Thursday, March 22, 2018

A Nice Irish Tea Bread

It's after St. Patrick's Day, so I can safely post this recipe without the nasty emails from the Irish Soda Bread purists!

REAL Irish soda bread has no sugar, and has caraway seeds.....I know, I know.
I love it. It gets rock hard the next day and is great toasted with butter.

I have been making my husband's godmother's recipe (Mrs. Dale, a good Irish woman) for's tried and true....and always round. Make one for me, and one to give away.

I like my soda bread on the sweet side....more like a cake.....we know I love cake.

I was attracted to this recipe on the King Arthur Flour website called an "American Irish Soda Bread".....made American by adding the sugar, I guess.

I don't want to fight with any lasses this week, so am calling this a "tea bread"!

That's what it is in my book....a nice moist loaf with raisins and currants, perfect for afternoon tea or anytime.

I did not have sparkling sugar for the top, but I did have confetti sparkling sugar! So made it flashy!

*Regarding don't have to run out and buy a carton for this easy recipe.....just use this formula:

1 cup of milk to 1 tbsp of fresh lemon juice

Let the curdled milk sit for 15 minutes on the counter (the recipe uses 1 3/4 cup of buttermilk, so I used 2 tbsp lemon juice)

Irish Tea Loaf (adapted from King Arthur Flour website):

3 cups Pastry Flour Blend or King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
heaping 1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 cup currants or raisins (I mixed 1/2 c golden raisins + 1/2 c Zante currants)
1 tablespoon caraway seeds, (optional)
1 large egg
1 3/4 cups buttermilk*
4 tablespoons butter, melted

1 tablespoon milk
1 tablespoon coarse white sparkling sugar (use turbinado sugar if you don't have "sparkling" sugar)

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Lightly grease a 9" x 5" loaf pan.

In a large bowl, whisk together the pastry blend or flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, sugar, currants, and caraway seeds.
In a separate bowl, or in a measuring cup, whisk together the egg and buttermilk (or milk and lemon juice).

Quickly and gently stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients.
Stir in the melted butter.

Spoon the batter into the prepared pan.

Using a pastry brush, brush the milk or cream over the top and sprinkle with the coarse sugar.

Bake the bread for 50 minutes to 1 hour, or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean.

Remove the bread from the oven, loosen its edges, and after 5 minutes turn it out onto a rack to cool. Cool completely before slicing. Wrap airtight and store at room temperature.

When it gets stale (after a few days), just put the slices in a pan with a tablespoon of butter. Even better!


Monday, March 19, 2018

Creamy Turkey Spinach Bake

2 days until spring.

If you came here today looking for some bright, fresh springy recipe ideas, you have come to the wrong place.

Here in NJ, there is still snow on the ground and it was 36F degrees yesterday for the St. Patrick's Day Parade.....therefore, the reason for this delicious, comfort food recipe I made for Sunday dinner.

I made a turkey breast for dinner Friday night, and had enough for sandwiches and one other recipe.

A big bag of fresh leafy spinach is always available and I crave it during the this recipe needed to be born.

It's a take on a Martha recipe I made with chicken and spinach back in 2012. I changed it a bit, but the idea is the same.

Think creamed spinach meets turkey pot pie.

You can make your own breadcrumbs or buy the seasoned kind. I happened to have a bag of fancy seasoned croutons, so I smashed them with a rolling pin to make my topping.

Bookmark this recipe so when you wonder what to do with your Thanksgiving turkey leftovers, you will have it!

Turkey Spinach Bake: (measurements are approximate, use more of this or that)

1 cup or more of shredded cooked turkey meat (chicken works too)
1 bag of leafy spinach leaves, torn (NOT baby spinach.....find the real stuff)
1 large yellow onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
kosher salt & pepper
1 tbsp butter and olive oil
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup of chicken stock
1 tbsp flour
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
seasoned breadcrumbs for the top

Heat a large skillet with the butter and olive oil.

Cook the onion and garlic on medium heat about 5 minutes until soft.

Add in the chicken stock and simmer for 5 minutes. Add in the flour and whisk until nice and creamy.
Working quickly, add in the cream and keep whisking until you have a nice consistency and there are no lumps.

Squeeze in the lemon juice and whisk one last time. Remove the pan from the heat.

Add the shredded turkey and torn spinach leaves to the skillet. Season liberally w/ kosher salt & pepper.

Toss everything together with tongs until all the turkey and spinach is coated with the creamy goodness.
Transfer contents of the skillet to a buttered casserole dish large enough to fit everything.

