Monday, December 21, 2015

Chocolate Walnut Biscotti

Happy holidays!  I've been a bit MIA, as life has kept me pretty busy over the last few months, but now that it's the holiday season I am getting back in the kitchen.  This month's challenge for What's Baking was to make biscotti.  Biscotti is one of those things that I usually enjoy when I have it, but I don't usually seek it out.  However, I was intrigued and excited to take on this challenge.

I turned to my trusted copy of The Craft of Baking and found the perfect recipe - chocolate walnut biscotti.  Sounds good to me!  In general, making biscotti is pretty easy - make the dough, roll it into two logs, cook it, cut it, cook it again and done.  Then I noticed a "tip" at the bottom of the page saying that the dough is very sticky, so you should use ample flour while rolling it out.  Yeah, that turned out to be an understatement.  I thought I used plenty of flour while rolling out the first half of the dough....see the picture below to see how well that turned out!  My second half went over much better.  In the end, you cut the logs into the individual biscotti so no one would guess how awkward the shape was to begin with, but I am still laughing at myself for how it looked!

This was a fun challenge.  And biscotti keeps for weeks in an airtight container so this is something that I could bring as a hostess gift or can serve to guests even if I don't want to prep one more thing in the day or two leading up to the event.  I always a love a good make-ahead recipe!

Be sure to check out Coleen's blog The Redhead Baker to see this month's round-up.

Chocolate Walnut Biscotti (slightly adapted from The Craft of Baking)

1 cup walnut pieces, roughly chopped
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into small pieces, at room temperature
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp kosher salt
2 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
2 tsp coffee extract (recipe below)
3/4 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips

- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Spread the walnuts in a single layer on a second baking sheet.  Toast them in the oven, stirring occasionally, until they are lightly golden and fragrant, about 5 minutes.  Remove from the oven and cool the sheet on a wire rack.  Keep the oven on.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the flour, cocoa powder, brown sugar, granulated sugar, butter, baking soda, and salt.  Beat on low speed until well combined and no butter pieces are visible, about 4 minutes.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, egg yolk, coffee extract, and vanilla.  Add the mixture to the flour mixture and beat on low speed to combine.  Add the cooled nuts and the chocolate chips and beat just to combine.
- Turn out the dough onto a generously floured work surface (***if you think you've put down enough flour, add another generous sprinkle!) and divide in half.  Shape each portion into a 16 x 2inch log, and transfer them to the prepared baking sheet, spacing them about 3 inches apart.
- Bake, rotating the sheet halfway through, until the logs are firm to the touch (about 20-30 minutes).  Transfer the logs, still on the parchment paper, to a wire rack and let cool slightly, about 5 minutes.
- Reduce the oven temp to 250 degrees F.
- Transfer the warm logs to a cutting board.  Using a serrated knife, cut the logs on the diagonal into 1/3-inch-thick slices.  Arrange the slices, cut side up, on the baking sheet.  Bake until the biscotti are dry and firm to the touch, about 1 hour.  Remove the baking sheet from the oven and let the sheet of biscotti cool completely on the rack.
- Biscotti can be kept in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 weeks.

Coffee Extract

1/4 cup hot water
2oz jar of instant espresso powder

- Slowly stir the hot water directly into the jar of espresso powder.
- Cover the jar with the lid (closing the lid tightly) and shake well to combine.
- Use immediately or keep in a dark cupboard at room temperature for up to 6 months.

Friday, August 28, 2015

What's Baking S'mores Round-Up

I had the pleasure of hosting this month's What's Baking, which also meant I got to come up with a few theme ideas before it was put to a vote.  I looked at what different foods had a "day" in August and noticed that August 10th was National S'mores Day.  I mean how can you NOT want to celebrate that?!  Thankfully the group of bloggers voting agreed with me.  Variations of s'mores it was!

Here are the delicious treats that these lovely ladies came up with:

Kate from Kate's Recipe Box made a S'more Pizza, which I highly approve of.

Liz from Books and Cooks mixed peanut butter and s'mores in these Peanut Butter S'mores Oatmeal Cookie Bars.  How yummy does that sound??

Colleen (aka The Red Head Baker) made Mini S'mores Cheesecakes, which I need in my life soon.

Nicole of Cookies on Friday made S'mores Stuffed Cookies.  I've never stuffed cookies before but now I want to try!

Ashley at Cheese Curd in Paradise made a delicious looking S'mores Poke Cake
Cookaholic Wife, Nichole, made a S'mores Pot de Creme, though she has blogged about s'mores many times before, so be sure to check out the rest of her treats!

This theme made Jaida of Sweet Beginnings remember how awesome marshmallows are with her S'mores Cookie Bars (seriously though, how could she not like marshmallows?!?!)

