Sunday, December 9, 2012

Cranberry Orange Nut Bread

I love the taste of cranberries and orange (in my opinion, I have the BEST whole cranberry recipe in the world here on my blog, that I make every year at Thanksgiving....but I digress), and this bread has both, plus pecans! You can substitute walnuts if you like - they would taste fantastic as well.

I made this delicious loaf of quickbread last night and between Lee and I, it is already half-eaten this morning. I like to cut a slice and pop it in the toaster for a light crust. With a bit of butter......HEAVEN.

Super easy - and a wonderful go-to recipe to have in your collection. Here's how to do it:

2 C four
1 C sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powderSchedule
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 C fresh orange juice (Trader Joe's is the BEST)
zest of one orange
2 TBL shortening
1 well-beaten egg
1 1/2 C fresh or frozen cranberries, coarsely chopped
1/2 C chopped pecans or walnuts


1. Preheat oven to 350. Grease a 9X5 loaf pan, set aside.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients.

3. To the dry ingredients, add the orange juice, zest, beaten egg and shortening. You can mix by hand or use a mixer - making sure the shortening is well blended.
  *note: I like to use Spectrum organic shortening
             Click here to see Spectrum Shortening

4. By hand, stir in the cranberries and the nuts. Scoop mixture into the prepared pan and bake for 55 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

  *note: to chop the cranberries you can use a processor - be sure not to process too long  - you want a coarse chop. Or you can chop by hand. A bit tricky, but if you place a couple of towels around your cutting board, the rollers won't get away!

5. Cool in pan, on a rack, for 15 minutes, then remove from pan and let cool before slicing (if you can wait that long).


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Spiced Parsnip and Apple Muffins

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and this recipe is just in time with cinnamony-spicy goodness for breakfast tomorrow, whilst I begin the cooking of the turkey.

If you've never eaten a parsnip, think carrot with a slightly earthy flavor. The taste of these muffins are similar to carrot cake, but not quite as sweet - which is how I like it.

Here's what to do:

1 C toasted, cooled, chopped pecans
3 parsnips, peeled and grated (about 2 cups)
1 large apple, peeled cored and grated
2 C all purpose four
1 C sugar
3/4 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 C golden raisins
2 large eggs
3/4 C safflower oil
1/2 milk
1 1/2 tsp vanilla

1.  Preheat oven to 350. Prepare muffin tins with paper cups (I like to give the papers a quick spray with Pam, but you don't have to do that if you don't want to). Combine apple and parsnips in a large bowl and set aside.

2. In another large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt, ginger, nutmeg and cinnamon.  Stir in the pecans and raisins and set aside.

3. In yet another bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, oil and vanilla until thoroughly mixed.  Gently fold the egg mixture and parsnip mixture into the flour mixture JUST until combined.

4. Using a cookie scoop, divide batter into muffin cups and bake until golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean, about 20 - 25 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.  Enjoy!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Almond Graham Squares

Do you remember "Magic Cookie Bars"? If not, it's a ridiculously easy recipe from about 30 years ago that is simply layering several things in a pan, including chocolate chips, graham cracker crumbs, coconut, and sweetened condensed milk. It bakes together and forms a delicious cookie (I would scrape off the coconut because I don't like coconut.....which is why you won't find recipes featuring said  fruit* here). 

   * Some say coconut is not a fruit, but a nut. Either way, I don't like it.

Once again, I didn't take pictures of the process because I wasn't sure of how these would turn out. Lee devoured them, as well as a couple of my friends. So....I'd say the recipe is a success. 

I know you can buy a box of graham cracker crumbs - and feel free to do that if you are reeeeeeally in a hurry. But frankly, my dear, I think they don't taste as good as when you make them from scratch. They are SO easy to make. Just put graham crackers into a food processor and whirl away. I mean.....come on. OR....if you don't have a fancy processor,  put them in a baggie and whack away with a rolling pin.    DO IT.

These are truly easy to make - there are only 4 ingredients ~  It's like MAGIC!!

1 1/2 C graham cracker crumbs
1 can (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk
2 C raw, sliced almonds


1. Preheat oven to 350. Line the bottom and sides of an 8-inch square pan with foil, then spray with cooking spray (such as Pam).

2. In a medium bowl, combine the graham cracker crumbs, sweetened condensed milk, and salt; stir until moistened. Stir in 1 1/2 C of the almonds and spread the mixture in the prepared pan. If it seems very sticky and won't spread, use moistened fingers to gently pat into place.

