Saturday, January 30, 2016

Yellow Lentil Squash Soup


Have you ever heard of alternate day fasting?  Well, you know I was doing the 5:2 Program.  Which worked really well for me, I lost 24 pounds.  It was totally doable for me.  But then I hit a plateau.  A three month plateau.  Then the Holidays were here.  I had to cook meals for company, entertaining, stuff like that made the 5:2 very challenging for me.  I decided to give it up in December.  I gained 15 pounds back.  Ugh!  Not surprising.

Considering the oh, so many diets I have tried before, this si the thing that worked best for me so I am doing it again.  This time I am not doing the 5:2, I am doing Alternate Day Fasting.  If you know about the 5:2, Dr. Mosley did some research on the whole fasting thing.  Not real hard core research but rather asking around kind of research.  He came up with the idea of five days of eating and two days of fasting as a way that he could lose weight,.  Dr. Varady, who he interviewed, has been scientifically researching the Alternate Day Fasting idea.  You can read more about it in this interesting article by Healthista.

Dr. Varady has written a book about Alternate Day Fasting called The Every Other Day Diet.  She hosts a Facebook website as well.  Dr. Varady has been doing some serious research with alternate day fasting in Chicago.  She has studied many obese adults and followed the alternate day fasting routine.

Anyway, long story short I am switching to the Alternate Day Fasting routine.  My husband has been doing it since the summer.  He has lost about 35 pounds.  It works.  The nice thing about it is that you can pretty much east what you want to every other day.

On his fasting days my husband prefers to eat beans.  Which is great because I love beans.  Here is a fabulous lentil soup recipe.

Yellow Lentil Squash Soup

1 tablespoon oil or ghee (clarified butter)
2 cups yellow lentils or red lentils
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 tablespoon ginger
6 curry leaves
2 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 onion
1 can lite coconut milk
6 cups water
4 cups chopped squash, I used kabocha here but you could use butternut, acorn, etc
1/2 jalapeno chopped tiny, seeds and rib removed
1 tablespoon kosher salt
5 cloves garlic
1 red bell pepper, chopped

Saute onions and bell pepper in oil. Add ginger, turmeric, mustard seeds and curry leaves.  Cook one minute.  Add in the remainder of ingredients.  Cook with gentle simmer until lentils are tender and falling apart. With the back of my wooden smooth I smashed most of the pieces of squash.  I like it because the squash melting into the soup gives it a more creamier texture.

Speaking of creamier texture.  A dollop of yogurt would be great in this soup.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Chocolate Italian Love Cake


Why do they call this Italian Love Cake.  Here's my take.  Italian because it has ricotta in it.  The ricotta layer which is on the bottom is cannoli filling like.  The love part, well, lets just say you will love this cake!  Creamy and delicious.

Continued after the jump.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Sweet Potato Cinnamon Buns


Did anyone ever tell you that raising kids is the hardest job in the world?  No one told me that.  I wonder if it would have made a difference if they did.  No, I know, it would not have made one damn bit of difference in deciding to have children.  I still would have had them.  Matter of fact, knowing what I know now, I would do it over again.  But that doesn't make it any easier.

Just getting them to wash, dress appropriately, wear deodorant can be a chore.  Why?  I really just don't get it.  I love taking a shower.  It makes me feel refreshed and renewed.  It is one of my pleasures of the day.  I am very grateful for the opportunity to take a shower ever day.

In the morning the battles to get my youngest moving... Or how to get my oldest to complete jobs or put things away...  But really.  I should not complain.  These really are minor things.  Annoyances yes, but problems, well, not really.  I need to switch into gratitude mode. Rant over,

Now. this dessert.  My kids really do not have any idea how spoiled they are when it comes to homemade food.

This night that we had this.  Everyone inhaled their piece (or pieces),  It was such a treat.  The last time I made cinnamon buns was almost three years ago.  Wow.
Sweet Potato Cinnamon Buns

2 (1/4-oz.) envelopes active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water (100° to 110°)
5 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup mashed sweet potatoes
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup melted butter
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon baking soda



Filling

1 cup brown sugar, packed
2 1/2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1/3 cup butter, softened

Frosting

1 (3 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/8 teaspoon salt
a little milk- about a tablespoon


Place ingredients in the bowl of a mixer. Place all the dry ingredients in bowl. Mix for a moment. Add water, buttermilk, butter and sweet potato puree and mix until dough ball is formed. Add in more water one tablespoon at a time if too dry. Add flour one tablespoon at a time if too wet. Place in lightly oiled bowl, cover and let rise until doubled in size.

