it comes to salads, I have to admit that I mainly stick to simple salads. Normally, I fluctuate between leafy lettuce or cabbage... and adding the usual suspects, onion, cucumber, and tomatoes. Sometimes, I'll look through my fridge and add that lone boiled egg, or a handful of seeds or nuts to go right along with the rest of the ingredients. At other times, I may add other bits and pieces of veggies that I may have around as well... such as cauliflower, celery or carrots. It's funny how oftentimes the "small" salad I originally intend to make... well, all of a sudden becomes this gigantic bowl of veggies:).

In any case, the other day, I had finished all the shredded cabbage I had in the fridge, and as there was no leafy lettuce around, I decided to use the cauliflower I had... and of course, used my usual "technique" of adding a few other ingredients I had in the fridge:). And you know what? The result was delicious.  

When it comes to using both cabbage and cauliflower in salads, you'll notice they both need quite a bit of acidity... they absorb it quickly(especially so if the salad sits overnight). You'll need to increase the acidity in the vinaigrette ... more so than you would otherwise add to a regular leafy salad. I prefer most times to use vinegar, but every so often will change things up a bit and add some lemon juice as well. 

While I ended up making this salad with ingredients I had in the house, you can easily be creative and use vegetables you prefer... or omit any you don't care for. 

Using cauliflower as the base of a salad is a wonderful idea, not only is it delicious, but it provides wonderful texture. As a bonus, the salad keeps well... even when made ahead. And because it has a tangy flavor, it can enhance many meaty dishes by cutting through their fat... from BBQ meats, braised meats, sausages, fried chicken and the likes.

The salad is also wonderful on its own... quite refreshing and filling!

Because I loved this salad, I thought to share it, in case you are looking for a different sort of salad to make... or you need a salad/side dish bring to a gathering that's mostly free of allergens. If you really want to make a meal of it, try adding some cooked beans, mungbeans, barley, chickpeas, etc.  Hope you enjoy... 

Tip: You can easily add in some pomegranate arils... and add a tablespoon or 2 of pomegranate molasses to the dressing. Feel free to use other herbs of choice... mint would be a good one. Lots of other vegetables would be good... fennel, cucumber, radishes, etc.

Note: Any type of dressing will work quite well, so feel free to use your favorite. I simply used what I had on hand.

You will need:
1/2 head(3 cups) cauliflower, diced
1 small bunch(1/2 cup) parsley, chopped
1 cup red bell pepper, diced
2 (1/2 cup) celery ribs, diced
5 thin(1/2 cup) green onion, chopped 
1/3 cup sliced almonds(can use other nuts or seeds of choice)

Dressing
3 TBS meyer lemon juice (can use regular lemons, but adjust amount to taste)
1 TBS white balsamic vinegar
2-3 TBS olive oil, can use a nut oil if desired
1/2 tsp spicy sesame oil, optional
3/4-1 tsp salt, or to taste
pepper to taste

Directions:

1. Prep all ingredients and set aside.
2. Make vinaigrette by whisking all the dressing ingredients together until mixed thoroughly.
3. In a large bowl toss vegetables together and add  the vinaigrette. Mix until evenly coated. Adjust taste and mix in almonds.
4. Pile salad in a clean bowl and serve straightaway... or allow salad to sit and absorb the dressing. The salad will get less tangy as the cauliflower absorbs the dressing. Also, the salad can be made ahead as it keeps well.... just mix in almonds before serving.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Romanian Oven-Roasted Cabbage... "Varza La Cuptor"

Romanian Oven-Roasted Cabbage... "Varza La Cuptor"... This cabbage dish has become one of my new favorites in the last few weeks. I've made it multiple times... and never got tired of it:).
What I love most about it is that it uses real basic ingredients, resulting in a dish I can eat for days. Funny thing is that I love it cold out of the fridge as well! I know...

Now, this dish has roots to my Romanian heritage. It was a dish made often in our home while growing up. Since my mom always had homemade sauerkraut in the house, she would make this dish using only fermented  cabbage...whole cabbage heads which she sliced thinly....  and she really didn't add any fresh cabbage like I do. But since I don't always have a barrel of sauerkraut on hand, I opt to "fill in" the sauerkraut amount with fresh cabbage and add some lemon juice to make up for some of the acidity sauerkraut imparts to the dish. 

