Apricot and Sour Cream Afternoon Coffee Cake

apricot sourcream cake2

I’m really feeling into gorgeous fruity cakes now, so I’m attempting, (with little success) to get them out of my system. This pretty little cake was inspired by an apricot jam, sour cream and toasted almond cupcake recipe that I am dying to make. Sadly, I haven’t had all the ingredients, in the house, at the same time yet and with our impending move, I’m trying not to buy anything that I don’t actually need to survive. (I can make a convincing argument for cupcakes being integral to my survival but that’s for another time). Since I had fresh apricots that were begging to be baked into something delightful, I decided to go with a cake instead. The basic cake recipe/ratios that I started with came from one of my favorite blogs, but I have changed it around a bit, made it bigger and a bit sweeter as well, since the apricots in Israel are quite sour, even when ripe. The top has an almost custardy texture, which is delicious and lends a wonderful creaminess to the apricots. I considered using brown or demerera sugar instead of the white, but went for the classic, simpler flavor of the white in the end. I used vanilla to round out the sourness of the apricots, but I think it would also be fantastic with some almond extract or amaretto, so feel free to experiment!

Ingredients: (serves 10)

For the cake:

– 5-7 very ripe apricots, washed and cut into slices
– 2 cups flour
– 1 teaspoon baking powder
– 1/2 teaspoon salt
– 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
– 150 grams  butter (basically 1 and 1/3 stick of butter)
– 1/2 cup milk (approximately)
– 2 tablespoons cream (15%, not heavy whipping)
– 3/4 cup sugar
– 1 egg
– 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract

For the top:

– 1 tablespoon sour cream
– 1 tablespoon sugar
– 1 egg

Right before serving:

– powdered sugar
– vanilla ice cream

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Method: Preheat the oven to 180°C (360°F) and grease or line a 12 inch spring-form pan with baking paper. I always use baking paper and clean up is nonexistent.

1) In a big bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, salt, baking soda and butter with your hands, pinching it all together until it is almost all incorporated. Alternately you can use a food processor.

2) Add in the sugar, and mix again. Add in the egg, vanilla, cream, and milk, then mix again until just combined, being careful not to over mix.  The batter should be thick, bot pourable, so if it is too stiff, add more milk as needed.

3) Pour the batter into the pan and spread it around evenly with a spatula. Arrange the apricots on top, in a spiral pattern.

4) In a small bowl, combine the sour cream, sugar and egg for the topping, beating them with a fork, and pour it evenly over the top of the cake.

5) Bake for about 35 minutes, (I cooked it for 40 minutes, as you can see in the top photo that was too long, so I reduced the cooking time to 35 minutes) or until golden and the apricots are tender. Turn off the oven and let it sit for another 15 minutes or so.  I did this with the oven door open slightly open so that it wouldn’t dry out. Dust with powdered sugar just before serving, and serve warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream for a truly awesome experience.

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Chocolate, Pear and Toasted Almond Spice Cake

chocolate almond pear cake2The last time we had slightly over-ripe pears, G unknowingly just chucked them because he didn’t want to eat them. (I know, I know. He’s learning). Afterwords I was very careful to explain all the wonderful things that can be done with ripe pears and so this time around, when they started to get a little sorry looking, he left them alone thank goodness. I hadn’t felt like blogging for a while, and I still really didn’t until I started a new diet to drop a few pounds for swimsuit season. Well you know what inevitably came next. Every time my mind wandered off at the computer I somehow ended up at gorgeous foodie sites, until after 3 days of mind numbingly boring pure protein meals, I just had to bake something, FAST. Unfortunately, there were no eggs in the house. (Already down one dress size!!) Side note: I have been chowing down on egg-whites left and right when I start to feel weak (like I’m gonna grab a super sized bag of sour skittles from the drawer and just murder them… mnnn sour skittles… ) so I had to figure something else out. Well, as you may or may not be aware, there aren’t many egg-less pear cake recipes out there, but I knew that there was a vegan chocolate cake recipe that I had been wanting to try for a while so I figured, what the hell. I added a bit of spice to it because I love chocolate with cinnamon, you don’t have to if you don’t want to. There were a few yummy looking chocolate pear cake recipes out there so I knew that I wouldn’t be too far off base with these flavor profiles. Most of them had walnuts, but I tend to be more of an almond lover (my Mom says all men are nuts and G is an almond, so it makes sense). Seriously, no double entendre intended but that sounded hilarious! So here it is, it came out a bit flatter than I’d hoped for, but it is perfect for a simple “on hand” cake or an impressive 2 layer cake, (double the recipe and bake in 2 matching pans). I hope you like it:

Ingredients:

Cake Ingredients

1 1/4 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup warm water
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp distilled white vinegar
1/4 tsp cinnamon
50 grams sliced almonds, lightly toasted (reserve 25g of these for topping)
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3 ripe pears, peeled, cored, and diced
3 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
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Chocolate Glaze (this can be made vegan, visit the link above,  she explains how)

1/2 cup sugar
4 tbsp butter
2 tbsp milk
2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tsp vanilla extract

chocolate almond pear cake

Method: (Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit)

1) combine diced pears with 3 tablespoons sugar, and 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon.
2) combine all other dry ingredients into one bowl(don’t forget to leave out 25g of the toasted almonds for later).
3) combine all wet ingredients except vinegar into another bowl.
4) combine wet ingredients bowl with dry ingredients bowl, mix well. Then add pear mixture, and mix well again.
5) Add vinegar, mix into rest of batter. Why do you do this  last? Vinegar is an acid, (like citric or lactic acid, ie. lemon juice or creme fraiche) which reacts with the baking soda to make it rise, but baking soda is only active for a short time after the vinegar activates it so it has to go in as close to the baking time as possible.
6) In a 12 inch spring-form pan lined with baking paper, (or it will leak or stick) pour in batter.
7) Bake in 350 degree oven for 30 minutes.
8) Cool for 2 hours. Then make the glaze. (I went for a walk with Bella since I have a hard time waiting for these things).
9) In a small saucepan, bring sugar, butter, milk, and cocoa to a boil.
10) Stir frequently until it boils, then reduce heat to a simmer for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. There will be bubbles.
11) Remove from heat and stir for another 5 minutes.
12) Add vanilla, stir, and pour onto cake right away. Glaze dries quickly, so spread it immediately and add remaining toasted almonds over the top and let it set, 1 hour. I did this backwards, and yes, I am ashamed. I baked the almonds on top, and only after decided to make the glaze. Do it the other way and you will have a very nice looking cake for coffee, guests, or just to surprise a tired and studied-out husband who thinks you have been sitting on the couch all day watching The Simpsons and eating skittles.

Easy Cheesy Comte and Basil Gouda Buttermilk Biscuits (can be made vegan!)

biscuitblog1So, I have been a very bad girl. No, not in the biblical sense as some of you may be thinking, but rather in terms of my promise to you, to bring you wonderful recipes each week. I do of course have some lovely excuses and stories… you know I would have to. For example, the birthday visit of my super sweet sister for 3 weeks, and the fan-freaking-tastic good time we had traveling all over the place hiking, biking, beaching, eating and wine tasting.

Or, perhaps I’ll tell you the one about how after she left, I went on another hike with G and our dog Bella in a very remote, rocky area, and at the very very end of the trail, deep in the park, I fell and twisted my ankle. I actually was sure it was broken it hurt so much, but then as I was crawling to a big rock to sit on away from all the crawlies in the stream bed, it sort of cracked back into place, and I could actually wiggle it. Whew. OK, so at least it wasn’t broken. It gets better. Our parks don’t really have rangers on duty so G had to call an ambulance, problem was, no one could get to us where we were. To make things worse, I had left my phone behind, and G had about 17% left on his that was rapidly draining as he tried to explain where we were so they could get a GPS lock on us. We saw an ATV trail nearby that might have some traffic, and decided to get there the only way we could, with me riding piggy back as G carried me, army style, over hill and dale. Still no one could reach us and I started to despair, sure I would have to stay the night, knowing that I would freeze my ass off and all manner of creepy creatures would come out as soon as it got dark. Or, even better, the army would have to helicopter me out of there for a mere sprained ankle, and I would spend the rest of my days paying off a massive debt for an embarrassing and unplanned helicopter ride. Please god no I thought, just let me die here instead.