Eva over at Eva Bakes made S'mores Cupcakes.  Though she only made half her recipe quantity because she "didn't need 20 cupcakes".  I just.....  EVERYONE needs 20 cupcakes.  I think she regretted this decision once the 10 cupcakes were devoured within minutes.

S'mores Brownies

I have a family friend who will almost always bring her famous "brownie s'mores" to a party.  And they go like hot cakes.  Seriously delicious.  She very nicely shared her recipe with me and I saw how insanely simple they were to make (ie make boxed brownie mix, before it's done cooking pull it out, add marshmallows and chocolate chips, finish cooking then add graham crackers, cut and eat).  I have made them on more than one occasion since she shared this with me (uh, don't kill me for sharing this, Nancy!).  So when it was decided that this month's What's Baking theme was going to be Variations of S'mores, I knew I wanted to tackle brownie s'mores, but I wanted to think outside of "the box".

I was invited to a barbecue at a dear friend''s house earlier this month and I knew this would be the perfect treat to bring as my contribution to the meal.  They keep kosher as well, so I knew I would need to make these parve.  I asked around to some blogger friends and after reviewing a few dairy-free brownie recipes I settled on one from Cathy's Kitchen Journey.  Except when I went to make it I didn't have time to get the espresso powder, so I essentially made the recipe she adapted from (I left out the nuts in case of allergies as well).  Though I realized toddlers were going to be eating these so I should probably omit it anyway otherwise you probably didn't want to be around these little ones come bedtime!

The intended date this post was to go live was actually ON National S'more Day, however I decided to do a second try and adjust how I assembled the brownies.  You see, I had originally made them using kosher mini marshmallows, which I had chopped to try to make them a little gooey-er (for whatever reason I find them never get as gooey as non-kosher marshmallows).  They tasted good, but a guest at the party had commented that she couldn't eat them because she's vegetarian (and therefore couldn't eat the fish gelatin). She mentioned that if I had used Fluff she could have eaten it, as it does not have any gelatin.  A light went off in my head.  This was the perfect substitution in the brownies!  So, thankfully my nephew was having a birthday last weekend, so I quickly offered to bring some brownies to share with the guests.

my first attempt

The final result is delicious and definitely something that I will be making again.  It really isn't much harder than baking brownies out of a box!

Brownie S'mores (adapted from

3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa power
1/2 tsp baking soda
2/3 cup vegetable oil, divided
1/2 cup boiling water
2 cups granulated sugar
2 eggs, room temperature 
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt
8oz  (approx) Fluff
3 large rectangles graham crackers

- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease a 9x13in pan.
- In a large bowl, stir together the cocoa powder and baking soda.  Add 1/3 cup vegetable oil and boiling water.  Mix until well blended and thickened.
- Stir in the sugar, eggs (one at a time) and remaining 1/3 cup oil.
- Add the flour, vanilla, and salt.  Mix just until the flour is blended in.
- Spread evenly into the prepared pan.
- Bake for 30min.
- While it's baking, put the graham crackers in the food processor (breaking into smaller pieces as you put them in).  Pulse until they are a fine crumble.
- Remove the pan from the oven (do not turn the oven off!).
- Spoon Fluff over the brownies, letting it sit approx 1 minute before spreading (it's much easier to spread after it's melted a bit).
- Sprinkle the graham cracker dust over the marshmallows, gently pressing down to help it stick to the Fluff.
- Bake an additional 5-7 min.
- Allow to cool before cutting and serving.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Angel Food Cupcakes

Summertime.  The time of year when berries are in season and I crave light, airy desserts.  This month's theme of What's Baking was Baking with Fresh Fruits which made me very excited.  I am always looking to expand my repertoire, especially for dishes I can bring to a party or BBQ so I took this challenge as an opportunity to do just that.  When I think of fresh fruit and the summer, I immediately think of one of my favorite treats - angel food cake with whipped cream and berries.  Seriously....a moist, light cake with fluffy whipped cream and super ripe berries.  There is nothing better.  And to make it handheld and easier to eat?  Yum!  Excuse me while I go eat another cupcake before typing the next paragraph.

This recipe that I found online produced a perfectly moist cake.  And to make it a little more fruity I added fresh berries into the batter so there's even more of a berry punch in each bite.  I'll admit, I only put berries into half the batch I made just in case it didn't come out as I intended, but next time I'll be adding berries to all my cupcakes.

This was not only a great way to use the berries I've received in my CSA box but they are also the perfect addition to any summer party (they can even be made red, white and blue for 4th of July!)  And remember how I said I was trying to find something I could bring to a party?  Well, I didn't actually have any parties to attend before this blog post had to go live, so I hope my neighbors are hungry!

