Thursday, January 18, 2018

Gjelina's Kabocha Cake with Olive Oil & Chocolate

Here is my weekly cake post. I know you love them!

A rumor was going around town that the hottest L.A. restaurant, Gjelina was opening an outpost in NYC.

Boy, was I excited......only to have my hopes shot down by an article that read the landlord and investors were not getting along, so they squashed the deal.

Oh well....I am not going to Los Angeles anytime soon, so I will just have to keep making the wonderful recipes from the Gjelina cookbook.

So in honor of the "squashed" deal, I made this squash cake. (Hilarious).

I have had this recipe bookmarked for 2 years, so it was due.

Kabocha squash is a super sweet squash.....if you can't find it, then I suggest you substitute canned pumpkin or sweet potato, but feel free to experiment. You can always use butternut squash. I have had excellent results using butternut squash in baked goods.

And a note regarding the olive oil.
You know I am a pro when it comes to baking olive oil cakes.

You MUST use a mild flavored one.
I swear by Colavita extra virgin, and I am not getting compensated by them in any way.

And please, don't skip the glaze, it is very rich and luscious, like a butter frosting.
I used toasted sunflower seeds for the top, cause I didn't have pepitas (pumpkin seeds).

This yields a BIG, gorgeous, moist loaf cake and smells divine while baking.

I was a bit scared of the 2 tsp of nutmeg, so if you are not a fan, then reduce to 1 teaspoon, but I promise, it is fine.
I reduced the sugar just a bit too, and it was plenty sweet.

I am posting the ORIGINAL recipe from the book, so feel free to use the tips I have given you.

Gjelina's Kabocha, Olive Oil & Chocolate Loaf: (adapted from GJELINA)

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp freshly ground nutmeg (use 1 if you are scared)
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1 1/3 cups granulated sugar (I did not use this much sugar, I used about 1 1/4 cups, it was sweet enough)
1 cup extra virgin olive oil (I like Colavita Extra Virgin)
1 cup canned pumpkin purée or kabocha squash puree
3 eggs
8 oz bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

1 1/4 cups confectioner's sugar, sifted, plus more as needed
2 Tbsp hot water, plus more as needed
3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

3 Tbsp pepitas (raw, hulled pumpkin seeds), toasted in a dry skillet until nutty and browned
2 Tbsp crushed cacao nibs

To roast kabocha squash:
Cut the squash in half, and remove the seeds.

Drizzle w/ olive oil and kosher salt and roast flesh side down on a parchment lined baking sheet. 425F for 25-35 minutes.
Scoop out the flesh and let cool. You can do this days in advance and keep the squash puree in the fridge (or freezer).

For the cake:
Preheat the oven to 325˚F, and generously butter a 9x5-inch loaf pan. This makes a large loaf cake, so if you have a bigger loaf pan, that is fine too.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt in a medium bowl.
In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, olive oil, squash or pumpkin purée, and eggs.

Add the dry ingredients to the bowl with the wet ingredients and whisk until just combined. Fold in the chopped chocolate.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 75 to 90 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Mine needed only 70 minutes because I cooked it in a longer pan.

Let the cake cool in its pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Run an icing spatula or a thin knife carefully around the edges, and invert the cake from the pan. Re-invert the cake so that it is right-side-up and let cool on the rack for another 20 minutes.

To make the glaze:
In a small bowl, whisk the confectioner's sugar with the water until smooth. Add more sugar and/or water until you have a glaze that is the consistency of honey. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil, whisking constantly to combine.

Pour the glaze over the cake, allowing it to drip down the sides. Sprinkle with the pepitas and cacao nibs and let the glaze set completely (about 1 hour) before serving.

This cake lasts all week. Stays nice and moist and is great for breakfast.

It gets better the second day, and even better the third!

It's a keeper!

I hope you try it.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Cod Cakes with Remoulade Sauce

Am I the only person who loved Mrs. Paul's Fish Sticks as a kid?

I couldn't wait for my parents to go out, so the babysitter could make them for us!

Everyone needs a good fish cake in their life!

My salmon cakes are the bomb, and there is no better recipe (so I have been told!).
But I don't always want salmon....sometimes I want a nice piece of cod.

These are so easy to put together, and are kid friendly too.

You can make the fish cake batter and keep it in the fridge to fry up later.....same with this perfect remoulade sauce.

I think a simple salad would be best with these babies, or maybe some homemade cole slaw, but that's it.
Don't get too fancy.

