Sunday, November 28, 2010

Pear and Cranberry Holiday Spice Cake

Studded with pears and dotted with cranberries, freshly grated nutmeg and sweet powdery cinnamon, beautiful bundt lines and a dusty sugar top. If that doesn't scream cozy fall cake then...well...then I don't know.

Then go for a walk in New York's Central Park...

...and when you are done with your walk, come eat my cake. Maybe then the cake will scream "cozy fall day on a plate".

This cake is dairy-free (it uses oil instead of butter). This cake is not non-fat. This cake is moist and satisfying and just flat-out cozy. Lately I have been craving cozy. A lot. For now, this cake helps fill my cozy void.

30 minutes after the cake came out of the oven, it slipped right out of the pan. It slipped right out of the pan and then I flipped it out onto a platter to cool. It slipped right out of the pan, flipped onto the platter, and later that night and for the last few days, I dipped it into my coffee and popped it right into my mouth.

Thanks for the great recipe, Joy!

Pear and Cranberry Holiday Spice Cake

recipe from

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cups vegetable oil

3 large eggs

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar

1/2 cup lightly packed brown sugar

1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1 Tablespoon dark Rum (or Bourbon or orange juice)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3 pears, peeled, cored and cut into a 1/4 inch dice (you can make the pear slices slightly bigger if you like a chunkier cake)

1/2 cup fresh cranberries, coarsely chopped (or raisins or dried cranberries or dried apricots diced or chopped walnuts maybe even chocolate chips)


Put a rack in middle of oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Generously butter and flour a 12-cup Bundt pan, knocking out excess flour.

Sift together flour, baking soda, and salt into a bowl.

Whisk together oil, eggs, sugars, cinnamon, nutmeg, rum or bourbon and vanilla in a large bowl until just combined. Fold in flour mixture until just combined, then fold in apples and cranberries. The batter will feel thick and heavy. Spoon the batter into pan.

Bake until a wooden pick or skewer inserted in center of cake comes out clean, about 1 hour and 15 minutes. Cool cake in pan on a rack for 30 minutes, then turn out onto rack to cool completely. Dust with powdered sugar before serving.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving Rewind...

2 years ago. I tackled the entire bird for the first time.

I was a skinny little twerp taking the guts out of a big ol' turkey. But I did it. I won the battle. I successfully baked my spice-rubbed turkey to a lovely golden brown. At least the oven didn't light on fire (yes, that did happen one year).

Fast forward 2 years. My mother thought it would be simpler to just by a netted breast and thigh rather than deal with the bird as a whole. We nestled the meat atop an aromatic bed of onions, carrots, and fennel. Then mama had this crazy good idea to pour an entire bottle of white wine over the whole darn thing. Crazy good.

Whoa Nelly! That's one glistening bird. The tough part is keeping it nice and juicy, a rare occurrence in my family's home (let's just say we have been known to make dry dry dry and did I say dry poultry). My mom does know how to cook up some real good red meat, but I will save those stories for another day...

Happy Turkey Day everyone!

Oh, and here's a little snippet of some of this year's "sides" (sides in "" because I usually consider them my "mains"...the sides are always my fav.!) :

Friday, November 19, 2010

Nick Malgieri's Supernatural Brownies

Ok so I'm clumsy. You don't even want to know how many of my shirts have food stains on them. Most of them aren't even from baking/cooking, they are from my sloppy eating habits...I really need to start carrying my tide-to-go pen on me at all times. It's really the only way.

Ok so I made a whole pan of brownies. There was no way that I wasn't going to nibble on one hot out of the oven, how could anyone possibly wait until they are cool?

Ok so this was a very crazy week and I began many a morning with a comforting cappuccino and ended many nights chowing down on chocolate covered cranberries. That's just how it goes.

Chocolate + Butter
Melted Chocolate + Butter

A week ago I spent the afternoon procrastinating studying "diseases of the liver." I was sitting at a cafe looking up brownie recipes. All I have wanted this entire week was to make brownies. Uber-rich, uber-buttery, uber-fudgey brownies. A week later and I've finally done it. I've made the brownies that I have been dreaming about for 7 days.

Special thanks to Kiri for recommending this recipe to me...

Nick Malgieri's Supernatural Brownies

recipe from Saveur magazine

makes 24 brownies

16 tablespoons butter
8 oz. bittersweet chocolate, cut in 1/4" pieces
4 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 cup dark brown sugar, packed
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
1 cup flour

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9 x 13" pan with butter and line with parchment paper. Grease the parchment. Set pan aside.

2. Pour enough water into a 4 quart saucepan that it reaches a depth of 1". Bring to a boil and reduce heat to low. Combine butter and chocolate in a medium bowl; set bowl over saucepan
(do not let the bottom of the bowl directly touch the water). Cook, stirring until melted and smooth, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

3. Whisk together eggs in a large bowl. Add sugars, vanilla, and salt. Stir in chocolate-butter mixture. Fold in the flour. Pour into prepared pan; spread evenly. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 30-35 minutes. Let cool on a rack. Cut and serve.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Lemon Chicken Breast with Pan-Roasted Veggies

Leftovers for lunch. What a rare occasion these days. I mean, I do love making sandwiches, but sometimes I just crave a little variety...

Over the weekend, I attended a cooking class in Napa Valley at Whole Foods Market where we made this totally amazing
Moroccan rack of lamb with couscous and fall vegetable ragu

(complete with harissa (red) and chemoula (green) sauces mmm):

The cooking class was part of Sprouts Cooking Club, a cooking program for children in the Bay Area. This class, however, was part of an ADULT series. (Check out their website for more info:

After the class, there were a ton of leftover vegetables and so I took a few home to use for my own pan-roasted vegetable recipe: fennel, beautiful green top carrots, broccoli, and turnip.

