Monday, December 17, 2012

Lemon Cream Cheese Tart with a Gingersnap Crust

Lemon Cream Cheese Tart 

Taking care of a 3 year old and a 3 month old has sapped any energy I had for extraneous activities. My cooking has become predictable.  As my sister wisely said, right now my life is more about survival than perfection.  While I often feel like I'm being challenged to my core, I am lucky enough to be showered with smiles every morning from both boys.  That's enough to keep me going.

The exceedingly gray skies of late call for a little culinary levity. The pretty yellow color and zing of lemon and ginger are a pick-me-up and just what I needed.  


It's funny how a food treat can feel like a visit from an old friend.  A simple boost that helps me continue on my daily march.


I wish you all the coziest of times as 2012 comes to a close.  May you be showered with gifts of smiles, good food and warm, safe homes. 

Ruth's Lemon Cream Cheese Tart
Adapted from my Grandmother's recipe
Plan ahead by taking the eggs and cream cheese out of the fridge a few hours before you want to make this.

For the tart crust:
8 ounces ginger cookies (I used store bought from Whole Foods Market)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter

Finely process the cookies in a food processor.  Melt the butter, then pour it into the food processor and pulse to combine.  Place a  9 inch tart shell with removable bottom on a baking sheet.  Press the crushed cookies into the shell.  Bake at 325 degrees for 10 minutes and allow to cool while you proceed with the filling.

For the filling:
3 large eggs at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
Zest and juice of 1 organic lemon
8 oz package of cream cheese, softened to room temperature
fresh berries for garnish (optional)

Use a handheld electric beater to beat the eggs until light in a double boiler (bain marie); then beat in sugar gradually.  Stir in lemon zest and juice. Stir constantly over the heat with a wooden spoon for about 7-10 minutes until the eggs begin to thicken to a custardy consistency.  Add the cream cheese (must be room temperature) and use the electric beater again to blend thoroughly.  Several more minutes over the heat should do the trick.  Spoon this into your prepared tart shell.  Cool on the counter.  You could serve this warm, or if you want to prepare it ahead of time, simply chill it in the refrigerator until you are ready to serve.  

Friday, November 9, 2012

Original Comfort Food


I am the original comfort food. 
A creamy bowl of oatmeal, sprinkled with cinnamon sugar.
A warm bun straight from the oven with a pat of melting butter.
A steaming cup of chicken noodle soup that warms inside and out.

Comforted,  Nurtured, Nourished.
His breath smells like vanilla scented rice pudding. 
Simply delicious.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Small things


People always say, it's the small things in life that count.  Eventually small things become big and fill your life entirely.  When they do, it's wonderful.

Baby Ethan joined us on Sept 15th at 6:41 pm, and for the past four weeks we've been marveling in the wonder of a new life.

Ethan's feet

There's been plenty of real life too.  Tears, jealousy, clashes, growing pains I'm sure every growing family faces.  We're just going with it.

Roman and I still have time alone (together) while Ethan sleeps. This week, our time yielded two delicious treats. The first was somewhere between a cookie and a muffin, and the second was intangible: the chance reconnect as mother and first-born, just like old times.

Sweet Potato Muffins
Makes 12 large or 24 mini
Use any kind of sweet potato or yam you like.  Pumpkin would be a nice substitute.  Coconut palm sugar comes from Indonesia, made from the nectar of coconut palm trees and can be used in place of white or brown sugar.  I chose to add a small amount of regular sugar to this recipe as well, but you could use only coconut palm sugar.

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup coconut palm sugar
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup cooked sweet potato
2 eggs
2 heaping tablespoons coconut oil
1/4 cup milk

Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl with a whisk to combine well.  Peel, cut and steam one sweet potato, then mash it well and let it cool slightly.  Depending on what size potato you may have leftovers, you will need about one cup packed.  Beat two eggs and add them to the dry mixture.  Add the coconut oil, milk and mashed sweet potato.  Bake in muffin tins, at 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes.  Large muffins may take longer, so check for doneness.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Zen and the bran muffin


Unlike my days of global travel, this summer I've been finding my way through a great physical and emotional journey. Now I'm taking a little time to find center again, drawing on yoga practice and gentle music to ground me before passing into the great unknown of becoming a mother to two.

