Monday, December 14, 2015

Cranberry Upside-Down Cake

I needed to bake something for a study group the other day, and was glad to have the excuse to make this cake.  I enjoy most anything with cranberries, and I'm always happy with a cake recipe that doesn't involve frosting--nothing against frosting, just not my favorite thing to make.  This cake is beautiful as well as delicious.  You can see a photo here--not the recipe I used, but comes out looking the same.

Cranberry Upside-Down Cake
12 servings

from Cooking Light, November 2009

cooking spray
1/3 c. packed brown sugar
2 T. butter
6 oz fresh or frozen, thawed, cranberries

1-1/2 c. all purpose flour
2 t. baking powder
1/4 t. salt
1 c. granulated sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 large egg yolks
1 t. vanilla extract
1/2 c. skim milk (other milk also fine)
2 large egg whites

Preheat oven to 350.

To prepare topping, generously butter a 9" round cake pan.  (If you have one with a slider, that will help get the cake out after it's baked.)  Heat brown sugar and 2 T. butter in a small saucepan over medium heat.  Cook 2 minutes or until butter melts and sugar dissolves, stirring occasionally.  Pour sugar mixture into prepared cake pan, tilting pan to coat bottom evenly.  Arrange cranberries evenly over sugar mixture.

To prepare cake, in a smaller bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt; stir with a whisk.  In a larger bowl, beat sugar and 1/2 cup butter at medium speed until well blended and fluffy (about 3 minutes).  Add egg yolks, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition.  Beat in vanilla.  Fold flour mixture into sugar mixture alternately with milk, beginning and ending with flour mixture.

Beat the egg whites at high speed until stiff peaks form, using clean, dry beaters.  Gently fold the egg whites into the batter.  Spoon the batter over the cranberries, spreading evenly.  Bake at 350 for 40-50 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted into the center comes out clean. 

Cool in pan 15 minutes on wire rack.  Place a serving plate upside down on top of cake, and invert the cake pan onto the plate.  Let stand 5 minutes and remove the pan.  You can serve this warm, or wait until later.  Last year, I made the cake a day before serving.  I left it in the pan until ready to serve.  

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Butternut Squash Soup with Ginger

For many years, I've made some kind of squash soup for the first course for the Thanksgiving meal.  I like all of them, but this one with ginger is probably my favorite.  The ginger flavor is delicate, but a definite plus.  A tip on peeling butternut squash:  I find that a Swiss-style vegetable peeler (which you pull towards you rather than pushing away) makes short work of this task.  If I didn't already have one, I'd buy this polka dot one.

adapted from Jane Brody Gourmet Food Cookbook

This low-fat soup can be prepared with virtually any kind of winter squash, including pumpkin, but butternut squash is the easiest one to peel.

2 T. unsalted butter or margarine
2 medium sweet onions, peeled and thinly sliced
2 pounds butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes
2 Macintosh apples, peeled, cored and diced (other apples also fine; Honey Crisp is good)
3 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 cup unsweetened apple juice (I've also used a 6-oz can of orange-pineapple juice when I forgot to get apple juice)
1 T. (or more) finely minced ginger
1 cup 1% milk (skim milk also fine)
1/2 t. salt
1/8 t. white pepper
Freshly grated nutmeg for garnish (optional--nice if you have it)

1.  In a stockpot, melt the butter or margarine over medium heat.  Add the onions, and cook them, stirring them occasionally, for 10 minutes until softened.

2.  Add the squash, apples, broth and juice.  Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat, cover the pot and simmer the mixture for 20 minutes or until the squash is tender.

3.  Puree the mixture with an immersion blender (or in several batches in a food processor), adding in the minced ginger.

4.  Stir in the milk and heat the soup through, but do not boil it.  Add the salt and white pepper and serve the soup garnished with the nutmeg, if desired.  (One year I forgot to put in the milk.  The soup was still very good!)

Makes 11 cups.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Spicy Nut and Pretzel mix

I made this snack, one of my favorites, to have on hand for Thanksgiving, and am surprised to see I haven't ever put it up on the blog.  Simple to make and very tasty--nice to have something that is sweet, salty, spicy, and crunchy.

Spiced glazed nuts and pretzel mix
adapted from  (Nice photos here of the final results)
makes about 4 cups; easily doubled

2 cups mixed raw nuts  (I like pecans, almonds, macadamia, and hazelnuts, but cashews and walnuts would be good too.)  
1 T. butter
3 T. dark brown sugar
1/2 t. ground cinnamon
3/4 t. chili powder
1-1/2 T. maple syrup
1 t. flaky sea salt (or kosher salt if you don't have sea salt)
2 cups small pretzel twists.