Angel Food Cupcakes (slightly adapted from Cooking Classy)

3/4 cup + 2 tbsp granulated sugar
1/2 cup cake flour
1/4 tsp salt
6 egg whites, room temperature
2 1/2 tbsp warm water
1/2 tsp + splash vanilla extract, divided
3/4 tsp cream of tartar
strawberries and/or blueberries
1 pint heavy cream

- Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Line muffin tins with cupcake liners (my batter yielded 18 cupcakes)
- In the food processor, pulse granulated sugar until it is super fine (a minute or two)
- In a mixing bowl, sift together half the sugar, all of the flour and salt.
- In the mixing bowl of your electric mixer (a large mixing bowl if you're using a handheld mixer) whisk together the egg whites, water, 1/2 tsp of vanilla and cream of tartar at a low speed until well combined.  Turn mixer up to a medium speed and slowly add the remaining sugar until medium peaks form.
- Sift a thin layer of the flour mixture over the egg white mixture and using a rubber spatula, fold it into the egg mixture to incorporate it.  Repeat with the rest of the flour mixture, using small batches (I did about 10 additions).
- Divide batter into the liners, filling them 3/4 of the way (you should have some batter left over at this point).  Slice the strawberries or halve the blueberries and insert the berries throughout the batter in the liners (pushing the berries into the cups).  Use the rest of the batter to cover the berries, filling the liners almost to the top.
- Bake cupcakes for 18-20 minutes, until golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
- Let cool completely on wire racks.
- While the cupcakes cool, whip the heavy cream and a splash of vanilla into a fluffy consistency.  Once the cupcakes are cool, spread the whipped cream on top (I used a silicone decorating tool). Then top with additional berries (sliced strawberries or whole blueberries).

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Baked Garlic Rice Pilaf

This month's theme for What's Baking is "Baking with Garlic".  My mind immediately went to garlic knots or garlic breadsticks or even a delicious garlic rosemary bread I found online.  But I wanted to think outside the box.  Plus, I eat enough bread as it is, did I really need that much extra bread in my house??  Of course my answer would still have been YES!! But, alas, I had nowhere to add it to my menu plan, plus I needed a side dish to my Shabbat chicken dinner.

Then I remembered a delicious rice pilaf I had made a few years back and realized I had never shared it here!  I don't remember how I first came across this exact recipe, but it is from my dear friend Jessica's blog.

Rice pilaf is rice cooked in stock (and not, as one contestant on Top Chef a few seasons ago thought, rice with 'a lot of stuff in it").  And this baked version uses some stock at the beginning and adds more partway through cooking.  I made a small adjustment to make this dish appropriate for a meat meal, then satisfied my own garlic craving by adding extra garlic.  The original recipe called for crushed garlic only, but just wait until you get the smooth deliciousness of a cooked garlic chunk.  It is like a little bite of heaven.  I had first made this back when coconut oil was becoming a thing so I used that as a parve substitute for butter and think that it really adds to the flavor of this dish.

I'm looking forward to seeing what everyone else made this month.  Garlic just might be my favorite ingredient to use!

Baked Garlic Rice Pilaf (slightly adapted from Sunny Side Up)

2 Tbsp coconut oil
3 garlic cloves, crushed
3 garlic cloves halved, quartered or roughly chopped
1 cup brown rice
2 1/2 cups chicken broth, divided  **use vegetable broth if you want to make this a parve dish

salt and pepper to taste

- Preheat oven to 375
- Melt the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the garlic and rice and cook for approx 3 minutes, or until the garlic starts to turn golden brown.
- Add 1 cup of broth, salt and pepper and bring to a boil.  Transfer the rice, garlic and broth to a casserole dish with a tight fitting lid or use two sheets of foil to seal a deep dish.
- Bake for 25 minutes.
- Remove the dish from the oven and stir in the rest of the broth (1 1/2 cups).
- Re-cover the dish and continue baking for 45 minutes.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Fried Chicken Strips

Every year for Chanukah my grandmother makes fried chicken which she serves along with biscuits, latkes, and applesauce.  She coats her chicken in matzah meal before frying and it comes out crispy and delicious.  So when I was looking through my copy of A Treasury of Jewish Holiday Baking and came to the chapter called "A Baker Becomes a Cook", I wasn't surprised to see a recipe for chicken cutlets in the Passover section.

This can be a good lunch or dinner and should appeal to the whole family.  I would use this same recipe throughout the year (most likely only adjusting the oil I use for frying and maybe using flour instead of the potato starch if we didn't have any more on hand).