After the dough has doubled in size turn it out onto a lightly floured surface, cover and let rest for 10 minutes. In a small bowl, combine brown sugar and cinnamon.

Roll dough into a 16 x 21 inch rectangle. Spread dough with 1/3 cup butter and sprinkle evenly with sugar/cinnamon mixture. Roll up dough and cut into 12 rolls. Place rolls in a lightly greased 9 x 13 inch baking pan. Cover and let rise until nearly doubled, about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400F.

Bake rolls in preheated oven until golden brown, about 15 to 20 minutes. While rolls are baking, beat together cream cheese, 1/4 cup butter, confectioners' sugar, vanilla extract and salt. Spread frosting on warm rolls before serving.




Monday, January 18, 2016

Potato Bread

Over the holidays I was going to try making an old family (Polish) classic, sauer kraut peirogies. Most people think pierogies, think potatoes and cheese.  But pierogies do come in different varieties of fillings.  Including strawberry, blueberry...  But sauer kraut pierogies actually have a different dough, are stuffed with sauer kraut and then are deep fried. The dough is made with mashed potatoes and flour.

But I digress.  Anyway, I had mashed potato leftovers to use.  Enter potato bread.  With company here, we gobbled it all up. Its always a good treat to have fresh baked bread.  My kids are spoiled, its the norm for them.


Potato Bread

1 1/2 cup mashed potatoes*
1-1/2 cups water
2 packages or 4 1/2 teaspoons instant dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water (110° to 115°) for proofing if you do not have instant yeast.
1 cup warm 2% milk (110° to 115°)
2 tablespoons butter, softened
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons salt
5-1/2 to 6 cups all-purpose flour

In the microwave heat the milk or in a saucepan.  You want it to be around 110F when you add it to the flour.  But no worries, mix it with the water to cool it down a bit.  A good rule of thumb is that you can stick your finger in the milk/water comfortably for 15 seconds, then it is close enough to 110F.

In a large bowl or the bowl of a mixer, combine flour, yeast**, sugar.  Mix.  Add in salt. Mix water, milk, potatoes and butter.  Add to the flour and combine.

Once it is fully incorporated then you can either add flour or water, depending if it is too moist or too dry.  It is just right when it forms a nice smooth ball.

Place in an oiled bowl and cover.  Let rise for about an hour or until doubled in bulk.  Split dough in half and place in greased loaf pans and let rise again for about 45 minutes.

Place in a 375F oven for 35 to 4o minutes.  Internal temp of bread should be between 190 and 200F.

Dump baked bread out of loaf pans and let cool on a rack. I know it is difficult but it is always best to let it cool before slicing.

*If you dont have mashed potatoes already, then make a little and save the water from boiling the potatoes.  Its especially good if you use that water.

Amazing, smashed avocado with smoked salmon on top.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Momofuku Birthday Cake


My daughter loves birthday cake ice cream.  I had to make this birthday cake for her birthday.  Its totally her- the sprinkles, the sweetness, the everything.

I was right it did turn out to be totally her kind of cake but for me not so much.  It was too sweet.  Its partly my fault as I one and half times the frosting.  Why?  I don't know.  It didn't seem like enough. It is really good frosting though I would cut back on the citric acid a bit.  It kind of ruled the frosting a little, rather that the vanilla. I did have to add WAY more confectioners sugar than it called for.  It seemed too runny without it.  It really would not have held up.

I would make it again if she requested. As for the rest of us in the family we prefer less sweet varieties of cake.  More like the European ones.

