Asparagus and Shiitake Stir Fry

april 11, 2018

asparagus shiitake stir fry

 

What better way to welcome spring and say so long to winter than with a recipe featuring elements of both seasons? Hey, there, asparagus, nice to see you again! Butternut squash, it was a good run, and now it’s time to make way for greener crunchies. With my quest to add more veggies to my daily meal plan (see previous post for Socca Pizza), I am finding that if vegetables are roasted ahead, or stir-fried ahead, I”m much more likely to heat and serve alongside my main dish. Continue reading

Socca Pizza with Roasted Tomatoes

march 29, 2018

socca pizza with roasted tomatoes

The esteemed food writer Michael Pollan said it best : Eat food, not too much, mostly plants. Starchy carbs are not my enemy, but I do feel better when I stick with Pollan’s suggestion to let plant based foods become the star in my meal planning. There is no substitute for my beloved potatoes and they are always welcome at the table. Grain based products like pizza and breads are an occasional craving, so replacing starchy grains and enjoying a quick bread made with almond flour, or this pizza made with chickpea flour, is the way I choose to enjoy the things I love.  Continue reading

Chocolate Peanut Layer Cake

march 15, 2018

chocolate peanut layer cake

When spring rolls around, I dream of chocolate and peanut butter. Wait, what? Not even close to seasonal, you might think. Easter brings those egg-shaped Reese’s peanut butter treats, creamy milk chocolate covering a salty sweet peanut butter filling, and I swoon. Yes, they are available year round as little patties with ridges, and at Halloween as pumpkins, but the Easter ones have a very thin coat of chocolate and lots of slightly crunchy peanut butter filling. I’ve eaten more than my share lately, so today’s cake is all about the chocolate, with a little peanut thrown in for pleasure. Yep, this is a chocolate lover’s cake for those who also like peanut butter.

chocolate peanut layer cake

Is this a ” healthy” dessert? Not on your life. My motto regarding dessert is this: better to have a little bit of the real thing than a lot of lower calorie stuff that will leave you less than satisfied. There, I said it. Or wrote it. That’s my philosophy and I’m sticking with those words.

chocolate peanut layer cake

Is this an easy dessert? Relatively speaking, yes. All three components may be made ahead at different times and assembled when you have a bigger chunk of time. All purpose wheat flour would work just as well as the gluten free favorite in my pantry. The cake is a great keeper in the fridge for up to one week—simply let the servings sit at room temperature until they are soft and creamy. I’m certain freezing is also an option, but my tasters and I could not wait for that experiment. To keep the outside pretty, your freezer needs to be large enough to accommodate the cake dome, but if you make this tasty cake and decide on freezing leftover  pieces, wrap in plastic and rejoice in your ability to delay gratification. You have more discipline than the author of this post.

chocolate peanut layer cake

Chocolate Peanut Layer Cake

recipe by Michele Humlan, The Good Eats Company

makes one three layer eight inch cake

ingredients

chocolate layer cake

1 ¾ cup 1-for-1 gluten free flour (my current favorite is Bob’s Red Mill) – all purpose wheat flour works just as well
¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder ( I use Hershey’s) – plus extra for coating cake pans
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 ½ teaspoon baking powder
1 ½ teaspoon baking soda
½ cup (one stick) unsalted butter, melted gently and cooled to room temperature
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup whole milk
1 cup boiling water

cake directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Spray 3 eight inch cake pans with cooking spray, line with parchment, spray again and coat interior lightly with cocoa powder.
  3. In large mixing bowl, whisk together dry ingredients.
  4. In another mixing bowl whisk together butter, eggs, vanilla and milk; mixture will appear curdled.
  5. Whisk together dry and wet ingredients, then whisk in boiling water.
  6. Batter will be very thin; to fill pans evenly, use a large ladle; bake until tops spring back easily and cake begins to pull away from the sides, about 20 minutes.
  7. Let cool in pans about 10 minutes, then flip out onto waxed paper; you will be frosting the bottoms of each layer, as tops will be sticky.

peanut butter mousse

4 ounces (half a brick) of full fat cream cheese, at room temperature
½ cup creamy peanut butter ( I like Jif or Skippy natural)
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 or more cups powdered sugar
whole milk, about 2 tablespoons

mousse directions

  1. In large mixing bowl, use electric mixer to cream together cream cheese, salt, vanilla and peanut butter; mixture will appear dry and shaggy.
  2. Add 1 cup powdered sugar and blend well, then add 1 tablespoon milk.
  3. Add another cup powdered sugar, then ½ tablespoon milk; add more milk a few drops at a time if needed until mousse is creamy, but it must be firm enough to set between the cake layers.

