Sunday, September 25, 2011

A perfect birthday, cake included.

Freeman Allen's Carrot Cake

The cake got stuck in the pan. I considered starting over, but instead I pried it out using numerous utensils while you
napped. It started to fall apart. No sweat. I glued it together with frosting while you slept all the while.

I sat the whole thing on our crooked cake stand and noticed the whole thing was lopsided. No matter. I was proud of myself for not swearing or even getting mad. I've learned many life lessons in the two years since you were born. One of them is that remaining calm is always key.

A second birthday celebration, complete with cousins, your new best friend, and love all around. This was a perfect birthday, and a delicious, imperfect cake. Eat up!


Freeman Allen's Carrot Cake
From the Bakery Lane Soup Bowl Cookbook
My mother made this cake often when I was growing up. It is moist, flavorful and deeply satisfying. It's also easy and fool-proof, as long as your pans are properly greased. It can be baked in a tube-pan or as a layer cake. If you choose to do the latter and want to frost the whole cake including the sides, double the frosting recipe.

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 1/4 cups oil (I used canola)
3 cups grated carrots
4 eggs
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
2 teaspoons vanilla

Combine the dry ingredients and mix until well blended. Add oil, carrots and eggs one at a time and stir well between additions. Stir in nuts and vanilla. Mix well. Pour into a greased tube pan or 2 layer cake pans. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 50 to 60 minutes or until cake springs back when touched lightly. Cool in pan. Frost with cream cheese frosting.

Cream cheese frosting
4 ounces cream cheese (room temperature)
1/4 cup butter (room temperature)
2 cups confectioners sugar

Combine the cheese and butter, beating with a mixer until light and fluffy. Add sugar and beat to blend. Use additional sugar if needed. Add a few drops lemon juice. Spread on top of carrot cake. Store the cake in refrigerator once frosted.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Pumpkin Spelt Scones

Pumpkin Spelt Scones

Fall is here! Here's a recipe I recently posted at Honest Cooking for your weekend. Unbelievably light, irresistably tasty.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Suzette's South African Granola


Recently I started writing for the online food magazine, Honest Cooking. Here is my first post about a granola recipe I was given during a trip to Cape Town, South Africa. I hope you enjoy! Click over to read.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Weeknight Entertaining


I love to entertain. For years I would to put on elaborate weekend dinner parties, spending all week planning the menu and organizing then all day Saturday making a multi-course feast for four. My husband and I were an adept team. We'd set the ambiance with lighting and music. We took time to pair our wines to the flavors of the meal. Now that we have a toddler, I keep things simple by inviting friends over for special weeknight dinners. I usually just make two courses, but it's still a treat to get together and have a home cooked meal -- especially for my busier friends. Here is a wonderful dinner that can be made ahead, even if you work.

This chili recipe has been in my family for around 30 years. It became known as "Nicole's Favorite Chili" because at a young age, I became the resident stirrer. Most Saturdays there would be a pot of this or some other soup or stew simmering. I would practice my dance moves in our kitchen, equipped with a wooden spoon. Over the years I made this many different ways. I used red or yellow peppers, threw in corn, jalapeƱos, cilantro, substituted the beef for ground turkey, but this week I went back to my mother's standard recipe. It felt like slipping on an old comfy sweater at the start of Fall and relaxing on the couch.


And of course I would never send my guests away without dessert. If the chili was like a warm fuzzy sweater, this dessert is like putting on a sexy cocktail dress: all-dolled up with diamond studs, hair swept back. Enter Nigella Lawson's Budino di Cioccolato. It's rich, utterly satisfying, and an elegant way to wrap up the meal. I am finding great joy in these mini-dinner parties. It's less work than I may have put into this type of event in the past, but it's a reminder to find balance in my life, stay connected to good people, and most importantly, to share what I love: food.

Nicole's Favorite Chili
I like to make this a day before I plan on serving it, because it requires such a long cook-time, and to let the flavors deepen overnight.

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup onion, minced
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1 green pepper, chopped
1 1/2 lbs ground beef
3 cans (16 ounces each) beans (I use two cans of kidney beans and one can pinto beans.)
3 cans (16 ounces each) canned chopped tomatoes
1 can (12 ounces) tomato paste
1 cup water
2 teaspoons salt
3 good shakes Worchestershire sauce
3 to 4 tablespoons chili powder (more or less to taste)
1 teaspoon cumin

1. Heat oil in soup pot. Add onion, garlic and green pepper. Saute until crisp-tender. Push this mixture to the side and add the ground beef. Cook until well browned. Stir frequently and break up the meat with a wooden spoon as it browns. (Optional, remove fat with a turkey baster, but I usually skip this.)

