I’ve been a little mia lately, but I’m still here! And I’m back with cake!

For this I used the King Arthur moist chocolate cake recipe. Its very light and tender with a deep chocolate flavor. The icing has no pink food coloring, its all natural.

  • 2c K.A. cake flour
  • 1 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 c cocoa powder
  • 1 3/4c sugar
  • 1/2 c unsalted butter, very soft
  • 1/3c oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 c milk or buttermilk (I used half kefir and half milk)
  • 1/2c cooled coffee or water
  • 4 eggs

In a large bowl sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cocoa powder and sugar. Add the butter and oil and mix in until it looks like sand.

Combine the milk, vanilla, and coffee (or water) together and add it to the flour mixture. Mix for a minute, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl.

Add eggs, one at a time beating well. Pour the batter into pans lined with parchment paper and buttered.

Bake in a preheated oven ( 350 degrees or 325 for convection ovens)  in one 9x 13 pan (34 minutes) or two round 9 inch(28 minutes)… for a thin cake like I did, use a 12x 17 sheet pan, even it out as much as you can and bake for around 10-12 minutes.

Let cool for a few minutes then transfer to a wire cooling rack to cool completely.

For the filling:

  • 4 TBs cream cheese softened
  • 4 Tbs butter softened
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2c or more of powdered sugar
  • 2 Tbs cranberry jam (I used homemade one, but you can use any flavor such as raspberry, strawberry, etc) warmed up

Beat together the butter and cream cheese. Add in the vanilla and then the powdered sugar until it becomes thick but spreadable. Stir in the warmed jam. We really loved the filling the best!

Cut rounds of the cooled cake out  (I used 3 inch biscuit cutters). Top half of them with the cranberry filling. Top with another round, placing bottom side up. Place on a wire rack over a baking pan. Then pour over the chocolate ganache. Keep in fridge or freezer for a few minutes until it sets.

Chocolate Ganache topping:

  • 1/2c heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2c 60% chocolate (I used ghirardelli)

Heat the cream just until hot, not boiling. Take off the heat and add in the chocolate. Stir it well until it melts and thickens.

I then put some icing into a ziploc bag and snipped off the tip so I can squeeze out little decorations. Add sparkling pomegranate gems.

Sending this to  Priya’s Now Serving -Best Western Desserts

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I got inspired to make this when I saw this recipe over at Cranberry Jam blog and I noticed I had a can of tomato paste in the pantry. I don’t usually use tomato paste so who knows how long that has been there! Anyway, this was a perfect one pot and healthy balanced dish. I made a few changes and also cooked it all together in the pressure cooker.

Here is what I did:

  • 1/4c whole lentils/dal (I used a combination of masoor and tiny French lentils)
  • 1 1/4c brown basmati (white basmati will cook faster and get mushier, so if you use that, you may want to cook the lentils separately and then boil it altogether (instead of pressure cook) so it doesnt overcook the rice)
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 2 dried red chilies
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 red onion sliced thinly
  • 2 big cloves of garlic, grated or chopped
  • 1 inch ginger, grated
  • 1/2 tsp red chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp garam masala
  • salt
  • 2 Tbs tomato paste
  • 1/2c mixed vegetables – frozen or use diced carrots, green beans, peas, etc
  • 3c water
  • cilantro

Soak the lentils until they have absorbed water and plumped up. Then add washed brown basmati to soak before you start cutting the vegetables… you can soak them together.

In the pressure cooker or pot, heat oil. Add cumin seeds, then red chilies, then onions. Cook the onions until starting to turn golden. Then add the garlic and ginger, bay leaf and stir. Next add the spices and then the tomato paste. Then add the vegetables and rice/lentils… stir them to coat with the tomato mixture. Add in three cups of water and after mixing well, taste the water. It will be a good indication of how your rice will taste, so if you need more spices or salt add them now. Pressure cook for 3 whistles or Cover and simmer until rice has cooked through and absorbed all the water.

Garnish with chopped cilantro/coriander leaves and serve with raita.

I made a scallion raita which goes with this nicely. Unfortunately I didn’t take a picture but its dead easy. Just finely slice 3-4 scallions/green onions, chop a handful of cilantro and mince 1-2 green chillies. Add to beaten yogurt (half cup or so) and add a little water to thin if needed. Add salt to taste. You can add a tempering of mustard seeds, curry leaves and urad dal, but I didn’t bother.

Sending to Aipi’s and Priya’s Bookmarked Recipes

There are basically two salad dressings I make. One is this one, and the other…. I’ll share that another day 😉

I’ve been making it for a while now, and I’m a terrible one for measuring. The truth is, I tried to measure things today in order to share this recipe and I failed at that! So I suggest that you play around with the ratios to your liking.