Spread the seasoned breadcrumbs over the top pressing down with the back of a spoon. Bake for 20 minutes in a preheated 375F oven until bubbling.

Let cool before serving.


Thursday, March 15, 2018

Datenut Bread with Coffee & Pecans

It's been 10 years, and here we are again, enjoying a slice of date-nut bread together.

Maybe with a "schmear" of cream cheese, like a good Jewish girl....or toasted with a pat of butter.

Either way, my tried and true date-nut bread made with olive oil and orange zest and walnuts is just perfection.

But there might be an even better recipe, if that is possible! One that uses less sugar (only calls for 2 tablespoons, but I upped it a bit)....and instead of my recipe that soaks the dates in boiling water, this one soaks them in hot strong coffee.

That mixed with my homemade vanilla (Grey Goose vodka with some vanilla pods....stupid easy), this could be my new favorite date-nut recipe.

It comes from the beautiful cookbook Around the World in 80 Dishes by photographer and food maven David Loftus.

I received this book for my birthday from a friend, and it is quite lovely. It is available new in the UK only (but you can find it used on amazon). My book had metric measurements, so I adapted them to US cups and tablespoons for you.

Datenut Loaf w/ Coffee & Pecans:

1 cup pitted dates (I like Deglet Noor), chopped
1 cup (8 oz.) hot strong coffee
1 tsp baking soda
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup sugar (you can use less, but I like a sweeter date-nut loaf)
3 tbsp melted butter
1 1/4 cup flour
1/2 cup pecans, chopped

Sprinkle baking soda on the chopped dates and soak in the hot coffee to soften.

In another large bowl, mix the egg, vanilla, sugar and butter together. Add in the flour and nuts, then pour in the coffee soaked dates with the coffee. Mix until all ingredients are combined.

Pour into a parchment lined standard size loaf pan and bake in a preheated 350F oven for 55 minutes.

This could be my new favorite date-nut bread! (I wish they would bring Thomas' round date-nut loaf back, it was so good!).

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Slow Roasted Sweet Potatoes w/ Yogurt & Granola

On a recent trip to Philadelphia, I was fortunate enough to try Chef Michael Solomonov's slow roasted sweet potatoes at his fantastic restaurant ZAHAV.

Then I saw them on Smitten Kitchen's site....and all over the internet!

The original recipe serves them with labneh, a middle eastern yogurt......but I have seen them with all types of creative toppings.

I loved one instagram post serving them with granola, yogurt and a drizzle of maple syrup for a breakfast potato.

I tried them all different ways.

With roasted broccoli and hot chili sauce.....and for breakfast with yogurt and coconut dukkah (recipe for the delicious pistachio coconut dukkah here on Food52).

Not sure why these sweet potatoes taste so good....I think it must be the 2 1/2 hours of sugar roasting......don't forget to line your baking sheet, or you will have a big pile of caramelized bubbly sugar puffs all over.

Here's how to make them: (dapted from Michael Solomonov's recipe in SAVEUR)

4 medium sweet potatoes, scrubbed clean
1 tbsp. olive oil
2 tsp. kosher salt (use only Diamond brand, the Morton's is much too salty and not traditional kosher salt)
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp. dill seeds
1 clove garlic, peeled
1/2 cup labneh or plain Greek yogurt mixed with 1 tsp lemon juice
snipped chives for garnish (optional)

Heat the oven to 275° F.

In a large bowl, rub the sweet potatoes with the olive oil, 2 teaspoons salt, the pepper, and dill seeds until evenly coated.

Arrange the sweet potatoes on a foil-lined baking sheet and bake until very soft inside and caramelized on the bottom, about 2 1⁄2 hours.

Heat the broiler and broil the sweet potatoes until lightly charred on the top, 1 to 2 minutes. You will have a big pile of blackened sugar puff.....just spoon it away (luckily, you've lined your pan with foil!).

Remove the sweet potatoes from the broiler and let cool for 10 minutes on the baking sheet. There will be puffs of dark brown sugar all over the baking pan, these will wipe away easily.

Meanwhile, using a Microplane grater, grate the garlic into a small bowl, stir in the labneh or yogurt, and season with salt. I squeezed a teaspoon of lemon juice in my yogurt.

Transfer the sweet potatoes to a serving platter, gently crush with your hand to expose the potato's flesh, and season the flesh with salt. Dollop each potato with some of the labneh (yogurt) and sprinkle with chives or dukkah before serving.

The topping possibilities are endless.