But what I really like, is that on a whim, when I crave this dish, I can make it with just an 18 oz container of store-bought fermented sauerkraut... and a raw head of cabbage. Now I found a particular brand for sauerkraut(Wildbrine) that tastes exactly like the sauerkraut I grew up with... so that's what I used here. However, I've also used jarred Bubbies brand sauerkraut as well... without the garlic and dill flavor. 

If you like anything caramelized... onions especially, you might enjoy this dish. The cabbage in this dish bakes and releases wonderful aromas and tantalizing caramelized flavors. While you can add all sorts of other ingredients to the dish... I love it in its simplicity- cabbage, sauerkraut and onion. 

I am always amazed when simple ingredients produce a dish that's complex in flavors. In the end, the roasted cabbage should have a "dry" consistency... without any liquid lingering in the dish. 

Romanians love to pair this dish with sausages, fried pork chops and roast duck. A side of freshly made polenta usually completes the meal. I'm fine eating it by itself... but my husband enjoys it with sausage:). 

Next time, try roasting the cabbage in the oven... you'll notice roasting brings the cabbage to another level. Hope you enjoy...


Note: While I drained my sauerkraut of all the juice and added lemon juice instead, you can opt to not drain the  sauerkraut in case you have no lemon juice on hand... I like to reserve the sauerkraut juice for making soups and love to add lemon juice to the cabbage as it adds another level of acidity the cabbage needs.

Also, while I added the amounts needed for the cabbage and sauerkraut, you can easily adjust by adding more sauerkraut and less cabbage... same goes with the tomato paste or olive oil. For me these amounts work wonderfully well. The cabbage isn't too greasy, nor is it too tomato-y, nor too sour. But everyone's taste is different:)...

You will need:

Oven-Roasted Cabbage
1 head (3lb) green cabbage, sliced thin
1 med/large onion, sliced thin
1(18 oz) container, sauerkraut, drained- (mine was dill and garlic flavored)
3-5 TBS lemon juice, or to taste -I used 5 TBS meyer lemon juice
6 TBS olive oil
3 TBS tomato paste, can be optional
1 tsp sea salt, or to taste
pepper to taste

Other Additions Can Be Added To Taste:
smoked paprika
pepper flakes/cayenne
dill
caraway seeds
lardons of bacon
sausages, added at the end of the cooking time- or you can pan fry

Directions:
  • Preheat oven to 375 deg F
1. Gather ingredients. Drizzle a tablespoon of olive oil on the bottom of a large roasting pan( I used a 13x9 pan)
2. Slice cabbage thinly, can use mandoline if desired. Add to pan.
3. Slice onion thinly, can use mandoline if desired. Add to pan.
4. Drain sauerkraut(reserve liquid for other uses, such as soups) and add sauerkraut to the rest of cabbage ingredients that's in the pan.
5. In a small bowl, mix  the remainder of the olive oil(5 TBS), tomato paste(if using), salt, pepper and lemon juice until combined thoroughly. Pour over cabbage ingredients.
6. Mix all cabbage ingredients thoroughly until all cabbage is coated with the oil mixture. At this point you can add other ingredients you may like... I added some spicy red pepper. 
Note: If you find the pan is too small to mix all the cabbage ingredients in, then opt to mix them in a large bowl beforehand and then level it out in the roasting pan. 
7. Place pan in preheated oven and bake for 1 hour - 1 hour and 30 minutes... or until cabbage is nicely colored and caramelized... and all liquid is evaporated.  You will need to turn the cabbage over in the pan every 10-15 minutes... so the cabbage gets caramelized evenly. My cabbage was done around 1 hour and 15 minutes. 
NOTE: 
I made 2 versions of the oven-roasted cabbage... one with tomato paste ... and one without tomato paste. Both were delicious! So in case, you don't have any tomato paste, you can still enjoy making the dish with just a few simple ingredients. 