3. Top with the reserved 1/2 C sliced almonds and pat them gently into the mixture.

4. Bake until golden and a toothpick comes out clean, about 35-40 minutes. Cool completely in pan. Remove form pan, peel off the foil and cut into 16 squares with a serrated knife.

Store in an airtight container.  YUM!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Rustic Fresh Peach Tart with Cornmeal Crust

Lee had a gig the other day at a "fall festival" called the Pumpkin Extravaganza, where they had a petting zoo, a few carnival rides (a blues band...natch!  ~Teresa James and the Rhythm Tramps Click here for more info on this fabulous blues band!~ ) and lots of fresh produce. Lee loves peaches and brought home a bag full. So, you know what you do when you have peaches? You make a tart! 

I felt a little adventurous so I decided to make a crust with a bit of cornmeal and added some fresh lemon zest and a tiny bit of vanilla extract to the peach mixture. The total combination was divine.

Ingredients for crust~
1 C flour (plus a little more for work surface)
1/4 C fine yellow cornmeal
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 TBL ice water (or up to 4, depending on humidity)

Ingredients for filling~
5-6 ripe peaches, pitted and cut into thick slices
1/2 C sugar
1 TBL flour
zest of 1/2 lemon
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1 large egg mixed with 1 tsp water (for egg wash)


1. In a food processor, pulse the flour, cornmeal, sugar and salt several times to mix.  Take off the lid and throw in the butter. Pulse until the mixture becomes like coarse meal with tiny lumps of butter in it, the size of peas. 

2. Add 2 TBL of ice water and then pulse again, just a few times. The mixture should look crumbly, but holds together when you squeeze it. It may take up to 2 more TBL of water, depending on the humidity, but start with two.

3. Lay a large piece of plastic wrap on your work surface, then gently dump the mixture onto the plastic. Push the dough together, and knead it GENTLY, only a few times. Then form it into a disc and wrap it up with the plastic. Put the dough in the fridge for at least 1 hour.

  Cook's note: you have two choices when baking this tart:

  a). Line a baking sheet with foil and roll the dough on parchment paper with flour. Transfer the parchment to the foil lined sheet. I've used this method many times and it works just fine.


  b). Get a SILPAT. These mats were developed in France and can take super-high temps and NOTHING sticks to them!  Here's a link:

The juices from the tart may ooze out and if your baking sheet isn't lined with something, get ready to throw it away because the juices will become melded to the sheet. Trust me on this one. 

4. Take the dough out of the fridge and let it warm slightly for about 5 minutes before rolling. Flour the parchment or silpat mat. Lightly flour the top of the dough and roll out by rolling and turning, rolling and turning (1/4 turn every time) to a 14 inch circle. Transfer the dough to the baking sheet (still on the parchment or silpat).

I took this picture before I had completely rolled out the dough. It needs to be a 14 inch circle.

5. Preheat oven to 400. In a large bowl, toss together the peaches, sugar, flour, zest and vanilla. Mound the fruit mixture in the center of the dough, leaving a 2 inc border all around. Fold the border dough over fruit in a pleated pattern (no need to be exact here!).  Brush the edges lightly, with the egg wash and sprinkle with a little more sugar.

No need to be fancy here...

Then slide the whole dang deal onto the baking sheet.

6. Bake until crust is golden brown and the filling is bubbling, about 45 minutes. Transfer baking sheet to a cooling rack; let cool 20 minutes. 

Slice, serve with vanilla ice cream and ENJOY!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Multi Grain Apple Muffin Tops

It was only about a week ago that the temperature here in SoCal was in the 100's...for a couple of weeks straight.  Everyone was crying "Uncle"!  Then, (in the words of Emeril) BAM! Temps dropped, and today it poured rain, along with thunder and lightening (very unusual for us).

Right about now you're probably thinking, "I thought this was a food blog, not a weather report". However, there is a reason for my weather-blathering. When it gets chilly and/or rains, mama has to bake.

I saw this recipe on a container of Multi Grain Hot Cereal (from Trader Joes - natch!) The name of it is "Country Choice Organic Multi Grain Hot Cereal. (I'm sure you could make this with good old fashioned whole oats if you don't want to search for this particular cereal - just don't use the quick cooking kind!).

Truly delicious!

