So, this cake. I made this cake for my boss and his family. His wife is currently going through chemo treatment (they expect her to make a full recovery) and a bunch of us in the office decided to put together a care package of food for them after her latest round. Not only was I happy to do this for my wonderful boss, but it allowed me to do my favorite type of baking - bake and release, as Dorie Greenspan calls it.

The only instruction I was given was to make something apple. I did not really have any idea what I wanted to make, except that I knew I didn’t want to mess around with pie or anything that required rolling out dough. After a food blog search I found a recipe on Serious Eats that was a modified version of Dorie Greenspan’s Swedish Visiting Cake with apples. Perfect. I printed this recipe at work and left it on the printer. It did me a lot of good there.

Since I am sometimes super lazy about the dumbest things, I decided to just use Dorie’s recipe in Baking: From My Home to Yours and add sliced apples, instead of searching and reprinting the recipe at home. Whatever. Don’t judge me.

Here is what Dorie has to say about this cake, because, who am I kidding here, I cannot say it better myself…

“This cake is thin and light with a golden sugar crust and an interior that is soft, chewy, moist and reminiscent of cakes made with almond paste. Although it is amply satisfying in its plainness, I upped the flavor just a little by adding vanilla and almond extract.”

Seriously, this cake could not have been easier to make. The batter comes together literally in minutes, in one bowl, no mixer needed, no waiting for things to come to room temperature. The makings of a recipe I like. Dorie calls for this to be baked in a 9 inch cast iron skillet. Problem: I do not own said 9 inch cast iron skillet. Solution: I own cake pans or I own 10 inch cast iron skillet.

I went with solution “I own cake pans", for no particular reason. Next time, I will try solution “I own 10 inch cast iron skillet". BECAUSE - this mother f’ing cake took FORever to bake. Okay, not forever, but like double the time the recipe called for. That becomes a problem when I am trying to fit this cake in after making dinner and before getting to the gym. I suspect part of the problem was that the cake pan I used was too small and maybe the addition of the sliced apples threw this cake for a loop. It just couldn’t handle being baked with apples, it didn’t know what to do with itself.

Truth be told, I made this cake twice. The first cake was a real hot mess. It was in the oven at 350F in an approx. 8.5 inch cake pan for an hour and was still totally raw in the middle. I had to abandon this cake and leave it in the good(?) hands of Nick while I went to the gym. My instructions were “take the cake out when it is not wet in the middle and don’t ruin it". Yeah. I came home to an undercooked cake which was sitting inside a turned off oven. Huh? Okay, let’s not even go there.

Let’s make a long story short and say that after some stomping, pouting, and removal of cake from pan and into garbage, a second cake was made.

This time I wised up and used a larger 9.5 inch cake pan. This worked out much better in that after an hour of baking, I had a cake that I could actually give to someone. A cake that was actually the consistency of cake and not cold lumpy gravy. Still, this second cake baked for double the 25-30 minutes Dorie calls for AND about 20 minute in when I saw it was not even close to done I turned the heat up to 375F. I am perplexed.

The silver lining in this Swedish cake saga is that at least I got to taste cake #1 a.k.a hot mess. There were some edge pieces that were acceptable to eat, and they were freaking delicious.

Cake #2 came out looking fabulous, way better than it’s deformed hot mess of a sister. It was totally cooked through and nicely golden brown (I loosely covered it with foil near the end). The top became a puffy sugary crust that sparkled with sugar but the inside was still all moist and cake like and the apples got nice and soft.

I will for sure be making this again for my own consumption. Maybe with apples or maybe not. I would like to try it without apples to see if they were the culprit of my baking time issues. The more I think about it, the more likely that seems.

The recipe that is posted after the jump is Dorie’s original recipe from the book. The cake that I baked was modified. This pretty much entailed not adding almonds, and adding sliced apples of the Pink Lady variety instead. I know, I’m a visionary, you don’t have to tell me.

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This is a really simple hummus recipe and is a great base for making various flavored versions.