Thursday, February 12, 2015

Gluten-Free Beet Brownies

Gluten-Free Beetroot Brownies... I am always intrigued with different sorts of recipes... recipes that have something out of the ordinary included... such as an ingredient or a technique that's not usually expected. So when I picked up the mail the other day, I noticed our local natural food store flyer advertising the weekly sales... inside the flyer, there were also a couple of recipes. 

As you can guess, one of the recipes in the flyer was for beet brownies. I just had to make it. Why, the recipe was gluten-free as well... requiring minimal ingredients... not to mention that it looked super simple to make. Oh, and I love beets:). Just never used them in a dessert.

These brownies are real chocolaty... and while they are called brownies, they have more of a cake-like texture... but still maintaining a very moist and fudgy interior  I can easily see them doubling up as cupcakes, frosted with a natural whipped coconut frosting.  However, I think my husband wouldn't mind them with a scoop or 2 of ice cream. But since we have no ice cream in the house, he has been enjoying them straight out of the freezer:). Hope you enjoy...

Note: While the pictures show 2 beets, recipe uses only 1 beet... I was boiling another to make a savory beet salad :) ... therefore, the 2 beets in the pictures. However, you can easily double the recipe and bake in a 13x9 pan.

Tip: Feel free to top brownies with additional chunks of chocolate, chopped nuts... or adding other flavors to the batter, coffee, orange peel, etc. 

You will need: adapted from Natural Grocers

1 medium beet, cooked till soft, (about 1 cup pureed)
1⁄2 cup honey
2 TBS coconut oil
1 TBS vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 cup almond flour
1⁄2 cup cacao powder ( I used Hersheys' dark)
1 tsp baking powder
pinch of sea salt

Directions:
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. 
  • Line an 8x8 inch pan with parchment paper- can lightly grease paper.
1. Boil beet until easily pierced with a fork. ( I pressured cooked mine  for about 25 minutes or so).
2. Allow beet to cool before roughly chopping it and transferring it to a blender.
3. To the chopped beet, add the honey, coconut oil, and vanilla extract. Blend well until mixture is pureed finely... about a minute or so.
4. Stop blender and add the eggs and blend again until smooth... another 30 seconds or so.
5. In a large bowl, sift together the almond flour, cacao powder, baking powder and salt. 
6. Pour the beet mixture into the dry ingredients and mix well. 
7. Pour batter in prepared into 8x8 pan and level it out.
8. Bake for 35-45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out free of crumbs. Mine baked for 35 minutes.
9. Let cool completely before cutting. I especially like to cut and serve them after they have chilled in the fridge... somehow the flavors get better in the chilling process.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Pollo Relleno... Poblano Chile Stuffed Chicken with a Cornmeal Crust



Pollo Relleno... Poblano Chile Stuffed Chicken with Pepper Jack Cheese and a Cornmeal Crust. I felt the need to add a savory dish amongst all the sweets I've been posting lately. Maybe it's not been so "lately"... but rather more like last year:).  In any case, I hope you have all been doing well and enjoying the new year. 

I thought to stop by for a bit to share a savory dish... to give us all a little break from all the sugar in the previous posts:).

So recently I ran across a written recipe I had stashed away in a drawer, in one of my notebooks. There I keep bits and pieces of paper with all sorts of written recipes... recipes that I have kept over the years. So while looking through the papers, I found a recipe that sounded so delicious and different, that I instantly knew I was going to make it. Kept wondering why I 'd never made it before... and it didn't take long before I did make it. And then, I made it again:)...

I went ahead and changed some things with the original recipe... like roasting my own chiles and adding my own seasonings rather than using canned chiles or using prepared taco seasoning . But if you are in a hurry, or if you want to simplify the recipe, opt to use canned whole chiles and add about 2-3 teaspoons taco seasoning to the cornmeal.  

You know, we loved this variation to the usual stuffed chicken breasts. Just loved it! I'll admit, I wasn't exactly sure how the cornmeal crust would play out in the final taste, but it pleasantly surprised me. Sort of reminded me of the southern fried okra, or cornmeal battered catfish. I don't know what it was, but we loved the flavor of the pollo relleno...  the overall flavor was mild enough and not overpowering in any herb or spice. Oh, and it's baked and not fried. Always, always a plus:).