Luckily, just as I was at the peak of my panic attack, a one handed old man with a geriatric poodle in a sweater happened by in his jeep, on his daily trip through the park. G flagged him down and after explaining what happened, the guy, who I later found out was named Eli, and Sally, his deaf, blind and epileptic dog, offered to 4WD me out of there. And so I was saved by a most unlikely duo. The ambulance was waiting at the exit to the park when we finally emerged, 30 minutes later, and after a short exam, they sent me off to get x-rayed and hooked up with crutches, bound for bed for the next few days.

That would be the end of my tale, but then we had the holiday, a weekend away camping at the beach, and finally, I was hit with a most common cold. So here I sit, with a list 5 miles long of things I cooked or baked in the last month and want to share with you, and yet, I’m fighting just to be able to type straight in the clutches of this crappy little head cold. So. Knowing that I had to do something to get back in the saddle, and having no bread or anything else ready made in the house to snack on, I went online looking for the easiest biscuit recipe I could find. I of course modified it, because it was just a bit, well, boring, if you must know the truth.

I hope you enjoy, because I sure did…

Ingredients: (makes 12)

2 cups flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup vegetable (canola) oil
*1/3 cup buttermilk (I used 1/3 cup 1% milk and a 1/2 teaspoon of vinegar)
*1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
*1/2 cup shredded Basil Gouda cheese
*1/4 cup shredded Comte cheese
*For vegan biscuits, substitute 1/3 cup coconut cream for heavy cream, and 1/3 cup coconut cream plus 1/2 a teaspoon of white vinegar for the buttermilk, and leave out the cheese.
Method: (takes 8 minutes prep time maximum).
1) Preheat oven to 475F.
2) Set up either an ungreased cookie sheet or large cupcake sleeves.
3) Mix all dry ingredients and cheeses together in a large bowl.
4) Add wet ingredients, and mix until just combined, no more.
5) Gather dough together into a ball, kneading for just a minute until no pieces fall off.  It will be very crumbly, don’t worry, that’s good, it means they will be light and fluffy.
6) Either break apart into 12 equal pieces and place in cups, or roll out gently to 1/2 inch thick and cut out twelve 2 inch circles and arrange on tray.
7) Bake for 10-12 minutes at 475F or until tops begin to brown.
8) Enjoy with butter and pepper for a savory treat, or with raspberry jam for a much sweeter twist.
Please let me know what you think, and I promise more good stuff is on the way!

Cranberry Quinoa Summer Salad with Parsley, Red Onion, Celery, and Lemon

photo(17)Many people that I have met in my travels were afraid of quinoa. (That is until I got through with them.) I get it though, It’s just one of those items on the shelf that I used to look at and think, ummm. Maybe I’ll try that NEXT week.

Why was it so intimidating? Well besides the fact that it looked like a cross between couscous and rice, so I wasn’t sure how to cook it; the few times I had eaten it, it tasted bitter or even hard because it wasn’t cooked or seasoned properly. I’m guessing some of you have had a similar experience?

However what many people don’t know is that it also has an unbelievable high nutrient and protein content, and almost no fat- which makes people mistakenly classify it as a health food,  as in, “I’m only going to eat that if I’m on a diet and you make me”.  What they also don’t know is that when cooked properly, it has a wonderful nutty taste and can be absolutely delicious if coupled with a few other yummy ingredients.

This is one of my favorite quinoa recipes, and is an unbelievably refreshing and yummy Mediterranean salad that we love to eat in the summertime. It is so easy, and really healthy, so you don’t have to feel guilty if you want to drink a beer or two with it. It would also be really good with chicken or fish as a high protein side, but I love it as a light lunch all on its own. Next time I think I’m going to crumble some feta on top as well.

