Thursday, December 27, 2012


I have many food memories associated with my travels overseas; some quite fond, others not as much - there's nothing like a bout of food poisoning overseas to put the stamp of "Never Again" on a certain food! Thankfully, the good food memories far outweigh the unpleasant ones.

I was first introduced to Georgian food when I was studying abroad in the USSR in 1990 at a restaurant in Moscow called, if I recall correctly, Kavkaz. We sat around a long table and were treated to a small version of a legendary Georgian feast - small, but we were there for several hours and ploughed through many bottles of Georgian wine.

Although I enjoyed all of the dishes, especially the Chicken Satsivi, my favorite was the platter of Khachapuri which they served to us as part of the appetizer course. These cheese-filled boat-shaped breads had come straight from the brick oven and were viciously, piping hot, but we fell on them, ripping them apart and enjoying the stringy, gooey mixture of Georgian cheeses, most likely sulguni and imeruli.

I've always wanted to recreate it at home, but never got around to it until yesterday as I was snowed in by this winter storm. I knew there was no way I'd find the special cheeses without a trip into Brooklyn's Brighton Beach, "Little Odessa," so I did the next best thing: I improvised, and with pretty tasty results.


For the dough:
  • ½ cup warm water (check your package or jar of yeast for the correct temperature range)*
  • pinch of sugar
  • ½ teaspoon dry yeast
  • 1¼ - 1½ cups all purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¾ tablespoon olive oil
For the filing:

  • 6 ounces fresh mozzarella, crumbled
  • 4 ounces shallot and chive Boursin (herbed goat cheese is also good, about 3 ounces)
  • Approximately 1 tablespoon chopped fresh herbs - I like thyme and oregano
  • 1 teaspoon granulated garlic

  • Cornmeal for dusting
  • Sea salt and cool water for glazing


  1. Place the warm water, sugar and yeast in a bowl and let sit until the yeast is foamy and has "bloomed," about 5 minutes. Add ½ cup of flour and stir to incorporate well. Add the salt, olive oil and stir well. Add enough of the remaining flour and stir until the dough starts to pull away from the sides of the bowl and form a rough ball.
  2. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes. Place the ball of dough in an oiled bowl, turning to coat evenly. Cover with plastic wrap and set in a warm place to rise, about an hour or until doubled in size.
  3. Preheat the oven to 450 and prepare a cookie sheet by lining it with parchment paper and sprinkling it with cornmeal. Mix together the filling ingredients and set aside.
  4. Once the dough has risen to twice its original size, lightly sprinkle your work space with more cornmeal. Punch the dough to release the gas and turn it out onto the cornmeal. Flatten the dough into an oblong, slightly oval shape. Mound the cheese filling on the dough, leaving a 1-inch border of dough along the edges.
  5. Fold the edges over to make a thick rim. The bread should look somewhat like a boat.
  6. Bake in a preheated oven for 12 - 15 minutes, until the bread has started to brown on the edges and the cheese is nice and melty.
  7. Serve immediately.

Friday, November 23, 2012


I spent the day alone, by choice, and on a whim, ran down to Price Chopper at 8 am and bought myself a turkey.

But let me back up a bit: See, I decided to let the kids go spend the holiday with their dad and his family for a change, since we usually go to my parents' house. This year, being busy with nursing school I opted to stay at home and not travel. At first, I was lured by the thought of staying at home in my jammies and foraging meals from last week's two-chicken roasted chicken dinner, but then I'd decided, last minute, to stay at home and make myself a traditional Thanksgiving Day meal just for myself, including all the trimmings and sides that I love. The bonus is that this meal came with none of the whining  from so-and-so and how she hates stuffing, and how the Other Kid sees orange vegetables such as butternut squash or sweet potatoes as the height of abhorrence or that they both detest potatoes  - yes, people, there are folks out there who hate potatoes, they are my children.

Thus resolved to have a dinner of all of my favorite holiday dishes, I dashed to the store for a fresh turkey. Not surprisingly, on Thanksgiving Day morning, there were only 3 fresh turkeys left, and I nicknamed them Gargantua (22 lb.), Gargantua the Elder (25 lb.) and Gargantua the Younger (19.5 lb.), the last of whom ended up in my roasting pan, stuffed with aromatics and lavishly rubbed with herbed butter.

To accompany it, I had roasted cauliflower, maple-glazed butternut squash, baked, buttered mashed potatoes, sausage and apple stuffing, sweet and spicy whole berry cranberry sauce and silky smooth turkey gravy. For dessert, a mini pecan pie.

The whole shebang:

Sausage and Apple Stuffing 

It's my family's favorite, with crumbled pork sausage, chopped apples, celery, walnuts, sauteed onion and sage. I've converted a few people with this one!


  • 1 package bulk pork sausage like Jimmy Dean or Bob Evans
  • 3 tart apples, I like Granny Smith or northern spies 
  • 1 bunch of celery 
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, chopped 
  • Apple cider 
  • 1 package of stuffing cubes 
  • 1 onion 
  • Sage, fresh and dried  

  1. Cook the sausage, drain and set aside. 
  2. Saute the chopped onions and celery in some of the sausage fat until slightly brown and soft. 
  3. In a big bowl, dump in a package of stuffing cubes (or use your own mixture of bread cubes and crumbled, day-old cornbread). 
  4. Add the chopped apples, walnuts, onions and sausage. Chop up 6 or 7 fresh sage leaves and add it to the mixture.
  5. Mix thoroughly. 
  6. Add dried sage, and black pepper. 
  7. Then add apple cider to moisten. Start with a cup and then go from there.
  8. Let sit in the refrigerator at least 4 hours, though overnight is better. 
  9. Before baking, you may have to add more cider if it's too dry. 
  10. Bake in a buttered casserole dish at 350 until done, 45 minutes or so.

Maple-Glazed Butternut Squash 


  • 1 medium butternut squash
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup  
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons butter

  1. Peel, seed and quarter the squash, then cut into half-inch slices. 
  2. Place the slices in a large saucepan and add the maple syrup and water. 
  3. Bring to a boil, then simmer for about 15 minutes, or until the squash is tender. 
  4. Remove the squash with a slotted spoon to a serving dish and bring the cooking liquid to a boil until it has reduced and thickened. 
  5. Drizzle over the squash, top with the pats of butter and serve.

Mini Pecan Pie

For the pecan pie, you just can't go wrong with the Classic Pecan Pie from Karo Syrup. I just cut the recipe in roughly half for this smaller pie plate..

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Apple and Dulce de Leche Cake

I'm taking a short break from my extreme low-carb routine to get in some much missed baking. Although I don't have a very pronounced sweet tooth, I do love baking sweet treats for others. My kids especially love a nice moist piece of cake. The finely chopped apples in this cake help keep it moist, and the swirls of dulce de leche throughout the cake ooze out in a lovely, luscious display of sweetness. The icing is creamy and sweet, and the chopped walnuts over the top add that essential textural contrast that rounds out the cake.

