Monday, November 20, 2017

Fusilli with Roasted Cauliflower & Caper Sauce

Another easy weeknight dinner from Melissa Clark's Dinner Changing the Game.

Since I am no longer a tomato sauce fan (heartburn city for me these days), I tend to make pastas with vegetable based sauces.

This recipe had my number. I made it even better by adding in golden raisins, which I highly recommend.

Roast a bunch of cauliflower florets (cut small) with 2 tablespoons of capers, together with olive oil and kosher salt. 425F for 30 minutes, turning once until golden.

While the cauliflower is roasting, boil 8 oz. (half a box) of fusilli pasta.

In a large bowl, add 2 tbsp of butter, 1 tbsp of chopped capers, 2 minced garlic cloves and some toasted pine nuts and golden raisins. This will be your sauce.

Add the roasted cauliflower and cooked pasta to the bowl w/ the butter and capers and mix together.
The butter will melt with the hot ingredients.

Squeeze a little lemon on top and some freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.

This is delicious!

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Best Apple Squash Cake w/ Candied Ginger Pecan Streusel!!!!!

Here it is. I know many of you have been patiently waiting for this recipe after seeing it on my instagram.

I love cooked squash in baked goods.
Think pumpkin pie.....after all, pumpkin is a variety of squash, isn't it?

Don't be afraid, I have converted you to olive oil in cakes, and roasting grapes with vegetables, so why not make a squash cake?
I have a few on my site already, but this one takes the cake, no pun intended.

It is everything fall, and paired with apples, this could be my favorite cake to date (I know, I say that all the time).

The candied ginger streusel topping sets this cake apart from the rest.....there is a little bite from the ginger and it is fantastic.
This is my Thanksgiving cake.

Truth be told, the first time I baked this cake I forgot the eggs. Yes I did.

I was yapping on the phone while baking (same thing as drinking wine while baking, I always forget something), and I didn't realize until I was writing out the recipe, that no eggs were cracked during this process.

So, how did a cake come out baked without eggs?
Totally delicious, a little denser than with the eggs, but still DELICIOUS and it became a vegan cake! No eggs, no butter!

But since I am not a vegan, I used eggs the second time and the cake was lighter and rose higher.

I used a 9" Nordicware commercial grade cake pan and the cake came out of the pan like a dream.

Here's how I made it:

I roasted a butternut squash by cutting the squash in half, scooping out the seeds and rubbing it with coconut oil and kosher salt.
Lay the halves skin side down on a parchment lined baking sheet and cook at 400F for 35-40 minutes. Let cool, then scoop out the flesh. You will need 1 cup of the puree for this recipe, so freeze the rest for another cake!

Ginger Pecan Streusel:

1/4 cup pecans
3 tbsp raw turbinado sugar
1/3 cup of candied or crystalized ginger

Whiz the ingredients in a food processor until course, but not fine. Set streusel aside.

For the cake:

1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup almond flour
3/4 cup light brown or turbinado (raw) sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
2/3 cup sunflower or mild flavored olive oil
2 extra large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
finely grated zest of an orange (use a microplane grater)
1 cup butternut squash purée
1 large apple (I used an Empire), peeled, cored and cut into chunks
1/2 cup raisins

Preheat oven to 350F (180C)

Grease a 9" cake pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.

In a large bowl combine the flours, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. Stir well and set aside.

In a medium bowl whisk the oil, eggs, vanilla extract, orange zest and butternut-squash purée until well blended.

Stir the apple pieces and raisins into the flour mixture until well blended. Add the squash mixture to the dry ingredients and, using a wooden spoon, mix until just moistened.

Spoon batter into prepared cake pan. Sprinkle with the streusel topping, patting the crumbs into the cake.

Bake for 45 to 50 minutes until golden and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cool for 20 minutes before unmolding.

Serve at room temperature and enjoy!

If you make this cake, do let me know.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Stuffed Sweet Potatoes with Black Bean Chili

Here is a healthy, hearty weeknight meal when you don't really feel like cooking.