My fave combination was with feta cheese and dukkah. YUM.

These are the best sweet potatoes you will ever eat!

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Carrot Raisin Ginger Scones

You all know my love for carrot cake.....I've loved it since I am a kid, with cream cheese icing please.

It is still my number one for celebrations like birthdays and anniversaries.
But I rarely see it on restaurant menus anymore.....nowadays it's all about olive oil cakes with cardamom and citrus or basil strawberry shortcakes with mascarpone icing.
I guess we live in a fancy cake age. Whatever happened to flourless chocolate tart? (I was never a fan anyway, too rich for me).

I decided to make scones in the style of carrot cake. Instead of coconut, I added in crystalized ginger.

These were SO GOOD!

Carrot Raisin Scones:

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup light brown sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp allspice
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup cold butter (one stick), cut into chunks or grated on a box grater
3/4 cup plain yogurt
1/4 cup whole milk or heavy cream
1 large egg
1 tsp. vanilla
zest of an orange
1/3 cup of raisins
1/4 cup of finely chopped crystallized ginger (or shredded coconut)
1 cup of grated carrots

extra milk or cream, for brushing
coarse sugar, for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 400F.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, allspice, cinnamon, orange zest and salt.

Add in the butter with a box grater and blend it with a fork, whisk, pastry blender or your fingers (hands work best when making scones).

In a small bowl, stir the yogurt, egg and vanilla together with a fork. Add to the flour mixture and stir just until combined.
Add in the grated carrots, raisins and ginger.

Mix until you form a nice ball of dough.

Pat the dough out about an inch thick on the parchment-lined sheet and cut into rounds or pie wedges; brush with milk or cream and/or sprinkle with turbinado sugar.

*Important to remember after the first 15 minutes of baking, to cut the scones again with a sharp knife, so they don't fuse together. They will separate easily at this point. Continue to bake another 5 minutes. 20 minutes total baking time.

You could definitely glaze these babies with a cream cheese or confectioners sugar icing for a carrot cake look, or leave them plain and simple with the crunchy sugar tops.

These stay fresh about 2 days, I like to freeze my scones once they are cool, so I always have fresh scones for the morning.


Monday, March 5, 2018

Grapefruit & Avocado Salad w/ Almonds and Dill

I just came back from a fabulous eating weekend in Philadelphia.

Philly is an amazing food destination, and one of our favorite cities.

We hit all the hot spots....Pizzeria Vetri; Wm. Mulherin in Fishtown; The Love; Abe Fisher and Reading Terminal Market for the best pork and rabe sandwiches.

We visited the Barnes Museum and the Franklin Institute for wonderful art.

The blocks are short and the people are nice, so it makes it a super easy and safe city to walk everywhere.

We had a memorable dinner at Abe Fisher (same group owns Zahav and Federal Donuts)....and Chef Yehuda Sichel was kind enough to give me the recipe for the delicious palate cleansing avocado and grapefruit salad we enjoyed with our 10 course meal!

What makes the salad even more delicious is using almond oil instead of olive oil. I love nut oils in salads. La Tourangelle makes good quality oils that are easily found in most supermarkets and online here.

A note of advice: I keep my nut oils in the fridge, as they go rancid much quicker than other oils.

Avocado & Citrus Salad with Almonds: (recipe courtesy of Yehuda Sichel)

2 ripe avocados, cut into large pieces
sea salt
1 pink grapefruit, cut into pieces
1 cara cara orange, cut into pieces
1/4 cup blanched almonds, toasted in a dry skillet
some fresh dill for garnish
almond oil
lemon juice
pumpernickel bread, cut into big cubes
butter for frying the croutons

Start by making the croutons. In a skillet, heat a few tbsp of butter on medium heat.

Add the bread cubes and keep tossing until crispy on the outside. You can also make these in the toaster oven, coated with olive oil, but I find frying the bread cubes in butter makes them much better! Set croutons aside.

Gently mix all the ingredients together....season with sea salt.

Squeeze some lemon juice and a drizzle or two of almond oil over the salad.

This is my new favorite salad!

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Almond Butter Chicken Soup

Ok, this may sound weird.

Almond butter in soup? Yes.

Just listen.

I received a jar of Wholesome Pantry Organics (Shop Rite brand) almond butter to try and create a recipe using it.

I confess, I had never tried almond butter before......I do love peanut butter, so figured it was similar in taste and texture.
This was all natural, no added sugar, just almonds and salt.

But what could I do with it besides spread it on toast?

I googled recipes with almond butter and chicken soup kept coming up.
I was intrigued.

