Saturday, May 14, 2011

Carrot Cake

If ever there were a cake that could be considered healthy, it‘s carrot cake.  The more jam packed full of carrots it is, the better for you. The addition of pineapple makes this cake tasty and moist, coconut adds even more texture and raisins are a sweet compliment to the flavor and a nice alternative to nuts. And of course, what’s carrot cake without cream cheese icing! 
As promised, I am posting a recipe, so if you would like to try the carrot cake, you can find the recipe at:

Friday, April 29, 2011

Back on the blogging wagon...

April has all but come and gone, and I have been off the map, but returning to find a few new followers is just the motivation that I needed to get going again… so a big thanks to all of you who follow.
I am toying with the idea of sharing some recipes, maybe one a week, because I would really like to share more than just food and pictures with you – I want us to share this food experience. Stay tuned for this…I am still cooking it up.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Banana bread

When overripe bananas overflow the fruit bowl, it’s time to make banana bread.
While the texture and taste of fresh overripe bananas are preferable for banana bread, it’s perfectly fine to freeze bananas and thaw them for baking at a later time.
It’s possible to make any recipe healthier by maximizing the use of more nutritious ingredients and holding back those that are less beneficial, and this recipe holds true to that philosophy: It’s heavy on the mashed banana, and a little lighter on the butter.
I also use a few ‘secret’ ingredients, simple things that give this banana bread a unique taste:
1. A good strong dose of black coffee
2. Ground cloves
3. Callebaut semi-sweet chocolate.
The cloves add a spicy contrast that wake up the taste buds; it reminds me of the chili & chocolate combination. And frankly, everything’s better with coffee or Calllebaut chocolate. 

Monday, March 7, 2011

Muffin of the day

For years, I’ve been working at mastering “the muffin”, and until recently, it’s been a fruitless endeavor. Instead of light, airy, well-rounded muffins with heaping tops, time after time, I pulled dense, flat "pucks" out of the oven.
Finally, this week, there is cause for celebration in my kitchen; I have baked muffin worth writing home about.  And even better, the recipe is versatile: using the same ingredients to make the base, it can be adapted in more ways than I would dare to imagine. Yesterday’s creation was a fig-ginger-pumpkin variety, and today I used the leftover pumpkin combined with zucchini. I was so impressed with the crystallized ginger that tomorrow I am going to try it with carrots and apple.
I have had to adjust the amount of baking powder, and I now use pastry flour exclusively instead of all-purpose. And lastly, the most important thing I have learned is that unsalted butter trumps oil in muffin recipes.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Tasting my way to the perfect cookie

I’ve tasted a lot of cookies and I’ve got to say, most of them have been pretty mediocre. I have great expectations of a cookie; I admit it, and so I have taken matters into my own hands in the pursuit of the perfect cookie. So far, the best of my repertoire are the double chocolate, peanut butter chocolate chunk, and most recently, white chocolate macadamia nut.
The perfect cookie, in my opinion, is a bit crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside. Attaining this is truly a science, and requires the right combination of ingredients, especially sugars, butter & flour. Needless to say, practice makes perfect and there have been many not-so-perfect cookies baked in my kitchen along the way. Fortunately, I am tireless when it comes to taste testing, and I also have good help.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Roasted vegetable lasagna

This is one of my favorites. This is a vegetarian dish is a crowd pleaser among non-vegetarians as well.

The main ingredient is roasted vegetables. I roast things like eggplant, peppers and zucchini and garlic. Wondering what the green stuff is? I didn’t want to lose the spinach for its taste and nutrients, but I don’t care for the texture of the stringy, wet leaves in lasagna. So here’s a little secret: I puree the spinach with cottage cheese. Not only does this effectively disguise the texture of the spinach, it gives the cottage cheese a much nicer, smoother texture, similar to that of a ricotta cheese. I use Mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses, as well. The Mozzarella is a good melting cheese and the Parmesan provides a strong, sharp flavor.

Lasagna takes some work, but it goes a long way: It’s a great way to feed a group, and it’s a meal that can be prepared before guests arrive, so that you are free to socialize instead of sweating over the stove while your company waits. It also freezes well: It can be frozen prior to baking, then baked at a later date; alternatively, it can be baked, frozen, then reheated.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Rustic Baguettes


This is sort of an aside. Baguettes are not going to appear in the cookbook. But there's something special about baking bread, and this was the first time that I've made baguettes in my kitchen. I finally got myself a nice perforated pan that bakes five loaves...
I was seduced by a good deal on a pan on the internet: I measured my oven and knew I was cutting it close in size. Sure enough, when the pan arrived, I discovered it was about a half inch too wide to fit in my oven.  In spite it obviously being too big, I made several desperate attempts to jam my new pan into the oven. When that didn't work, I slid it in on an angle. The situation was looking pretty grim. Luckily, my hubby came to my rescue and had the pan chopped, welded and alas, shortened! And it worked like a hot-damn, too.
I like the rustic look added by dusting with flour before baking, but I wish my cuts were nicer. Scoring with the lame is something that takes practice, I have learned. I took the baguettes out of the oven after the required baking time, and forgot to let them sit in the oven with the door open; they could've been crispier... next time they will be!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Phyllo Samosas

…with fresh mango chutney, which is an absolute must. Samosas are simple: The potatoes and cauliflower need to be precooked, then combined with peas, yogurt, coconut milk, butter and spices to make the filling. I use a mixture of olive oil and butter for brushing the phyllo. These are tasty even out of the freezer. The chutney freezes well, too, so I pack a little bit in a snack bag to freeze with each serving. Perfect, because I crave these little morsels like crazy sometimes, and now all I have to do is reach into the freezer!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Red wine & ripe tomatoes

I thought it was time for a facelift (for the blog, not me) and this red is rich; it reminds me of red wine and spaghetti sauce… 

Two years ago, we planted our first vegetable garden, and it produced!  Most notably, we had amazing amounts of tomatoes. From late summer well into the fall, so late that rescued the last big batch of fruit from the cold and piled them onto every windowsill in the house. Every few weeks, I would make tomato sauce, so as not to waste any of the fruit of our labor. It turned out to also be a great way to use up half-drunk bottles of red wine that are no longer fit to drink.
I also put in garlic and herbs from our garden. I froze it in large and small jars, for using as a pasta sauce and sauce for pizza.
Last year, we weren’t so lucky with our garden. Our tomatoes, in particular, caused us some serious grief, and even after replacing dying plants several times, the harvest was minimal, to say the least. And so, in order to replenish our stock in the freezer, we spent a small fortune on tomatoes at a local farmer’s market. 

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Granola bars - 1 / Diet – 0

Tonight's two endeavors were both second trials, attempts to tweak and improve upon my first tries. I did indeed improve both recipes to my satisfaction, and was pleased with the end results. 
First was a copy-cat of a local bakery’s granola bars. They’re loaded with seeds (sunflower and pumpkin) and oats. I even added the tinniest bit of Callebaut semi-sweet chocolate chunks, which works well with the bar's chewy, caramel-like texture, created by cooking the butter, corn syrup and brown sugar. What I learned? The bars do not cook for long or at a high temperature. I learned this the hard way the first time and overcooked the bars, so I reduced the baking time to a mere 15 minutes.
Secondly, the peanut butter oat bars, which were… amazing.  Another crack at mimicking: this time, a coffee shop dessert bar. Very sweet (and addictive), no-bake, (Callebaut) milk chocolate... There is just no resisting this food – It is too powerful, at least for my willpower.
I barely had the time to take a picture to share with you. Every last trace of these treats was devoured, wrapped up, shipped out or passed in the blink of an eye.