Can you tell that we really really love this cake?

Apple and Dulce de Leche Cake with Dulce de Leche Icing


  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour 
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder 
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda 
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon 
  • ¼ teaspoon ground ginger 
  • ¼ teaspoon grated nutmeg 
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt 
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened 
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar 
  • 2 eggs 
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
  • 2 cups chopped, peeled tart apples, chopped very fine 
  • 1/2 cup dulce de leche - I usually use Nestle's la Lechera canned dulce de leche
  •  Dulce de leche icing – recipe below 
  • ¼ cup chopped walnuts


  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spray a 9x9-inch square baking pan with cooking spray. 
  2. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and salt in a small bowl and set aside. 
  3. In a large mixing bowl, beat together the softened butter, brown sugar, eggs and vanilla until smooth. Gradually add the flour mixture into the wet ingredients, stirring until everything is combined, then fold in the chopped apples. 
  4. Pour about 2/3 of the batter into the baking dish and smooth the top with a spatula. Dot the dulce de leche over the batter and then spoon in the remaning batter and snooth the top with a spatula. .Take a butter knife and drag it through the batter to swirl the dulce de leche, and make sure to smooth the top of the batter when you’re finished. 
  5. Bake 25 to 30 minutes, or until a cake tester or toothpick comes out clean. Let cool completely before icing.

 Dulce de leche Icing


  • 2 tablespoons butter 
  • 2 tablespoons dulce de leche 
  • Approximately 4 tablespoons heavy cream 
  • 3/4 cup confectioner’s sugar


  1. In a small saucepan, heat butter and 2 tablespoons of heavy cream over medium until the butter starts to melt Add the dulce de leche and stir for about 30 seconds, then remove from heat and scrape into a small bowl. Continue to whisk until the mixture is completely smooth. 
  2. Add the vanilla and another tablespoon of heavy cream, mix until smooth, then add the confectioner’s sugar. Beat vigorously with a whisk or a hand mixer until smooth, adding more cream until you have the consistency you like. Drizzle and spread over bars, top with chopped walnuts and serve.

A glimpse of the lovely, moist interior with oozing dulce de leche:

Monday, July 30, 2012


I've gone on a bit of a carb binge the past few days and splurged by making a variety of soufflés, sweet and savory. I'm going off a base recipe and adjusting as I go. So far, although there have been a few technical glitches here and there, these soufflés have been delicious.

Nutella souffle

Cheese soufflé

Dark chocolate soufflé

Lemon-almond soufflé

The idea behind a soufflés, both sweet and savory, is that you make a base mixture enriched with the egg yolk, then beat the whites to stiff peaks and fold it into the yolk mixture. Bake, then serve. Easy, right?

The basic recipe for a single soufflé baked in a 7-ounce/200ml ramekin calls for 1 room temperature egg, carefully separated into two bowls, so that no trace of the yolk is in the whites. Prepare the ramekin by buttering the inside liberally and then coating it with sugar for sweet soufflés, cocoa powder for dark chocolate soufflés, and bread crumbs or gated parm for savory cheese soufflés. Preheat the oven to 375.

For a savory soufflé like the cheese soufflé, you can make a standard cheese sauce from a Bechamel, then let it cool a bit and whisk in the yolk. For a single serving, I used about 1/3 cup of the cheese sauce per one yolk.

Set that aside and whip your egg white to pretty stiff peaks, adding 1/8 teaspoon of cream of tartar if you like to help stabilize the whites. Then fold in about half of the whipped whites into your yolk + cheese sauce base, and then carefully fold in the remaining whites in two more additions. Scoop into the prepared ramekin and bake for 15 minutes.

The base for a chocolate dessert soufflé generally uses a ganache of melted chocolate and butter, which is cooled a bit and then fortified with the yolk. Then proceed as with a savory soufflé by beating the egg whites with cream of tartar, but adding 2 teaspoons of sugar to them once they have reached soft peak stage and them beating them to stiff peaks before folding them into the chocolate mixture. Bake as usual.

For the lemon-almond dessert soufflé, I used a base of 1 tablespoon plain Greek yogurt, to which I added 1 tablespoon of flour, almond extract, a teaspoon or so of lemon juice, 2 teaspoons of sugar and 1/4 teaspoon of fresh lemon zest. Again, add sugar and cream of tartar to the whites, beat to stiff peaks and fold into the base mixture and bake.

I am still fooling around with the Nutella soufflé. When I made it the other day, I just mixed the egg yolk with a glob of Nutella straight from the jar and 1 tablespoon of flour. That base ended up being too thick to allow the beaten egg whites to incorporate fully, so I ended up with distinct layers of Nutella + yolk and lighter layers of almost sponge cake.

See the layers? The slightly gooey Nutella layer sank to the bottom, while the egg white layers sat mostly on top.

 It was delicious, but not quite a soufflé. The next time I make it, I may omit the flour, and melt the Nutella in a double boiler with some butter or heavy cream before adding the yolk.

Dark Chocolate Soufflé

Makes 1 serving 
  • 1 egg 
  • About 1 ounce of bittersweet chocolate - I used 1.3 ounces of Scharffen berger 70% cacao baking chocolate
  • 1.5 tablespoons of salted butter 
  • 1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar 
  • 2 teaspoons sugar 
  • butter and cocoa powder for the ramekin
  1. Set an egg out on the counter and let come to room temperature. Preheat oven to 375. Prepare ramekin by buttering it liberally and pour in a little cocoa powder and swirl it around so that the sides are all coated with the cocoa. 
  2. Separate the egg, putting the white in one bowl, the yolk in another. 
  3. Put the hunk of chocolate in a bowl over simmering water and once it starts to melt, add 1.5 tablespoons salted butter. When the chocolate and butter start to soften and melt, take the bowl off the heat and stir briskly until it is all smooth. Whisk in one egg yolk and stir until it's all mixed together. Set aside. 
  4. Add 1/8 teaspoon of cream of tartar to the egg white and beat until soft peaks form, then add the sugar and beat until the white forms firm peaks. 
  5. Gently fold the whipped white into the chocolate and yolk mixture, one third at a time until it's all incorporated. Scoop into the prepared ramekin and bake for 15 minutes. Dust with confectioner's sugar and serve immediately.