I have made this hummus many times and I like to use it to make simple healthy sandwiches as well as just dip stuff in it.

This time I made a super delicious hummus and sprouts sandwich. Exciting, huh? Do you want to run out to the store right now and make this?! Well it is no cheesy, buttery, meat filled sandwich, but it is tasty, fresh, and satisfying. I enjoy the various kinds of sandwich sprouts, so that is what I topped my hummus with . I don’t really have a favorite sprout, I will just buy whatever looks the best that day. If they look very wet and/or have an unpleasant odor, I don’t buy them. You can find them in the produce section of your grocery store, usually near the fresh herbs. If you don’t enjoy sprouts, you can top this sandwich with cucumbers, radishes, tomatoes, roasted red peppers, olives, sliced chicken or turkey, etc., or anything else you can think of.

This hummus recipe comes from our good friend Dianna. She gave it to me a while ago, and I have finally gotten around to writing about it. Sometimes I am really lazy.

Dianna’s Easy & Delicious Hummus
by Sara at imafoodblog.com

Ingredients

  • 1 15 oz can of garbanzo beans or 2 cups of cooked garbanzo beans, reserve bean liquid
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, to taste
  • 1/4 cup tahini
  • 1-2 lemons, zested & juiced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup olive oil

Directions

  1. If using dried garbanzos: soak dried beans overnight (8-12 hours) in a bowl of water in the fridge. Then boil the beans in a large pot of water until the beans reach the desired consistency (the desired consistency = soft and edible). Reserve some of the bean cooking liquid for the hummus.
  2. * Note - If I go through the trouble of cooking the dried beans, I make more than I need for this recipe. Then I freeze them in small ziploc bags in 2 cup servings and cover them with the bean cooking liquid. They freeze well and then I can just pull out a bag when I am in the mood for some good hummus or other bean dip. I believe last time I did this I made 2 cups of dried beans and got about 6 cups of cooked beans out of it.
  3. If you are using canned beans - drain the beans and reserve the liquid.
  4. In a large food processor, add the beans, garlic, tahini, lemon zest, lemon juice, cumin, paprika, salt, and pepper. You may want to start on the lower end of the garlic and lemon juice and then add more if needed to taste. Pulse until the beans are broken up into a thick paste consistency.
  5. With the processor running, add the olive oil in a slow steady stream (think pesto). You will most likely also need to add some of the reserved bean liquid (especially if you have used dried beans) or water if you did not keep the bean liquid. Stream in the reserved bean water or regular water until the desired consistency is reached. Allow the mixture to process for at least a minute or two to completely break up the beans. I like my hummus to be very light and silky and smooth - not stiff and thick. To achieve this, I usually add between 1/4 - 1/2 cup of bean water and I make sure that the beans are totally pulverized. If you don’t let the food processor do its thing for long enough, your hummus will be chunkier and a bit grainy. Just think about the consistency of your favorite hummus and try to emulate that.
  6. Adjust the salt and pepper and other seasonings to taste.
  7. To store - place in a plastic container and then coat the top with some more olive oil (this will keep it moist) and sprinkle some more paprika on top (a bit more flavor and a nice color). Hummus is best eaten at room temperature.

If you like this recipe, you may also like my roasted red pepper hummus.

From this:

To this:

And then to this:

So simple and yummy:

Well hello blog world. I am back. Is anybody still out there? No. It’s okay, I am used to talking to myself.

So, I love biscuits with a capital L. I am not really going out on a culinary limb here, because really who doesn’t love biscuits? If you don’t love biscuits, I don’t trust you as a person. Period.

These biscuits are from “America’s Test Kitchen The TV Companion Cookbook 2009″. I could not find this on Amazon so I think this is the book that comes with one of the DVD sets. I borrowed/stole it from Nick’s dad, so I don’t know where he got it. I am slightly obsessed with this book at the moment, pretty much everything in it sounds and looks super tasty.