I had a nice piece of leftover roast chicken breast, so I knew this was going to be on the menu.

If you have a box of chicken stock in the cupboard, do make this recipe. It is super healthy, using the high fiber sweet potato and almonds....and is so tasty.

It is our new favorite easy soup.

It may sound odd, but the almond butter takes a quick weeknight chicken soup to new heights.....

Peanut butter and chicken stew is a West African specialty.....and this reminded me of that delicious combination.

Almond Butter Chicken Soup: (adapted from this recipe)

5 cups chicken stock (I use Swanson's Natural Goodness)
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large sweet potato, peeled and diced
2 skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces
1/2 cup smooth organic almond butter
big handful of chopped kale or spinach
1 tbsp minced ginger root (optional)
salt and pepper, to taste

In a large Dutch oven (Le Creuset is the best)...heat some olive oil and saute the onion, garlic and diced sweet potatoes for 3 minutes, just until onion is translucent.

Add in the chicken stock with hot pepper flakes and bring to a boil.

Add in the chicken breast and simmer for 20 minutes.
The chicken will be cooked and the sweet potatoes will be tender.

In a measuring cup, whisk together the almond butter and 1/2 cup of the hot stock until it becomes a thick paste. Set aside.

Add in the greens and minced ginger, and again, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 5 minutes or so.

Stir in the almond butter paste. Season with salt and pepper, and taste.

Serve the soup hot with lime wedges.


Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Quinoa with Dried Fruits & Nuts

This quinoa dish reminds me of Passover.

I make that delicious haroset for Passover seder every year, with grated apples, dried fruit and nuts.....a bit of cinnamon and wine.

As I was making this crunchy salad, I kept smelling Passover. I know, I am weird.

I found this recipe in the NY Times....they call it "rainbow quinoa".

I used every nut I had, including pecans and delicious energy mix from Wholesome Pantry Organic.

Using lots of fresh herbs are what make this a crunchy, bright, healthy breakfast quinoa.

I have decided I am not a fan of pomegranate molasses, which is used in a lot of Middle Eastern is just too bitter for me, so I decided date syrup is a better choice.

You can omit any nut or dried fruit you like.....but I say the more the merrier.

Quinoa w/ Dried Fruits & Nuts
(adapted from the NY Times):

2/3 cup chopped dried fruit (such as apricots, raisins, cranberries, dried figs, dates....I used them all)
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
se salt to taste
1 cup red quinoa or "rainbow quinoa" (mixed red/white), rinsed
1/4 cup lightly toasted pistachios
1/4 cup lightly toasted almonds, chopped
1/4 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
2 teaspoons lemon zest


2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
se salt to taste
1 small garlic clove, shaved on a microplane (optional)
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon pomegranate molasses (honey, maple syrup or date syrup is better in my opinion)
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

It's pretty simple.
Cook the quinoa as per directions (I do this the night before so I have it cooled and ready to go for recipes).

Chop the dried fruit and nuts to uniform size. Mix in with the cooled quinoa and lemon zest.

Whisk up dressing and toss with the quinoa. Taste for salt.

Add in the fresh herbs and serve.


Thursday, February 22, 2018

Smoked Salmon Flatbread Pizzas

Put down that bagel and lox! this is your new brunch food, and you can share it with a friend.

Use flatbread or Naan bread instead of that heavy bagel (sorry bagel) to make this so called "breakfast pizza".

Toast the flatbread until crisp and let it cool.

Spread with some creme fraiche or sour cream (better and lighter than cream cheese).

Layer good quality smoked salmon and top with these pickled onions, capers and green onions.

A few grinds of black pepper and you are ready to share.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

More Cooking Classics: Boeuf Bourguignon

Since I have tackled a classic Bouillabaisse, it was time to make a real Bouef Bourguignon!
This food blogger is all grown up.

Back in 2009, I made Ina's recipe for this classic French beef stew from Barefoot Contessa, but used a short cut filet mignon, which was excellent, but I had another 3 lb. whole chuck roast in the freezer (the other half of the Costco 2 pack), so a Beef Burgundy was on the menu.

I followed Julia Child's recipe ingredients, but took the liberty of doing my own thing (as I often do).

I liked this French Stew recipe from Karen's site, and how she cooked her vegetables separately, just before serving, so they were not mushy and colorless.

I think you can add or omit any vegetable you's all about the wine.

Use a good Burgundy wine (Pinot Noir) if you can or a Cote du Rhone.....but it will still taste delicious made with a nice hearty Italian red, and I won't tell anyone.