Here is my best estimates:

  • 1/2c frozen blueberries (can be thawed or fresh)
  • 1-2 minced fresh green chilies (I like this, but you can leave it out if you don’t like it)
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/4c balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4c water
  • 1-2 Tbs honey
  • 1 Tbs dijon mustard
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tsp flax oil (optional, but it adds omega 3)
  • 1/4c extra virgin olive oil

First I blend the blueberries, garlic and green chili to bits in a mixie or blender. Scrape down the sides. Add the rest of the ingredients except olive oil and blend again. Taste and make adjustments. If its too strong, add more water. If its too sour, add more honey. Lastly, add in the olive oil. If you have an opening in the top so that you can drizzle it in slowly while the blender is on that’s better, but its also fine to just add it and blend until it comes together and is thickened. Drizzle over any salad you like.

For the salad I put:

  • Mixed baby greens
  • Cucumber sliced
  • Green pepper in thin slices
  • Yellow tomato, diced
  • Walnuts
  • Dried cranberries
  • Mandarin oranges

You could also add carrots, spinach, jicama, other dried fruits, pomegranate, blueberries, strawberry slices, apples, celery, sunflower seeds. Endless possibilities for whatever you have on hand.

Sending this to Only Salads by Prathibha and Pari and Food Palette – Green by Torview

I saw this in a cookbook for Williams Sonoma Breads (a very thick book with lots of tips and instructions!). I didn’t check the book out of the library, instead I just wrote down this recipe. But I may go back and get the book sometime because it had tons of stuff in there! I liked that this used buttermilk and maple syrup.

Here is the recipe, cut in half for one loaf instead of two:

  • 2tsp yeast
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • orange zest (optional, I had mixed it with the sugar – this is not in the original recipe)
  • 1/2c warm water
  • 3/4c tepid buttermilk (I used kefir)
  • 2Tbs maple syrup
  • 2Tbs oil
  • 1.5 tsp salt
  • 1.5c wheat flour (I used white whole wheat)
  • 1.5-2c bread flour

Add yeast and sugar to warm water and keep aside for 10 minutes till foamy.

Mix the buttermilk, maple syrup, and oil with 1c whole wheat flour. Beat it very well for a few minutes. Add in the yeast and the rest of the whole wheat flour. Mix again. Add in bread flour 1/2c at a time(I add the salt with the first 1/2c here) till a soft dough forms. Knead until it is smooth and only slightly sticky. Form into a ball.

Place in an oiled bowl and turn the dough ball to coat lightly with the oil. Cover and keep aside to rise 1-1.5 hours.

Grease a loaf pan. Flatten the dough into a rectangle and fold the long sides over in thirds. Then take the short end of the dough and roll it as tightly as you can, keeping surface pressure on the outside of the dough. Roll it under your hands to even it out and make it the length of your loaf pan. Place it inside and cover with plastic (I keep a plastic bag from some large wraps I had bought and place the loaf pan inside this). Rise for an hour or until it peaks above the sides of the pan.

In the last half hour, preheat the oven to 350.

Bake for 35-40 minutes or until it sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.

I have to admit I didn’t love this bread. Its fine, but not my favorite one. Others liked it but I felt there was something not quite right about the taste. It could be the yeast I used (I don’t think I will buy that yeast again because it has a very strong odor in whatever I made with it), it could be the tang of the kefir. It could be my user error because it took FORVER for the dough to rise, probably due to the cold weather. I would give this another try though, because its probably my fault and not the recipe.

Sending to BYOB.

Whew… Its been a good month. A cold and long month, but a good one. This month I committed to baking all my own breads from scratch and buying nothing for my pantry or freezer, only fresh produce and limited dairy products. I succeeded!

First, let me recap the last 10 days. I dropped the ball a bit, and went out to eat 4 times (2 lunches and 2 dinner). Sometimes when you are out shopping and having a good time, you are too tired to cook. Maybe I’m making excuses 😀  I know its not healthy, but its so convenient!

This week I bought:

  • Yogurt, plain
  • Baby Greens (salad mix)

As I had said originally, my goal is not to spend as little as possible. 90% of what I buy is organic, and it does cost a little more. Unfortunately, there are no coupons for fresh produce and I am very choosy about the milk and eggs that I buy (from local farms). I DO look out for sales though, even on fruits and vegetables, and love going to farmer markets. So, here are my total spent each week rounded to the nearest $.50:

Week 1 ~ $41.50 **

Week 2 ~ $21.50

Week 3 ~ $36.00

Week 4 ~ $ 6.00

Total Spent = $ 105.00  for 3 people

**(this was before I decided to do the challenge, so there were 6 things bought that did not fit my rules)

My Goals for the rest of the year:

  • Seek out coupons for branded organic products (I do this some, but I could do more… by visiting websites of brands you like and websites such as mambosprouts you can find coupons on healthy foods!)
  • Create a Price Book- a pocket sized notebook in which I write the things I buy frequently, and the price of them at various stores I shop at. Then I have a quick reference of which store has the best prices for each item, and how good of a deal Im getting. I used to store all this info in my brain, but ohh… how age affects the memory and I’m only in my 30’s! Sad!
  • Continue to try to use more variety of whole grains such as quinoa, kasha, amaranth, millet and barley.