MomofukuMilk Bar’s Birthday Layer Cake 
PUBLISHED: MARCH 3, 2015 
SERVINGS: MAKES ONE 6" LAYER CAKE 
Source:  Bon Appetit
Cake:
Nonstick vegetable oil spray
2 cups cake flour
1½ teaspoons baking powder
¾ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ cup plus
2 tablespoons rainbow sprinkles, divided
½ cup buttermilk
⅓ cup grapeseed oil
2 teaspoons clear imitation vanilla extract, preferably McCormick brand
1¼ cups granulated sugar
⅓ cup vegetable shortening
4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
3 tablespoons light brown sugar
3 large eggs

Crumbs:
¾ cup cake or all-purpose flour
½ cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
2 tablespoons rainbow sprinkles
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ cup grapeseed oil
1 tablespoon clear imitation vanilla extract

For The Frosting And Assembly:
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
¼ cup vegetable shortening
2 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1 tablespoon plus
1 teaspoon clear imitation vanilla extract, divided
1¼ cups powdered sugar
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon baking powder
⅛ teaspoon citric acid (or ½ teaspoon fresh lemon juice)
¼ cup milk

Special Equipment: 6" cake ring or springform mold 2 strips acetate (flexible plastic paper), each 3" wide and 20" long

Preparation Cake: Preheat oven to 350°. Line a 13x9" rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and coat with nonstick spray; set aside. Whisk flour, baking powder, salt, and ¼ cup sprinkles in a large bowl. Combine buttermilk, oil, and vanilla in a medium bowl. Using an electric mixer on medium-high, beat granulated sugar, shortening, butter, and light brown sugar in another large bowl until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating to blend between additions and occasionally scraping down sides and bottom of bowl. Continue to beat mixture, occasionally scraping down sides and bottom of bowl, until almost doubled in volume and very light, airy, and pale yellow, about 4 minutes. With mixer on low, add buttermilk mixture until incorporated. Add dry ingredients, beating until just combined, about 1 minute. Scrape batter into prepared pan; smooth top. Sprinkle with remaining 2 Tbsp. sprinkles. Bake until cake is light golden brown, the center springs back when gently pressed, and a tester inserted into the center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached, 30–35 minutes. Remove cake from oven and cool on a wire rack or, in a pinch, in the fridge or freezer (don’t worry, it’s not cheating). Do Ahead: Store cooled cake wrapped in plastic in fridge up to 5 days.

Crumbs: Preheat oven to 300°. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside. Combine flour, granulated sugar, light brown sugar, sprinkles, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Add oil and vanilla, and using your hands, mix until no dry spots remain and large clumps form when mixture is pressed together. As though you were making a crumble topping, break mixture up into clusters (some small, some large) and spread onto prepared baking sheet. Bake, stirring occasionally, until crumble is light golden brown and crunchy, 10–12 minutes (it will firm up as it cools). Let cool completely. Do Ahead: Wrap crumbs tightly in plastic and store at room temperature up to 5 days.


Frosting And Assembly: Combine butter, shortening, and cream cheese in large bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on medium-high until mixture is smooth and fluffy, 2–3 minutes. Scrape down sides of bowl and slowly stream in corn syrup and 1 Tbsp. vanilla. Beat until mixture is silky smooth and glossy white, about 3 minutes. Scrape down sides of bowl and, with mixer on low, add powdered sugar, salt, baking powder, and citric acid until just combined. Increase speed to medium-high and beat until you have a brilliant stark white, beautifully smooth frosting, about 4 minutes (it should look just like it came out of a plastic tub at the grocery store!). Do Ahead: Store frosting in an airtight container in fridge up to 1 week.

