Rhubarb Clafoutis

While this sweet might be among the more difficult dessert names to pronounce, it’s also the simplest to make and make well. Clafoutis (clah-FOO-tee) —and yes, I must keep remembering it’s a singular noun! — is a much-loved and often-baked traditional French dessert that is a cross between a custard and a cake, but easier and faster to make than either one. When cherries (or raspberries, blueberries…) are in season and hence plentiful-cheap, the oven is heated along with a cast iron pan (can also use a casserole), a quick batter is whirred together in the food processor, blender, or by hand and poured right into that the pan. The fruit gets distributed on top and into a HOT oven it all goes for just a half hour or so. And there’s dessert, friends. At first it’s all hot and puffy golden brown if you like it that way (think Dutch Baby), but soon it calms and cools down and is just as good, if a tad deflated. Cold for breakfast the next morning? Of course. Bien sur!

How to pronounce CLAFOUTIS (Listen up!)

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Clean Out the Fridge Chicken Pasta–Don’t Look for This Dish in Italy

Over the years, I’ve taught a number of Italian cooking classes, one more enjoyable than the last and no doubt I’ve learned as much as anyone in the groups. A few minutes are always spent discussing the basic courses of an Italian meal while listening to a stellar Italian opera aria or two, though we rarely have time to make them all, more’s the pity. Having traveled to Italy a number of times, I learned it was no secret Italians themselves only have time for such luxurious repasts during special family get-togethers, Sundays, or holidays — much like Americans. In Naples, a tour guide confided to me, “We love just pasta for lunch; it’s a favorite. Or pizza!” It was cool hearing that.

Here in the states, pasta is rarely a first course (“primi”), which it is for that special Italian meal:

Primo / Primi or primo piatto / primi piatti – first plate/s, usually pasta or risotto; you could also have a “bis di primi” or “tris di primi”, where they give you a small portion of two or three different types of pasta so you can sample.

ITALY Magazine

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Pumpkin-Ginger Crunch Cheesecake

I can’t remember exactly when the pumpkin spice thing took hold. Or how it came to be. You can google all that and get your own ideas. One thing comes to mind and it’s coffee:

By the early 2000s, some evil genius figured out that it sold well as a latte with plenty of cream and sugar. An early reference in a newspaper is “Springs coffee shops offer something to fit almost everyone’s taste” in the Colorado Springs Gazette in January 11, 2002, which describes Purple Mountain Coffee in Colorado serving up a “pumpkin pie latte.”

Melissa Mcewan: Chicagoist/October 31, 2014
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Cranberry-Apple-Pear Coffeecake

Crud. I’ve had the crud. Dave, too. Days and days of nasty, head cold life–luckily not much else like sore throats or tummy troubles. Unable to navigate further than the kitchen, we summoned up pots of my easiest chicken soups, ordered pizza when the soup was gone, and watched as many Christmas movies as two people could handle in what ended up to be more than a week. In between, there was a snow storm that left us with several inches in the drive and on the walkways but with luckily no power outages. That meant a few gorgeous fires in the fireplace to cheer us up.

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38 Power Foods, Week 17 — Berries — Fresh Berry Cake

Just looking at this cake will tell you that it’s not difficult to make and it’s NOT.  A quick glance at the recipe, however, might put you off.  Don’t let it.  There may be a little reading involved, but the cooking and baking are fairly simple and don’t take long.  In fact, though it’s two layers, you only bake one cake.  After it’s cool, you cut it in half.

But listen, if you’re not a baker, this is just the cake for you… because you can get away without baking a cake at all!  Just buy a Sara Lee pound cake and cut it into layers–maybe three?–and do a loaf-shaped cake on a pretty rectangular tray.  Follow the rest of the directions for the berries and filling and there you are!   You could also bake a box cake into cupcakes, slice them, put half in a pretty coffee cup and decorate from there.  Whatever you do, this is a beautiful, tasty cake for Easter, Mother’s Day, or the Memorial Day picnic.  (Assemble this cake where you’re serving it.)  If you don’t have a special cake plate, don’t worry about it.  Whoever eats this will be happy no matter what.  Next time you run in Good Will, see a funky antique shop or a garage sale,  keep an eye our for great serving pieces.  No need to spend a fortune at the department stores. 

Another idea comes from my mother-in-law, who, when I was  a young wife, often made a similar cake using a homemade or store bought angel food cake.  To cut calories, she used Cool Whip, but I can’t go that far.   If I’m eating cake I want to eat cake.  Let them eat cake!  But if you really must cut the whipped cream for health or allergy reasons, try the Cool Whip version.
Cook’s Note:  While October isn’t prime berry time (there are still a few blueberries coming from upper Michigan and Canada), I made this earlier in the year and knew it would be perfect for the Power Foods Berry Post.  Save the recipe for next spring if you’d like to try it with all fresh berries.
I made this for Mother’s Day and took it to a friend’s.  We all had a tiny slice with a huge cup of coffee. 