People have been telling me to nurture myself in this time. My interpretation of that advice meant cooking up a storm over the last two weeks.  I turned out tamale pie, shepherd's pie, southwestern corn and sweet potato soup, mushroom barley soup, beef stew, harvest pork stew, lentil soup and pasta sauce- all packaged, labeled and tucked neatly into the freezer.  My father baked mini-baguettes and we froze those too. I made granola bars, two batches of granola, four types of muffins, all for consumption after the baby comes.  These acts made me feel strong. Self-sufficient. Like the rock that I think I need to be.


Life, and giving life demands strength.  I've been able to find strength in order, in taking control of what can be controlled.  


If the heavily sleep deprived version of myself pulled these together at 6 a.m., I'm betting anyone can do it.  These muffins turned out to be a shining beacon of light this morning.  There is nothing dry or bland about them.  Even without a drop of oil or fat, the apple and carrot lend great moisture and flavor.  Be zen.  Be healthy. Seek inner peace and eat more bran. 


Apple Carrot Bran Muffins
Slightly adapted from Bob's Red Mill recipe
I omitted the raisins and nuts from this recipe, mostly to please my toddler. I didn't miss either ingredient.

Makes 15 muffins

1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup white flour
3/4 cup ground flaxseed
3/4 cup oat or wheat bran
1 cup brown sugar
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 cups carrots, shredded
2 apples, peeled and shredded
1/2 cup raisins (optional)
1 cup nuts, chopped (optional)
3/4 cup milk
2 eggs, beaten
1 tsp vanilla

Mix together the first nine ingredients in a large bowl.  Stir in the grated carrots and apple, add the raisins and nuts if desired.  Combine the milk, beaten eggs and vanilla.  Pour liquid ingredients into dry ingredients and stir until moistened.  Fill muffin cups about 3/4 full.  Bake at 350 for at least 20 minutes.  (I left mine in for 30 and they came out perfectly done.)

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Yeasted Rugelach


Last week I looked for a challenge in the kitchen.  Sometimes it's the easiest place for me to conquer fears of the unknown. Unlike the rest of my life, especially as a mother- where every day can feel unchartered. Parenting, in my world, is an all consuming venture and sometimes my confidence wanes. I'm doing my best, but still feel like I'm winging it.  It's hard to relax and not think that I must certainly be messing up, falling short, or maybe even overdoing it.


I thumbed through Ruth's Box, looking for a project for distraction.  Something I could immerse myself in while Roman was preoccupied with his cars and trucks one morning.  I seized the moment purely for my own enjoyment. Ruth's box contained three rugelach recipes, the "little twist" cookies of Jewish Ashkenazic origin.  One called for a cream cheese dough, the other, sour cream.  The third intrigued me the most-- a neatly typed version of Libby Hillman's Yeasted Rugelach recipe from her 1963 cookbook Lessons in Gourmet Cooking.  By the way Ruth had loosely copied down her recipe, I could tell she was no new-comer to baking rugelach.  I pictured her rolling these effortlessly.  At first I was a little intimidated.  I wanted someone to show me, someone to work along side.  Kind of how I feel in parenting sometimes.  But I devised my own plan. 


I divided the dough into three balls, wrapping each in plastic wrap.  Ruth had noted that the dough would last up to three days, so I decided to bake one small batch per day and give myself time to improve.  (The dough also improved over time.) By the third day I was rolling the supple dough without it sticking to the counter or to my hands.  I could sense the right amount of filling, and exactly how long they should bake.  By then the cookies were exactly to my liking.  It felt good to have mastered them.  And who knows.  Maybe over time I will come to feel the same sense of mastery about parenting.

Yeasted Rugelach with Apricot, Almond and Chocolate Filling
Adapted from Libby Hillman's recipe

This recipe called for a sugar/cinnamon/nut filling, more like the authentic rugelach found in New York City.  I adapted the filling to my own cravings using apricot jam, slivered almonds and chocolate chunks, and making these rugelach are pretty irresistible.  

