Food, Sides

Roasted Sweet Potatoes

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A recipe for a super simple side.  In fact, it is hardly a recipe since I never measure the ingredients.   It also has also appealed to the palette of a certain “non-sweet-potato-fan”.  Give it a shot, maybe the even the pickiest of eaters in your house will enjoy it!

Things you will need:

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3 large sweet potatoes, cubed

Olive oil, honey, salt, pepper, pumpkin pie spice (or Cinnamon) and smoked paprika (use as much of each as you like).  I am heavy handed with the paprika–it is such a striking contrast to the sweetness from the potato and the honey.

Mix all the ingredients together.

Spread on a tin-foil lined baking sheet

Bake at 400F for 20-25mins, till the sweet potatoes are brown and soft

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Serve as a side or toss into a salad.

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Cake, Food

Spice Cake with Vanilla Orange filling and Whipped Marscapone frosting

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My dear friend from grad school defended her PhD last week.  Such a landmark occasion requires cake, not that one needs an excuse for cake.  I took some shortcuts, and made some things from scratch.  I even spent some time thinking about the decoration; I found that if you have it drawn out it makes cake decorating easier.  I hope you put this cake together for the next special occasion in your life.

Ingredients:

Boxed Cake mix: prepare per direction on the box–I believe in high quality store bought short cuts, and boxed cake mix is a go to.

Filling: I used my Orange, Cinnamon and Vanilla Bean pudding. I used the entire recipe, to fill the cake.  You can find the recipe here.

Frosting: I used my whipped marscapone frosting recipe.  The recipe will make a lot of frosting.  I only used a 1/3 of it to frost the cake.  I froze down the rest.  If you were to fill and frost the cake, you might use the whole batch.  Check out the recipe here.

Method:

Bake the cake according to package directions.  I baked it in two 9″inch cake pans that I oiled and floured.  Once baked, cool the cake completely and level off the domed top.  I use my handy Wilton Cake Leveler.

Now begins the decorating.  For this cake, I used cake rounds for the first time and it certainly made cleaning and frosting the cake easy.  Not to mention, moving the cake around (from the turntable to the fridge).  But before we frost, we must fill.  I used all of the pudding mixture to fill the cake.

Now, the hardest part-covering the cake with frosting.  This requires patience, a good turntable, an offset spatula and a steady hand.  I like clean neat edges, so I get very particular about this stage.  Of course, that is my preference.  Using a butter knife to spread the frosting is perfectly fine–it will taste the same.

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I usually do a “crumb coat”.  This is a thin layer of frosting that covers all the bumps and glues together the crumbs.  I allow this chill in the fridge for at least 15 minutes and then I go in with the rest of the frosting and attempt to make smooth and as clean and neat as possible.

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I drew out the design for the cake and you can check it out here.  I also used candied oranges for this cake and I have the recipe for those here.  I will have to say, laying out the design before hand made a world of difference.  It was faster, cleaner and the end product looked more deliberate.  Moving forward, this might become my way of decorating–I like to call it the “paper to plate” method.

So here it is !

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Cake, Cupcakes, Food

Go to Frosting: Marscapone Whipped Cream

As a child I would eat the sugary sweet buttercream frosting off of birthday cakes and hand the cake to my mom.  Not anymore.  Buttercream is too sweet for me and I cannot go past one bite of it.  Buttercream is good and has it’s purpose, but for most of my cakes I try to use a light, slightly sweet whipped frosting.  This is one of my favorites and has only 4 ingredients.

Ingredients:

1, 8oz tub of marscapone cheese (this adds richness)

1 pint of heavy whipping cream

1/8 cup of sugar ( I told you, it is not sweet at all!)

1 tsp of vanilla extract

Method:

  • Bring the marscapone to room temperature, this will help soften the cheese easily.
  • Add the entire tube of cheese to a stand-mixer (or mixing bowl) and add 1/2 cup of heavy cream.