Sweet potatoes are a super food, loaded with vitamins A & C and high in fiber.
I love them.

I always bake an extra one, so the next day I can spread it on my avocado toast.

Yes, you can microwave your potato, but the skin won't get nice and crispy, and the sugars won't ooze out of the fork holes.
So let's just bake them in the oven for 1 hour at 425F.

Once your potatoes are baked, the possibilities are endless.

Chickpeas and harissa yogurt are nice on top, as well as broccoli and cheese.....

Here, I made a vegetarian chili with black beans and everything in a can. Just open your kitchen cupboard, I am sure you have plenty of stuff to use as toppings.

Stuffed Sweet Potatoes w/ Black Bean Chili:

4 sweet potatoes, baked for 1 hour at 425F

1 small onion, diced
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can of fire roasted tomatoes (I use Rotel, nice and spicy)
1 green or red bell pepper, diced
1 tsp cumin
1/2 cup of frozen corn or Trader Joe's corn salsa (my favorite)
1 cup of shredded cheddar cheese
sour cream, avocado, chives or cilantro for garnish

In a saucepan, cook the onion in some olive or avocado oil with the peppers for a few minutes on medium heat, just until softened.
Add in the beans, tomatoes, corn, and cumin and simmer for just a few minutes.

Now here's the good part......dump in about 1/2 cup of the cheese right into the hot chili. The cheese will melt and the chili will become thick and gooey.

Cut each potato in half and press down to create a pocket.

Fill with the chili and top with some more cheese, sour cream and chives.


Monday, November 13, 2017

Schiacciata con L'uva (Focaccia w/ Grapes & Rosemary

What is she talking about now? Schiacciata con L'uva.

Don't be scared, it is just focaccia made with grapes and rosemary.

It's a traditional sweet focaccia flatbread made during the fall for the grape harvest in Tuscany.

I'm not in Tuscany this harvest, however, I can still make this at home.

I looked at a ton of recipes, most of them from Italy, which were too confusing, because good Italian cooks eyeball everything. It was getting confusing.

Though I am a confident baker and don't need a recipe, I think bread baking is more of a science, and measuring would be a good idea. Even here, the author of the recipe says "4-5 cups of flour"

Well, which is it? 4 cups or 5?.
I went with 4 cups and it was perfect.

I chose this recipe because it wasn't in metric (I'm a dope), and because it was so simple.

With focaccia dough, the rise time is only about 2 hours, like pizza dough, however, I had best results with making the dough while I slept, then waking up in the morning to a huge bowl of dough that tripled in size! :)

Since focaccia only stays fresh about a day, I suggest you cut it up into squares and wrap well and freeze.
It reheats beautifully in foil at 375F in a toaster oven for a snack anytime.

and regarding the grapes to use for this would usually use a small wine grape, like a Concord or Champagne grape, but I used regular black seedless California grapes and it was delicious.

Schiacciata con L'uva (adapted from Marisa's Italian Kitchen):

Focaccia dough:

2 cups water
4 tbsp olive oil
4 to 5 cups of all purpose flour (I stuck with 4)
2 tbs sugar
1 tsp kosher salt
1 packet “quick rise” instant yeast (Fleischmann’s) 8 grams

Topping (for 2 layers of dough):

2 cups grapes (picked off the stem), Concord or Champagne preferably small grapes
2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
2 tablespoons granulated or turbinado sugar
extra virgin olive oil for drizzling

Mix 3 cups of flour with the yeast, sugar, kosher salt and olive oil in a large bowl.

Heat 2 cups of water with 4 tablespoons of olive oil in the microwave for 60 seconds or till lukewarm.

Stir the warm water in the flour mixture with a wooden spoon, mixing well.

Stir in another cup of flour till combined. The dough will be shaggy and sticky.

Invert the dough onto a well floured counter and knead for a few minutes.

Grease a large bowl with some olive oil (I use a big glass Pyrex bowl for dough). Place your pizza dough in the greased bowl turning the dough to grease all over. Cover tightly with plastic wrap.