1/2 lb (226 grams) unsalted butter
1 package dry yeast
1/4 cup (59 ml) warm water
2 cups (198 grams) flour
2 tablespoons (23 grams) sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs

Apricot Jam
Slivered Almonds
Chocolate Chips or chunks

Melt the butter and set aside to cool.  Dissolve yeast in warm water.  Mix together the flour, sugar, salt. To this, add the dissolved yeast, cooled butter, salt, cream, vanilla extract and two eggs.  Mix until you can form a ball, which you can roll in a little extra flour and then refrigerate overnight (or at least 6 hours.)  The dough will last up to three days, and improves with time. 

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees (190 C). Divide the dough into three. Work with one portion at a time and return the rest, covered, to the refrigerator.  The dough cooperates best when chilled.  Using a floured rolling pin, roll one portion of dough into an 8 inch circle.  You can cut 8-10 wedges from this. Gently spread on the jam, then sprinkle on the almonds and chocolate and roll from the wide end of the base to the thin end.  Bake on a parchment lined baking sheet for 18-25 minutes.  Watch after about 18 minutes to check browning.  Baking time will vary based on thickness and size of cookies and oven strength.  Makes 5-6 dozen.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Baked Peaches


These are cozy times.  Really, nothing is cozy about a New York City summer with the heat, humidity, smog, smoke and dirt that come along with it.  But we've been nesting.  With six (or so) weeks 'til baby brother arrives, I've been sorting, cleaning, washing, folding, unwrapping, and list making.  In between, we take sweaty jaunts to area parks, only to return home again, grateful for the air conditioning where we make our way through piles of books.


One of these books, The Maggie B., was my childhood favorite.  At sea during a storm, Margaret battens down the hatches of her ship and retreats to the safety of the kitchen.  She prepares a dreamy sort of meal for her baby brother, a steamy fish stew, fresh rolls and baked peaches.  Margaret sings sea shanties, bathes the little one and puts him to bed, the lull of the waves rocking him to sleep.


My whole life, I've never lost the image of Margaret baking her peaches in the safety of her ship's hold, and finally today I made my own.  The baked peaches tasted homey with their dash of cinnamon and sprinkling of brown sugar.  I finished off my baked peach feeling grateful, thinking about our new little peach who will be here in no time.  I hope he finds it cozy here.

Baked Peaches
This barely warrants a recipe. But if you're a lover of stone fruit and you can bear to turn your oven on in August, this is a wonderful ending to a simple summer meal.  Feel free to add whipped cream or ice cream for an added flourish. 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Halve several ripe, organic peaches.  Remove the stone and place cut side up on a baking sheet.  Sprinkle the peaches with about a teaspoon of brown sugar or honey, and a few shakes of cinnamon.  Bake for 30 minutes. 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012



About six years ago, P and I used to zip off for weekends in Athens, Malta, London, Lyon.  There was a springtime trip to Zurich, Switzerland for a few days. A great chill filled the air once night would fall and we'd duck inside a cozy restaurant for some beer and sausages.

Seeing myself these days, overtired, heavy into the third trimester with my second baby, I have to squint to see remnants of the old me.  I imagine a day might come again there is some balance in my life and some of the old me creeps back into this new version.  Surely there must be room for both.

I like to peel back the layers to get to that girl on Lake Zurich who had the luxury of just being a tourist with no real agenda.  Those were the days.  That was when I first tasted muesli.  Creamy with whole milk, an added spoonful of yogurt and so many shredded and mashed fruits inside to discover.  The crunch of a walnut, the surprising sweetness of a dried date.  We both filled our bowls that weekend.  The old me is still there after all.  She's the reason why muesli is not just a breakfast dish.  


Nicole in Zurich

Adapted from a Jamie Oliver recipe
Jamie uses dried apricots, which I omitted, but you can add whatever type of dried fruits you like.  I couldn't resist adding flax and chia seeds for a healthy dose of Omega 3's and 6's in the morning.  Make sure you read the recipe all the way through, since muesli is best when soaked in milk overnight before serving. 