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  • Gently mix the cream and cheese till smooth, scrape down the edges to make sure all the cheese and cream are smooth and blended together

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  • Now add the rest of cream and whisk till soft-peaks start to appear.
  • Add in the vanilla and sugar
  • Whisk till is reaches stiff peaks.

Notes: This will make a lot of frosting and depending on the size of your cake and how you choose to use it, you may or may not have leftovers.  Leftovers are good with fruit, dolloped on any other kind of dessert.  I also freeze leftovers.  However, when you thaw it, it will lose its whipped consistency; you can fix this my adding more marscapone to turn it into a thinker, frosting.  You can also add pudding mix to make a thick filling/dessert.

 

Dessert, Food

Orange, Cinnamon & Vanilla Bean Pudding

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This is a flavorful way to jazz up boxed pudding mix.  The finished product can be enjoyed on its own or used to fill cakes, top fruit or layer in a trifle.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 box of Godiva white chocolate vanilla bean pudding mix (good stuff, yum !)
  • peel of 1 orange
  • zest of 1 orange
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 tsp of ground cinnamon
  • candied oranges or other dried fruit and nuts for garnish.

Method:

  • Add peel of 1 orange, 2 cinnamon sticks to 2 cups of milk and gently simmer for 15-20 mins.

 

  • Cool the flavored milk completely.
  • Strain the milk to remove peel and sticks.

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  • Mix in the pudding mixture, whisking vigorously to avoid lumps.

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  • Once the pudding starts to thicken, stir in orange zest and ground cinnamon (Use a spoon/spatula for this step–the zest will wrap into the wires of the whisk).

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  • Serve chilled with candied oranges and golden raisins.  Nuts would taste really good too.

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Food, Treats

Candied Oranges

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A sweet treat that reminds me of orange marmalade.  Great for snacking or decorating desserts!

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 large and 1 small orange, sliced

Method:

  • Add sugar to water and bring to a boil to dissolve.   Then lower the heat to a gentle simmer.

 

  • In the mean time, slice oranges.

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  • Add oranges to the sugar syrup and simmer for 30-40 mins till the liquid has reduced by half

 

  • Cool orange slices on a wire cooling rack (place the rack on a baking sheet, there will be drips of syrup to clean up)

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  • Store in an air-tight container for up to a week.  For longer storage, refrigerate.
Asian, Food, Poultry, Quick Dinner

Sunday Stir-fry

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I love Chinese takeout.  I love eating with chopsticks straight out of the paper container.  Alas, there is no Chinese takeout in my neck of the woods, so I have to make do with homemade versions.  I still have not figured out the secret to Asian cooking, so I take a lot of help from the store.  There is one particular brand of stir-fry sauce that I like because it is low in sugar content.  It is on the pricier side, so I stock up when the sauce goes to sale.  The rest of the ingredients, well, put in whatever you like!

 

Ingredients:

  • 1-1.5 lbs of chicken breast, cubed
  • 1 Tbsp of ginger paste
  • 1 Tbsp of minced garlic
  • 2 Tbsp of Sambal Olek (use less if desired, I like it spicy)
  • 1/2 bottle of the Tsang Classic Sauce
  • 1 bag of frozen broccoli florets
  • 1 can of baby corn
  • 1 can of oyster mushrooms
  • 2 Tbsp of canola/vegetable oil
  • Salt and white pepper (yes, white) to taste
  • White sesame seeds (garnish)

Method:

  1. Heat oil in a wok.  While the oil heats up, cube chicken

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  • Fry chicken with salt and pepper till pale golden
  • Add ginger, garlic and sambal olek-saute for a few minutes
  • Add all the vegetables and saute for 5-10 mins, till the water released from the vegetables has mostly evaporated.
  • Add the sauce and saute for another 5-10 mins, till the stir-fry comes to desired consistency.  I like it a little on the runny side–more sauce for rice/noodles !!!

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  • Garnish with white sesame seeds and serve hot !!!IMG_20190303_122239
Cake, Gluten-free

Almond Paste Cake

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“Adapted from Chez Panisse Desserts by Lindsey Remolif Shere”-David Lebovitz.