Lemon-Almond Soufflé

  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh lemon zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • butter and sugar for the ramekin

  1. Set an egg out on the counter and let come to room temperature. Preheat oven to 375. Prepare ramekin by buttering it liberally and pour in a little granulated sugar and swirl it around so that the sides are all coated with the sugar.
  2. Separate the egg, putting the white in one bowl, the yolk in another. 
  3. Mix together the yolk, 2 teaspoons of sugar, flour, almond extract, lemon juice and lemon zest until smooth. Set aside.
  4. Add 1/8 teaspoon of cream of tartar to the egg white and beat until soft peaks form, then add the sugar and beat until the white forms firm peaks. 
  5. Gently fold the whipped white into the yolk mixture, one third at a time until it's all incorporated. Scoop into the prepared ramekin and bake for 15 minutes. Dust with confectioner's sugar and serve immediately.

Cheese Soufflé

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup whole milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon mustard powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • hot sauce
  • 2.5 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 1 egg
  • 1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • butter and grated parm for the ramekin

  1. Set an egg out on the counter and let come to room temperature. Preheat oven to 375. Prepare ramekin by buttering it liberally and pour in a little grated parm and swirl it around so that the sides are all coated with the cheese.
  2. Melt the butter in a saucepan and add the flour, stirring until it makes a paste. Pour in the heavy cream and milk and whisk until smooth. Add the mustard powder, grated nutmeg and a few drop of hot sauce. Add 2 ounces of the shredded cheese and stir until the cheese melts and the sauce is smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove from heat and let cool.
  3. Once sauce cools a bit, measure out about 1/3 cup of the sauce and whisk the egg yolk until smooth and set aside. You can save the rest of the sauce for other uses - augment another cheese sauce, thin with beer for a sauce for Welsh rabbit, or in a Croque Monsieur.
  4. Add 1/8 teaspoon of cream of tartar to the egg white and beat until stiff.. 
  5. Gently fold the whipped white into the cheese and yolk mixture, one third at a time until it's all incorporated. Scoop into the prepared ramekin, top with reserved 1/2 ounce of shredded cheese and bake for 15 minutes. Serve.

Nutella Soufflé recipe with my adjustments, coming soon!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Seared Sockeye Salmon with Greek-ish Vegetables

I'm still going strong with the healthy eating and working out here, though it has been awfully hot lately, which means that I have been disinclined to turn on the oven. I've been eating plenty of cooler dishes, salads, lettuce wraps, the occasional avocado mashed up with salsa, which is surprisingly addictive. Some days it's worth it to fire up a skillet for a few minutes to sear a nice piece of fish.

Sockeye salmon is not for those people who are iffy on fish. It seems to me to have a stronger, more salmon-y flavor, but still has that lovely, soft and buttery texture. I've read that it is leaner than other varieties of salmon and, as such, can dry out quicker than others, so I cooked it slightly less than I generally do with salmon.

The flavor is so wonderful, that I dressed it only with fresh lemon juice and some salt and pepper, so that I could fully enjoy the lovely fishiness of it. The bright medley of Greek-ish vegetables added a refreshing touch.

Seared Sockeye Salmon with Greek-ish Vegetables 


  • sockeye salmon fillet - I had a large one, which I cut into two 4-ounce portions
  • 1 T olive oil
  • salt
  • pepper
  • lemon juice
  • cherry tomatoes
  • Persian cucumber
  • zucchini
  • feta
  • oil-cured black olives
  • olive oil
  • lemon juice


  1. Chop the vegetables and toss them with crumbled feta, olive oil and fresh lemon juice, add salt and pepper as needed. Set aside.
  2. Season the salmon with salt and pepper.
  3. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a pan and sear the salmon skin-side down for 3 minutes, then flip and sear the other side for about 2 minutes.
  4. Squeeze some lemon juice over the top of the fish and serve with your Greek vegetables.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Halibut with Saffron and Smoked Paprika Aioli

I tried out a new fish this week with a lovely, delicate halibut fillet. I've only had halibut once before. When I was in Alaska, I had an amazing halibut fish and chips at Humpy's, which was the second-best fish and chips I've ever had.

This was my first time cooking halibut myself though, so I opted for a light sear in a hot pan. I'd also been imagining Spanish-inspired flavors to go with it, and whipped up an aioli with saffron and smoked paprika based off the basic 2-minute mayo technique. To continue with the Spanish/Mediterranean flavors, I made a side dish with roasted tomatoes and shallots and added olives and capers.

Halibut with Saffron and Smoked Paprika Aioli

  • 4 oz. filet of halibut
  • olive oil

    For the aioli:
  • 1 egg yolk, at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 3/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • pinch of saffron soaking in1 tablespoon warm water
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • salt and pepper
  • pinch of sugar (optional)

    For the tomato and shallot side dish:   
  • 1 tomato
  • 1 shallot
  • 3 oil-cured black Greek olives
  • 2 teaspoons capers
  • olive oil
  • sherry vinegar
  • fresh basil

Make the aioli:

  1. Using the same method as the 2-minute mayo, place the yolk, garlic, sherry vinegar, smoked paprika, saffron and its soaking water, salt, pepper and oils in a wide-mouthed jar or measuring cup and puree it with a stick blender.
  2. Whisk in the lemon juice and taste for seasoning. If the vinegar is too strong, you can add a pinch of sugar. At this point, I added a bit more smoked paprika too. 
  3. Refrigerate for at least a half hour.

Make the side dish:

  1. Preheat the oven to 450 F. Cut the tomato into quarters and then  cut those quarters into large chunks. Slice a large shallot into quarters. Toss together the tomatoes and shallots with a drizzle of olive oil, some salt and pepper, then place in a roasting pan lined with foil. 
  2. Roast for 15 minutes, then take them out and stir and roast for another 15 - 20 minutes or longer, until they are roasted to your liking. Remove to a bowl and let cool for 5 minutes.
  3. Chop up the olives and capers, then add to the tomatoes and shallots.
  4. Add a drizzle of olive oil and sherry vinegar and basil. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.

For the fish:

  1. Let the fillet come to room temperature. Heat a sturdy saute pan over medium-high heat and add a tablespoon of olive oil. One the oil has started to shimmer, sprinkle some salt and pepper on the skin side of the fish and immediately lay that side down in the oil. Salt and pepper the top of the fish. 
  2. Sear for 3 minutes, then flip and sear for 2 minutes on the other side, plate and serve with the roasted vegetables on the side and a dollop of aioli on top.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Chorizo and Eggs Baked in Green Bell Pepper Rings

Facebook and Pinterest have been huge inspirations for recipe ideas. Last week, a friend posted a photo of someone cooking eggs in bell pepper rounds and I knew that I was going to have to give it a try.

True to form, I was immediately thinking of what I'd do differently. I've been really into spicy flavors the past few days, so I thought that I low-carb play on huevos rancheros might be cool. I put sauteed chorizo and onion in the rounds, cracked an egg into it and then garnished it with cheese and included a hefty amount of ranchero sauce on the side.