8 handfuls of organic rolled oats
2 handfuls of ground bran
1 handful of chopped dried dates
1 handful of chopped walnuts
1 handful slivered almonds
2 large spoonfuls ground flax seeds
2 large spoonfuls chia seeds

Combine all of the above in a large bowl stirring well.  Store in an airtight container.  It will keep for several months.

Additional ingredients for making and serving:
Milk (at least 2 % or partially skimmed)
Berries or other seasonal fruits

The night before you want to eat it, place the amount desired in a bowl and cover with milk.  You can make more than you want for the next day and eat it over several days.  Grate in around 1/2 an apple per person and stir immediately to keep the apple from discoloring.  Cover and place in the fridge.  

The next morning, remove the bowl from the fridge.  The muesli will have softened and thickened, so add a little more milk.  Add a banana, sliced or mashed.  You can add honey to taste, if you like.  Serve in a bowl with a dollop of yogurt (optional) and some mixed fresh berries in summer.  Pear would be delicious in the winter.

Swan in Zurich

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Summery Spinach and Chicken Salad


Sitting in front of a large bowl of salad like this one, I felt very present.  The flavors are somewhat Asian inspired, but not overly so.  There is soy sauce mixed with lemon juice, sort of an unusual combination, and the taste brought me back, the way food often does, over 25 years to when my mother used to make a salad very similar to this one.

I've read a bit about mindfulness and mindful eating; concepts that seem to be edging their way into mylife.  I am drawn to the tenets of paying attention, being aware in each moment and finding balance.

The principles of mindfulness allowed me to appreciate the soft and unfamiliar texture of the iceberg lettuce, paired smartly with healthier baby spinach.  The way a few sesame seeds clung to my molars and the snow peas and red peppers snapped, each releasing their own bright flavors.

If I extend these teachings to the rest of my day, they allowed me feel myself laughing out loud as Roman danced a jig to the jovial sounds of the accordion in Bryant Park, to have the fortitude to turn around an episode when he protested to my making dinner, and then to watch closely as sleep crept gently up on him as he hugged his yellow taxi under one arm and his blue elephant under the other.  And for the next 11 weeks, each kick, bump, thump and wiggle in my swelling belly gets my immediate attention.  These are the days, the tastes, the sights, the sounds and sensations that will not be around long. 

Summery Spinach and Chicken Salad
Serves 4 (large servings)

Plan ahead as this recipe requires chilling in between steps. Also be sure to eat it immediately after you combine all the greens so that they don't wilt. I drastically reduced the amount of oil that my mother used in this salad and I didn't notice a change in flavor- there still seemed to be plenty of moisture for the salad.  If you need more, add more.  Delicious summer dinner.

2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breast
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup canola oil
1 clove garlic, scored
1 lemon (both zest and juice)
1 ten-ounce package of fresh baby spinach
1 large head of iceberg lettuce
1 organic red pepper (conventionally grown are highly sprayed.)
a few handfuls of fresh snow peas
1/4 cup toasted sesame seeds
coarse salt to taste

Cut the chicken into 2-inch strips and place in a bowl.  Add 1 tablespoon of the soy sauce, 2 tablespoons of oil and the garlic clove and the zest of half a lemon. Mix well and chill several hours.

Heat about a tablespoon of oil in a skillet.  Add the chicken strips a few at a time and sauté 3 - 5 minutes or until they become firm.  Don't overcook.  Discard garlic clove.

Combine cooked chicken and remaining oil, soy sauce, lemon zest and lemon juice in a large bowl and chill thoroughly.

Toast the sesame seeds in a dry skillet over medium heat for several minutes.

Pick the stems off the spinach, wash and drain.  Chop or tear the spinach with your fingers, shred the iceberg lettuce. Make sure these are both chilled.  When ready to serve, toss the greens, snow peas and red pepper with the chicken mixture and dressing. Sprinkle with the toasted sesame seeds and salt and serve immediately.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

No-Bake Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies

No-Bake Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies

There's plenty of heat to go around this July.  Instead of dwelling too much on it, we refresh, we rest, we eat large bowls of salad. Until we can get out of the city, we think up new indoor activities, read stacks of library books, and sing.  This past week I made some baked granola bars and vowed not to use the oven again.  Summer needs a no-bake cookie.