Assembly: Place a silicone baking mat or piece of parchment on a counter. Invert cake onto mat, then peel off parchment. Use cake ring to punch out two 6" rounds from cake (or, using a springform pan as a guide, cut out 2 rounds using a paring knife). These are your top 2 cake layers (the remaining cake scraps will form the bottom layer of the cake). Line a sheet pan with a clean piece of parchment. Clean cake ring and place it in center of the pan. Use 1 acetate strip to line inside of cake ring. Place cake scraps inside ring and use the back of your hand to press scraps together into a flat, even layer (you never see this layer, so it’s okay that it’s messy—but since it’s the base of the cake, it needs to be flat). Combine milk and remaining 1 tsp. vanilla in a small bowl. Dunk a pastry brush in milk mixture and use half of it to generously moisten the base layer. Use the back of a spoon to spread about 3 Tbsp. frosting evenly over cake. Sprinkle ⅔ cup birthday crumbs evenly over frosting. Use the back of your hand to press them in place. Use the back of a spoon to spread another 3 Tbsp. frosting as evenly as possible over crumbs. With your index finger, gently tuck second acetate strip between cake ring and the top ¼" of the first acetate strip, so that you have a clear ring of acetate 5–6" tall— high enough to support the height of the finished cake. Top with a cake round (if 1 of your 2 cake rounds is less pretty than the other, use it for the middle layer and save the most perfect one for the top). Brush layer with remaining milk mixture. Repeat frosting-crumb layering process. Nestle remaining cake round into frosting. Cover top of cake with remaining frosting. Use an offset spatula to form decorative swirls, or do as they do at Milk Bar and shape it into a perfectly flat top. Top with remaining birthday crumbs. Transfer cake to freezer and freeze at least 3 hours to set cake and filling. At least 3 hours before serving the cake, pull sheet pan out of freezer and, using your fingers and thumbs, pop cake out of cake ring. Gently peel off acetate and transfer cake to a platter or cake stand. Defrost in fridge at least 3 hours. Do Ahead: Cake will keep up to 2 weeks in freezer or 5 days in refrigerator.



Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Blogaversary

Dobos Torte
My blog is 8 years old today.  I can hardly believe I have kept with the blog for so long.  There has definitely been times I wanted to quit.  I get discouraged sometimes wondering why I dont get comments like other people, or other people have cook books and I dont, or not having the time to keep up with it...  But then I remind myself the reason why I started the blog in the first place.

The first reason is because at the time I started my daughter was two years old and my other daughter five.  They kept me busy of course but I needed something more. I am a highly educated stay at home Mom.  Which in some ways use to frustrate the heck out of me.  Why did I receive a Masters?  So I could be a stay at home Mom?  What?  But, over the years, I am reminded by close friends and family that being a Mom is one of the hardest jobs there is and that being there for my kids is just as important as any job out there is. Believe me I could write a whole book on this subject alone.
Danish
The second reason is the blog is something to challenge me and be a creative outlet.  I was in a group called the Daring Bakers.  Started my own group with a girl I met through the Daring Bakers.  It was called Recipes to Rival.  We wanted something more that the sweet challenges issued each month. At least at that time, that is all there was.  But then the Daring Cooks got started.  I made all kinds of things that I might not have made otherwise.  I stretched my culinary skills and flexed my creative muscles.  I made Beef Randang, Beef Wellington, Salmon en Croute,  Puff Pastry, Danish, Dobos Torte, Suet Pudding, Homemade Pasta, Chinese Potstickers, Orange Cherry Tian, Eclairs, Opera Cake, Tamales, Ricotta Cheese...
Pasta drying on laundry racks.
cannoli
I also started my blog so that my kids would have a place to look up my recipes or the recipes that became mine over time as I tweaked them to our taste.  It has proved to be one of the most efficient ways to store my recipes.  So many times I could not find a recipe and would look on my blog and find it immediately.
Little Piggies Made From Puff Pastry

I have had surprising things that happened to me as a result of my blog.  I never expected to make a dime from my blog.  I have made some money, not a lot mind you, but I have.
Cherry Orange Tian
I have received products to try and write about:  cookbooks, food, liquor.  I have received comments from people that are known- an actress and a few authors.  That is pretty exciting!  Some of the cookbooks: The Cornbread Gospels and Mix Shake Stir.



I have become more tech savvy.  Even though I have so much more to learn, I have really learned a lot about the internet and blogging because of my blog.

Its been a journey.  I keep on going even though there are times I want to stop.  Don't know how long I will continue but I have no plans to stop.

Thank you for stopping by now, then and whenever.  I appreciate every comment and every click!

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Norwegian Gingerbread


I would totally make these gingerbread cookies anytime of the year.  They are perfect with tea, are not overly sweet and have great flavor.  If you are into spice- like in a Chai kind of way- these are perfect for you.  Try them!