Ingredients: (serves 4)

1 “cup” quinoa (I use a large whiskey glass)+(2 “cups” water)

A small handful of fragrant chopped parsley

1/4 cup dried cranberries

1/4 to 1/2 of a medium sized red onion, diced

2 large celery ribs, diced

1lemon quartered for garnish and adding juice over the top

Sea salt and ground black pepper to taste

Method:

1) Cook the quinoa. This is really easy, even though I didn’t know how to make rice for the LONGEST time. Like, really. I only learned this year, and this method is FOOLPROOF. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a medium sized saucepan. Pick a glass that is around 1 and 1/2 cups. Fill it up to the very top with quinoa. Add quinoa to the pot, and mix it around, coating in the hot oil. Cook for about 1 minute, toasting the little quinoa grains. Then, using the same cup you use to measure the quinoa, add water filling the cup up twice. basically, 1:2 quinoa to water. You can do this with white, red or brown rice and the results will be the same, the only thing that varies is the cooking time (40 minutes for red or brown rice). Add salt and pepper, don’t worry, you can correct this later if you don’t use enough. Cook covered on a low flame for 20 minutes exactly. I use a kitchen timer. Do not stir. After 20 minutes, turn off the heat and let it sit for 5 minutes undisturbed. Uncover and fluff the quinoa.

2) Dice the celery and red onion, and chop the parsley and dried cranberries.

3) Mix all ingredients together, and serve with 1/4 slices of fresh lemon to squeeze over the top.

Asparagus, Feta, Manchego and Japanese Shimeji Mushroom White Wine and Butter Scrambled Eggs with Sea Salt and Cracked Pepper

Best eggs ever

Not your grandmothers scrambled eggs

These don’t look like much from the outside, but trust me when I tell you that they were the best eggs I have ever had, and I have something of a reputation for fantasamagorical eggy creations. In fact, at this point, I am not even sure you could call them just plain old eggs. It was more like a gourmet saute with savory cheeses that just so happened to have eggs as the main ingredient. It was alternately savory, salty, cheesy, and fluffy with a slight crunch every now and then. Divine.

The most important thing I think you have to remember when cooking eggs is not to overcook them, after all, there are few things less appetizing than rubbery eggs. With recipes like this, I think your ingredients make the difference between an average dish and a mind blowing one, so that is what this post is going to focus on.

Ingredients: (serves 2)

  • 4 Large Eggs. eggs
  • Fresh Baby Asparagus, cut into 1 cm slices. Otherwise known as young asparagus. You should be able to eat it raw (uncooked), and it will taste sweet and fresh, with a slight bitterness at the tips with no woody bits that need to be discarded. The cut ends should still be mostly green, not white and dried out. Look in the specialty/gourmet veggies section. The bottom ends should be no thicker than 1 cm across in diameter.baby asparagus
  • 10-15 Japanese Shimeji mushrooms all sizes, leave the small ones whole, and slice the bigger ones the long way down the middle with just the ends trimmed off and discarded. Otherwise know as Chinese mushrooms, brown beech mushrooms, or brown clamshell mushrooms. (Shimeji should always be cooked: it is not a good mushroom to serve raw due to a somewhat bitter taste, but the bitterness disappears completely upon cooking. Wiki.)Fresh_Japanese_Mushrooms_2
  • A small handfull (1/4 cup to 1/3 cup) of  sheep’s milk Feta cheese, crumbled. Get the one that is in a cube in water, not the dry one that is already crumbled for you, it’s fresher. Bulgarian feta cheese
  • 1/8 of a cup (splash) of a nice white wine that you wouldn’t mind drinking, not some icky cooking wine. Yes, it matters. We used a mild semi-dry Emerald Riesling. You could also use a nice Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, or Chardonnay, doesn’t really matter as long as you like it.white-wine
  • Shredded Manchego cheese, (or parmesan) to sprinkle all over the top of the eggs while they are cooking. About 1/8 cup.manchego
  • Sea Salt and Fresh Cracked Pepper to taste, about 1/8 teaspoon Sea salt and 1/4 teaspoon Cracked Pepper freshly ground. saltandpepper
  • 1 teaspoon Salted Butter for sauteing.butter

Method:

1) Saute Shimeji mushrooms in 1 tsp butter for 5 minutes, in a covered 12 inch diameter saute pan over medium heat. Don’t crowd the mushrooms.