Here's the recipe from The Splendid Table:

1 small yellow onion, coarsely chopped
1 pound cod or other whitefish, skin removed and cut into 1-inch pieces
1/2 cup chopped fresh dill
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup flour
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons melted butter, plus 1 tablespoon for frying
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Remoulade Sauce:

1/2 cup mayonnaise (Hellmann's always!)
1/4 cup minced dill pickle
1 tablespoon capers, rinsed and drained
1 tablespoon snipped fresh chives or scallions
1/2 teaspoon minced fresh tarragon
1/2 teaspoon prepared yellow mustard (I used tarragon mustard!)
1/4 teaspoon curry powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
ground black pepper

Make the remoulade sauce and keep in the fridge covered for a few hours to chill.

Process the onion finely in the bowl of a food processor. Add the fish, dill, parsley, flour, egg, 2 tablespoons of melted butter, salt, and pepper and pulse until ground medium fine.

Transfer the mixture to a bowl and refrigerate, covered, for at least 1 hour and up to 4 hours.

Shape the fish mixture into 8-10 patties. Set them on parchment paper.

Heat the oil and the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter in a heavy, wide skillet over medium heat. When the butter begins to foam, add the fish cakes and cook for about 5 minutes on each side. I did this in 2 batches, and needed to add more oil.

Blot on paper towels and serve with the remoulade sauce on the side.

I loved these better for breakfast the next morning with a crispy egg.

So easy!

Monday, January 15, 2018

Weeknight Meal: Baked Chicken w/ Lemon & Potatoes

Let's get back to the basics.

I know many of you readers tune in only to get inspired for dinner ideas.

Here's an oldie, but goodie.

I rarely buy a whole chicken cut up, because I am one of those weirdos who LOVES breaking down a chicken herself.

There is something very satisfying (for me anyway) cutting up a chicken into parts, feeling your knife go thru the proper spots as if you were a butcher.
It takes practice, but I can butterfly a bird like nobody's business (but I still can't perfectly filet a fish!).

Growing up, my mother used to kill the bird twice.

She baked it for 2 hours at 375F until there was nothing left in your mouth but the taste of ketchup (used to help swallow the dried chicken down).

You may think me mean, but I am honest.

I only started buying chicken parts again, because sometimes you just want a leg.

You will LOVE this simple dinner, and if you are doing Whole 30 (which I am not), feel free to sub in sweet potato chunks.
Add in carrots or parsnips.......whatever you like.

This is super moist and a great family meal.

Baked Chicken with Lemons & Rosemary:

8 pieces of chicken (I use thighs and breasts), skin on, bone in
1 lb smallest red potatoes (if they are big, you can cut into chunks, but I keep them whole)
1 onion, cut into chunks
2 lemons 1 sliced, 1 juiced
1/4 cup olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp fresh rosemary
crushed red pepper flakes
kosher salt & pepper

In a small bowl, mix the lemon juice, olive oil, garlic and rosemary together.

Lay the chicken with onion and potatoes in a 13 x 9 baking dish (I don't use glass because the oven temp is 400F...too hot).

Pour the marinade over the ingredients in the pan.

Sprinkle everything liberally with kosher salt, pepper and hot pepper flakes (I like a little heat).

Bake at 400F for 1 hour, uncovered.


This is a no dry chicken zone.

Thursday, January 11, 2018


I am sorry that I am still posting cakes in the new year.

I am not on a January resolution diet that is doomed to fail (for me, anyway).

I eat healthy most days, so a piece of cake is never going to hurt me.

Moderation is the key to most everything in life.

I don't know who Marie-Hélène is......but I have been seeing her cake on blogs since 2012, so why not start the new year with this beautiful cake!

It's a beautiful simple French apple cake and I am a new fan.

I don't have rum, I never liked it I saw another blogger that substituted the lovely French fleur l'orange (orange flower water) for the rum, and I since I had a bottle, I used that.


I don't usually peel my apples, it makes for a much prettier and more rustic cake, especially when using different varieties of apples.

I used local Golden Delicious and Empire apples for my cake.

Marie-Hélène's French Apple Cake: (original recipe from Dorie Greenspan)

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
4 large apples (use different varieties), diced
2 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 teaspoons orange blossom water (fleur de l'orange) or rum
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled (1 stick)

It's pretty simple. No rocket science going on here.

Mix the butter, eggs, vanilla, rum and sugar in a large bowl until pale yellow.

Slowly add in the flour and baking powder and fold in the diced apples last with a rubber spatula.
It won't look like much batter, but it will bake up fine.