1.     Preheat oven to 350.
2.     Spread the nuts on a rimmed baking sheet and roast for 10 minutes, stirring once when halfway done.
3.     Put the butter in a medium-sized glass or ceramic mixing bowl and use the microwave to melt the butter.  Take out of the microwave and add the brown sugar, cinnamon, pepper and maple syrup (but hold off on the salt and pretzels).
4.     Add the warm nuts and stir until the nuts are completely coated.  Then stir in the salt and add the pretzels.
5.     Prepare the baking pan so that all this won't stick--grease lightly, or put a piece of aluminum foil on and grease that.  Or use a silicone mat if you have one, or a non-stick baking sheet.
6.     Spread the nut-pretzel mixture in the pan, and return to the oven for 13-15 minutes, stirring a couple of times during cooking to break up any clumps.  The baking is done when the nuts are toasty and the mixture is nicely glazed.
7.     Remove from the oven and cool completely, separating the nuts and pretzels as they cool.

Once cool, you can store the mixture in an airtight container for about a week.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Salmon burgers

Here's another recipe from Ellie Krieger's book, Weeknight Wonders: Healthy Dinners in 30 Minutes or Less.  This recipe took more like 60 minutes from start to finish, but it was definitely worth the effort. I did the prep while David answered the door for trick-or-treaters.  The cooking takes only 3 minutes.

adapted from Ellie Kreiger, Weeknight Wonders
4 servings

  • 1/2 c. plain low-fat Greek yogurt
  • 2 T. mayonnaise
  • 1 t. sriracha sauce
  • 1/2 t. sesame oil
  • 1/4 t. salt
  • 1/4 t. freshly ground pepper

  • 1-1/3 cups bread crumbs made in a food processor using 2-3 slices (about 4 oz.) of whole wheat sandwich bread (I used buttermilk bread, recipe from Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day)
  • 1 lb salmon fillet, skin removed
  • 1/2 medium red pepper, roughly chopped into about 1/2" dice
  • 3 scallions, cut in 1" lengths
  • 3 medium cloves garlic, cut in half
  • one 2" piece of fresh ginger, cut into a large dice
  • 1 large egg white
  • 2 T. soy sauce
  • 1 t. sesame oil
  • 1/4 t. freshly ground black pepper
For serving
  • 1 small carrot, cut into ribbons with a vegetable peeler
  • 3" of an English cucumber, sliced thinly
  • 4 whole-grain hamburger buns (I used slices of buttermilk bread)
  • 8 leaves of butter or Bibb lettuce
  • sliced tomato (optional)
To make the sauce:  In a small bowl, whisk together all the ingredients listed for the sauce.

To make the burgers:
Cut up the salmon into about 1" pieces and then put it in the food processor and pulse until chopped; I used 6-7 pulses.  Put the salmon in a large bowl and add the bread crumbs.

Without cleaning the food processor, use it to mince the garlic and ginger (can be done together).  Leaving the garlic and ginger in the bowl, add the chopped red pepper and scallions and process until finely minced.  Add all this to the salmon mixture.

Lightly beat the egg white and add it to the bowl, along with the soy sauce, sesame oil, and black pepper.  Mix all together--easiest to do with one's hands.

Spray oil on a grill or sauté pan and heat to medium-high.  (I used a Foreman grill.)   Shape the salmon into 4 burgers and grill until just cooked through, 2-3 minutes per side.  (I did for a total of 3 minutes on the Foreman grill.)

Spread each bun with about a tablespoon of the sauce.  Serve the burgers on the bun, layered with lettuce leaves, cucumber slices, and carrot ribbons.  If you have a good garden tomato, a slice of that would be a nice addition as well.

Enjoy--this is really tasty!

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Flourless Chocolate Cake with Raspberry Sauce

I brought this dessert to a dinner party last night and it was a big hit.  The cake is very rich, so a small slice is sufficient for a portion, and the raspberry sauce is lovely.  I never would have tried this recipe (12 ounces of chocolate???), but my cousin Miriam served it to me on a visit about a year ago, and it was excellent, so I decided finally to try it myself.  The original recipe calls for a 10" cake pan, and claims to serve 16.  There were only going to be six at dinner, so I reduced the recipe by 2/3, to fit into an 8" cake pan (which is why some of the measurements below are a bit odd) and thought I'd still have plenty left over.  With 5 of the 6 of us having an extra sliver for a second serving, I had just one serving left at the end of the meal.  So, I'd say the 8" version serves 7-8 people.

adapted from and
 serves 7-8

CAKE (measurements for 10" cake pan version in parentheses)

1/3 c. water (1/2 cup)
rounded 1/8 t. salt (1/4 t.)
1/2 c. white sugar (3/4 cup)
12 oz. bittersweet baking chocolate (18 oz.)
10-2/3 T. unsalted butter (1 cup)
4 eggs (6)

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  Grease an 8" round cake pan and set aside.