Fried Chicken Strips (slightly adapted from A Treasury of Jewish Holiday Baking)

4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
3/4 cup potato starch
2 1/2 cups matzah meal
1 tbsp salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 tbsp garlic powder
1 tbsp onion powder
4 eggs
oil for frying (cottonseed oil during Passover, canola oil the rest of the year)

- Using kitchen shears, cut the chicken into 1 inch thick strips.
- In a large skillet, pour in enough oil to come about half an inch up the side of the pan and heat until approx 350 degrees F.
- Into a shallow bowl or dish with high sides (I use deep paper plates), pour the potato starch.
- In a second shallow bowl, crack the eggs and lightly beat them.
- In a third shallow bowl, mix together the matzah meal, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and onion powder.
-  Set your plates in an assembly line - potato starch, egg, then matzah meal closest to the skillet.  Take a chicken strip and dredge in the potato starch, shaking off the excess.  Dip the strip in the beaten egg next, letting the excess drip off.  Last, press the strip into the matzah meal until fully coated.  Place the strip in the heated oil.
- Working in batches, heat the strips until golden brown, turning once.
- Place the cooked chicken on paper towels to drain.
- Serve warm or cold with any dipping sauce you desire (or no sauce at all!)

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Roasted Lemon-Pepper Tilapia

I use my copy of Kosher by Design Short on Time frequently, so when I saw that the author also had a Passover cookbook, I made sure to buy it ahead of this holiday.  While several recipes are a tailored specifically for Passover, many are just favorites from her other books that happen to be Kosher for Passover.  One of those recipes that caught my eye was the one for roasted lemon-pepper cod.  I added it to the menu plan for this week and I have to say, it did not disappoint!  Even my cream-sauce hating husband liked it!

I made a few adjustments to make it work better for my family (including switching the fish out for tilapia due to the size of the filets available at my market) and will be sure to make this again in the future.  I ended up with a lot of leftover sauce (I changed the measurements in the recipe below so you shouldn't have this issue) and I'll say, this sauce was also delicious when eaten with my leftover gnocchi.


Roasted Lemon-Pepper Tilapia (slightly adapted from Passover by Design)

four 6oz filets of tilapia, cod, or halibut
1 large lemon
coarsely ground black pepper
1 1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tsp onion powder
scant 1/4 cup reduced fat sour cream

- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F
- Line a jellyroll pan with parchment paper
- Season both sides of fish with salt, then place them on the prepared pan
- Using a microplane, zest the lemon over the fish, reserving the lemon.  Sprinkle with pepper.
- Roast for 20 min.
- While fish is cooking, heat the heavy cream in a medium saucepan over medium heat, until it starts to form bubbles around the edges.
- Reduce heat to medium-low, then add the juice from the lemon and onion powder.  Simmer on low heat for 7-10 minutes to reduce until slightly thickened.
- Remove the saucepan from the heat and whisk in the sour cream.
- Transfer fish to plates or serving platter, spoon the sauce over the fish (or spoon the sauce onto the plate, place the fish on top, then drizzle more sauce over the fish).

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Quinoa with Roasted Garlic, Tomatoes, and Spinach

Did you know that quinoa is Kosher for Passover?  Well, it is!  This was a welcome fact as I set about menu planning.  Aside from veggies there aren't many other sides that don't involve some sort of matzah/matzah meal/etc so quinoa is a nice break from that.

Last summer I decided to add more quinoa to our diet and started looking for good recipes.  I came upon this one on in my search and it wasn't until the second or third time I made it that I noticed the author was Mary Ellen from Mary Ellen's Cooking Creations, a friend of mine from an online community.  I made a few small adjustments (most importantly was making it a parve side) and have made it several times since.  Quinoa is considered a "superfood" because of its health benefits so I should probably make it more often than I do.

The red pepper flakes add a nice kick to it, though I think if you don't want the heat (or if you have a little mouth to feed that doesn't like too much spice) it could be left out and would still make a delicious dish.


Quinoa with Roasted Garlic, Tomatoes, and Spinach (slightly adapted from Mary Ellen's Cooking Creations)

1 bulb of garlic
1 tbsp olive oil, plus a drizzle more
small shallot, chopped
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (leave out if you don't want the heat)
1/2 cup uncooked quinoa
1 tbsp dry white wine
1 cup low sodium vegetable stock
1/2 cup spinach, sliced into thin strips
6-10 cherry tomatoes, halved

- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
- Cut the top off of the bulb of garlic, exposing the cloves.  Place bulb on foil, drizzle with olive oil, then wrap the foil around the bulb, making a little pouch.
- Put the foil pouch in the oven and roast for 1 hour.  Set aside to cool (opening the packet after approx 5 min).
- As the garlic cools, heat 1 tbsp of olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat.
- Add shallots and red pepper flakes, stir and cool 1 minute.
- Add quinoa and cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly.
- Add wine and stir constantly until the liquid is absorbed.
- Stir in broth.  Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes, until liquid is absorbed.
- Remove from heat.
- Squeeze the pulp from the roasted garlic into the quinoa, discarding the skins.
- Add the tomatoes and spinach to the quinoa and stir.
- Serve immediately.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Potato Spinach Gnocchi with Tomato Sauce

When coming up with my menu plan for the week of Passover, I knew I could rely on many of our dishes we have throughout the year, but I wanted to be a little more adventurous and make things that needed modification to be eaten during this time.  Jewish Federation sends out a newspaper and this issue included an article with recipes for a vegetarian seder.  A few of these dishes jumped out at me so I was excited to add them to the week's lineup.