I line my 9" springform pan with parchment paper, and also butter it liberally.

Smooth the batter into the prepared cake pan.

My cake needed 50 minutes at 350F. Times vary from 45-60 depending on your oven.

Let rest 10 minutes in pan, then run a knife around the sides, so it loosens up any stuck apples.

I ate this warm and loved it.

It is also good room temp.

Don't cover this cake, or it will get mushy. I kept it in the cold garage with a piece of parchment paper draped over it.
It didn't last very long for us to worry about it.

Have a slice of cake. It makes life much sweeter.


Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Roasted Squash with Quinoa & Date Syrup

I love Nigel Slater.
He is one of Great Britain's treasures.

He writes a weekly food column in their paper The Guardian and I always read it.

His book TENDER is beautiful, if you love vegetables (and heavy cream! because most of his recipes use it!) it's a must.

Here is a simple "pumpkin" quinoa salad.

Nigel uses sugar pumpkin, but you can use any squash you like, butternut, delicata or kabocha.

The dressing is lovely and is made with Date Syrup, a natural sweetener made from only dates.
I am loving this stuff and drizzling it on everything.

You can order it here.

Nigel serves this on couscous which is nice too.....but I had some cooked quinoa ready and waiting, so used that!

This is a nice, healthy wintery dish that is hearty enough for a main dish.

Roasted Squash on Quinoa w/ Date Syrup: (adapted from The Guardian)

pumpkin or any winter squash, sliced or diced
olive oil & Kosher salt
1 tbsp smoked paprika (pimenton)

1 cup of cooked couscous or quinoa
1/4 cup of chopped cilantro
bunch of scallions, chopped

For the dressing:

4 tsp date syrup
4 tbsp olive oil
juice of half a lemon
1 tsp grainy mustard

Mix up dressing ingredients and set aside.

Season the squash slices with olive oil, smoked paprika and kosher salt.
Roast on a parchment lined baking sheet at 400F for 25 minutes, turning once.

Remove from oven and plate on a bed of couscous or quinoa and drizzle w/ some of the dressing.
Add in scallions (cilantro is also great on this).

So good.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Complaining Winter Random Bites

This post contains mostly complaining.

Is it almost spring yet?

I feel a little nuts stuck inside with this long stretch of cold weather.

It's my least favorite season here in NJ.....winter (in case you haven't noticed).

Cold, grey days and nothing growing in the garden.
No fresh herbs in my pots and no local produce in sight.

My rosemary bush died in these freezing temps and I actually had to BUY rosemary yesterday for the first time in years.

15F degrees is not for me.

I know everyone on instagram thinks the snow is so pretty.....but I don't ski, and I shovel my own walks and driveway, so I am mostly miserable.

My skin is dry, my hair is flyaway and I miss being tan.

The older I get, the more I hate it. I see why old farts move to Florida and Arizona, at least for the winter.

I live in the Northeast, so I guess the only thing to do is travel somewhere warm and drink a lot of wine.
(no wonder alcoholism is so rampant in Alaska and Russia).

You might want to click out now, so I don't bring you down any more.

So what's a girl to do?
I make the most of the season by going out to dinner a lot ;)

Bundle up warm and take day trips to NYC and fun places to keep my spirits up and maybe a trip to Miami if I am lucky.

Some local NJ restaurant bites:

We tried the beautiful new biergarten in Jersey City HUDSON HALL.

What a great space and even better food, with a real chef turning out amazing short rib goulash and the best hot pretzel I have ever had.


and I loved the roasted cauliflower with apples! This place has great cocktails too, so if you are not a beer lover, there are plenty of options.

I make a lot of stews and soups during the hibernation months.
One for me, one for the freezer.

I made this delicious chicken artichoke soup with some leftover thighs. The original recipe is for a slowcooker (which I don't have) I adapted it for my Le Creuset Dutch oven. Pretty simple. So good.

I also do a lot of baking in the winter (as you know by now).

I made a delicious Normandy Apple Cake from Sophie Dudemaine's Sweet & Savory Loaves.

Really nice with the creme fraiche and Calvados.

and I must have a vitamin deficiency, because I CRAVE spinach in the winter.

I must have it everyday.....usually in eggs, but sometimes in this salad w/ citrus and feta from Nigel Slater's beautiful book TENDER.

I also made this beautiful spinach and artichoke frittata with chorizo and's my new favorite.

Ok, this girl will stop bitching now.

52 days till spring.