sour cream chocolate frosting

12 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 ½ sticks)
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped
¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder ( I like Hershey’s)
3 cups powdered sugar
1 cup full fat sour cream
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup dry roasted unsalted peanuts, chopped, for assembly

frosting directions

  1. Melt butter and unsweetened chocolate over low heat in small saucepan, stirring frequently.
  2. Whisk in cocoa and add mixture to large mixing bowl.
  3. With electric mixer on low, add one cup powdered sugar, followed by vanilla and ⅓ cup sour cream.
  4. Add another cup sugar, then another ⅓ cup sour cream, scraping sides of bowl as needed.
  5. Add remainder of sugar, then rest of sour cream and mix well.

cake assembly

  1. Place one cake layer (bottom side up) on flat surface of cake server, cover with half the peanut butter mousse, then add the second cake layer, cover with remaining mousse and top with third cake layer.
  2.  With thin spatula (an offset spatula is best) apply frosting starting with the top, then the sides, and finally use spatula to create decorate spikes on the top layer.
  3. Using your hands, attach the chopped peanuts to the cake sides, a little at a time, and when peanuts fall onto the work surface,  you may scoop them up for the next application.
  4. Cake may be enjoyed immediately, or stored in the refrigerator up to one week; allow cake to sit at room temperature at least ½ hour to soften before serving.

 

Blood Orange Black Pepper Cocktail

february 28, 2018

blood orange black pepper cocktail

Blood orange season is mercifully brief. Don’t assume I dislike this deep red tart fruit, but its short run at the markets assures that I indulge while available and pine for its presence once it disappears from the market shelves. I like seasonality and I like to miss things and not take them for granted. Moro oranges are like that for me. I suppose I could purchase the juice in a jar, but then I would miss the opportunity to slice into ruby flesh and fill my kitchen with the unmistakeable aroma of winy blood orange. Continue reading

Lemon Rosemary Roasted Chicken

february 15, 2018

lemon rosemary roasted chicken

 

This winter my perennial herbs really took a hit. After a few chilly spells, the thyme has the color and consistency of slimy sea kelp. In milder winters I have been able to harvest oregano for weeks after the first frost. This winter, all I have left is one herb —  a few scraggly spears of rosemary on my plants, and the most viable went toward today’s Lemon Rosemary Roasted Chicken. The house needed a really comforting aroma before guests arrived, and the rosemary contributed to the illusion I had been cooking all day. In reality there is nothing easier than roasting chicken thighs. No pan sear, no fuss, just marinate for a bit in the lemon garlic rosemary magic, roast and there you have it. A simple rustic meal emboldened with the bite of pickled hot peppers, on a creamy base of whatever suits your taste. Continue reading

Winter Fruit Salad

february 2, 2018

winter fruit salad

It’s so easy to toss together fruit salad in warmer months. Rinse some berries, cut up some melon and throw in something else for color, perhaps a few green grapes. During the chillier months, you have citrus at peak season but if you’re like me you don’t always think of those fruits as part of a salad. There’s peeling involved. Work to be done. But the payoff! A brilliantly hued platter of abundance and the opportunity to play with your food and make it pretty.

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Chicken Noodle Root Vegetable Soup

january 23, 2018

chicken noodle root vegetable soup

Nothing is more comforting in cold and flu season than a hot, steaming bowl of homemade chicken noodle soup. Snow days beg for soup, as do those days when your head is clogged and your body aches. You needn’t be ill, however, to appreciate hot soup! Winter is that season for something that tastes like you, or someone, cooked all day to make that special dish just for your nourishment and pleasure. Continue reading

Peppermint Fudge Ice Cream

january 6, 2018

peppermint fudge ice cream

What to do with all that Christmas peppermint candy? Ice cream, that’s what, even though frozen treats may not be at the top of your wish list with this chilly start to the new year. To that, I say eat more ice cream and allow your body’s internal engine to crank up the heat for digestion of this all- season creamy dessert. Continue reading

Lemon Ginger Cocktail

december 26, 2017

lemon ginger cocktail

 

Do you love ginger beer with its nose-tickling heat and sweet? You will love this cocktail. Tis the season for holiday entertaining and this cocktail pairs well with crunchy, creamy, salty, chewy nibbles of all kinds. Your guests will think you’ve been toiling for hours, but just a little prep ahead of  time makes for a last minute assembly of a stunning libation. Continue reading

Holiday Chocolate Bark

december 8, 2017

holiday chocolate bark

Given the choice : homemade treat made with love, or store bought. Tough choice, huh? Bet you got it right! The thrill of knowing someone has taken the time, and effort, to craft an edible gift just for you? Well, priceless. That’s what this recipe is all about.

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