These drop biscuits were the first thing I made from this book. They are fuss free and so quick to make. There is no cubing and cutting in cold butter, no kneading and rolling, and no worrying about over handling the dough. To make these biscuits, all you need to do is combine your dry ingredients, combine your wet ingredients and then combine them together. I had these bad boys in the oven in 10 minutes. In fact, your oven will probably take longer to preheat to a stifling 475F than it will take you to prepare the biscuits.

These came out of the oven smelling of buttery deliciousness. And they tasted like it too. They had a rich butter flavor (thanks Strauss butter), and I loved the texture contrast between the golden brown crispy outside and the soft fluffy inside. They were perfect. Taste wise, I think they can rival any rolled biscuit, and texturally they are just different so it’s hard to compare.

However, I was impressed with the tenderness of these biscuits. Normally, in a rolled biscuit the ice cold butter that you cut into the flour creates steam as it melts in the hot oven and that is how you achieve the light flaky layers. There was a definite lightness to these drop biscuits, and ATK explains that they figured out the way to do this by mistake. The wet ingredients in this recipe are melted butter and buttermilk. In one trial, due to some impatience, they combined slightly cooled melted butter and cold buttermilk straight from the fridge, getting a clumpy butter-buttermilk mixture. They tried to whisk the crap out of it to get it to emulsify into a smooth liquid, but the butter was too stubborn. They decided to bake them anyway with the chunky butter. These butter clumps created steam in the biscuits and helped them rise higher and bake up fluffier than all their other trials with a smooth buttermilk mixture, mimicking what happens in a standard rolled out biscuit.

Nick’s opinion was that these were really good, but he still likes the more standard rolled out flaky biscuits that I make. He informed me that his benchmark for biscuits is Popeye’s biscuits, and he thought that Popeye’s were still better than these. I pointed out to him that it had been far too long since he had a Popeye’s biscuit to make such a statement, so I do not accept his opinion. I think that these are just as good as a Popeye’s biscuits and when you take into account the low fuss factor, they are making a play for my favorite biscuit to bake.

I served these fluffy pillows alongside a roast chicken, also courtesy of ATK, which I will post about soon.

If you are an astute reader you will notice that there are 6 biscuits in this picture:

And only 5 in this picture:

I am sure you would just assume that is because we ate one of them before taking a picture. Unfortunately, this is not true. The 6th biscuit lost it’s short life almost immediately after coming out of the oven when it gingerly slid right off the baking rack into a sink of dirty dish water. It was a sad moment. I let out a gasp that actually prompted Nick to get up from the computer to make sure I was okay. It takes a lot to get Nick to look away from the computer when he is in the zone.

Make these very soon, they do not disappoint.

Recipe after the jump.

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If you are coming here expecting to find Carrot, Green Apple & Mint Salad, well, it’s not here. Even though this week’s Craving Ellie recipe was chosen by one of my favorite bloggers (A Singleton in the Kitchen), who also happens to live in the same city as me, this salad just wasn’t our thing. My apologies to Jessica - please don’t look me up and beat me, but please look me up and bring me some of your delicious looking baked goods, ribbons and all!

I have been doing A LOT of cooking lately, and not so much baking, so I decided to do a rewind this week and make Ellie’s Chocolate Cherry Almond Biscotti. If you are unfamiliar, biscotti are Italian cookies and their name means “baked twice". You bake the dough the first time in a log, then you cool it, slice it and bake the slices a second time to dry them out. The longer they bake the second time, the harder the cookies will be. They are the perfect mate to a nice hot cup of coffee.

These were easy to make. The dough is a very stiff and sticky cookie dough. The only sort of issue I had was that after the first baking of 25 minutes they were still very raw in the middle. I did not realize this until I sliced them, so I just had to do a longer bake the second time. I am really not sure if it was supposed to be that way or not, but it worked out in the end.

Overall these biscotti were pretty good, I enjoyed them even more after they had sat for a day. I like that they weren’t rock hard and the combo of chocolate, cherries, and almonds is always delicious. If I make them again I would add more cherries, decrease the chocolate, and put in some almond extract to get more of an almond flavor.