 Easy Berry Butter Cake (Aida Mollenkamp–courtesy Food Network)

Difficulty: Easy | Total Time: 1 hr 5 mins, plus cooling time | Active Time: 25 mins | Makes:8 to 10 servings

  • For the cake:*

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for coating the pan

  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder

  • 1/4 plus 1/8 teaspoon fine salt

  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick), softened, plus more for coating the pan

  • 1 cup granulated sugar

  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature

  • 1/2 cup whole milk

*Or use a purchased cake like Sara Lee Pound Cake

  • For the filling:

  • 1/2 cup mascarpone cheese, at room temperature

  • 1 cup heavy cream

  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar

  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract

    To assemble:

    • 1 1/2 pounds mixed berries*, washed (if you’re using *strawberries, they’ll also need to be hulled and quartered)  You might not need quite this many berries; mine didn’t fit on the cake. 
    •  
    INSTRUCTIONS
    For the cake:
    1. Heat the oven to 350°F and arrange a rack in the middle. Coat an 8-inch round cake pan with butter and flour, tap out the excess flour, and set the pan aside. Combine measured flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl and whisk until evenly combined; set aside.
    2. Place measured butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and beat on medium high until light in color and fluffy, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add sugar and continue to beat on medium high until white in color and the texture of wet sand, about 3 minutes more.
    3. Add eggs one at a time, letting each incorporate fully before adding the next. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. With the mixer on low, add half of the flour mixture. Mix just until incorporated, then add milk and continue mixing until smooth. Add the rest of the flour mixture, mixing just until incorporated, about 2 minutes more.
    1. Scrape the batter into the prepared cake pan. Bake until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool, about 15 minutes. Run a knife around the perimeter of the cake and turn out onto the rack, right side up, to cool completely. Meanwhile, make the filling.
    For the filling:
    Place mascarpone in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment and whip on medium speed until smooth, about 1 minute. Add cream, sugar, and almond extract, increase speed to medium high, and whip until ingredients are combined and firm peaks form, about 15 seconds more. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
    To assemble: *

    1. Slice cake in half horizontally using a serrated knife. Divide filling evenly between the cut side and the top of the cake. Divide berries evenly over the filling. Stack cakes on top of each other and serve.

     

    If using a purchased cake like frozen Sara Lee pound cake, you might want to slice it (into thirds, perhaps) while it’s still partially frozen.  (Recipe first posted in May of 2012)
     

    Note:  I’ll share with you that whenever I’ve made a recipe by Aida Mollenkamp, it’s been incredible.  I don’t see her on Food Network anymore; is she still on?  But she does have a lot of recipes.  One that immediately comes to mind is her lasagna. Can’t make that very often.
     

     I like berries because of all the things they can do for us…provide tons of vitamins, fiber, antioxidants,  memory ability boosters, and more…  But I also love them because they’re gorgeous, inexpensive (relatively),  taste incredibly good, and are low in calories.  Many of them are also easy to grow at home.  And while we’re out of berry season in most places in the country, I just got a couple of pints of Michigan blueberries much like the tiny wild Maine berries that are often lusciously sweet-tart and make such great pancakes and muffins.  For more on berries and why we should eat them, click here. 
      ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
     I blog with a great group of writers every Friday where we cook our way through the list of foods from Whole Living Magazine’s Power Foods:  150 Delicious Recipes with the 38 Healthiest Ingredients:    Read more about beautiful berries this week at these sites: 
    Ansh – SpiceRoots.com  
    Minnie Gupta from TheLady8Home.com

    Sarah – Everything in the Kitchen Sink
    .
    Want to join us?  We’d like to have you as part of the group.  Get in touch with Mireya from My Healthy Eating Habits:  Mireya@MyHealthyEatingHabits.com


    ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
    Need some fall love?
    Try reading this week on my Dinner Place blog (Cooking for One):
    Sing a new song,
    Alyce
    P.S.  Fellow blogger @donteatalone.blogspot.com,  Milton Brasher-Cunningham, has just published a book you might be interested in:
    Check it out!

     

Fresh Berry Cake for Mother’s Day–Bake or Not

Looks like Mother’s Day!

I hope you’re looking for a cake to make for your Mom for Mother’s Day.  If you are, you’re sooo wonderful.  What mom wouldn’t love someone who baked a great-looking and yummy cake like this?   I made it to take to a friend’s for Easter and took it unassembled as I wanted it as fresh as it could be. 