I was having dinner guests over on Sunday so I set out to try my new-found recipe.  This potato spinach gnocchi was pretty easy to make, though the rolling the dumpling part was a bit tedious.  Everyone enjoyed it and went back for seconds, so I think it was a hit!

This recipe made about 100 tater tot sized dumplings so this can definitely feed a crowd.  I made the tomato sauce included in the article, but you could serve this with any store bought or homemade sauce.  The gnocchi are finished off with a sprinkle of parmesan and baked in the oven which I think adds a nice flavor and makes the texture a little less mushy.  The dumplings stuck a bit to the baking sheet, but I plated the dumplings that side down so it still looked flawless (and gave my husband the opportunity to eat the leftover bits off the foil after our guests had left!).  I saved the leftovers and am hoping it reheats well.  I'll update once we eat the rest!

Potato Spinach Gnocchi (adapted from recipe by Marshall Weiss published in NJJN)

2lbs baking potatoes (which was 4 potatoes for me)
1 cup potato starch plus more as needed
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 tsp salt
10oz frozen chopped spinach, thawed
1 cup ricotta chese
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

- Peel potatoes and boil in water for 15-30 min, until easily stabbed through with a fork.
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Prepare a baking sheet by lightly oiling it (during Passover use cottonseed oil or Kosher for Passover olive oil).
- In a medium bowl, mash potatoes.  Mix potato starch, egg, salt, spinach, ricotta, and nutmeg.  If the dough is too sticky, add additional potato starch.
- Bring 4 qts of water to a boil.
- While water is heating, make the dumplings.  With wet hands, form 1/2 tbsp of dough into a tater tot shape.
- Once the water is boiling, carefully drop the gnocchi into the water (one at a time so you don't splash boiling hot water onto yourself).  They will rise to the surface when cooked, which only takes a few minutes.
- As the gnocchi rise to the top, remove them from the pot using a slotted spoon and place it onto the prepared baking sheet.
- Sprinkle the gnocchi with the grated parmesean and bake for 10-15 minutes.

Tomato Sauce for the Gnocchi

2 tbsp Kosher for Passover olive oil (or cottonseed oil)
1 small onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup parsley, chopped
1 bay leaf
28oz can crushed tomatoes
1 small can tomato paste

- Heat the oil in a medium pot.  Add the onion and garlic and cook on low heat until translucent (approx 5 minutes)
- Add parsley, bay leaf, tomatoes, and tomato paste.
- Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Passover Apple Cake

I hate to show up to my grandmother's house for a seder empty handed.  I knew I was bringing gefitle fish to my in-laws the next night but that's my grandmother's specialty so I had to come up with another idea.  Dessert is usually my go-to but during Passover you have to be careful what you make since many options come out dry or tasteless.  In an effort to try new things this year, I turned to my copy of Arthur Schwartz's Jewish Home Cooking.

In this book there is a gorgeous photo of a slice of apple cake.  It looks nice and cakey and delicious. Plus it was parve, which is always a good thing.  So I set out to recreate that cake.  Following his recipe I didn't exactly get the cake in the picture, but what I did end up with was absolutely delicious!  I adjusted the recipe a bit as I went since the original called for 5 apples, sliced.  I put half this amount in the middle of the cake then went to put the other half on top.  After getting 2 layers of apple slices and still having one and a half apples left (plus the batter didn't cover the first apple section) I realized this was just way too much.  I think that my adjustment will help get a better ratio of apple to cake.

The cake was incredibly moist and delicious.  Most of it was finished at the seder, and the leftovers that we divided up amongst a few of us didn't last long.  I'll be sure to make this again next year!

Passover Apple Cake (slightly adapted from Arther Schwartz's Jewish Home Cooking)

1/2 cup chopped walnuts
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg

3 large eggs
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup vegetable oil (cottonseed oil during Passover)
3/4 cup cake meal
3 medium apples, peeled, cored and cut into 1/4 in slices (preferably Golden Delicious apples)
1/3 cup raisins (optional)