Bouef Bourguignon:

3 pound beef chuck roast
kosher salt & pepper
olive oil
1 tablespoon tomato paste
4 whole garlic cloves, peeled
2 onions, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
1 1/2 cups hearty French red wine
2 cups beef or chicken broth
2 bay leaves and 4 sprigs each thyme and rosemary, tied into a bundle with string
6 slices of bacon, chopped
2 tbsp flour

Vegetables: (to be cooked later, separately) Your choice.

pearl onions
sliced mushrooms
2 large carrots, peeled and sliced into 1-inch chunks
1 cup chopped leeks
1 fennel bulb, stems and tough outer layers trimmed, sliced into 1/2-inch wedges
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Chopped fresh Italian parsley

Heat oven to 325F degrees with the rack in the center.

Most recipes will have you cut the meat into pieces and flour it. I never flour the meat (but add it to the stew later for thickness), I get a great sear in my Le Creuset Dutch ovens...which are worth their weight in gold.

I also keep the meat whole, as a roast, so if you are doing stew chunks of beef, then the time is going to be different than the time I am writing here. Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven or heavy casserole over medium-high heat.

Season both sides of the roast very well with kosher salt (Diamond is the ONLY brand you should be using...Morton Kosher salt is different, and much saltier in flavor).

Sear the beef on all sides until browned. About 6 minutes on each side. Remove with tongs to a platter.

Lower the heat to medium and add the bacon, mushrooms and onions to the pot. Cook 5 minutes, stirring every now and then, until softened.

Add in the chopped carrots and garlic and cook another minute.
(just a note, you can cook the mushrooms in a separate skillet in butter at the end too, for more richness, but I just threw them in w/ the rest of the stew).

Add the roast back into the pot and sprinkle with flour.

Stir in the tomato paste, and wine and bring to a boil.
Turn down to a simmer, then add enough broth to just cover the beef. Toss in the herbs. Cover the pot with a tight fitting lid and place in a 325F oven.

Place in the oven to braise for 2 1/2 hours (a little less time if you are using chuck stew meat, cut up).

The meat will be tender, fall apart and the sauce reduced and thick. Your whole house will smell delicious.

Pull the meat apart, discarding any fat, using 2 forks and place back into the pot.

For the vegetables (this is a great idea):

Place the pearl onions, carrots, leeks and fennel, whatever veggies you are in using, in a skillet with 1/4 cup water, a tablespoon of olive oil and 1/2 teaspoon salt.

Place over high heat until the water boils. Cover and lower heat to a simmer. Cook until the vegetables are tender but still colorful, about 10 minutes.

Just before serving, stir the vegetables into the stew. Taste for seasoning. Sprinkle with parsley or fennel fronds. You can also use orange zest, which is nice and bright.

Great over polenta or egg noodles, of course!

Is this kind of

Thursday, February 15, 2018

February Random Bites

Tulips are always so beautiful in the winter. They brighten my day.

Same for winter citrus.
Last call for blood usually don't see them in March, so grab some now for your cakes and salads.

At the end of the season, I can only find these big Moro blood oranges, but beggars can't be choosers.

Here I mixed winter citrus with roasted beets and kale. I spread some beet yogurt (you don't have to be so fancy) on the bottom for a complete protein lunch.....spread out the oranges and beets, then sprinkled with toasted hazelnuts.

A drizzle of hazelnut oil and white balsamic vinegar. Sea salt & pepper. Yum.

Those of you who follow me on instagram, know I was in Miami for a week of fun in the sun.

It's amazing what a few days of sunshine does for your skin, nails and just overall well being and demeanor.

Miami is a great destination not only for beach and sun, but the art and culture scene is bustling!
I can't say enough good things about this city. The people are wonderful, as is the food and hotel scenes.

New restaurants are popping up all over the city and beach. It's becoming a culinary destination, with Miami Food & Wine Festival coming this month to South Beach. I can't wait to go back.

And for my loyal New Jersey readers......there is a new wonderful breakfast/lunch bakery in Upper Montclair called Marcel Bakery & Kitchen.

A French Middle Eastern vibe with the BEST falafel I have ever had in NJ (and NYC, for that matter).

The breads, pastries and pita are all homemade. They have shakshuka and salads, and service was top notch and friendly.
It had such a nice neighborhood feel.
All these wonderful little places popping up all over the state. Check it out.

Marcel Bakery & Kitchen
631 1/2 Valley Rd
Montclair, NJ

35 days till spring. :)