What I really liked about this dish, is that you can make as many or as few chicken rolls as you need. You can even slice the roll and use it as an appetizer. It works wonderfully well with a red chile sauce or salsa of sorts. I love paring it  with a simple oil and vinegar seasoned cabbage salad.... but you can serve it with other side dishes... macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes or spanish rice. All work well. Just click on the links above if you are interested in the cabbage salad or red chile sauce ... it will take you to the recipe directly without having to search through the recipe index:). 

The nice part is that the rolls are gluten-free, so if you are looking for a dinner-party-sort-of dish to make for the gluten-intolerant guest, these chicken rolls work wonderfully well. And if you are on a search, looking for different ways to cook chicken breast, well, you may want to try this recipe. Different and definitely not boring:). 

I must mention that the cornmeal should be of a fine grind, not coarse...don't want to have it taste too gritty:). The finer the cornmeal the better texture in the overall product. Also, of you really don't like the green poblano pepper taste, I don't see why you couldn't substitute it with a red roasted bell pepper. And if you don't like to use corn, opt for using some ground up almonds as an alternative. Of course, all theses changes  would taste a bit different, but the idea is to make something you like:). 

So here is another variation to the ever-so-popular chicken cordon bleu recipe I posted a few years back. Hope you enjoy...

Note: Can assemble rolls ahead a few hours... say, in the AM and bake later for dinner. Also, roasted chiles freeze well, so make extra for another day.

Tip: While rolling the chicken and battering it up in the egg and cornmeal can be a bit messy, the overall product sort of falls into place as it bakes. 
Feel free to use a toothpick to hold the chicken roll in place before dipping in egg and cornmeal. Allowing the dipped rolls to rest in the fridge for an hour or so will firm up the chicken and minimize the cheese from oozing out too much.
Also, feel free to use a stick of cheese rather than a slice of cheese for easier rolling... but I personally like the cheese to be spread out a bit.

Tip 2: I have made these also with the addition of a  thin slice of smoked turkey as well... along with the green chile and cheese. Went rather well...

You will need:

2 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves, (cut in 4 equal pieces)
salt and pepper to taste

Cornmeal crust seasoning:
1/3 cup cornmeal, fine grind
1 tsp ground onion powder
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp cumin powder
1/4 tsp chipotle powder, can use smoked/regular paprika if needed
couple of pinches of kosher salt, or to taste

Egg wash:
1 egg

Roasted Poblano Chile:
2 whole poblano chiles, roasted, skinned, seeded and cut in half lengthwise (or you can use canned whole green chili peppers)
salt and pepper to taste
drizzle of olive oil

Cheese Filling:
4 slices Monterey Jack cheese

Directions

Roast Poblano Chile:
1. Wash poblano chiles and dry. 
2. Place chiles in a broiler pan and broil until skin is blackened and blistered. 
3. Turn over and do the same to the second side of the chile. I usually do this in my toaster oven for about 10-15 minutes on each side. Time is approximate, just check to see when poblanos are blistering and getting that dark skin. 
4. Allow roasted poblanos to cool, then peel  and take out seeds along with the core. Season lightly with salt and pepper and a drizzle of olive oil. Cut in half lengthwise and set aside.  

5. Cut each chicken breast half in 2 equal pieces lengthwise...you should have a total of 4 thin chicken breasts. Season with salt and pepper.
6. Place each thin chicken breast half between 2 pieces of plastic wrap. Or you can place chicken breast inside a large ziploc bag.
7. Pound chicken lightly into a rough rectangle about 1/8 inch thick.... being careful not to pound too hard so as too tear the chicken. Remove plastic wrap.
8. In a bowl combine cornmeal and seasonings. Mix to combine. If your cornmeal is  a bit coarse, opt to run it through a blender to make it finer.... what I ended up doing.