Then I remembered my step-mom's affectionately termed "cow-plop" New Englander cookies, that are boiled, not baked.  I had written down her recipe last summer during a visit and had been waiting for the right time to make them.  I remember eating them on a hot, buggy night, typical of Massachusetts.  She was making them to put in a care package for her daughter (she's always doing things like that). The peanut butter and chocolate combination were so addictive and she generously ignored the furtiveness of my hand creeping back to grab another.

No-Bake Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies

I took a few liberties by modifying her recipe.  I hope she doesn't mind.  She's been making them since the 70's.  My version has half the sugar but I added chocolate chips, whole peanuts and a dash of kosher salt.  I'm keeping mine in the refrigerator, which is not necessary, but they are quite nice slightly chilled.  Together with a cold glass of milk, this is my new summer-time cookie.

No-Bake Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies

1 stick unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
1/2 cup peanut butter (I recommend using just ground peanuts, no sugar added)
1/2 cup milk
3 cups quick oats (or you can pulse regular oats in the food processor)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup roasted, unsalted peanuts (slightly chopped)
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

In a medium sauce pan, melt the butter and add the vanilla, cocoa powder, peanut butter and milk.  Stir briefly to melt and combine all ingredients.  Remove pan from heat and stir in the oats, kosher salt, peanuts and chocolate chips (these will melt slightly.)  Roll into small balls (a bit smaller than a golf ball) and place on a cookie sheet lined with wax paper.  Cool on the counter top or refrigerate.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Basil Lemonade


refreshing |riˈfreSHiNG|adjectiveserving to refresh or reinvigorate someone: a refreshing drink | the morning air was so refreshing.


Basil Lemonade 
1- First make your simple syrup: Take 1 cup of water, add 1/2 cup brown sugar and 1/2 cup washed basil leaves with stems.  
Heat in a sauce pan to completely dissolve sugar.  
Cool completely and drain to remove the basil.  (Store leftover syrup in the refrigerator.)

2- Take a large glass and add some of your simple syrup (start with a few tablespoons, you can adjust later.)
Add as much fresh squeezed lemon juice as you like. 
Add fresh water and lots of ice.  Feel free to garnish with basil leaves or lemon slices.

Welcome to summer. Be refreshed.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Picnic Time


I will be at my most pregnant during the heat of the summer, so I am reveling in the 75 - 80 degree weather.  I love the mix of spring rain we've been having, and the overcast days are my favorite.  I don't find them dreary.  It's a relief to just splash in the puddles and not have to worry about sun exposure and heat waves, at least for now.  

Most days I pack up a grocery bag worth of snacks and provisions and Roman and I set out to see what adventures we can find.  Sometimes we have a plan, other days we follow Roman's whimsy.  One thing is for sure, we've been lunching outside.  While Roman's meals might be a little more standard (mini bagels with sun butter and jam are his favorite), I tend to fold some vegetables and hummus into a whole wheat tortilla.  

His new nap-free schedule has him in bed early, which means I'm basically house bound most evenings.  One of these nights we will treat ourselves to a family picnic. I will sneak in a few sips of P's chilled white wine and indulge in this salad.  Perfect for sitting on a lawn somewhere, listening to some live music, watching the boats go by on the Hudson.  In my perfect fantasy, there are even fireflies.  But in my real world, the little one's needs come first, so incase I don't make this modest dream happen, I hope some of you will.  

Salad of Shrimp, Lentils, Sweet Potato and Mâche Rosettes with a Lemon Tarragon Dressing
Serves 6

This salad should be served slightly chilled.  Once you have combined the mâche and dressed the salad, serve it quickly, otherwise the mâche will wilt.  