The recipe looked pretty basic and healthy. I decided to add a fresh apple to the party, and instead of regular milk, I used buttermilk. YUM YUM YUM is the result. Lee ate 2 muffin tops, which would be a total of FOUR MUFFINS. may be wondering, "what is a muffin top?". I have a "muffin top" pan, that simply bakes the "top" part of a muffin....that yummy, bake-over, flat part of a muffin that everyone rips off and eats first, when they get a muffin. You know what I'm talking about. However, you can make this recipe in regular muffin tins just as easy. a muffin top pan.

And THESE are muffin tops.

SO....if it's raining where you are and you MUST bake something, try this recipe.

Here's how you do it:

1/3 C uncooked grains or oats
2 TBS brown sugar
1 TBS butter, melted
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1 C uncooked grains or oats
1 1/2 C flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 C unsweetened applesauce
1 apple cored, peeled and chopped (small pieces)
1/2 C buttermilk
1/2 C brown sugar
1/4 C vegetable oil
1 egg

1. Preheat the oven to 400. Line muffin tins with paper liners, or spray with Pam.

2. Prepare the topping by mixing the grains/oats, brown sugar and cinnamon. Add the melted butter; mix well.

3. Prepare the muffins by mixing the grains/oats, flour, baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon in a large bowl. Mix well. In a separate bowl, mix the applesauce, buttermilk, brown sugar, oil and egg. Mix well. Add the chopped apple to the mixture.

4. Add the dry ingredients to the wet mixture and stir gently until just combined.

5. Use an ice cream scoop for even measuring and bake for 18-20 minutes.

This recipe makes one dozen regular muffins, or 6 muffin tops.


Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Warm Red Lentils with Vermouth

I got a back of Red Lentils at Trader Joes the other day, and saw a recipe on the bag that was very simple and I thought I'd add my own touch to it by adding some traditional veggies - carrots, celery and onion. I also added some fresh bocconcini and  lemon juice at the end and it was SO delicious. The warmth of the lentils begins to melt the cheese and the vermouth and the lemon add an amazing brightness to the earthy lentils. Delicious!

Here's how to do it:


2 carrots, peeled and cut into small pieces
2 celery stalks, cut into small pieces
1/2 onion, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
olive oil
1 C red lentils (other lentils will work just fine too)
1 clove garlic, minced
2 TBL vermouth
1 C chicken broth
1/2 C parsley, minced
Bocconcini, quartered
Lemon (for squeezing at the end)

1. In a large skillet, heat about 3-4 TBL olive oil over medium heat. Add the carrot, celery and onion to the pan. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Saute the vegetables until soft, about 8 minutes, stirring often.

2. Add lentils to the pan with the garlic. Saute, stirring, for about 2-3 minutes. Do not burn the garlic!

3. Add the vermouth and stir. Then add the broth, starting with 3/4 C and then the parsley. Stir and reduce to low. Cover and let simmer for 10 - 12 minutes or until liquid is absorbed.
     * How to tell if the lentils need more broth? Try one! If it is still a bit hard inside, add the rest of the broth. But they shouldn't be mushy. It's like pasta - the lentils should be al dente! Firm, not hard....not mushy. Hope that helps!

4. To serve, put a portion in a bowl or plate, and top with 3-4 pieces of bocconcini. Squeeze some lemon, to taste, and a bit more olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.


Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Easy Vegetable Curry

It's been a while since I've posted, but my goal is to make this blog fun for myself and never a chore. Recently, I've been making simple dishes and this one tasted SO good, I decided to sit myself down and share it with you. Time to get back in the blogging saddle again!

This is a vegetable curry for beginners and also for those who don't like their curry blazing hot with spice. It's easy to ADD heat and if you like it that way, go for it. However, I am an admitted spice wimp.

Here's how to do it:


1 TBL vegetable oil
2 tsp brown mustard seeds
1 medium yellow onion, diced small
1 C long-grain white rice
coarse salt and pepper
1 TBL red curry paste
1 C unsweetened coconut milk (from a 13.5 oz. can)
1 sweet potato (3/4 lb) cut into 1-inch chunks
1 small cauliflower, cut into florets
1 can (15.5 oz.) chickpeas, rinsed and drained
fresh cilantro for serving


1. In a medium saucepan, heat 1 TBL oil over medium-high heat. Add mustard seeds and half the onion. Cook, stirring, until the onion is soft, about 3 minutes. Add rice and stir to combine.  Add 1 1/2 C water, season with salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce to a simmer; cook until water is absorbed and rice is tender, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork before serving.