This cake is best made in the food processor. If using a stand mixture, use the paddle attachment and let the mixer run until the almond paste is finely broken up. There’s a few notes at the end of the recipe, including some almond paste tips and suggestions.

1 1/3 cups (265g) sugar
8 ounces (225g) almond paste
3/4, plus 1/4 cup (140g total) flour ( I used Gluten-free flour)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (8 ounces, 225g) unsalted butter, at room
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
6 large eggs, at room temperature
1. Preheat the oven to 325ºF (160ºC). Grease a 9- or 10-inch (23-25 cm) cake or spring form pan with butter, dust it with flour and tap out any excess. Line the bottom of the pan with a round of parchment paper. (See Note, below.)
2. In the bowl of a food processor, grind the sugar, almond paste, and 1/4 cup (35g) of flour until the almond paste is finely ground and the mixture resembles sand.
3. In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining 3/4 cup (105g) of flour, baking powder, and salt.
4. Once the almond paste is completely broken up, add the cubes of butter and the vanilla and almond extracts, then process until the batter is very smooth and fluffy.
5. Add the eggs one at a time, processing a bit before the next addition. (You may wish to open the machine and scrape the sides down to make sure the eggs are getting fully incorporated.) After you add all the eggs, the mixture may look curdled. Don’t worry; it’ll come back together after the next step.
6. Add half the flour mixture and pulse the machine a few times, then add the rest, pulsing the machine until the dry ingredients are just incorporated, but do not overmix. (You can also transfer the batter to a bowl and mix the dry ingredients in, which ensures the dry ingredients get incorporated evenly and you don’t overbeat it.)
7. Scrape the batter into the prepared cake pan and bake the cake for 45-60 minutes, or until the top is deep brown and feels set when you press in the center.
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8. Remove the cake from the oven and run a sharp or serrated knife around the perimeter, loosing the cake from the sides of the pan. Let the cake cool completely in the pan.
Once cool, tap the cake out of the pan, remove the parchment paper, and set on a cake plate until ready to serve. (Tip: Warm the bottom of the cake pan directly on the stovetop for just a few seconds, which will help the cake release.)

Storage: This cake will keep for four days at room temperature, well-wrapped. It can also be frozen for up to two months.

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I filled the cake with Raspberry jam and covered it with a whipped chocolate frosting.
As stated by David Lebovitz, this cake is “endlessly adaptable”  I hope you find your own way to dress up this rich cake, or not !
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Classics, Comfort food, Dinner, Poultry

Roasted Split Chicken with Rosemary and Lemon

 

IMG_20181001_183729Roast chicken is a classic, but it takes time–more suited for a Sunday night.  It has its benefits too.  Plenty of leftovers for sandwiches and chicken noodle soup.  However, when it is fall and you want a hearty, comforting meal on a weeknight,  turn to this recipe.  The trick is to remember to marinade the night before and take the time to brown the chicken (preferably in a cast iron skillet).  Try it soon !

INGREDIENTS

½ cup olive oil

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary

1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic

1 teaspoon kosher salt

Fresh ground black pepper, to taste

2 large split chicken breasts

 

INSTRUCTIONS

Whisk together all ingredients except chicken.

Put split chicken in a re-sealable plastic bag and add marinade.

Seal bags, removing as much air as possible and massage marinade around chicken to coat evenly. Refrigerate overnight.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. convectional or 425 degrees F. conventional.

Remove chicken from marinade, discarding marinade. Heat a large heavy bottom skillet (I use my cast iron skillet) over medium heat. Once heated, put chicken skin side down in the skillet and cook until browned, about 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer skillet into the oven.

Roast until chicken is browned, meat is cooked through and juices run clear (an instant reading thermometer when inserted in the meat should read 165 degrees F.) about 45 minutes. Remove from oven and allow sitting 15 minutes to “rest” (this allows the juices to settle in the meat so they don’t run out when chicken is cut).