- Position an oven rack in the center of the oven.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- Lightly oil an 8 inch square glass baking dish.
- In a small bowl, mix together the topping ingredients and set aside.
- In a medium bowl, with an handheld mixer, beat the eggs on medium speed until well mixed.
- Beat in the sugar 2tbsp at a time, beating until the mixture is thick and foamy.
- Beat in the oil, adding it in a steady stream.
- Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula, then using the spatula stir in the cake meal, blending well.
- Pour half of the batter into the prepared pan.  Sprinkle half of the topping over the batter.  Top with half of the apple slices and all of the raisins (if using).
- Scrape the remaining batter over the apples, spreading it out to cover the apples evenly.  Arrange the remaining apple slices on top of the batter.  Sprinkle the remaining topping mixture over the apples.
- Bake for 1 hour 15min, until the topping has begun to carmelize.
- Let the cake cool in the baking dish for several hours before slicing and serving.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Getting ready for Passover

Passover is a week away, so I'm sure everyone is starting to prep their house, menu plan and even start cooking for their seders.  While I am not hosting a seder, I will be doing a LOT of cooking.  I am hoping to try a bunch of new recipes, so I spent way too  much time on Pinterest and created a Passover board of delicious looking food.  It can be found at:    If you're not already following me on Pinterest, feel free to!

I also went back through my previous posts and assigned many more dishes to my Passover label.  I realize that a lot of what I cook on an everyday basis can still be eaten during this time, so I wanted to make sure I include those dishes, not just traditional Passover meals.  Nothing includes flour, cornstarch, rice or beans, and if it includes bread in the ingredient list, then it's usually just served on the side to mop up sauces, etc so it is easily removed from the dish without changing anything.  You can find the list here:

I hope to post a lot of new-to-me recipes over the holiday, so keep an eye out.  And if there are any dishes you make every year that you want to share with me, please do!

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Sweet Potato Pie

It's Pi Day!  Not only is it 3/14, but it's 3/14/15, even better!  Every year on March 14th I think 'why didn't I make a pie?!" so when Kate from Kate's Recipe Box announced a link up for Pi Day I jumped at the chance.

This challenge allowed me to tackle something on my bucket list, as well.  I have had in mind to make a sweet potato pie since last Thanksgiving my father asked if I could make a one to bring to the family's festivities.  The host of the meal vetoed that as they had too many pies already (and sweet potato dishes in the main course) so I did not fulfill my father's wish.  In fact, he almost missed out on this pie but thankfully I had plans to be in his area a few days after I made this, so I made sure to deliver him a slice.

The pie filling is perfectly fluffy and just sweet enough without being too sweet.  And I have to say, my attempt at a homemade pie crust was a lot more successful than the last time I tried.  It rolled out nicely and even the crimping seemed to come out better!  I had made an adjustment to that recipe so maybe that's what did it? Who knows?!  But I am proud of how this pie came out, taste and presentation-wise.

Sweet Potato Pie (slightly altered from Alton Brown)

1lb 3oz sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 1/4 cup fat free plain Greek yogurt
3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
5 egg yolks
Kosher salt
1 9 inch deep dish pie dough, either frozen or homemade (*see recipe below)
1 cup chopped pecans
1 tbsp real maple syrup

- Put cubed potatoes into steamer basket and place steamer basket into a large pot of simmering water that is no closer than 2 inches from the bottom of basket. Allow to steam for 20 minutes or until the potatoes are fork tender. Mash with potato masher and set aside.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
- In a small pan, toast pecans over low heat until fragrant.
- In the bowl of an electrical mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the mashed sweet potato, yogurt, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, egg yolks, and salt, to taste.  Beat until well combined.
- Pour batter into the pie shell.  Sprinkle the pecans on top and drizzle with maple syrup.
- Bake for 50-55 minutes.
- Remove from oven and allow to cool.  Once fully cooled, pie should be refrigerated.

*Pie Dough (slightly altered from Craft of Baking)

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp sugar
3/4 tsp kosher salt
8 tbsp (1 stick) chilled, unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/4 cup vegetable oil spread
1/2 cup ice water, plus more if needed

***For best results, measure out ingredients and chill in the freezer for 15 minutes before making the dough
- In the bowl of a food processor, combine the flour, sugar, and salt; pulse to combine.
- Add the butter and the shortening, and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs, with some larger pieces remaining. 
- With the machine running, add the ice water through the feed tube in a slow, steady stream, processing just until the dough begins to bind and holds together when squeezed in the palm of your hand, 5 to 10 seconds.  If the dough is too dry, add a bit more water, 1 tbsp at a time. 
- Turn out the dough onto a clean work surface and shape it into a flattened disk.  Wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or over night (the dough can be frozen for up to 1 month; thaw it overnight in the refrigerator before using)
Be sure to check out these other Pies for Pi Day:
  Strawberry Pop Tart Pie from Kate's Recipe Box

Indiana Sugar Cream Pie from Eva Bakes

Coconut Cream Pie from Relish

Individual Pepperoni Pizza Pot Pies from Cheese Curd in Paradise

Lemon Cheesecake Pie from Hezzi-D's Books and Cooks

Chocolate Pecan Pie from Cookaholic Wife

Thursday, February 26, 2015


This month's theme for What's Baking is Baking Bread.  I was excited to cross something off my bucket list - challah.  I had always had in mind to make it but had never made the time to actually do it.  As it was, I didn't even find the time to make it for Shabbat, I ended up making it on a Wednesday!