1 cup dry green lentils, picked over and rinsed
2 medium sweet potatoes
1 lb. medium shrimp (peeled and deveined) 
3.5 ounces mâche rosettes (lamb's ear lettuce)

Lemon Tarragon Dressing
1/2 cup olive oil
4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons fresh tarragon, finely chopped
1 small shallot, finely chopped
salt and pepper to taste

For the salad, bring 3 cups of water to boil in a medium sauce pan.  Add 1 cup lentils and cover, reduce heat to simmer for 25 minutes or until the lentils are tender but not mushy.  Drain the lentils and allow them to cool.  Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350.  Cut the sweet potatoes into small cubes and toss them in some olive oil.  Roast for about 25 minutes.  
Sautee the shrimp in some olive oil for a few minutes on each side until just cooked.
Once the lentils and sweet potatoes are cooled, combine them in a large bowl.  Prepare the dressing as indicated below, setting aside a few tablespoons for the shrimp.  Add the mâche to the bowl and toss all three ingredients with the dressing.  Divide the salad amongst 6 plates, toss the shrimp in the reserved dressing and arrange them on top of the salads. 

For the dressing, combine the olive oil and lemon juice.  Add the tarragon and shallot.  Season with salt and pepper.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Mixed Berry Breakfast Crisp with Hazelnut Almond Topping


How do you show love?  Love notes, gifts, affection?  I suppose that even picking up someone's dry cleaning can be a caring act.  I've come to believe that I show love most often through food.  Whether it's for a child, a sibling, parent or husband, I can spoil (rich chocolate pudding), provide nutrients, or appeal to the need for comfort with something unexpected like a breakfast crisp.  To me this says, "I love you."


I made this on a Sunday morning and told my husband to wait and see what was in the oven before making his usual breakfast.  It's oddly close to his morning routine of late: yogurt, homemade granola and berries.  But something bubbling on it's way out of the oven steps things up a notch.  It feels like dessert but has a tiny fraction of the sugar.  


So I'm curious, what do you do?  How do you show love? 

Mixed Berry Breakfast Crisp with Hazelnut Almond Topping
Serves 6

Since berries are one of the most highly sprayed crops, I recommend paying the extra money and buying organic.  You can use frozen berries, in which case do not defrost them.  The end result may be a bit juicier if using frozen.  If you feel like having this for dessert, replace the greek yogurt with some ice cream.  

6 cups fresh berries (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries)
zest of 1/2 orange
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup hazelnut meal
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick butter, cold
3/4 cup rolled oats
2/3 cup slivered almonds

Place the mixed berries in a deep baking dish, sprinkle with orange zest and sugar. 
Place the flour, hazelnut meal, brown sugar, cinnamon and salt in the food processor, then add the stick of butter which you have cut into about 8 slices.  Pulse 5-6 times.  Then add the rolled oats and pulse another 3-4 times, taking care not to over process the oats.  With your hands, mix in the slivered almonds, then lay the crisp topping over the berries in the baking dish.  Bake at 375 degrees for about 40 minutes.  Serve hot or room temperature with greek yogurt mixed with a little maple syrup. 

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Dressing for Temple

Basil, balsamic vinegar and pine nut dressing 

Towards the end of my pregnancy with Roman, my doula was guiding me through some relaxation techniques and she suggested I  "thank" my body for all the hard work it had done.  It was the first time in my life I ever considered uttering such a phrase out loud.  This time around, I've come to regard my body with more reverence.  It's not perfect, but there's something sacred going on inside.

Endives, avocado and tomatoes 

Though my body occasionally misbehaves, still-- with water, some fresh air and plenty of good things to eat, it's been great to feel good.  This is my first chance to nourish this little life.  He's getting lots and lots of greens.

French Anchovy Dressing 

My refrigerator shelf is home to several mason jars each week, filled with tangy, bright tasting ingredients.  When lunch rolls around, I pull out the spring mix, kale, spinach, endives- whatever I have gathered from the green market, and dress it with one of these special concoctions.  I reach for extra Omega 3's in tiny fish like anchovies or sardines, add protein with a handful of chopped walnuts or a sprinkling of sesame seeds.

Anchovy Dressing over Zucchini Ribbons 

I can't control the city smog, construction dust or people blowing cigarette smoke in my face, but at least there is no limit to how much salad I can eat.   These are a few of the offerings for my temple.