2. Add the beans which you have drained and rinsed, the tomatoes and tomato paste, water, salt, worcestershire sauce, chili powder and cumin. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer over low heat for 3 to 4 hours. Stir frequently to prevent burning. Taste after two hours and season with additional chili, salt and pepper to taste.

Corn bread muffins
From Jane Brody's Good Food Book
Every chili needs a good corn bread. This one has hearty texture from the whole-meal cornmeal, and the pleasant addition of corn. I adapted her recipe slightly, using half whole wheat flour and half all-purpose, instead of only whole wheat.

1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup yellow corn-meal (preferably whole meal)
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup milk (I used 2 %)
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1 cup corn (You can use cream-style corn, or fresh corn but then add 1/4 cup milk and a pinch of baking soda.)

1. In a large bowl, combine the flours, corn meal, baking powder, salt and sugar.

2. In a medium bowl, combine the eggs, milk, butter and corn.
Add this mixture to the flour mixture, stirring just until the dry ingredients are moistened.

3. Spoon the batter into 12 greased muffin cups. Bake the muffins in a preheated 425 degree oven for 20-25 minutes, or until the tops are golden.

Budino di Cioccolato
From Nigella Lawson's Nigella Express
Nigella's dessert recipes are always spot on. They offer a lot of bang for the buck, minimal effort and rich flavor.

1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon corn starch
1/3 cup cocoa
2 tablespoons boiling water
2 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 oz dark chocolate (finely chopped, or use chocolate chips)

1. Put the kettle on to boil water and warm the milk and cream together in a saucepan.

2. Put the sugar and cornstarch into another saucepan and site in the cocoa. Add the 2 tablespoons boiling water and whisk to a paste.

3. Then whisk in the egg yolks, one and at a time, followed by the warmed milk and cream and the vanilla extract.

4. Scrape down the sides of your pan and put it on the heat, cooking and whisking for about 3-4 minutes (this took me 9 minutes) until the mixture thickens.

5. Take off the heat and whisk in the finely chopped chocolate before pouring into four small cups or glasses.

6. Cover the tops of the cups with plastic wrap, laying it directly on top of the pudding to stop a skin from forming, and then refrigerate once they are cooler. Make sure they are not fridge-cold when you serve them. You can add a blob of cream, as Nigella does, or top with a few berries like I did.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Guest Post on Food Memory


I've written a guest post at The Experimental Gourmand on my first food memory. I'd love it if you'd click over to her site to read it!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Oatmeal Raisin Muffins


Finally settled in to our NYC apartment after a three month transition, when the final box was unpacked and the last painting was up on the wall, it felt fantastic. We looked around and agreed, this is the greatest place we've ever lived. Both the apartment and the city. But for me, there was one tiny piece still missing to make it a home. Once I got my kitchen stocked I was more than eager to get baking. So during Roman's first nap in our new place, I got busy. In Rome, I was in the habit of baking him healthy treats while he slept. Here in America, despite the abundance of healthy, pre-portioned snack foods for kids, home-made is still extra special. And for me it means home.


Muffins also mean a bit of normalcy, on a day like today when I want to hide from the world. Halfway ashamed that I feel this way when I didn't lose anyone on Sept 11, 2001, but wholly aware that I have never been the same since that day when our world was re-shaped. So yes, I'm writing about muffins today. And I hope that I'll also be able to take Roman to the park and share a muffin when they open up the police barricades in lower Manhattan. That way I can show him that no matter what happens that's shocking and sad, we must go on, and so we do.



Oatmeal Raisin Muffins
I adapted a recipe from Jane Brody's Good Food Book. Her recipe called for buttermilk and I have made these successfully with both cow's milk and almond milk. It also called for butter, which I replaced with coconut oil. I added a ripened banana for extra moisture and it worked nicely.

1 cup almond milk
1 cup rolled oats (regular or quick)
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
3 tablespoons wheat germ or wheat bran
1/2 cup raisins
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 ripe banana, mashed
1/3 cup coconut oil
1/4 cup packed brown-sugar
1 tablespoon honey (I used agave syrup.)
1 egg

1. In a small bowl, combine the milk, oats, wheat germ and raisins and let the mixture stand until the liquid is absorbed, about 1/2 hour.

2. In another, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

3. in a large mixing bowl, beat mashed banana, the butter (if using) and the sugar until the mixture is light. Beat in the honey and the egg. (Note: I used coconut oil that was very liquid, so I did not need to use a beater.)

4. Add the oat mixture to the banana mixture, then add the flour mixture stirring the whole thing well to moisten.

5. Divide the batter among 12 well greased muffin cups. Bake in a pre-heated 400 degree oven for 25-30 minutes.
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