It was tasty, filling and spicy enough to satisfy that craving for heat.

Chorizo and Eggs Baked in Green Bell Pepper Rings


  • 1 chorizo sausage (2 oz), the uncooked kind also known as chorizo fresco or Mexican chorizo
  • 2 tablespoons chopped onion
  • 2 bell pepper rings, about 3/4 inch high
  • 2 jumbo eggs
  • pepperjack cheese for garnish about 1/2 ounce 
  • avocado slices for garnish
    For the ranchero sauce:
  • 2 tablespoons chopped onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 1 teaspoon chopped serrano pepper
  • fire-roasted tomtoes - I used 1/2 of a 14.5 ounce can of Hunts Fire-Roasted tomatoes, including the juice
  • 1 canned chipotle in adobo, minced
  • 2 tablespoons of adobo sauce
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
  • 1 - 2 teaspoons taco seasoning - I used my homemade chipotle taco seasoning shown below
  • 1 - 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 teaspoon granulated garlic
  • water as needed


  1. Make the ranchero sauce by sauteeing the onion in olive oil over medium heat. Once the onion has softened and become translucent, not brown, add the garlic and chopped serrano and saute for 5 minutes- you may substitute jalapeno or some other hot chili pepper.
  2. Add the tomatoes and the juice and turn the heat to medium-high. Cook for 5 minutes, smashing down the tomatoes from time to time and stirring to keep it from burning. 
  3. Toss in the minced chipotle chili, adobo, chopped oregano, cumin, taco seasoning and granulated garlic. reduce the heat to low, cover, and let simmer for another 10 minutes. Check on it frequently to make sure that it isn't burning, and add water as needed if it seems as though it is evaporating too quickly. You want to keep it a sauce-like consistency, not a paste.
  4. To make the eggs, crumble the chorizo in the pan and cook over medium heat until starting to brown. Add the onion and saute. Push the chorizo and onion mixture into clumps and fit the bell pepper rings around them. If you have too much of the sausage and onion mixture, don't worry, you can do what I did and just eat that separately as you're plating your masterpiece. :)
  5. Crack an egg into each round and cover the pan and cook until the eggs have set to your satisfaction. I prefer fried eggs really cooked all the way through, but if you're a fan of eggs sunny-side up, you won't have to long to wait.
  6. Plate, garnish with a sprinkling of  pepperjack cheese, and serve with ranchero sauce and avocado slices on the side.

Homemade chipotle taco seasoning mix


  •  4 tablespoons chili powder 
  • 2 tablespoons cumin 
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt 
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper 
  • 2 teaspoons sweet paprika 
  • 1 teaspoon chipotle powder - I use a dried chipotle chili and grind into a powder in a spice grinder 
  • 1 teaspoon oregano 
  • 1 teaspoon granulated garlic or regular garlic powder 
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder 
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes 
  • 1/2 teaspoon thyme 
  • 1/2 teaspoon jalapeno flakes 


  1. Mix together Store in an air-tight container - I use empty spice jars. 


  • To season meat for tacos or burritos, use 2 teaspoons to 1 tablespoon of this per 1 pound of ground beef, turkey or tvp/other fake meat substitute. Then taste to test for seasoning You might want to add a bit more for more heat, though this is plenty hot as is. 
  •  I also use 1 tablespoon of this this in chili and in the 7-layer dip.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Chocolate-Coconut Protein Snack

I've enrolled in a pretty intense fitness and training program, and I've been working out at least an hour - sometimes up to two and a half hours - five days a week. As a result, my meal structure has changed somewhat. I like a small post-workout recovery snack soon after I finish working out, though I'm usually not hungry enough for a whole meal. I've had protein shakes made from whey protein powder (I like Pure Protein brand best), but I also stumbled up this DIY chocolate protein bar.

This recipe is for a chocolate-coconut variety, though I believe I'll see if I can finagle one with chocolate and peanut butter next.

Chocolate-Coconut Protein Snack

Makes 3


  • 2 slightly rounded tablespoons of coconut oil
  • 2 heaping tablespoons of chocolate whey protein powder, (I like the Pure Protein brand because they have fewer carbs in it), 
  • 2 teaspoons of regular unsweetened cocoa powder 
  • 2 heaping tablespoons of unsweetened shredded coconut. 
  • 1 packet Stevia or Splenda (optional)


  1. Melt the coconut oil in the microwave for about 15 second, then add all the remaining ingredients and stir well. 
  2. Shape it either by rolling it into a cylinder in plastic wrap or pouring into silicone baking cups. I use regular muffin sized silicone baking cups, which gave me three portions about the size of  a normal Reese's peanut butter cup, though a bit taller.
  3. Refrigerate or freeze. A word of warning: if you freeze it, you WILL need to let it thaw out before you eat it, lest you crack a tooth. Coconut oil softens/melts at room temp though, so do keep it cool.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Low-Carb, Gluten-Free Pizza Crust

The magic ingredient in the crust is cauliflower.

With the addition of an egg and some goat cheese, the crust held together nicely; I was even able to hold a slice in my hand and not have it disintegrate, though it was a bit floppy near the tip. It held together even better when I ate a slice cold the next morning.

This crust is more granular and crumbly than regular pizza because, without additives like xanthan gum or guar gum, there really is no exact equivalent to the structure you get with the gluten in flour. As a result, the mouth-feel is much lighter than a dough made from flour. A flour-based crust, even a thin one, has a certain weightiness to it.

To look at it, though, you'd certainly think that there was some flour in the crust.

This was delicious, and a nice low-carb indulgence, and, as you can see from the photos, totally recognizable as pizza.

I used a sauce seasoned with a lot of garlic, basil, oregano and anchovies, topped it with marinated artichoke hearts, cherry tomatoes, 3 kinds of olives (Kalamata, oil-cured black and oil-cured green olives), feta, an assortment of cheeses (mozzarella, provolone, fontina, asiago, cheddar, romano and parmesan) and garnished it with fresh basil.

Low-Carb, Gluten-Free Cauliflower Pizza Crust


  • 1 head cauliflower1-1/2 ounce goat cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon granulated garlic
  • 1 teaspoon basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano
  • 3 tablespoons parmesan
  • extra parm, about 2 more tablespoons


1.  Put the cauliflower in a food processor and pulse it until it is really finely chopped, about the sixe of rice grains. I had to do it in 2 batches. Then, put the riced cauliflower in a microwave-proof 4-cup Pyrex measuring cup. I had almost 4 cups exactly of the cauliflower (though not packed down). Nuke it for 6 minutes in the microwave, taking it out to stir once halfway through. Put it in a fine-mesh strainer, and push it down with the back of a ladle to help squeeze out the moisture.