2. Meanwhile, in a large Dutch oven or heavy pot, heat 2 tsp oil over medium-high heat. Add remaining onion and cook, stirring often, until soft, about 3 minutes.  Add curry paste and stir until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in coconut milk and 1 C water; bring to a boil. Add sweet potato and cauliflower and season with salt and pepper. Reduce heat to medium, cover and simmer until vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes.

3. Stir chickpeas into curry and increase the heat to high. Simmer rapidly until liquid reduces slightly, about 2 minutes. Serve curry over rice with fresh cilantro.


Sunday, August 12, 2012

Shrimp and Orzo with Grape Tomatoes

I know my photography skills are lacking and I'll be honest, this picture doesn't do this recipe justice. You have to trust me - this is SUPER easy and delicious. If you've never used orzo, it is a tiny, rice-sized pasta. It cooks super fast and is used in a lot of soup recipes. 

After making this, I thought it would be even better by adding some Spanish Chorizo, so that's what I plan on doing the next time I make it. I'll notate below where I think it should be added, but you can do whatever your little heart pleases!


2 TBL olive oil
6 garlic cloves, minced
3 C grape tomatoes, halved (about 1 lb)
salt and pepper to taste
3/4 lb orzo
3 1/4 C low-sodium chicken broth
1 lb large shrimp, peeled and deveined  (I use Trader Joes - always delicious)
1 C fresh basil leaves, torn
* AND sliced spanish chorizo  - I would add about 1/2 C


1. Preheat oven to 400 with rack in top position.

2. In a large, oven-proof/broiler-proof skillet (Like All-Clad), heat 5 tsp oil over medium high heat. Add the garlic and cook for just a minute (do not brown the garlic). Increase heat to high and add the tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper. Cook for about 2-3 minutes and add chorizo. Keep cooking tomato mixture for another4-5 minutes until tomatoes are softened.

3. Add orzo and broth; bring to a simmer. Cover and transfer to oven. Bake until liquid is mostly absorbed about 10-12 minutes.

4. Toss shrimp with 1 tsp oil and 1/4 tsp each salt and pepper. Remove skillet from oven and place shrimp on top of orzo. Heat broiler. Broil until shrimp are opaque throughout - about 4 minutes. Sprinkle with basil. 


Thursday, August 2, 2012

Sweet Cherry Pie

I bought a bag of sweet cherries the other day at Pavilions for $2.99! Normally it would've cost almost $10. I love sweet cherries and to buy them at such a good price makes me feel like the king of the world! 

There's all kinds of information on the web about the benefits of eating dark, sweet cherries - here's just one link of many:Click here to see why you should be eating cherries!

Bring them home, give them a wash and put them in a bowl for noshing. OR make a pie.......!  Come on! you can do this. I'm telling you, there is nothing better than a home made cherry pie. 

Making a cherry pie truly is a labor of love. There's nothing difficult about it, but it is time consuming so allow yourself a day to enjoy the process.

Here's how to do it~

Ingredients for the Crust:
2 1/2 C all-purpose four (spooned and leveled), plus more for rolling
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1 C (2 sticks) cold, unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/4 to 1/2 C ice water

Directions for the crust:
1.  In a food processor, combine the flour, salt and sugar. Pulse a few times to blend. Add the butter pieces; pulse until the mixture is like coarse meal, with a few pea-sized pieces of butter remaining. 

2. Sprinkle with 1/4 C ice water, then pulse briefly until dough is crumbly but holds together when squeezed. If necessary, add up to another 1/4 C ice water, one TBL at a time  - Do not overmix!). (If you are wondering what is wrong with overmixing, simply imagine the difference between light and flaky vs. tough and leather-like).

3. Divide dough in half, and turn onto two large pieces of plastic wrap. Fold plastic over dough and form into two disks, 3/4 inch thick. Refrigerate until firm, at least one hour, or up to 3 days. (Dough may also be frozen up to 3 months - thaw before using).

4. On a floured surface, roll one disk to a 14 inch round. Wrap dough around a rolling pin and transfer to a 9-inch pie tin. Gently unroll the pin and fit the dough into the bottom and sides of the tin without stretching or tearing the dough. Using kitchen shears, trim the dough to a 1-inch overhang all around; refrigerate until ready to use.

Ingredients for the pie:
2 lbs Bing Cherries, pitted and halved
1/2 C granulated sugar
2 TBL cornstarch
2 TBL fresh lemon juice
1 large egg yolk, beaten with 1 TBL water for egg wash
1 TBL sugar for sprinkling

Directions for the pie:
1. Preheat oven to 400 with rack in the lowest position. 