In a small sauce pan, combine the water, salt, and sugar.   Heat over medium heat and stir until completely dissolved.  Set aside.

Melt the chocolate.  (Original instructions call for double boiler or microwave, but I used very low heat in a heavy saucepan, and that was fine.)  While the chocolate is melting, cut the butter into about 20 pieces.

Pour the chocolate into a bowl for mixing.  With an electric mixer, beat the butter into the chocolate, one piece at a time.  Beat in the heated sugar-water.  Slowly beat in the eggs, one at a time.  Put some water on to boil.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan.  (Don't worry that it fills most of the pan--it will not rise further.)  Put the cake pan into a larger pan and add boiling water halfway up the side of the cake pan.

Bake the cake in the water bath for 45 minutes.   The center will still look wet.  Leave the cake in the pan, and chill overnight in the refrigerator.  When ready to serve, unmold the cake by sitting the cake pan in hot water for 10 seconds, and then invert onto a serving plate.

1 pint fresh raspberries (could likely be adapted for frozen berries)
1/4 cup white sugar
2 T. orange juice
2 T. cornstarch
1 cup cold water

Combine the raspberries, sugar and orange juice in a saucepan. 

Whisk the cornstarch into the cold water until smooth.  Add to the raspberry mixture in the saucepan and bring to a boil.

Simmer for about 5 minutes, stirring constantly, until the desired consistency is reached.  The sauce will thicken further as it cools.

Puree the sauce in a blender (hand-held immersion blender works well).  Serve warm or cold.  The sauce will keep in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

If you have sauce left when the cake is gone, you can use it on ice cream or stirred into plain yogurt.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

A Salad for the End of Summer

My friend Susan and I share many interests, one of which is food and cooking.  She has often introduced me to new cookbooks, going back to the Moosewood Cookbook in the late 70s.  She recently mentioned to me cookbooks by Ellie Krieger, someone I hadn't heard of.  I looked at one of her books in the library and then purchased a used copy of Weeknight Wonders: Healthy Dinners in 30 Minutes or Less.  I have been enjoying trying recipes from this book, and this salad is especially wonderful.  It's definitely seasonal though, so make it soon!  It's a great way to enjoy garden tomatoes and fresh peaches--a combination I had never tried before.  The recipe calls for arugula.  The first time I made it, I couldn't find any in the store, so made it without.  Tonight I made it with.  Excellent either way!  I was dubious about how little oil and vinegar was called for in the recipe, and I put cruets on the table thinking I would need more, but it was fine as is.

adapted from Ellie Krieger, Weeknight Wonders: Healthy Dinners in 30 minutes or Less
serves 6

2 medium garden tomatoes, cored and cut into about 10 wedges
2 medium ripe peaches, halved, pitted, and cut into about 10 wedges
8 oz. fresh mozzarella cheese, part-skim, sliced into about 20 half-moon slices
1/2 small red onion, very thinly sliced (a mandolin is helpful) and then cut in half
about 3 oz. baby arugula
1 T. plus 2 t. olive oil
1 T. balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper
handful of fresh basil, cut in largish pieces

Place a bed of arugula on a large platter.  Arrange the tomato, peach, and mozzarella wedges on top, alternating them.  Sprinkle the red onion over the top, and then the basil.  Drizzle the salad with the oil and vinegar and sprinkle on the salt and pepper.

(The original recipe called for constructing the salad on individual plates, but I found it easier to do it all on one platter.  The leftover salad was also good  on the second day.)

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Green Beans with Jam

This is easy to remember because it sounds like Dr. Seuss.

I like using the pre-washed and snipped green beans in a microwavable bag.  For some reason, I dislike preparing green beans, even after I learned a great hint from my sister Cookie--to snip off the ends with scissors rather than trimming with a knife or snapping them off.  Definitely faster, but still . . .

The 12-oz package of steam-in-the-bag green beans instructs you to microwave on high for 3-5 minutes.  I do them for 2-1/2, and it could be less if you like them quite crispy.

I adapted this recipe from something more complicated, served at a meal made by Mary Beth.  This simple version is good too!  I don't like to take a lot of time preparing side dishes for an ordinary week-day meal, so this recipe is great for perking up the meal with very little effort.

serves 4

Cook about 12 oz. of green beans to the degree of crispiness you prefer; sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Spoon over them a few tablespoons of fig jam or orange marmelade.