 *Here's one thing I forgot to do this time that I did last time - once the cauliflower cools down, put it in a kitchen towel, twist it into a ball and really squeeze out more of the moisture. This step helps a lot getting out all the excess moisture. Cauliflower holds a lot of water. 

2. Once the cauliflower has drained, dump the squeezed cauliflower into a large bowl, and break up the clumps with a fork. Added the crumbled goat cheese and egg along with the granulated garlic, parm, basil, and oregano, and mix it up really well

*This time I forgot to add almond meal, which I did last time and I really think it improves the texture and helps bind it better. I'd guess about 1/4 cup of almond meal. 

 3. Once it forms a pretty nice clump, mind you, it won't be nearly as cohesive as a ball of dough, line a cookie sheet or pizza pan with a sheet of parchment paper. This is CRITICAL. I didn't do it the last time and the bottom of the crust burned and stuck to the pan. Place the mixture on the center of the pan and gently pat it out, flattening it and shaping it the way you want it. It's going to be kind of sticky, but that's ok. Then sprinkle a tiny bit more parm on top, then bake it in a 400 F oven for 35 minutes.

* Next time, I think I'll go lower and slower (300 F and an hour or more) with it to dry it out and firm it up a bit more, because it was just a tiny bit too moist.

 Then top it with your sauce and toppings and put it in a 450 F oven for 5 - 7 minutes, depending on how browned you want your cheese.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Two Kinds of Fish Done One Way

I am a huge fan of fish. I especially love the really fishy-tasting fishes like the oilier cold-water fish - salmon, trout, mackerel, herring and swordfish. Because they're a more robust, oily fish than some of the more delicate white-fleshed fish, these fish can take some searing heat and not dry out as quickly.

For this reason, one of my favorite preparations for these fish is a good sear in a wicked hot pan in a little bit of olive oil, 3 - 4 minutes on the skin side (if it's a fillet), even if the skin has been removed, start with that side, to sear off some of the residual fat left clinging to the flesh. Then flip it over one time, and sear for another 3 - 4 minutes on the other side, and then plate and serve immediately.

For a thinner fillet, opt for the lower time; a thicker fillet or steak, like around 1 inch thick, will need a bit more time, but be careful, because fish can go from perfectly moist and delicately soft to dried out rather quickly.

The salmon, in the picture above, seared for 3 minutes on the first side and about 2-3/4 minutes on the second side; the swordfish, pictured below, went for 4 minutes on both sides, as it was a little more than 1 inch thick.

I didn't marinate the fillets, and I wasn't in the mood for a complicated sauce, so instead, I made a mustard-dill compound butter by mashing together 2 tablespoons salted butter, 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard and 1 tablespoon fresh chopped dill. I formed it into a log, rolled it up in plastic wrap, securing the ends with twist ties, and then popped it in the refrigerator to chill. Then as soon as the fish was plated, I sliced it into generous pats and plopped it right on the fish.

See how it melts into a luscious sauce? So simple, but so much flavor.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Mango, Avocado and Jicama Salad

Here is an old favorite which I'll be making again as soon as I add sweet fruits back to my diet. The sprightly (yes, I said sprightly, can you dig it?) flavors of this salad dance on the tongue.

Seriously, that is all that I can descriptively say about this dish. Good God, is it tasty! With each successive bite, my Mmm-mmm-MMMMMMs got progressively louder and more impassioned.

Everyone knows that the mango's distinctive sweetness pairs well with the luscious, creamy and fatty mildness of the avocado, but tossing in julienned strips of jicama* adds that crunchy dimension that makes this an especially satisfying salad. The lime juice and agave nectar give the dressing a bright sweet-tartness which fades to a slight after-burn from the cayenne.

In short, it is FABULOUS.

Jicama, Mango and Avocado Salad with Lime-Agave Dressing

Serves two

  • 1 jicama
  • 2 mangoes
  • 2 avocados
  • 1 lime
  • 1 T agave nectar - non-vegans may use honey, although that will change the flavor
  • 1 T flax seed oil (or quality extra-virgin olive oil)
  • pinch cayenne
  • salt
  • pepper
  • cilantro for garnish

  1. Make the dressing by juicing the lime, and then whisking it with the agave nectar, flax seed oil, cayenne, salt and pepper. Taste to adjust the seasoning.

  2. Pour into a large bowl.

  3. Peel the jicama and slice into thin strips. Place in the bowl with the dressing and toss with a fork to coat.

  4. Cut the mango flesh into cubes and add to the bowl.

  5. Cut the avocado flesh into cubes and add to the bowl, tossing well to mix.

  6. Pour into two bowls, garnish with chopped cilantro and eat.

  • I prefer the lighter flavor of agave nectar to honey now. Honey tastes almost cloyingly sweet to me since I have stopped using it.

  • See my thoughts on jicama here.

  • Never cut a mango before and are not sure how to do it? The best way to learn is to see someone else cutting it, and since I neglected to take step-by-step pictures (I have no tripod anyway), and because I am feeling lazy today, I will link you to an excellent demonstration: How to cut a mango

  • Need to know how to cut an avocado? Check it out here:

Monday, May 28, 2012

Salmon Two-fer

I saw some beautiful salmon steaks at the store last Friday and so snagged 3 of them. I made a marinade from the juice of one orange, about 4 tablespoons, or 1/4 cup, then added 3 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar, 1 clove of garlic, finely minced, about 1 tablespoon of minced shallot, 1 tablespoon each of chopped fresh rosemary and thyme, plus salt and pepper. Pour the marinade in a container large enough to hold all of the steaks side by side and add the fish. Turn the fish to coat both sides with the marinade, cover and set in the fridge for about an hour, making sure you flip the fish after a half hour.

I baked the steaks in a preheated 350 F degree oven for about 20 minutes. Easy and delicious. The salmon was moist, soft and buttery, absolutely perfect. I didn't end up taking a picture, though. We were all hungry, and we also had to keep an eye on the cat's movements. He's a big fan of salmon, too. :)

Unfortunately, my younger daughter is still a bit iffy about salmon, so we had a good portion of her steak left over, so I re-purposed it into salmon patties for our lunch yesterday. As delicious as salmon patties are when they're made from canned salmon, they are a gazillion times better made from your own leftover salmon. Most recipes call for breadcrumbs in the mix and to coat, but I made some low-carb substitutions that worked out perfectly.