Let it rise till it doubles in size for about 2 hours, in a draft free place. (I left mine overnight while I slept, about 12 hours of rising time) and it tripled in size by the morning.

When your dough has doubled in size, transfer it onto a floured work space.

Grease a large rimmed baking sheet with some olive oil and then lightly sprinkle evenly with cornmeal to prevent sticking and give a nice crunch to the bread.

Cut the dough in half and working with one piece at a time spread out to the size of your pan (use your hands for this). It is ok if it does not entirely reach the edges of the sheet pan.

Place the first layer of rolled out dough onto your prepared pan.

Layer 1 cup of the grapes, evenly spread, onto the dough while pressing them slightly into the dough.
Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of sugar and 1 teaspoon of chopped rosemary, evenly onto the first layer of dough. Drizzle with some extra virgin olive oil.

Roll out the second piece of dough and layer it onto the prepared first layer. Press down slightly and pinch the edges together.
Spread the remaining grapes over the top layer of dough, again pressing down into the dough.

Sprinkle with an additional 1 tablespoon of sugar and 1 teaspoon of chopped rosemary.
Drizzle more extra virgin olive oil evenly over the top layer.

Bake the flatbread in a preheated oven, at 350F, for about 30-35 minutes or until the dough is a nice golden brown and the grapes are oozing.

There is just something so satisfying about baking bread at home. I love getting my hands in the dough and watching it transform from a plump ball into a big mass of living matter!

This is delicious, I hope you try it.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Maple Bacon Donuts OH MY!

Years ago if you would've told me I was going to make my own donuts, I would've said you were nuts.

And Maple Bacon Donuts? You are crazy.

If you've never tried this strange sounding combination, you are missing out. I buy them anytime I see them at a donut shop (which isn't often, I don't normally stop at donut shops....and Dunkin' Donuts is not my type of donut).

These are baked not fried, so not so bad in the calorie department......and if you are counting calories, then you shouldn't be eating donuts anyway. Just saying.

This recipe makes 12 donuts and they freeze beautifully, so you can take one out at night before bed and have it waiting for you in the a.m.

I am always thinking ahead.

Maple Bacon Donuts (adapted from this recipe)

2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 large eggs
2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup sour cream
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 tsp vanilla extract
12 oz. cooked crisp crumbled bacon

For the glaze:
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 cup pure maple syrup
2 cups confectioners sugar (powdered sugar)

Here we go.

Mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, like baking a cake.

Here is the tricky part, but I am good at it now.

You will need to pipe the batter into the donut tins, by turning down the collar of a ziploc plastic freezer bag and filling the bag with the batter. Then squeeze it all to one corner of the bag, like a pastry piping bag.
Cut a tiny hole in the corner of the bag, and start squeezing the batter into the donut rings!

Make sure the pan is greased with cooking spray. Very important.

Bake in a 350F preheated oven for 9 minutes then flip out onto a cooling rack.

In a saucepan, heat the glaze ingredients until bubbling.

Dip each donut in the glaze and place on a rack on a baking paper lined baking sheet. Let the glaze harden then dip a second time with the maple glaze.

While the 2nd glaze is still warm, sprinkle the bacon pieces on the donuts and let the glaze harden.

Watch them disappear!

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Chicken Legs Sheet Pan Dinner with Bread & Bacon

Chicken. Bacon. Bread. Vegetables.

Do it.

Put it all on a sheet pan and roast it for 45 minutes. The bread gets nice and crispy (with the help of melted butter!).

You can add any vegetables you like.

Here, I used a sweet potato (original recipe calls for a regular potato).....I also added in Brussels sprouts.
You can really add whatever you like, it's just the basic idea of cooking everything together on one pan that makes it so appealing.