Stay warm.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Sweet Potato, Avocado & Quinoa Timbales

I have to step up my cooking game......meaning, stop baking cakes and start getting serious.
Posting more blog worthy recipes, like a good food blogger should.


Remember I used to post 6 recipes a week? I guess I had a lot of free time, because writing out the recipes, photographing the food in daylight, downloading pics and posting takes too many hours.

I have downgraded to 3 posts per week, 2 recipes and one dessert.

Less is more, so they say.

But I am going to try and be a better blogger in 2018 and post more artful recipes.

Here is a healthy and blog worthy recipe.

This was actually easy! I promise. It looks beautiful and tastes beautiful too.

I cheated and used my baked potato setting on my microwave for the sweet potato and it worked out fine!

The original recipe tells you to grease the ramekins with coconut oil. Wow. They came out of the molds like a charm.
Great idea.

I made a quinoa salad with cilantro, red onion, scallions and lime juice, and served this all warm right out of the molds.

Topped with cilantro chutney that I received as a gift for Christmas......

Sweet Potato, Avocado & Quinoa Timbales (loosely adapted from this recipe):

1 large sweet potato, baked and cooled (remove skins after baking), cut into dice
2 tsp. coconut oil
fresh chopped basil or cilantro
handful of scallions, sliced
1 tbsp minced red onion
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 cup quinoa, cooked
1 tbsp. lime juice
1 tbsp olive oil
1 large ripe avocado, cubed
1 large handful of organic sprouts or dollop of pesto for the top
2 (8oz) ramekin dishes

Grease your ramekins liberally with the coconut oil. I used my hands, but you can melt it and brush it on.

Layer one half of the cubed sweet potato in each ramekin. Pushing down with a fork to mash a bit to compact it.

Next layer a half an avocado (cubed) on top of the sweet potato. Sprinkle w/ pinch of sea or kosher salt.

Mix the cooked quinoa with the scallions, herbs, red onion, lime juice and olive oil. Season with salt & pepper.

Layer half the quinoa mixture on top of the avocado in the ramekins and press down with as spoon to make everything nice and tight.

I guess you can save these for later, but I unmolded right away, while everything was still warm.

They came out of the ramekins perfectly.

Now decorate the top with some fresh herbs, sprouts or a dollop of pesto.

So good!

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Broccoli Fennel & Bean Soup with lots of possibilities......

Since it is winter, let's talk soup today.
It's been unusually cold outside, below 20F these last few days, so soup is all I really want.

Homemade soup is the best, especially if you have homemade chicken or turkey stock.....but I never frown upon using a good box of broth (I prefer Swanson's 33% less sodium Natural Chicken Broth).

This recipe is a basic guideline. The ingredients are all interchangeable.

You can use an onion, leeks, or fennel or all of the above......

Swap in fresh thyme for the rosemary if you like.......

I have made this with cannellini beans and with chickpeas........either or.

I use 2 slices of chopped speck (which is smoked prosciutto), but regular bacon is fine too.....or some leftover ham.

The only thing you must use is the is a broccoli soup!

The key to this soup is pureeing half the solids, to make it rich and creamy without the addition of cream or milk.

And my secret weapon to making soups even more delicious is my arsenal of Parmesan cheese rinds!
I keep a stash in the freezer and take out a small piece whenever I am making a broth type of soup like this.

Once you know how to make this soup, the possibilities are endless.

Broccoli Fennel & Bean Soup:

1 head of broccoli, cut into small florets
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, cut into chunks
1 head of fennel, sliced and cut into same size pieces as the onion
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 slices of speck or bacon, chopped
1 can of chickpeas or white beans, drained and rinsed
1 sprig of fresh rosemary (you can use thyme)
5 cups of chicken broth
leftover rinds of Parmigiano Reggiano
hot pepper flakes

In a large Dutch oven (I love my Le Creuset pots the best), heat some olive oil and butter on medium heat.
Add the bacon, onions, fennel and garlic until softened and pork is cooked.

Add in the broccoli and hot pepper flakes and cook another minute.

Add in the stock, cheese rind, chickpeas or beans and fresh herbs.

Simmer for about 20 minutes, until the broccoli is soft.

When the soup is cool enough to handle, transfer about half the solids (with some broth) to another pot or bowl.
With an immersion blender (hand held stick thing ever invented), blend the solids, then transfer back into the big pot of soup.

I don't season with salt & pepper, because in my opinion, there is enough flavor from the pork and the cheese rind. But go ahead and taste the soup, and season to your liking.

I sometimes splash a small amount of red wine vinegar or fresh lemon juice just before serving.