2. In a large bowl, combine the cherries, sugar, cornstarch and lemon juice; toss until the cherries are well coated. Pour into prepared bottom crust.

Using the cherry pitter. It misses some, and juice gets everywhere....but it's FUN!

I used kitchen shears to cut them in half after I'd pitted them. But if you don't have a pitter, simply cut them in half then pull out the pit. Same results!

3. On a floured surface, roll the second disk of dough to a 14-inch round. Cut the dough into 1 1/2 inch  wide strips (use a straight edge knife or a pastry crimper). Discard the two shortest strips. Weave the strips over the filling to form a lattice.  Click here to see how to do it.  Using kitchen shears, trim the strips so they hang over the rim by 1-inch. Tuck the strips under the rim of the bottom crust to seal. Crimp with a fork all around the edge.

4. Using a pastry brush, lightly brush the lattice with the egg wash and sprinkle with some sugar.

5. Place pie on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake until filling is bubbling rapidly all over, abtou 60 - 70 minutes. (Tent with foil when the crust starts to brown at about 40 minutes). 

6. Transfer pie to a wire rack and let cool to room temperature at least 3 hours.


Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Easy Goat Cheese Ravioli with Parsley Sauce

These ravioli are ridiculously easy to make and perfect for summer cooking. Light and full of flavor, yet without making the pasta! HOW is that POSSIBLE? With wonton wrappers, silly! After all, the Chinese invented pasta. It may not be semolina pasta, but the wrappers work in a pinch.

The ravioli are stuffed with a yummy concoction of goat cheese, and ricotta, and topped with a super easy parsley sauce. On the side, you can make a quick saute of chard with lemon and oil. Honestly....I am craving it as I'm writing this. SO tasty!!!!

Here's how to do it~

Ravioli Ingredients:
3 oz. goat cheese
1/4 C ricotta (I used my home made which is as easy as boiling water and the taste is creamier than anything you'll ever buy in the store - the recipe is here on my blog!)
1 small garlic clove, crushed through a press or FINELY minced
a pinch of freshly ground nutmeg
zest of 1/2 lemon
salt and pepper
wonton wrappers (3 1/2 inch)

1. In a small bowl, mash the goat cheese, ricotta, garlic, nutmeg and lemon zest with a fork. Season with salt and pepper (always use kosher and fresh ground)

2. Assemble the ravioli by preparing a baking sheet with parchment paper and then placing 6 wrappers at a time (not rappers.....that's a whole 'nother thing altogether) on the sheet. Spoon about a tsp of the filling in the center of each wrapper.  With your fingertip, dampen the edges of the wrappers with water.  

Fold a corner of each wrapper over to form a triangle; press the edges together to seal, eliminating as much air as possible.  Repeat until the filling is gone (you may have wrappers left over).

(Ravioli may be made ahead of time by covering with plastic wrap and refrigerated for up to one day. Or freeze on the baking sheet for 1 hour, then transfer the beauties into a baggie and freeze for up to one month).

3. Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil; reduce to a gentle simmer. Drop ravioli into the water, one by one, stirring them GENTLY to prevent sticking. Cook until al dente, about 5-7 minutes. (Cooking time is the same for frozen ravioli).

4. Using a slotted spoon (I used a fish spatula ....but a slotted spoon would be better) drain each ravioli as much as possible and transfer to serving plate. (The recipe calls to put the ravioli on a paper-towel lined baking sheet to drain, but mine I dont' recommend that!).

By the way, here's what happens to a ravioli when there's too much air inside - it explodes in the water. Icky and worthless.  wah.

5. Drizzle with Parsley sauce and some grated Parmesan and serve immediately!

Ingredients for Parsley Sauce:
2 TBL finely chopped parsley
2 TBL Olive oil 
1 TBL grated Parmesan (always use fresh - NEVER from the can!!)
1 tsp water
salt and pepper

Mix all of the above in a bowl.   (Did I say, EASY?!!)

Swiss Chard on the side~

1 TBL olive oil
1 bunch Swiss Chard (also known as red chard), leaves torn into bite-sized pieces and stems cut into pieces (the stems can be tough so if you dont' like them....don't eat them!)
salt and pepper
2-3 tsp fresh lemon juice

1. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium. Add the chard and toss until tender for about 4-6 minutes. If all the chard won't fit at first, just add the rest when the first addition reduces down (it's like Spinach - it cooks way down). Season with salt and pepper. Cook for about 4 minutes more. 

2. Drain and discard any liquid from pan; add the lemon juice and serve immediately.