Basil, Balsamic Vinegar and Pine Nut Dressing
Jamie Oliver, The Naked Chef Takes Off

This was delicious served over endives, avocado and cherry tomatoes.

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 good handful of chopped fresh basil
1 good handful of pine nuts, toasted and chopped (about 1/4 cup)
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Carefully toast the pine nuts in a dry skillet.  Watch them closely as they will tend to burn easily.  Cool and chop.  Combine the vinegar, oil, chopped basil and pine nuts in a jar with salt and pepper and shake well.

Anchovy French Dressing
The New York Times Cookbook (My mother's copy, 1961 edition!)

Toss this with some fresh assorted lettuces or serve over zucchini ribbons made using a mandoline or vegetable peeler.

1 small can flat anchovy fillets
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Mash the anchovies with a fork (I chose to cut them into bits with a sharp knife.)  Combine with the olive oil and lemon juice and mix until thoroughly blended.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Oatmeal Cookies


Today I had some time to myself so I spent part of my afternoon in the kitchen "with" my Grandmother Ruth.  I was delighted to find she had a recipe for Oatmeal Cookies in her old green box that looked like it would be quite to my liking.


Having only known Ruth when I was a young child, I allow myself to imagine a lot of things.  It's easy to idealize someone after they die, and I try not to do that.  I have more of a running list of things I'd ask, especially now that I'm pregnant again.  I want to know about her pregnancies and labors, pivotal times in a woman's life.  In reality, the closest I can get is what kind of oatmeal cookies she liked, well, so be it.


While I baked, I thought about what I do know about Ruth.  She had waited until after World War II to start a family, a somewhat surprising choice for a woman of her era.  She was 34 when my mother was born, and 39 when she had my Uncle.  I'm not sure what kind of looks she might have gotten as an "older" pregnant mother in those days.  I suspect she was secure in herself and didn't care what people thought. 

As I age, I hope I'm getting closer to the type of grace that I believe my mother and grandmother had.  The kind of grace that brings acceptance and a certain capacity to deal with things head on and get through challenges with poise.  I realize now as an adult, that life brings plenty of these opportunities.  There will be challenges until the very end, and even that prospect we can face with a certain amount of grace.  


So this was my pensive kind of afternoon.  But there were also cookies.  I am extremely partial to cookies with walnuts, and I will always choose a cookie without raisins.  It must be an idiosyncrasy of mine, because I know some people adore raisins in their oatmeal cookies.  To me, these are simple and satisfying.  I'm hoping they stick around long enough to be packed up for a picnic on one of these beautiful spring evenings.  And if they remind me to be graceful, well, all the better. 

Oatmeal Cookies
Makes about 2 dozen

1 cup shortening (or margarine, butter or a combination half/half)
1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 eggs
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 1/2 cups quick oats (I processed regular oats quickly in the food processor)
3/4 cup Grape nuts cereal or chopped walnuts
1 teaspoon vanilla

Cream together the shortening and sugars with an electric mixer and add one beaten egg.
Sift together the flour, baking soda and cinnamon and add to the shortening mixture.
Then add the oats, grape nuts or walnuts and vanilla.
Chill for one hour in the refrigerator.
Preheat oven to 350.
Roll walnut-sized pieces in your hands, then dip in granulated sugar and flatten as you place on a greased cookie sheet. (Or you can line with parchment.)
Bake for 12-15 minutes.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Pasta with Anchovies and Arugula


Two years ago this week, I thought up the name 'And Baby Cakes Three' and decided to blog about food.   A lot has changed since I wrote from my apartment in Rome- new mother to a six month old trying to document adventures and food of the Eternal City.

But that's just the thing.  With each anniversary or birthday I remember that life doesn't exist without constant change. Sometimes I look back at myself five or even ten years ago and feel just a tiny tinge of nostalgia for that stylish, world traveling person.  But how important to meet the passage of time head on and to relish the wonderful gifts that change has brought.