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Dinner, Fish & Seafood, Lent

Cornmeal-crusted Catfish with Cajun-style Orzo

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One of my fondest memories from growing up in Texas was eating fried catfish.  Of course catfish also made the rotation in regular fish curries – a staple for Bengalis.  more recently, I had cornmeal crusted catfish at Husk, an amazing southern restaurant in Charleston, South Carolina.  So, when I saw catfish in the market in New England, I just had to recreate some of these food memories.  Hope you like it !

Ingredients for fish:

2/3 cups cornmeal

1/3 cup flour

½ tsp of Paprika

1 cup of milk

1 Tbsp of hot sauce

3 large catfish filets

Salt and pepper to taste

Olive for drizzling

Method:

Preheat oven to 425F

Mix milk, hot sauce, salt and pepper in large dish.

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Marinade fish filets in the milk mixture for 15-20 minutes.

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In another plate/shallow dish, mix cornmeal, flour, paprika, more salt and pepper.

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Shake off excess milk from the fish and coat them in the cornmeal mixture.

Line a baking sheet with foil, spray with oil and arrange the filets.  Drizzle olive oil on the fish.

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Bake for 15 mins and broil on high for another 5 mins.

Let the fillets rest for a minute or so before serving.

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Ingredients for Cajun-style Orzo:

1 medium sized zucchini, diced.

1 small tomato, de-seeded and diced

1 medium yellow pepper, diced

½ white onion, diced

1 cup orzo, cooked according to package directions

1 Tbsp olive oil

1 tsp of garlic

2 tsp of Cajun spices (you can change this to Italian seasoning—depending on the rest of your meal).

A pinch of dried oregano

1 & 1/4  cup water.

Salt and pepper to taste

Method:

Heat oil (high heat) in a pan and sauté zucchini till golden (tip: don’t salt the zucchini, it won’t brown).  Once it is browned, add a pinch of salt and set aside.

Reduce temperature to medium high and In the same pan, sauté the remaining vegetables with garlic, salt and pepper.  Once the vegetables soften, add ¼ cup water, cover and simmer till the vegetables become saucy.

Add the cooked orzo, remaining 1 cup water, and oregano.  Cover and simmer, stirring ever so often to prevent the pasta from sticking.  The pasta is cooked, and it will get over cooked, but that gives it a creamy consistency, almost like a risotto. Taste and adjust salt and pepper accordingly. You can serve immediately or stop the cooking process while there is still a little bit of liquid left in the pan.  Reheat right before serving.  I would not wait for more than two hours between pre-cook and serving.

Add the sautéed zucchini mixed with the orzo, or you can have it on the side.

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Dinner, Gluten-free, Poultry, Quick Dinner

Raspberry Balsamic Chicken

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A few months ago I saw a bottle of locally made Raspberry Balsamic vinegar.  I bought it, but never got around to using it till now.  I read several recipes online and sort of borrowed from different versions and came up with my own.  It is pretty fast to make, provided you have the chicken thawed (something I always struggle to remember as I rush out the door in the morning).  Here is what you will need:

Ingredients:

2 large boneless skinless chicken breast

2 Tbsp olive oil

1 shallot, sliced

2 Tsps of dried thyme

1 Tsp of crushed red pepper (optional)

1/4 cup raspberry balsamic vinegar

1/4 cup red wine

1 Tbsp of honey

salt and pepper to taste

Method:

Preheat oven to 350F

Heat olive oil in a skillet.

Season chicken liberally with salt, pepper and 1 tsp of thyme and sear till light golden.

Add shallots and saute with the chicken for a few minutes till they are soft.

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Stir together vinegar, wine, honey, crushed red pepper, remaining thyme, salt and pepper in the bowl/cup/vessel of your choosing.

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Add vinegar mixture to the shallots and chicken and simmer on medium heat for 5 mins to cook off the alcohol.

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Place the whole pan in the oven, uncovered and bake for 15-20 minutes, till chicken is cooked through and the sauce is reduced and thick.

Serve with you favorite sides, we had sauteed green beans and leftover smashed red potatoes.