Norwegian Gingerbread

6 cups unbleached flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup butter
2 cups brown sugar
4 teaspoons ground ginger
4 teaspoons cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons cloves
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 cup unsulphured molasses
2 eggs


Cream butter and sugar for 5 minutes.  Add in molasses and then eggs.  Mix spices, salt, baking powder, baking soda and flour together in a separate bowl.  Add to the creamed mixture, just until fully incorporated.  Place two inches apart on cookie sheet.  Bake at 350F for 12 to 14 minutes. Frost with royal icing if desired when cookies are fully cooled.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Peanut Butter Blossoms


Here is a cookie I make most years at Christmas time.  Christmas flew by and I never posted it.  Its amazing how time flies, isnt it?  I always feel like I can't seem to catch up on all I want to do.  I know I am not alone in this feeling.  I think it is probably pretty common.  Especially in this day and age. There is so much to do with your time, so many choices.

If you have time to make some cookies and are partial to peanut butter, these are totally worth the time!

PEANUT BUTTER BLOSSOMS

1/2 cup or 4 ounces shortening
1/2 cup or 4 ounces unsalted butter
1 cup peanut butter
1 cup brown sugar (not packed)
1 cup white sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt

Cream butter, shortening and sugar together.  Add in peanut butter, then vanilla, then eggs- one at a time.

In a separate container mix flour, baking soda and salt.  Stir together and then add into the creamed mixture.  Scrape down sides of bowl.  Mix until it is a cohesive dough.

Roll into balls- about a 1 inch diameter.  Roll in sugar and place on cookie sheet.  Bake at 350F for about 10 to 12 minutes. Once they are removed from the oven and still on the baking sheet- place kisses in centers.  They will crackle at this point.  Remove from sheet to cooling rack.  Let cool to room temperature.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Crumb Cookies

Did you ever have a bunch of crumbs you didnt know what to do with and you didnt want to throw them out?  If you bake- then your probably have.  These cookies I made ,which are actually bars, were amazing.

I had made these peanut crunch bars.  I accidentally cooked the caramel that goes in them too long and ended up with some pretty hard bars.  They were good but just a little too crunchy.  I put them in my food processor and had crumbs that I needed to use up. This was the perfect way to use those crumbs.

I can't wait for the next time I have crumbs and need some way to use them up!

Crumb Cookies

1/2 cup shortening
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup molasses
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 1/2 cups flour
2 1/2 cups cookie crumbs
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt

Cream the shortening and sugar together.  Beat about 4 minutes.  Add in vanilla then eggs then molasses.   In another bowl combine flour, cookie crumbs. baking soda and salt. Add dry mixture to wet mixture.  Drop by tablespoons.  Or you can make a bar cookie if it is very wet.

Bake at 350F for 10 to 12 minutes.  If making bars, spoon into 13 x 9 and bake for about 30 to 45 minutes.  When bars begin to pull away from the sides of the baking dish then it is done.  Cool completely before cutting.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Top 10 of 2015



HAPPY NEW YEAR!


Everyone is making this list.  I think I need to.  I guess I don't pay attention to stats like I should.  It was pretty interesting to look and see what were the posts that people gravitated towards.

This is the countdown of the most popular posts of 2015.

10. Pumpkin Vegetarian Chili



9. Pasta e Fagioli



8.  Apple Cake



7.  Beet Hummus



6. Sweet Potato Fritters



5. Moroccan Zucchini Bread



4. Mothers Walnut Cake



3. Asian Style Salad



2. Pork Braciole with Ragu



1. Jalapeno Cornbread





Here is what we wanted you to know should be in the top ten.

Bold Chipotle Corn Chowder


Mustard Chicken with Blackberry Sauce



Asian Cabbage Salad


Coconut Rice



Butternut Squash Pizza



Roasted Autumn Vegetables



Ginger Pumpkin Pie (though I will warn you- you have to LOVE ginger)


Gorgonzola, Pear and Walnut Pizza



Ketchup (which is not a dish of course but totally needs to be on this list of ours.)


Cherry Pistachio Almond Cake



and finally, our absolute favorite, Browned Butter Pumpkin Cake its picture is at the very top of the page.

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