Salmon Patty


  • leftover salmon, about 4 ounces
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2 tablespoons minced shallot, or onion
  • 2 teaspoons whole-grain mustard
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
  • approximately 3 -4 tablespoons almond meal* See Notes
  • 1 tablespoon flaxseed meal*
  • grated parm


  1. Place the salmon in a bowl and flake with a fork, breaking it into pieces. Don't mash it into oblivion, though. Larger pieces of the fish provide a beautiful texture to the patties.
  2. Add the mustard, shallot and egg and mix well, then toss in the dill, and mix thoroughly.
  3. Fold in the almond meal and flaxseed meal until all incorporated. 
  4. Shape the patties, I got 3 nice-sized patties, and let sit for 15 minutes.
  5. Fill a shallow bowl or a plate with grated parm, yes, the stuff from the can, and press the patties down into the cheese and carefully flip them over and repeat, pressing the parm into the top. Careful, these patties are still rather fragile.
  6. Over medium-high heat, melt the fat of your choice in a skillet and fry until golden brown, about 2 minutes, then carefully flip them and cook until golden brown on the other side, about another 2 minutes. 

  1. I really only eyeballed the amount of the almond meal and flaxseed meal and used enough to help the mixture form a cohesive ball. depending on how large your egg is and how much extra fish you have, you may want to use more or less of the meals.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Low-Carb Round-Up Week 2

Week 2 went by without a hitch and without feeling deprived. Flavorful meals kept the interest up, lots of vegetables helped keep me full, and frequent small meals or snacks containing protein also bumped up the satiety factor.

Spaghetti squash with 4-hour meat sauce

For those meals when those around you are screaming for pasta, this sauce is the answer. Yes, it may take 4 hours to simmer, but is it ever worth it.

My kids had this over spaghetti, and I had it with spaghetti squash. I did not miss the pasta at all.
Roasted chicken breast with shallot-herb pan sauce

Sauteed shredded Brussels sprouts with ham

Roasted green beans with sunflower seeds

Lemon-mint Creme

Because my kids love dark meat poultry, when I buy the "picnic packs" of cut-up whole chickens, I am left with the split bone-in chicken breasts for myself. I've found that the simplest and tastiest way to prepare them is with a good pan-sear, breast down, and then 20 minutes in a searing-hot oven in the same pan.

Then it's just a few minutes to let the chicken rest to make a pan sauce and you have crispy skin, succulent meat and a flavorful sauce.

Brussels sprouts are on so many people's No Eat Never list, but I swear, it's only because people don't know how to treat them. My usual method of prep is to slice them in half, drizzle them with olive oil and roast them until lovely and brown, but this method of shredding and sauteeing them is my new favorite.

Add some onion, herbs, ham or bacon to it and you have a great side dish.

Brussels sprouts and asparagus are not the only vegetables that can benefit from a good roast in the oven. Fresh green beans drizzled with olive oil, roasted and then hit with a squeeze of fresh lemon and topped with sunflower seeds and a shower of freshly shredded parm makes a tasty and easy vegetable side dish.

Dessert isn't off-limits even during Phase 1 of the plan. The South Beach Diet has a recipe for a lemon zest ricotta creme which is out of this world. I decided to substitute farmer's cheese for the ricotta and added some mint for a refreshing, creamy dessert.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Roasted Fiddlehead Ferns with Balsamic Vinegar and Parm

It's time for more seasonal foraged favorites. For the next few weeks, fiddlehead ferns are in!  Fiddlehead ferns are the edible tops of ostrich ferns, though care should be taken with them. They can't be eaten raw because of a toxin present that causes some GI distress. So really, no matter how adorable they are, resist the impulse to pop them into your mouth raw.

These little lovelies have a taste that is reminiscent of asparagus and green beans. Cooked just right, they are tender and delicious. The usual preparations are to steam or boil them, sometimes par-boiling and blanching them and sauteeing in olive oil or butter with garlic. Quite often, the simplest preparations are among the most satisfying, so the pure flavor shines through.

I wanted to try something different with these. They really are quite similar in taste to asparagus, and my absolute favorite way to have asparagus is roasted, so I thought I'd give that a try with these fiddleheads. I did like I often do with asparagus and finished them with a light drizzle of balsamic and some shaved parm, and bliss! The three flavors worked beautifully together.

Roasted Fiddlehead Ferns with Balsamic Vinegar and Parm

  • 1 lb. fiddlehead ferns
  • olive oil
  • salt
  • pepper
  • vinegar
  • shaved parm

  1. Preheat the oven to 450 F and line a roasting pan with a sheet of parchment paper.
  2. Wash the ferns very well, making sure to rinse off all of the brown papery scales. Pat dry carefully between two paper towels.
  3. Place in a bowl and drizzle with some olive oil. For a full pound of fiddleheads, I used about 1-1/2 tablespoons of olive oil. Toss to coat well.
  4. Lay them out on the pan and sprinkle with some salt and pepper. Roast for 20 minutes, then  drizzle with balsamic vinegar and top with shaved parm.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Roasted Chicken Breast with Shallot and Herb Pan Sauce

I've mentioned before that my kids are not fans of white meat, so I've been cooking a lot of drumsticks and thighs lately, though recently I bought a "Picnic Pack" of chicken which had 4 drumsticks, 4 thighs and 3 split bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts. I set the chicken breasts aside for some later meal just for myself and baked the dark pieces for the girls the other night. Today I was rummaging through my fridge in search of something for my Mother's Day Lunch for One when I stumbled across one of the breasts - I'd frozen the other two.

When I have a plain old skinless boneless breast, I often like to poach it to keep it as moist as possible, but this chicken breast still had the skin on it and I wanted to take advantage of it by searing it in a hot skillet and then roasting it. For extra flavor, I stuffed some herbed butter under the skin the way I do when I roast a whole chicken, and used the goodies left in the pan to make a really fast pan sauce to spoon  over the top. If I weren't still low-carbing it, I'd have added a side dish of roasted potatoes to soak up the delectable pan sauce.

Although I set off the smoke alarm - I have no exhaust hood in my kitchen - this dish was well worth it, and makes a lovely special occasion dinner that is very fast and easy.

Roasted Chicken Breast with Shallot Herb Pan Sauce

  • 2 bone-in, skin-on, split chicken breasts 
  • 2 tablespoons butter 
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage leaves 
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme 
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary 
  • Grapeseed oil or olive oil 
  • Salt 
  • Pepper
  • 1 tablespoon butter 
  • 1 tablespoon chopped shallot 
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced 
  • ¼ cup white wine 
  • ¼ cup chicken broth 
  • 3 sprigs of fresh thyme 
  • Salt 
  • Pepper 