9. Place egg in another bowl; beat lightly.
10. Assemble chicken rolls: Place a chili pepper half on  pounded chicken piece. Place a slice of cheese atop chili pepper. You can also use a cheese stick if you prefer and place it near an edge. Fold in sides and roll up jelly-roll style....and secure with toothpicks as needed. Now, I didn't fold my sides and therefore had a bit of the cheese ooze out. This is normal.
11. Dip rolls into egg and coat with cornmeal mixture. 
12. Place rolls, seam sides down, on a baking sheet pan.... I like to place them in the fridge to firm up before baking... for an hour or so. 
13. Bake, uncovered, in a 375 degree F oven for 25 to 30 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through.  I love baking the rolls in my toaster oven. Some of the cheese will ooze out, but I like to allow the cheese to firm up a bit as the rolls cool for about 5 minutes on the baking sheet... I then stuff the cheese back in the sides:). You can use a cheese that doesn't melt so easily... a hard cheddar.
Note: Now, I like to make these rolls in advance and place them in the fridge to firm up before baking... baking time might increase a bit. But I rather like the ability to prepare them in advance.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Lemon Crinkle Cookies

Lemon Crinkle Cookies... Moving on with posting more cookies in the cookie series. These lemon crinkle cookies were an absolute favorite. Such a unique and lemony cookie. Chewy and soft... and totally worth having the recipe in my recipe index. 

As much as my husband doesn't care for lemony desserts, this lemon crinkle cookie managed to be one of his very favorites... actually, it was on top of the list from all the cookies I made. So I'm excited to share the recipe... especially for all you lemony dessert fans. I think you'll enjoy this cookie... or at least I hope so:)

While the normal crinkle cookie will have you dip the cookie dough in icing sugar before baking, I felt the icing sugar could easily be omitted... it's just a thought I had as the icing sugar sort of disappears as it bakes and there's little of it left on the surface, so I think next time I'll just skip that step. Or maybe the cookie needs the dunk in the powdered sugar... I don't know:). I'll leave that up to to you.

However, what I thought went really well... was a drizzle of lemony icing sugar glaze I topped the cookies with after they had cooled. I'm sorry I didn't have the chance to photograph them with the glaze, but hopefully mentioning the glaze will be enough to give you the main idea... The thing was that the cookies not only looked pretty with the drizzle, but the glaze added yet another dimension of lemony goodness. Sort of pumped up the lemon flavor one extra notch.

The original recipe has you add some yellow food coloring as an option. If you don't mind adding food coloring  to your baked goods, then feel free to add a few drops as it will help the cookies to have that lemony look. I was tempted to add a touch of turmeric for color, but backed out of the idea as the cookies were going to be given away. Maybe next time I'll try the turmeric idea:). So here's another cookie recipe that's considered a winner. Hope you enjoy...

Wishing you all a most blessed Christmas... 
Remembering Christ's birth was for a reason... 
That we might have eternal life. 

" But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that He by the grace of God should taste death for every man. " Hebrews 2:9

You will need: adapted from Cooking Classy

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsps baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
10 TBS unsalted butter, softened
1 cup + 2 TBS granulated sugar
1 TBS lemon zest
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 1/2 TBS fresh lemon juice
3/4 tsp lemon extract ( I used 1 tsp)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup powdered sugar (optional)
lemon icing glaze optional, not pictured  (icing sugar+lemon juice to drizzling consistency)

Directions
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. 
  • Line baking sheets with parchment paper
1. Whisk together flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
2. Using an electric mixer with paddle attachment, whip together butter, sugar and lemon zest until pale and fluffy ... scraping bowl occasionally.
3. Mix in egg then blend in egg yolk.
4. Add lemon juice, lemon extract and vanilla extract; mix until combined.
5. On low speed, slowly add in dry ingredients and mix just until combined.
6. Pour powdered sugar into a small bowl.
7. Scoop 1 1/2 tablespoon of dough and shape into a ball.
8 Drop ball in powdered sugar and roll to evenly coat.
9. Transfer cookies to prepared baking sheet and repeat with remaining dough making sure to space cookies 2-inches apart.
10 Bake in preheated oven for about 10 - 13 minutes. Cool on baking sheet several minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Note: If desired, opt to make a lemon icing sugar glaze to drizzle cookies by mixing lemon juice with icing sugar till drizzling consistency. Drizzle over cookies and allow icing to set.

Store cookies in an airtight container or freeze.