I looked up recipes from a few sources and noticed that the techniques were different in each.  Some were instructions on how to knead the entire thing by hand, some (like the one I ended up using) use an electric mixer.  Some had several long rising periods, others had much less rising time.  Then they all ended with different ways to present it - a round loaf, a few small loaves, a simple braid or an intricate one.

I think that challah is going to be one of those things that take time to perfect your craft.  The end result of the recipe below came out a bit more dense than I usually like in my challahs.  And my braid was a bit uneven.  Don't get me wrong, it's still delicious, but I will definitely be futzing around with this one and trying alternate recipes to get the perfect airy challah.

Someone was too excited to eat the challah to wait for me to take the picture

This Shabbat is going to be a little extra special with homemade challah on the table.  And this weekend we will most definitely be enjoying some challah french toast for breakfast!

Challah (slightly adapted from Arthur Schwartz's Jewish Home Cooking)

1 package (2 1/4 tsp) active dry yeast
1 cup warm water (no more than 110 degrees F)
1/3 cup sugar plus 1 tsp for the egg wash
4 1/2 cups bread flour plus more for flouring the board
3 eggs plus 1 more for the egg wash
1/4 cup peanut or canola oil
2 tsp salt

- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine the yeast and the water on low speed.  Mix for a minute or so to dissolve the yeast.
- Add 1/3 cup sugar and mix again for a few seconds, then add 1/2 cup flour and mix again.
- Add 3 eggs.  Increase the speed slightly and mix again.  Once the eggs are well incorporated, add 1 more cup of flour.  On medium-low speed, work in the flour (scraping side of the bowl as needed), then add the oil and salt.
- Turn off the machine and add 3 cups of the remaining flour (a total of 4 1/2 cups).  Starting slow and working up to a medium speed, continue to work the flour into the dough, shutting the machine off once or twice to scrape down the sides of the bowl.
- Let the machine knead the dough for 10-15 minutes, making sure to turn off the machine every few minutes to scrape down the sides of the bowl and/or to give the motor a rest (it can overheat while working this dense a dough).  If it is still sticking to the sides of the bowl after a few minutes, add a little more flour (one tablespoon at a time).  In the end, the dough should be firm, smooth, elastic and only slightly sticky.
- Put the dough into a large, oiled bowl, turning to completely coat it with oil.  Cover with plastic wrap or a clean dish towel and let rise until tripled in volume (1 1/2 to 2 hours).
 - Punch down the dough and prepare it for it's final shape:
***for a braided loaf: cut the dough into equal strands (as many as you want to work with).  Place the strands on a floured board, cover with a clean dish towel and let rise for 30 minutes.  Braid the dough (pinching the ends together) and place the loaf on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
***for a round loaf: form the dough into 1 long rope and coil the rope into a road loaf on a floured board.  Cover with a clean dish towel and let rise 30 minutes.  Place the loaf on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
- Position an oven rack in the center of the oven.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- Make an egg wash by beating 1 egg and 1 tsp sugar in a small bowl.  Brush the surface of the loaf with the wash, making sure to glaze the crevices between strands.
- Bake for 35-40 minutes.  To test for doneness, tap the bottom of the loaf with your fingers.  It should sound hollow.  Transfer to a rack to cool thoroughly before slicing and serving.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Hash Brown Quiche

I've said it before and I'll say it again - I love brunch.  I want to invite people over at least once a month so I can enjoy the decadent dishes I can get away with making.  In addition to my french toast, my go-to brunch dish is this hash brown quiche.  It combines eggs and potatoes in one delicious bite.  And (bonus!) after you pre-cook the hash brown crust, you bake the eggs at the same temperature as the french toast.  I pop it in the oven 15 minutes after the french toast goes in, then I even have time for the quick clean up before my guests arrive!

I have mixed it up a little as well since I started making this.  I've added mushrooms, switched out different kinds of cheese, etc.  So you can add your own personal twist to cater to your family's tastebuds.

This dish is also toddler approved (though you may have to tell them it's "cheese" or else they won't eat it).