Thanks to all who followed my progress, cheered me on, and those who I joined along with at frugal follies!

I just made an amazing pizza! One of those pizzas that tastes like it came from your local pizza place… and not the cheap crappy pizza place, but a real authentic one! I’m pretty excited about it, in case you couldn’t tell. My only worry is I wont be able to replicate it, lol. So, I will try to describe exactly what I did, so that you too (and myself) can make this gorgeous dough once again (BTW, I think this will make awesome naan!)

This is loosely based on Peter Reinharts recipe, but I did not follow it precisely (shocking right? lol)

Here is what I did:

  • 1 1/2c warm water
  • 1 packet of active dry yeast
  • 1 Tbs sugar
  • 1.5 Tbs olive oil
  • 1c all purpose flour, unbleached
  • 2-3 c of bread flour, unbleached
  • 1 tsp salt

Super Bubbly Crust!!

Mix 1/2c of the warm water with sugar and yeast. Let the yeast activate for 5 minutes or so. Add in the rest of the water, the olive oil and the all purpose flour. Mix it and let it sit for 5 minutes. Add in 1c of bread flour with the salt sprinkled over the top of it and sort of mix it into the flour then into the dough mixture. This is my crazy paranoid way of adding salt to bread dough because Im scared of killing the yeast. Then continue adding in the bread flour 1/2 c or so at a time until you get a very soft and still slightly sticky dough. I think moisture in the dough is key! Knead it until it just barely sticks to your fingers. Coat a large bowl with olive oil and coat the dough as well. Put it covered in a warm place to rise for 30 minutes to 1 hour. Preheat the oven to 475 (mine is a gas convection oven). Coat the bottom of your baking tray or use foil in the baking tray and put the oil on that which is what I did (unless you are using a pizza stone) with olive oil and coat your hands also. Cut the dough into about 3 equal portions, depending on the size of pizzas you want to make. One technique I picked up somewhere for making pizza is to squeeze the edge of the dough with your hands while letting gravity stretch the dough downwards, continuing clockwise around the edges. I did this until it was mostly stretched and then I put it on the baking sheet (remember to have everything well oiled!) and finish stretching it to the size you like. Let them rest about 10 minutes. Then pop this in the oven ON THE BOTTOM RACK. *This may depend on your type of oven*. I had two trays of pizza so I had one on the bottom rack and one on the middle rack, switched them after 5 minutes for a total of 10 minutes. This method produced a crisp bottom crust, no doughy middle and a light fluffy dough with lots of yummy bubbles!! Don’t let the bottoms burn.

Remove from the oven after no more than 10 minutes. It is just to partially bake the crust. Next slather on your sauce and pile on your cheese and toppings. Pop back in the oven for another 10-12 minutes (this time I used two middle racks and switched them again halfway.)

My toppings:

  • Very thinly sliced sweet onion
  • Thinly sliced green pepper
  • Black olives
  • 4 cheese blend (Parmesan, Asiago, Provolone, Fontina)

And, yes, I did not forget the sauce:

  • 4 oz can of tomato paste
  • 1/3-1/2c water depending on how thick you want it (peter reinhart says do not make it very thick, and I have to agree)
  • 2 tsp italian dried herb blend (oregano, rosemary, thyme, marjoram, basil)
  • 1/2 tsp dried red pepper flakes or chili powder
  • 2 cloves of garlic minced
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp balsamic vinegar (optional)

This is going to Yeastspotting

I think I did pretty well last week except once I went to dinner with some girlfriends. However, I still cooked dinner before I left, so I don’t think this counts as breaking the rules, ya know, social obligations and all! 😉

I’m still cooking away but those jars of beans and grains don’t appear to be budging. It will take some time to finish them, and that’s okay. I just need to use them more regularly.

As expected, my freezer supplies are dwindling, and its getting a little harder to think of meals to make. Don’t worry, I will begin to restock come Feb, and at least it will be fresher and more organized.

For this week I bought:

  • Bananas
  • Cucumber
  • Cilantro
  • Pomegranate
  • Swiss Chard
  • Eggplant
  • Ginger root
  • Green onions/ Scallions
  • 1/2 gallon milk
  • Italian 4 cheese blend

Just 5 more days to go!

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