Just looking at this cake will tell you that it’s not difficult to make and it’s NOT.  A quick glance at the recipe, however, might put you off.  Don’t let it.  There may be a little reading involved, but the cooking and baking are fairly simple and don’t take long.  In fact, though it’s two layers, you only bake one cake.  After it’s cool, you cut it in half.

 

But listen, if you’re not a baker, this is just the cake for you… because you can get away without baking a cake at all!  Just buy a Sara Lee pound cake and cut it into layers–maybe three?–and do a loaf-shaped cake on a pretty rectangular tray.  Follow the rest of the directions for the berries and filling and there you are!   You could also bake a box cake into cupcakes, slice them, put half in a pretty coffee cup and decorate from there.  Whatever you do, this is a beautiful, tasty cake for mom or anyone.
If you don’t have a special cake plate, don’t worry about it.  Whoever eats this will be happy no matter what.  Next time you run in Good Will or see a funky antique shop, keep an eye our for great serving pieces.  No need to spend a fortune at the department stores. 

Another idea comes from my mother-in-law, who, when I was  a young wife, often made a similar cake using a homemade or store bought angel food cake.  To cut calories, she used Cool Whip, but I can’t go that far.   If I’m eating cake I want to eat cake.  Let them eat cake!  But if you really must cut the whipped cream for health or allergy reasons, try the Cool Whip version.

courtesy Sara Lee Desserts

Easy Berry Butter Cake (Aida Mollenkamp–courtesy Food Network)

Difficulty: Easy | Total Time: 1 hr 5 mins, plus cooling time | Active Time: 25 mins | Makes:8 to 10 servings

  • For the cake:*

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for coating the pan

  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder

  • 1/4 plus 1/8 teaspoon fine salt

  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick), softened, plus more for coating the pan

  • 1 cup granulated sugar

  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature

  • 1/2 cup whole milk

*Or use a purchased cake like Sara Lee Pound Cake

  • For the filling:

  • 1/2 cup mascarpone cheese, at room temperature

  • 1 cup heavy cream

  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar

  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract

To assemble:

  • 1 1/2 pounds mixed berries*, washed (if you’re using *strawberries, they’ll also need to be hulled and quartered)  You might not need quite this many berries; mine didn’t fit on the cake.
INSTRUCTIONS
For the cake:
  1. Heat the oven to 350°F and arrange a rack in the middle. Coat an 8-inch round cake pan with butter and flour, tap out the excess flour, and set the pan aside. Combine measured flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl and whisk until evenly combined; set aside.
  2. Place measured butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and beat on medium high until light in color and fluffy, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add sugar and continue to beat on medium high until white in color and the texture of wet sand, about 3 minutes more.
  3. Add eggs one at a time, letting each incorporate fully before adding the next. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. With the mixer on low, add half of the flour mixture. Mix just until incorporated, then add milk and continue mixing until smooth. Add the rest of the flour mixture, mixing just until incorporated, about 2 minutes more.
  4. Scrape the batter into the prepared cake pan. Bake until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool, about 15 minutes. Run a knife around the perimeter of the cake and turn out onto the rack, right side up, to cool completely. Meanwhile, make the filling.

For the filling:

  1. Place mascarpone in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment and whip on medium speed until smooth, about 1 minute. Add cream, sugar, and almond extract, increase speed to medium high, and whip until ingredients are combined and firm peaks form, about 15 seconds more. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

To assemble: *

  1. Slice cake in half horizontally using a serrated knife. Divide filling evenly between the cut side and the top of the cake. Divide berries evenly over the filling. Stack cakes on top of each other and serve.
If using a purchased cake like frozen Sara Lee pound cake, you might want to slice it (into thirds, perhaps) while it’s still partially frozen.
Note:  I’ll share with you that whenever I’ve made a recipe by Aida Mollenkamp, it’s been incredible.  I don’t see her on Food Network anymore; is she still on?  But she does have a lot of recipes.  One that immediately comes to mind is her lasagna.  Have mercy.  I could double in size eating that stuff.
Need a great idea for Mother’s Day? 
      Send Mom an ecard and give to Share our Strength:  No Kid Hungry here.

Sing a new song and bake/make an easy cake,

Alyce

50 Women Game-Changers in Food – #44- Nigella Lawson – Guinness Gingerbread

A tender, quite moist gingerbread from Nigella.