  1. Preheat the oven to 450 F. You want it really roaring hot. 
  2. Make the herb butter by mashing together the butter with the chopped sage, thyme and rosemary. Take the herb butter and stuff it under the skin. 
  3. Drizzle some grapeseed oil over the chicken and massage it into the skin and flesh. Season with salt and pepper. 
  4. Preheat a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat until hot, but not smoking. Lay the chicken skin-side down straight onto the dry skillet and let cook for 3 minutes. Don’t move it, just let the skin get nice and brown. 
  5. Using a pair of tongs, flip it over and put the pan in the oven. Roast for 15 minutes, then place the chicken on a plate to rest.
    Note: You’re going to use the same skillet that just came out of the oven, so be careful to use a towel or pot holder, otherwise you’re likely to brand yourself on the hand. That cast iron holds heat for a long time. 
  6.  In the same skillet that you used for the chicken, add a little bit of butter and turn the heat to medium-high. Saute the shallots for a minute, then add the garlic and cook another minute, stirring well to scrape up any of the lovely browned bits in the pan. 
  7.  Pour in the wine to help deglaze the pan and loosen more of the lovely bits stuck to the pan. Let it cook down a bit and then add the sprigs of thyme and chicken broth. Let it cook down until reduced, about 5 minutes, then taste and add salt and pepper as needed. Spoon over the chicken breasts and serve immediately.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Low-Carb Round-Up Week 1

Well, with Week One of my low-carb regimen down, I thought  it'd be nice to give the report on how I managed it happily and without excessive cravings. I had a wide variety of delicious and satisfying dishes, and honestly did not feel as though I was denying myself.

Remember: Low-carbing it does not have to suck!

Here are a few of my favorites from this week:

Lasagna with Zucchini Noodles

This low-carb lasagna uses thin slices of zucchini in place of carboriffic pasta noodles.

Breaded Hake Fillet

I made a rich sauce of an oven-roasted red bell pepper, some sweet Italian sausage, vidalia onion and a marinara sauce made from canned whole San Marzano tomatoes.

The breading on this hake fillet is made of almond meal and grated parmesan from a can, plus spices. It provided the same texture as seasoned soft breadcrumbs, only without the carbs.

Baked in the oven with a spritz of olive oil, this fish still came out moist and tender and with a fraction of the calories it would have had if it had been pan-fried.

Faux-tato Salad

There is no need to gaze longingly at others' potato salad when you can fix yourself this tasty and homey salad made from, wait for it.... butter beans. It's utterly shocking, but these beans provide a texture which is eerily similar to boiled waxy potatoes, perfect for a nice summer potato salad.

Season as you do your regular potato salad, and you don't have to feel as though you're wanting anything just because you're watching your carbs.
Garlicky Mashed Cauliflower with Cheddar and Dill

Another satisfying stand-in for the ubiquitous potato is this pile of garlicky mashed cauliflower augmented with cheddar, crème fraîche and lots of fresh chopped dill.

This side dish rounds out any meal and is a great choice for the whole family, whether everyone is low-carbing it or not.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Oven-Fried Breaded Chicken

We don't have a strict routine of which meals fall on which day around here. I like to change things up frequently and take advantage of fresh, seasonal produce. I do make fish quite a lot, and there is often a night that is heavily pasta-centric. Although I love doing a whole chicken stuffed with lemon and herbs, I've discovered the convenience "picnic packs" of whole, cut-up chickens, making it easier to reserve the whole breast for another dish and just concentrating on my kids' favorite, the dark meat. I've been cooking chicken quite a bit more often around here, and as my older daughter said last night, "Oh, Poultry Night - I love Poultry Night!"

I've usually been braising the meat in a chicken fricassee because it is so easy and creates such a luscious gravy, but I also want to keep things interesting with new recipes. I love fried chicken too, but don't especially care for the hellish mess that the splatter of chicken fat and oil can make in the kitchen, so I decided to do a cheater's "oven-fried" method.

Oven-Fried Breaded Chicken


  • An assortment of chicken parts - I had 4 drumsticks and 4 thighs
  • mayonnaise
  • approximately 1 cup seasoned soft breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup grated parm
  • salt
  • pepper
  • paprika


  1. Preheat the oven to 425 F and line a large roasting pan with a layer of aluminum foil. Spritz it with some cooking spray.
  2. Mix together the breadcrumbs, parm, salt, pepper and papika in a shallow bowl or pie plate.
  3. Coat each chicken piece in a very thin film of mayo and then dredge the chicken pieces in the crumb mixture until totally coated. Shake off the excess crumbs and lay in the roasting pan.
  4. Roast for approximately 25 minutes or until the chicken juices run clear when poked with a knife.
  5. Remove to a platter and serve hot.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Low-Carbing It

As I mentioned in a previous post, I am doing a low-carb diet again, and I've decided to put up a blog dedicated to low-carb diets as a way to help me focus my efforts. Besides, looking at my recent post filled with chocolate, Nutella and coconut may well cause me to fall off the low-carb wagon. :)

Fret not, I'll be adding the regular carb-laden recipes that I make for my kids, so I hope not to abandon this blog entirely. I'm also adding some of my older posts from here and the vegan blog to my new one which fit the low-carb criteria.

Come visit me at Low-Carbing It!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Sausage-Stuffed Bell Pepper

It's that time of year again when I seriously low-carb it. The South Beach Diet has worked well for me in the past, so I'm breaking out the books and low-carb recipes once again. I am of the firm belief that eating low-carb does not have to suck, neither does it mean that you have to deny yourself. Some smart substitutions and good-quality ingredients can make for meals that satisfy the diet requirements as well as your taste buds. :)

Sausage-Stuffed Bell Pepper

  • 2 bell peppers - I used orange for roasting and yellow for stuffing 
  • ¼ cup cherry tomatoes 
  • 3 basil leaves, torn
  • ½ Vidalia onion, chopped 
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed 
  • ½ lb. sweet Italian sausage 
  • 2 cups marinara sauce 
  • ¼ cup Farmer’s cheese 
  • 3 tablespoons shredded mozzarella 
  • 3 tablespoons shredded provolone 
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated parm 
  • 2 basil leaves, minced 
  • 1 clove garlic, minced 
  •  Olive oil 

  1. Roast 1 bell pepper and the cherry tomatoes: Preheat the oven to 400 F. Drizzle olive oil on the bottom of a roasting pan and roll the whole bell pepper in the oil to coat. Salt liberally.
  2. Toss in the cherry tomatoes and roll them around in the oil too. Roast for 20 minutes, then take out and flip the pepper over and stir the tomatoes. Add some torn basil leaves to the cherry tomatoes and put back in the oven, flipping the bell pepper every 10- 15 minutes from then on. 
  3. Remove the tomatoes after another 10 minutes have passed, leaving the bell pepper to roast another 10 minutes or so. I like to do the bell pepper a good 45 minutes or so until the skin is dark and blistered. 
  4.  Put the bell pepper in a paper bag, fold the top securely and let steam for 20 minutes. Remove, peel, and chop, removing the seeds. Set aside. 
  5. Saute the onion in olive oil over medium-high heat, add chopped roasted bell pepper cook for 3 minutes or so, until nicely softened. Then add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes. 
  6. Add the sausage and break into small pieces with the blade of the spatula. Brown. Add roasted cherry tomatoes, and cook 2 minutes. Pour in the marinara sauce and beef both as needed to thin. Cover let simmer 10 minutes. 
  7.  Mash together the farmer's cheese with the mozz, parm and provolone. Add the minced garlic and fresh basil. 
  8. Cut the bell pepper in half, hollow it out and spoon the sausage and sauce mixture in the bell pepper halves, top with cheese. Place in baking dish with hot water partway up the peppers. Cover with foil and bake 20 minutes. Remove the foil, and cook another 10 minutes or so until the cheese is browned and bubbly.