Hash Brown Quiche (slightly adapted from Paula Deen)

3 cups shredded hash brown (either freshly shredded potatoes or thawed from frozen)
4 tbsp (1/2 stick) melted butter
3 large eggs
1 cup half-and-half
1/4 cup diced scallions
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

- Preheat oven to 450 degrees, F
- In a colander, gently press potatoes with a paper towel to squeeze out excess water.
- In a greased 9in pie plate, toss potatoes with the melted butter until well combined.  Then press the potato into the bottom and sides of the plate to form the crust.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes until it starts to turn golden brown and starting to crisp.  When you remove it from the oven, lower the temperature to 350 degrees F.
- In a mixing bowl, whisk together the egg and half-and-half.  Then stir in the scallions, cheese, and salt and pepper to taste.
- Once the potato crust is out of the oven, pour the egg mixture into the center of the crust.  Use a spoon or spatula to spread out the cheese and scallions.
- Bake for 30-40 min (at 350) until the center is puffy and light golden brown.

hash brown crust, ready for the oven

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Split Pea soup

When the forecast for this week revealed a major snow storm, I knew immediately that I wanted to add soup to my menu.  That's the proper way to spend a snow day, right?!  Thankfully the storm wasn't as bad as predicted (we got 6 or so inches, not the predicted 2'+) but it was the perfect amount of snow to cause a snow day for my husband, we didn't have to worry about losing power, and we were able to get out and go sledding in the afternoon!

My husband's favorite soup is split pea.  But he can't order it many places, as a lot of restaurants put ham in it.  When I originally had the idea to make this soup for him a few months ago, I found this one from The Inventive Vegetarian, a site I've used before, so I trusted it would be good.  I made one or two slight changes to make it more to my liking, but otherwise this was the perfect recipe!  The soup itself is parve, though we added sourdough parmesan croutons which made this batch dairy once it was served.

I will advise to get the carrots, celery and parsley chopped first and put aside (they are added all at once so you can put them all together in a bowl) and not rinse the peas until just before putting them into the pot, as they will harden and become one big split pea clump if they have time to dry after rinsing.

This was a nice, cozy lunch that we ate while we looked out on the winter wonderland outside.

Split Pea Soup (slightly adapted from The Inventive Vegetarian)

1 large onion, chopped
2 tsp olive oil
3 small (or 2 medium/large) garlic cloves, diced
2 cups sliced carrots
2 cups sliced celery
1 lb (2.5 cups) dried green split peas, picked over and rinsed
8 cups vegetable stock
2 cups water
2 bay leaves
1 tbsp dried oregano
1 bunch parsley, rough chopped
salt & pepper to taste
croutons, for garnish (optional)

- Heat oil in a soup pot over medium heat.  Add the onion to the hot oil and saute for a few minutes, until they begin to soften.  Add garlic and saute for another minute.
- Add the carrots, celery, peas, herbs, stock, and water.  Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.  Stirring occasionally, let it simmer for 90 minutes, partially covered.
- Salt & pepper to taste (keep in mind how salty the croutons you might be adding are).  Remove the bay leaves.
- Using an immersion blender, blend the soup until well combined but still a little chunky.
- Ladle into bowls and garnish with croutons, if desired.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Salmon-Tuna Twists

When guests over for lunch I am usually not creative and end up serving deli sandwiches or tuna fish.  For some reason I just don't want to be bothered with preparing a meal in the middle of the day.  But when I invited my parents over a few weeks ago I decided to not slack off and actually make something for them (though, admittedly, I did serve them prepared leftovers as a side to this meal).

I recently rediscovered The Kosher Palette, so I looked there to find something simple but delicious to make.  I came across a recipe that intrigued me:  Salmon-Tuna Twists.  It uses canned fish and while my go to sushi order usually includes salmon rolls and tuna rolls, I never thought to combine the fishes in one dish, especially not combining them in canned form, which I use separately ALL. THE. TIME.  After looking over their recipe I decided to experiment with it a little bit.  For starters, they only used 3oz of each fish, but the cans are 6oz and what was I going to do with the half cans left?!  I played with the other ingredients and added an idea or two of my own and am very happy with the results.

The best part is, these can either be large enough to be a main dish, or they can be served as part of a meal (such as brunch or as an appetizer) in smaller form.  When I hosted my in-laws for brunch a week after making this for my own parents I made these again slightly smaller and again it went over very well.

Salmon-Tuna Twists (adapted from The Kosher Palette)

6oz can of tuna in water, drained
6oz can of salmon, drained
1/2 cup light mayonnaise
small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
juice of 1/2 a lemon
1 tbsp white horseradish, drained
1 tsp paprika
1 package frozen puff pastry, thawed

- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
- In medium mixing bowl, combine tuna and salmon.  Chop with fork until large chunks are all broken down.
- Add mayonnaise, onion garlic, lemon juice, horseradish, and paprika.  Stir until well combined.
- On lightly floured surface, roll pastry sheet.  Cut to desired size (for larger twists, cut each sheet into quarters, for smaller twists cut into eighths).
- Spoon salmon-tuna mixture into center of each square.  fold two diagonal corners into center and press together.
- Place twists on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or aluminum foil.
- Bake for 18-20 minutes (the larger twists will need longer than smaller twists).