The pan-roasted veggie recipe is so simple and any vegetables can be used. I love all the colors-orange, green, yellow, white...

Pan-Roasted Veggies

Adapted from Barefoot Contessa's Back to Basics

serves 4

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1 white turnip, 1-inch dice
2 carrots, 1-inch dice (preferably from carrots with the greens attached)
1 large fennel bulb, diced
1 sweet potato, peeled and diced
1 head of broccoli, chopped
4 fresh sprigs if your favorite herb (rosemary or thyme are great)
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
**I also added a splash of balsamic to my veggies at the very end!!

Melt the butter in a large (12-inch) saute pan that has a tight-fitting lid. When the butter is melted, add everything and toss with the butter. Cover the pan and cook over low-ish heat for 10 minutes. Take the lid off and stir. Cover again and continue to cook for another 5 or so minutes, until all the vegetables are tender. Taste for seasonings and serve hot.

**If you want to double this recipe, make it in 2 batches or use 2 12-inch saute pans. You want to the vegetables to brown on the bottom as well as steam in their own juices.

To go along with my vegetable array, I made a very simple roasted lemon chicken. Saute garlic in olive oil, add some wine, lemon zest and juice, and oregano, plop the chicken over the sauce and roast. Bam.

Leftovers for lunch. Yum yum yum. Aaaannnnd I can take a decent photo of my lunch-leftovers because during the fall/winter, natural lighting is not really feasible for dinner-time photos.

Roasted Lemon Chicken Breast

From Barefoot Contessa

serves 4

1/4 cup good olive oil
3 tablespoons minced garlic (9 cloves)
1/3 cup dry white wine
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest (2 lemons)
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1½ teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves (I used rosemary)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 boneless chicken breasts, skin on (roughly 6 oz each)
1 lemon

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Warm the olive oil in a small saucepan over medium-low heat, add the garlic, and cook for just 1 minute but don’t allow the garlic to turn brown. Off the heat, add the white wine, lemon zest, lemon juice, oregano, thyme, and 1 teaspoon salt and pour into a 9 X 12-inch baking dish.

Pat the chicken breasts dry and place them skin side up over the sauce. Brush the chicken breasts with olive oil and sprinkle them liberally with salt and pepper. Cut the lemon in 8 wedges and tuck it among the pieces of chicken.

Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, depending on the size of the chicken breasts, until the chicken is done and the skin is lightly browned. If the chicken isn’t browned enough, put it under the broiler for 2 minutes. Cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil and allow to rest for 10 minutes. Sprinkle with salt and serve hot with the pan juices.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Red Velvet Cupcake Cones...Cuteness Overload

Note to self: Do NOT eat coffee ice cream right before bed. Do NOT eat coffee ice cream right before bed when you have to wake up in the 6 o'clock hour the next morning.

Ok now that we have that taken care of, let's talk ice cream. No, wait, let's talk cupcakes. No, let's talk cupcakes baked in ice cream cones. What? Gah. Help.

Cuties in a cone. Yep. Really cute cupcakes baked in ice cream cones. The perfect birthday gift.

**There is no actual ice cream in these cupcakes

They look like hearts don't they?

The cupcake cone idea came from the KitchyKitchen (she has a really great tutorial video). The frosting recipe was from Annie'sEats and the cake part came from the Hummingbird Bakery cookbook.

Red Velvet Cupcakes

recipe from the Hummingbird Bakery cookbook

makes about 9 ice cream sugar cones-full

4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

3/4 cup sugar

1 egg

2 1/2 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

3 Tablespoons red food coloring (I used much less because I ran out; only about 1-1.5 Tbsp.)

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup buttermilk

1 cup plus 2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 1/2 teaspoons distilled white vinegar

In the bowl of a stand mixer fit with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about three minutes. Turn mixer to high and add the egg. Scrape down the bowl and beat until well incorporated.

In a separate bowl mix together cocoa, vanilla and red food coloring to make a thick paste (mine did not get to that thick paste consistency because I added much less food still worked fine even if it wasn't a paste). Add to the batter, mixing thoroughly until completely combined. You may need to stop the mixer to scrape the bottom of the bowl, making sure that all the batter gets color.

Turn mixer to low and slowly add half of the buttermilk. Add half of the flour and mix until combined. Scrape the bowl and repeat the process with the remaining milk and flour. Beat on high until smooth.

Turn mixer to low and add baking soda and white vinegar. Turn to high and beat a few more minutes.

Spoon batter into flat-bottomed sugar cones set in a muffin pan and bake for 20-25 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the center cupcake comes out clean.

Let rest in the pan for 10 minutes, then place them of a cooling rack to cool completely before frosting.

***NOTE: These are best eaten the day of otherwise the cones will get soggy. Sticking the cupcake cones in the refrigerator helps slow the sogginess slightly...

Cream Cheese Frosting

From Annie's Eats

8 oz. cream cheese
5 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2½ cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted

Combine the cream cheese and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat on medium-high speed until well combined and smooth, about 2-3 minutes. Mix in the vanilla extract. Gradually beat in the confectioners’ sugar until totally incorporated, increase the speed and then beat until smooth. Frost cooled cupcakes as desired. (Like Annie, I used a large, unlabeled star tip to frost these cupcakes.)