  • I had more sausage and sauce mixture, probably enough for two more bell pepper halves, though I will probably use the extra (about a cup) for spaghetti squash. 
  • You can use ricotta in place of the farmer's cheese, but I'd drain it in cheesecloth or a coffee filter.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Chocolate, Coconut and Nutella

Those three have been on my mind lately and have their way into various recipes.

I've had a strong dessert craving

Here, we have 4 tiny Nutella-coconut empanadas with chocolate drizzle.

I made the smallest batch of pastry dough ever with: a scant 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon sugar
pinch salt
1 tablespoon shortening - yes, Crisco!! OMG I am going to Foodie-Hell. I didn't want to defrost butter from the freezer.
a teaspoon or so of ice water

Then, I mashed together a filling of roughly equal parts Nutella, cream cheese and shredded, sweetened coconut. I rolled out the pastry fairly thinly and out out rounds with a 2-inch biscuit cutter, filed them, moistened the edges with water, folded them over and crimped the edges.

Glaze with an egg wash and then bake in a preheated oven at 400 F for 20 minutes. Let cool a bit and then top with a chocolate glaze drizzled over the top. Easy.

Next up is this bittersweet chocolate-coconut silk - based on the chocolate cream from this recipe for Deadly Chocolate Delice. I will be featuring my take on this recipe later this week. I had leftover chocolate creme, so baked it in a crème brûlée dish.

In. SANE. This is a bit of deep, rich, silky, intensely bittersweet chocolate heaven with a touch of coconut, one of my favorite flavor combinations.

Here is a closer look at the smooth filling.

This is only a 4-ounce dish, but it's more than enough for this dish. This is meant to be eaten slowly and savored, almost contemplated.

If you are not a fan of dark, bittersweet chocolates, this is not for you. Switch to semisweet. :)

Finally, we have this mini chocolate-hazelnut cake with brown sugar caramel filling and Nutella ganache.

The cake is based on this recipe for a chocolate layer cake, but I cut it way down to make 3 mini cakes in 8-ounce ramekins instead of two 10-inch round cakes. The cake is insane: Delicious, moist. rich, everything that a chocolate cake should be.

The Nutella ganache was simplicity. I warmed some chopped dark chocolate with cream in a double boiler until the chocolate melted and then added a good dollop of Nutella, took off the heat and stirred
until eveything was smooth and lovely.

The caramel filling was a nightmare. I have found my culinary bête noire. It is candy and caramel. I ruined the first batch of so-called foolproof salted caramel and the gae up, amid the reek of scorched sugar and made a filling from butter, brown sugar, vanilla, and cream.

The results were fantastic, and the kids enjoyed their cakes.

All in all a pretty successful week.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Mini Lemon Tarts


Who doesn't love pie? Whether it's a pie made from beautifully ripe apples or juicy berries, or a pie featuring a luxurious custard or silky mousse filling, what's not to love about succulent sweetness encased in a flaky, buttery pastry?

Last Saturday, I got some beautiful lemons at the farmers market, so I could make some more mayo. A small batch of mayo doesn't require very much lemon juice though, so I still need some more lemon-centric dishes. Lemon curd is probably on its way, but first, a refreshing lemony tart.

I should have blind-baked this pastry a bit longer so that it'd be more golden-brown, but it was delicious nonetheless.

A lot of people claim that they can't make pies at home because pie crust is too hard. Sure, pastry can be delicate. It takes some practice so that you can develop a feel for it, but there is nothing quite like being able to turn out a beautiful, flaky pastry.  For some fantastic tips on making a better pie crust, go to King Arthur Flour.

Mini Lemon Tarts

Makes two 4-inch tarts


For the pastry*:
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • ice water

For the filling:
  • 1/4 of a lemon, rind and all, seeds removed
  • 3/8 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup blueberries
  • lemon juice
  • sugar


1. Make the pastry: Sift the flour, salt and sugar together, and cut the butter into small cubes and rub it into the flour with your fingertips until the mixture resembles coarse bread crumbs. Alternately, you can use a food processor or a pastry knife.

2. Dribble the ice water in until the dough clumps together into a ball. I think I used about 1 1/2 tablespoons. It's better to add a bit of a time - it's easier to add more water to a too-dry dough than it is to remove moisture form a too-wet dough.

3. Once you can press the dough into a ball and it holds itself together without being sticky, sandwich the ball of dough between two sheets of waxed paper, placing it in a ziplock bag and put in the freezer for 10 minutes.

4. Preheat the oven to 350 F.

5. Roll out the dough to about 1/4 inch thickness and using a  bowl that is about 2 inches larger in diameter than your tart pans, cut out 2 circles and lay them in the tart pans. Place a layer of aluminum foil into each tart shell and line it with pie weights or dried beans to help keep the pastry from buckling and bubbling up. Place the tart pans on a cookie sheet and bake for 8 - 10 minutes, then take out and let cool on the cookie sheet.

6. Make the filling by blending together the lemon, rind and all, egg, sugar and butter in a blender until thoroughly processed. This could take up to 3 minutes. Strain if needed to get any stubborn pieces that refuse to give up the ghost.

7. Pour the filling into the tart shells.  Bake for 18 - 20 minutes or until the filling has set.

8. Cool the pans on racks.

9. To serve: Mix the blueberries with a teaspoon of lemon juice and roll in sugar. Top the tarts with the sugared blueberries and enjoy.

  • This pastry recipe made enough for three 4-inch tarts, but the filling only made two tarts. I made a mini quiche for my lunch with the third tart. :)
  • I need a Vita-Mix blender or something, because it took forever for the lemon rind to get blended, even then, I had to strain the mix to get out some fairly large chunks.

Pastry scraps. What to do with that leftover pie pastry that you can't stretch into another tart shell?

Well, don't throw them out! Roll those pieces out thin and dust liberally with cinnamon and sugar, set them on a cookie sheet and bake for 8 minutes or so or until the bottoms are golden-brown. Careful, these burn quickly. Eat while hot, straight off the cookie sheet.

My dad, who was a child during the Great Depression, said his mom called these sugar pies. I bet that they were a welcome treat for kids during lean times.

Fresh sugar pies

A closer look at the cinnamon sugar.
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