Gingerbread is Christmas, right?  Maybe New Year’s Day?  Certainly a cold-weather dessert.  Except that I love it.  I’d eat it in July if I were willing to turn the oven on.  Which I’m not.*  So that’s why it’s April and there’s Nigella Lawson’s gorgeous Guinness Gingerbread on the blog. (Two “n’s” and two “s’s” in Guinness–tells you  alot about how much I know about Guinness.  I did tour the brewery in Dublin once and actually drank a tall one.)  If you’ve been following along on this trip, I’ve joined a group of great food bloggers who are each week cooking, testing, and writing about one of Gourmet Live’s 50 Women Game-Changers.  And, you guessed it, this week (number 44) is Nigella’s week–I’m so grateful.  After all, I needed a reason to make gingerbread in the spring.  Didn’t I? (Cold and nasty in St. Paul today after a great, warm spring.  I was happy to have a warm kitchen.)
   *I have just installed a combination microwave/convection oven above my rangeThis may help with summer baking.  More later!

If you haven’t had the pleasure of watching Nigella on tv or reading one of her books, you just need to do it.  Picture a well-fed, very pretty British woman with a great accent sneaking out of bed in the dark to raid the refrigerator of crispy fried pork fat or snarfing down the last, well-hid piece of flourless chocolate cake.  Not only is she real with a capital R, but she’s fun and brings more than a bit of the seductive into the kitchen, where it surely belongs.  Whatever…it’s great to watch someone enjoy what they do and Nigella does that in spades.  Isn’t that what really draws us to people?  I adore friends who are happy in what they do.

For a biographical sketch that may surprise you, check out Nigella’s Food Network biography page here.  Not only has Nigella been a food tv star for several years and written a variety of best-selling cookbooks, but she was Deputy Literary Critic of the (London) Sunday Times before setting out to follow her own drummer as a free-lancer.  No small apples.

For a list of all of Nigella’s books, lots more info and recipes, check out her website.

But!  If you’re intrigued by the gingerbread:   get out a 9×13 pan and get baking.  Easy as pie (which isn’t easy–who said that?)  you warm up some butter, a cup of Guinness stout and a couple of other things, whisk in a few dry ingredients, pour into a greased pan and bake for 45 minutes.  Cool, cut, and serve with whipped cream, ice cream, or Crème fraîche.  Nothing better.  My own notes are in red.  Enjoy!

Guinness Gingerbread by Nigella Lawson

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 sticks 10 (tablespoons) butter, plus some for greasing
  • 1 cup golden syrup (such as Lyle’s) (I used Organic Corn Syrup plus a little Molasses.)
  • 1 cup (packed) plus 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
  • 1 cup stout (such as Guinness) (There’s just a taste left for a chef’s snack!)
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • (I added 1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper)
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 1/4 cups sour cream
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 rectangular aluminium foil pan or cake pan, approximately 13 by 9 by 2-inches

Directions

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees F. Line your cake pan with aluminium foil and grease it, or grease your foil tray.

Put the butter, syrup, dark brown sugar, stout, ginger, cinnamon and ground cloves into a pan (2-3qt saucepan)  and melt gently over a low heat.

Organic Corn Syrup with a little molasses poured in…quite pretty.

Dave was so sad that I bought a whole 6-pack.

Take off the heat and whisk in the flour and baking soda. You will need to be patient and whisk thoroughly to get rid of any lumps.

Whisk the sour cream and eggs together in a measuring jug (4c glass measuring cup) and then beat into the gingerbread mixture, whisking again to get a smooth batter.

Pour this into your cake/foil pan, and bake for about 45 minutes; when it’s ready it will be gleamingly risen at the centre, and coming away from the pan at the sides.

Let the gingerbread cool before cutting into slices or squares.

Add sweetened or spiced whipped cream, Crème fraîche,  or a scoop of vanilla ice cream, if desired.  Just a winter dusting of powdered sugar is lovely if you’re into simplicity:

For grin and giggles, watch this Nigella Interview:

If you’d like to read more great recipes, try one of the other blogs on our trip visiting 50 Women Game-Changers in Food:

Val – More Than Burnt Toast, Taryn – Have Kitchen Will Feed, Susan – The Spice Garden
Heather – girlichef, Miranda – Mangoes and Chutney, Amrita – Beetles Kitchen Escapades
Mary – One Perfect Bite, Sue – The View from Great Island, Barbara – Movable Feasts
Linda A – There and Back Again, Nancy – Picadillo, Mireya – My Healthy Eating Habits
Veronica – My Catholic Kitchen, Annie – Most Lovely Things, Jeanette – Healthy Living
Claudia – Journey of an Italian Cook, Alyce – More Time at the Table
Kathy – Bakeaway with Me, Martha – Simple Nourished Living, Jill – Saucy Cooks
Sara – Everything in the Kitchen Sink

Next week we’ll feature Diana Kennedy, the very fine Mexican cookbook author.  Join us!

Sing a new song,
Alyce