Here's how:

Sheet-Pan Chicken with Sourdough and Bacon: (recipe adapted from Food & Wine)

1/2 pound sourdough boule, or baguette sliced or torn into 2-inch pieces

1/2 pound slab bacon, cut into 1-by- 1/2-inch lardons

1 large baking or sweet potato, 3/4-inch wedges

bunch of Brussels sprouts, halved
1 large red onion, cut into 1-inch wedges

2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, melted
4 oregano or rosemary sprigs
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper

 a few tbsp of extra-virgin olive oil

 Kosher salt
black pepper

 6 whole chicken legs

Preheat the oven to 400°.

On a large rimmed baking sheet, toss the bread with the melted butter.

Next, layer on the bacon, potato, onion, oregano and crushed red pepper and drizzle with the olive oil and season generously with kosher salt and black pepper. Spread in an even layer.

Season the chicken with kosher salt and black pepper and arrange on top of the bread mixture.

Roast the chicken and bread mixture for about 45 minutes, until the bread is crisp and an instant-read thermometer inserted in the chicken registers 160°.


Monday, November 6, 2017

Quinoa w/ Roasted Butternut Squash & Grapes

You have seen variations of this salad here before, but it's that time of year when I make a lot of quinoa salads with roasted anything.

Here, I paired quinoa with roasted cubed butternut squash, baby red onions (they are so cute), and roasted grapes.

Everything roasted on a sheet pan in a 400F oven for 25 minutes (the usual: drizzled with olive oil and kosher salt).

Add to cooked quinoa.

Make a dressing of some olive oil, white balsamic vinegar, and a tsp of honey. Salt and pepper. That's it. Mix the salad and serve on a bed of arugula.

I have added in pistachios and pecans to make a heartier salad.

This is also a great Thanksgiving side dish.


Short & sweet today.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Leftover Rescue: Polenta Hearts with Fig Jam

What to do with yesterday's leftover polenta?

Make hearts. :)

The polenta from yesterday's recipe will firm up once refrigerated, so scoop it out of the pot and spread out on a cookie sheet.
Place in the fridge and cover.

Of course you can make a fresh batch of polenta for these lovelies.

Once the polenta is firm, cut into heart shapes with a cookie cutter.

It's important to coat the hearts on both sides with ground cornmeal so they get a nice crispy exterior.

Place some butter and olive oil in a nonstick skillet and gently fry the hearts for about 2 minutes on each side until golden.

Blot on paper towels and dot with fig jam or any flavor jam you like (bacon jam is extra good on these).

Best served warm, but also delicious at room temperature.


Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Roasted Cauliflower w/ Polenta, Grapes & Romesco

I hope you are not sick of cauliflower by now.

This is probably the last of the pretty purple and orange cauliflower for the season at our farmer's markets, so the bland looking white stuff will have to do from now on....they all taste the same anyway.

Cauliflower is perfect with grapes in the fall. I love roasting grapes with vegetables. They add such a nice sweet surprise to everything.

and I forgot how delicious Romesco is!....that Catalan red pepper sauce made w/ almonds.

It is great with roasted vegetables and polenta, as well as with grilled meats and seafood.
It's also great spread on turkey sandwiches or mixed in with tuna.

This is a gorgeous plate of cold weather food. A delicious vegetarian meal.

Make the Romesco sauce ahead of time, and keep it in the fridge for a dinner like this.

Roasted Cauliflower with Polenta & Romesco: (adapted from WuHaus)

For the Romesco:

3 roasted red peppers from a jar
1/2 cup blanched almonds
1/2 cup toasted hazelnuts
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, chopped
2 Tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon smoked paprika (pimenton)
sea salt + pepper, to taste
1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes, after blending

Blend all ingredients except for the red chili flakes in a high-speed blender until desired consistency.

For the cauliflower and grapes:

1 large head of cauliflower, cut into florets
1 cup of red or black seedless grapes
3 Tablespoons avocado or olive oil
1 small lemon, cut into 1/4″ slices
several sprigs of fresh thyme or any herb you like
kosher salt + pepper, to taste

Lay cauliflower and grapes out on a roasting pan and drizzle with oil....sprinkle w/ kosher salt & pepper.
Roast in a 400F oven for about 25 minutes.