2) When they are cooked through but not wilted, add asparagus, and cook for another 2 minutes covered.

3) Add white wine to hot pan, let alcohol cook off uncovered, about 2 minutes.

4) Mix up eggs in  a bowl with a fork, add sea salt and pepper, then add to pan with mushrooms and asparagus spreading out over the whole pan evenly, as if you were making an omelet.

5) Cook for about 3-5 minutes covered. When egg is mostly cooked on bottom but is still wet on top, sprinkle Manchego and Feta over the whole surface, then break up the eggs as if you were scrambling them, but gently, minding the asparagus and mushrooms. Cover, and cook for 1 additional minute.

6) Turn off heat, but LEAVE covered for 2 additional minutes. This will finish cooking the eggs through, but will not overcook them.

7) Serve immediately, with toast and butter or jam.

*All Ingredients Photos: credit Google images.

Cinnamon & Spice Banana Muffins with Dark Chocolate Chunks and Toasted Pecans

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Warm spicy banana pecan chocolate melty goodness right out of the oven. MnnnnnnMnnnMnn!

My husband cant sing enough praises about this recipe, in fact it was the one that he says cinched the marriage proposal. It was good then, but it’s also one I have been developing for the last 3 years and I think, possibly, maybe, it’s finally truly perfect.

These are in fact so easy and wonderful, I honestly can believe how good they are considering the little amount of work they require.

NOTE: This was originally a loaf recipe, so it makes a few more muffins than normal. My pics are of a DOUBLE RECIPE, but I will be giving you the normal recipe for 16-18 regular sized muffins, so have a 12 cup muffin tin, as well as a 6 cup muffin tin ready for the regular recipe.

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Ingredients: In 2 separate bowls, 1 for wet ingredients, 1 for dry.

Dry:

1 2/3 cups flour (white all purpose)

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon ground ginger

1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup chopped pecans

1 bar good dark chocolate, (100g) chopped (or chunks or chips if you can find)

Wet:

2/3 cup white sugar

2/3 cup brown sugar

2 large room temperature eggs, mixed

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1/4 cup sour cream or creme fraiche

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 large, or 3 small RIPE bananas, sliced (folded in at the very end, to the whole mixture, otherwise they break down and you don’t get chunks, just banana flavor and moistness)

*Do NOT add wet ingredients to dry ingredients until you are ready to bake! The baking soda needs the sour cream to react, and rise. The reaction starts immediately, and stops eventually, so once you mix them, they should go straight into the muffin cups and then into the preheated oven. If you want to make them non-dairy, leave out the baking SODA and the sour cream and use 1 teaspoon baking POWDER instead, which doesn’t need a catalyst.

Method: Preheat oven to 375F, or 190C and line muffin cups

1) Toast chopped pecans in a dry frying pan over a low flame while mixing often, until they are a toasty brown, NOT burned. You are looking for a warm nutty smell. Watch them. it’s SO easy to burn nuts while toasting them. Stop early if you are unsure. Chop Chocolate.

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2) In large bowl, mix together: flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, salt, chopped pecan, and chocolate pieces.

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3) In medium sized bowl, mix together: white sugar, brown sugar, eggs, vegetable oil, sour cream, and vanilla.DSC_0068

4) Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients, mix just until combined, then fold in bananas.

DSC_00745) add mixture to muffin cups, up to the tops but not overflowing.

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6) Bake for 12-16 minutes with a timer, or until the middles look golden brown and set but not dry. Gently press down on the top of one if you are not sure. You can try using a toothpick but you are likely to hit banana or chocolate, so its not the best test. they will literally smell and taste better than the best spice cake you have ever had.

Banana Chocolate chunk spiced muffins with toasted peacansHow simple they look, yet they hold many secrets…

Allow to cool in pan or on rack for 5-10 minutes, then enjoy warm with a big glass of milk. They keep in a tupperware out of the fridge for a good 3-4 days, if they last that long.

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