Sprinkle with a couple of tablespoons of pepitas; mix everything together.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Re-usable produce bags

When I was visiting my friend Louise earlier this summer, I noticed that she brought with her to the farmer's market some re-usable produce bags.  What a great idea!  I've been using cloth grocery sacks for a long while, but hadn't seen any alternative to the thin plastic bags for produce.  The ones Louise had looked like this; on Amazon, they cost a little more than $2.00 each.  I had quite a bit of polyester sheer voile on hand, so I decided to make some for myself.  These are not nearly as neat looking as the commercial ones, but I don't think my veggies will mind.  Also, I didn't bother putting drawstrings on most of the bags, as I don't usually bother with a twist tie, except for something like a bag of apples.  I used the bags at the grocery store for the first time yesterday, and the clerk didn't blink an eye.  The scanner was able to read the number through the sheer.

In case some of you might like to try making your own, here are the instructions I came up with after a couple of tries:

Here's what a plain finished bag (about 13 x 15") looks like:

And here's one with a tie (I used some nylon ribbon I had on hand):

The fabric I had on hand was 120" wide, so on only a few of the bags I made could I take advantage of the finished selvedge edge.  I will look for 45" material to make more bags.  Here are cutting instructions for 45" fabric (see end of post for note on using 60" fabric):

And here's a sketch of the sewing instructions:

Here's a bag cut, pinned and ready to be sewn.  On this one, the selvedge is at the top:

You do need to make French seams when sewing the edges, as the polyester frays badly in the wash.  But it's very simple.  Sew all around the right and bottom edges, where the pins are in the photo above, using a 1/4" seam.  (The fold is on the left and the opening at the top.)  Then turn inside out, and sew the seam again, using a somewhat larger seam so that the first one is encased.  

The last photo is a close-up of the top edge (here, selvedge), and the French seam, which sticks up a bit.  

No more plastic bags, yay!!  

About cost:  60" fabric would yield 3 bags from 3/4 yd, about $1 per bag.  It looks like 60" may be the narrowest I can get in any case when I go to buy more.  So--the cutting instructions will need to be modified above, so that a third bag will come out of the "waste section."  This middle bag will have no selvedge edge, so the top will need to be hemmed.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Slow-cooked salmon

Last week we got our first five-pound delivery of King Salmon from Sitka Salmon Shares.  The delivery came with a simple recipe for a method of slow-cooking salmon, and I had recently seen something similar on Jaden Hair's Steamy Kitchen blog, so I decided to give it a try.  It was very simple, it came out very nicely, and it takes away the touch of anxiety I have with other methods of cooking the salmon to the precisely best time.  Lots of leeway on the timing here, because of the very low temperature at which the salmon cooks.  And it looks quite beautiful when served, as it maintains the same color cooked as raw.

Jaden Hair's recipe gives suggestions for five different seasoning combinations.  I've given below a version of one of them, and then another that I plan to try next.  I'm sure many other combinations would work as well.

adapted from a recipe by Jaden Hair:

1 lb. fillet salmon (or smaller pieces fine too)
a two-thumb-size piece of ginger, sliced about 1/8" thick
several scallions, cut in 2" pieces
olive oil to brush on the salmon
salt and pepper
a little brown sugar to sprinkle on the salmon
(See alternate bed/seasoning below.)

Preheat oven to 250F.  Take the salmon out of the refrigerator and let it sit for 20 minutes to bring it to room temperature--important because it is cooking on such a low temperature.

Put some aluminum foil on the bottom of a rimmed baking pan and spritz with spray olive oil.  Make a bed for the salmon with the sliced ginger and pieces of green scallion.

Brush the salmon with olive oil.  Sprinkle on salt, pepper, and brown sugar.  Put the salmon fillet on the prepared bed, skin side down, and put in the oven. 

For a thick, one-lb. piece of salmon, cook 35-40 minutes, until you feel no resistance when you pierce it with a skewer (or stick a sharp paring knife in, and if it goes in and out very easily, the fish is done).  If the fish is cut into several smaller fillets, try a 30-minute cooking time.  It's difficult to overcook the fish with this method, so no need to worry about catching it at just the right moment.  Don't worry that the fish looks almost exactly the same as when you put it in--with this method, the salmon retains its glorious color throughout the cooking process. 

Jaden Hair's recipe includes five alternatives for what to lay under the fish, what to season the fish with, and what to top the fish with after cooking.  The next time I do this recipe, I think I'll try this version:

Bed under the salmon:  thin sliced oranges and onions
Seasoning on the salmon:  oil, salt, pepper, ground coriander, orange slices

I chose not to put any topping on the cooked fish (just for the sake of keeping things really simple), but her suggestions for toppings also look good.