I am not really sure what the fat and calories are in a normal biscotti, but these babies have 10 grams of fat and 230 calories per cookie. So they are not exactly guilt free (at least in my mind), but they are certainly not a diet buster either. And they are made with half whole wheat pastry flour so the calories are not totally empty.

You can find the recipe for these cookies here.

Here is my log. I measured this to be 10 x 3, so I don’t think my under doneness had to do with the size. You can see how chock full of delicious goodness it is:

Here it is out of the oven:

Semi raw biscotti. I think I had to bake them for another 25 minutes, and I tested them this time with a cake tester!


(BTW - how do you like my cheap Ocean City hotel room cups. Nothing but the finest for imafoodblog!)

This is the second granola recipe I have ever made for myself, and I am now officially in love with making my own granola. It is so much tastier than what I buy in the store and I can personalize it with ingredients that I like. It is also easy to ensure that what you are making is a healthy and sensible snack because you have control over the quantity and quality of what is being used.

My first experience with granola was Ellie Krieger’s nutty granola. Then a few weeks ago I saw this Strawberry Banana granola over at our good friend lisa is cooking. The original recipe is by none other than Michael Ruhlman, so it already had winning status in my book before I even made it.

I was so pleased with this way this granola came out. Basically, you create a fruit puree that you mix with your granola ingredients and then bake it low and slow until all the liquid has been absorbed into the oats. This creates a really lovely subtle fruity flavor to complement the richness of the nuts, which is all balanced out by some flavorful dried cherries.

I altered the recipe a bit to scale it down (the original recipe makes an enormous amount) and I also lightened it up and eliminated the refined sugar. One important thing to note for this recipe is not to use more liquid than called for. If there is too much liquid the granola will start to burn before it is all absorbed and then you will have burnt and soggy granola. Let’s just say I really made this granola twice, with the first burnt and soggy batch going straight into the garbage.

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Pasta is the love of my foodie life. If I am looking for comfort, I always go with pasta. It is probably the thing I crave most, and we eat pasta for dinner at least once a week.

So I was happy to make this week’s Craving Ellie pick, chosen by Farah of Confessions of a Novice Baker, Linguini with Shrimp & Vegetables.

I have actually made this recipe before as written and with variations. I usually like to melt a few anchovies into the olive oil, add some fresh thyme, and I cook the tomatoes longer than Ellie calls for. This time though, I added some chanterelle mushrooms because we got them for a steal at Costco over the weekend, and I added some fresh capers that our friend Dianna brought us back from Italy. We are generally not caper people, but these were so briney and delicious. I think Dianna described them as a very capery caper. Thanks Dianna!

Yay for Chanterelle mushrooms!

Yum!

Here is my recipe as I made it this time. It was great! You end up with a really light but flavorful sauce bulked up with lots of yummy veggies and shrimp. And of course something like this is forever adaptable to what you like and what you have on hand.

Pasta with Shrimp & Vegetables
Adapted by Sara at imafoodblog.com from Ellie Krieger
The Food You Crave, page 160-161
Serves 4

  • 1 pound spaghetti or linguini
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 8 ounces Chanterelle or any other mushroom
  • 1 bunch asparagus stalks, trimmed and cut into 2 inch pieces
  • 1 container cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/4 cup capers
  • 1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 cup freshly chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Freshly grated Parmigianno-Reggiano cheese
  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook according to the directions on the box. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the cooking water.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over a medium-high heat. Add the garlic and saute for 1 minute.
  3. Add the mushrooms and saute until all the water has cooked out and evaporated.
  4. Add the asparagus and cherry tomatoes and saute until the tomatoes begin to break down.
  5. Add the capers, lemon juice, white wine, and the reserved cup pasta water (as needed) to the skillet. Let simmer until the liquid is reduced by about half.
  6. Add the shrimp and cook for 3-4 minutes, until they turn pink. Stir in the parsley and then add the pasta to the pan and mix. Salt and pepper to taste.
  7. Add a healthy dousing of Parm. cheese to each plate.

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