While the cauliflower is roasting, make the polenta.

1 cup polenta
4 cups water or chicken stock
1 teaspoon salt, for cooking
3 tbsp butter
1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese
salt & pepper

In a medium-size pot or dutch oven, bring water and 1 teaspoon salt to a boil. Gradually stir in polenta. Reduce heat to low and simmer gently, making sure to stir frequently to prevent sticking. I use a silicone spatula to stir. Keep stirring, or it will splatter all over your stove. Towards the end of cooking melt in the butter and cheese, and season with salt and pepper.

Spread a generous amount (2-3 Tablespoons) of the romesco sauce down on a bowl or plate. Scoop a serving of the polenta next to the romesco. Top with the roasted cauliflower, roasted grapes and pine nuts, and garnish with fresh Italian parsley.

Serve immediately.

You will have leftover polenta I am sure, so save it for tomorrow's recipe.

Spread it out on a cookie sheet. Cover and refrigerate, it will get nice and firm.

We can play with it tomorrow. Stay tuned.


Monday, October 30, 2017

Grilled Sweet Potatoes w/ Bagna Cauda

Bagna Cauda translates to "hot bath" from Italian.

It is a delectable Piemontese anchovy butter sauce used for dipping blanched vegetables. I love it.

Who would have thought to pair it with sweet potatoes!!!!

The recipe is from the restaurant Tail Up Goat in DC by way of Bon Appetit magazine.

4 sweet potatoes, baked or microwaved, sliced into quarters
1/4 cup of olive oil
4 tbsp butter
5 anchovies
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tbsp capers
zest of a lemon
hot pepper flakes
fresh parsley

Slice your cooked sweet potatoes into quarters (with skin). I did mine in the microwave.

In a large grill pan, heat some oil and grill the potato quarters for about 2 minutes on each side, making nice char marks.

While the potatoes are cooking, make the bagna cauda (hot bath).

In a small saucepan, heat the oil, butter, anchovies, garlic and capers until bubbling and the butter is melted, and the anchovies are dissolved.

Plate the grilled sweet potatoes on a platter and pour the bagna cauda over them.

Garnish with hot pepper flakes, lemon zest and fresh parsley.


Thursday, October 26, 2017

Apple Pumpkin Muffins

I love coffee.

Pumpkin Pie Spice Latte is not coffee in my book.

Pumpkin Pie Spice and pumpkin spice flavored things drive me crazy.

It reminds me of everything artificial in this world.
I also can not stand scented pumpkin spice candles.

I feel a migraine coming on......

Ok, now we know how strongly I feel about pumpkin pie spice things..........but I actually LOVE real pumpkin and any squash.

If you've ever roasted a whole pumpkin, and added some cinnamon and honey, it is delicious, as are the seeds!!

Pumpkins are not just for Halloween anymore.

Here is my fall pumpkin baking submission, once a year only, and while I would usually be a purist and use fresh roasted pumpkin, here, I used a can of Trader Joe's all natural pumpkin puree.

And regarding "pumpkin pie spice".....make your own.

It's cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves and allspice. Easy peasy.

Pumpkin Apple Muffins:

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup canned pumpkin
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 small Macoun or Granny Smith apples, diced (I leave peels on, cause I am lazy) and 1 apple sliced for the tops (total of 3 small apples)
cinnamon sugar for the tops

In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, spices, baking soda and salt.

Combine eggs, pumpkin and oil; stir into dry ingredients just until moistened.
Fold in diced apples.

Using an ice-cream scoop, fill greased or paper-lined muffin cups 3/4 full.
Place a slice of apple on top of each muffin for decoration.

Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar (2 tbsp sugar, mixed w/ a tsp cinnamon).

Bake for 375F for 30-35 minutes.

Makes about 12 normal size muffins, but since I use those larger paper liners (I buy them in Home Goods), the recipe makes 8 bigger muffins.

These smell amazing! Nothing fake going on here!