Today we visited our old neighborhood in Brooklyn where I started out as a home cook.  My first apartment on my own, my first pots and pans, my first dinner party (that was May 7, 1999.)  I was discovering many new ingredients back then, pouring over cookbooks I'd bring home from the library or The Strand.  My husband and I were just dating at the time, but I knew he was someone I could marry when he did not balk at my love of anchovies.  He dove right in to anything I served and ate with a sense of excitement.


You see, I've always loved bold food with an opinion and an attitude.  Anchovies and arugula - you have to love them both to love this dish.  Forgive me for not telling you earlier.  Anchovies are among my favorite foods in the world.  I hope that doesn't put you off.  Seeing them splayed against the glass in their little jar is more appealing to me than a box of chocolates. That, I'm sure, is one thing that will never change.


Pasta with Anchovies and Arugula
From Mark Bittman
4 servings

This comes together almost effortlessly and is great for an easy summer dinner with a glass of some white wine or some sparkling Italian soda.

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 large garlic cloves, peeled and slivered
8 anchovy filets (I recommend more to taste, with some of their oil)
1 lb linguine or other long pasta
2 cups arugula, washed, dried and chopped
1/2 teaspoon or more hot red pepper flakes
Salt and fresh ground black pepper

Set a large pot of water to boil and salt it.

Put half of the olive oil in a deep skillet and turn the heat to medium.  A minute later, add the garlic and the anchovies.  When the garlic sizzles and the anchovies break up, turn the heat to its lowest setting.

Cook the pasta until it is tender but not mushy.  Reserve one cup of the cooking liquid, and drain.  Add pasta and arugula to the skillet, with enough of the reserved cooking liquid to make a sauce.  Turn heat to medium and stir for a minute.  Add salt and pepper to taste, plus a pinch or more of red pepper flakes.

Turn pasta and sauce into a bowl, toss with remaining olive oil and serve.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Chocolate Wholewheat Waffles with Hot Fudge Sauce


What do you give someone who sews, knits, crochets and quilts all of the gifts she gives for birthdays, baby showers, holidays big and small, year after year?  This person happens to be my sister Lisa, and in a few days she's celebrating a special birthday, so something store bought wasn't going to cut it.

One of the things I find most endearing (and surprising) about Lisa is her sweet tooth.  I've seen her reach into hidden stashes of chocolate while she thinks no one is looking.  I've known her to pull over to a roadside stand and enjoy a cone of soft-serve ice-cream (her all-time favorite).  When she told me how much she loves waffles and that she could eat them every day, I knew that this would be her kind of treat.

We certainly had our moments, both good and bad, as kids.  We were terrible to each other when confined to a car for more than a few hours.  Mom caught her trying to make me pay for her hand-me-down clothes one year.  But without fail, I got a card and a small gift from her if I stayed home sick from school.  I remember seeing her standing at my bedroom door and I always felt warmed by those glimmers of proof that I wasn't just a skinny little pest to her.  As you can see in the photos, no matter how much we fought, we were also friends, and that is what stuck into our adult years.

She deserves something decadent-- a rich chocolate waffle with some hot fudge sauce, not just for putting up with me, but for the years of rock-solid advice she's offered up for free, without asking anything in return-- unlike those old hand-me downs.


Chocolate Wholewheat Waffles
From Kitchen Butterfly via Food 52
Serves 4 - 6

These waffles make an excellent dessert.  I would never recommend you eat this for breakfast, unless it's your birthday.  And, since my big sister is celebrating hers, this is what I propose.  I'm providing her with a jar of the home made chocolate fudge and she can use her own good judgement.  I chose the recipe because they are made with wholewheat flour, which I think adds to their richness since the whole wheat tends to lend a nutty flavor.  My only changes to the recipe were the addition of sugar and substitution of ricotta.

1 1/2 cups (200 grams) wholewheat flour
1/2 cup (50 grams) unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 large eggs
1 3/4 cups (400 grams) milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/4 cup (25 grams) yogurt (I used ricotta)

Sift the flour, cocoa powder, sugar and baking powder into a bowl.
Make a well in the center and add the eggs, milk, vanilla extract, oil and yogurt.  Mix with a balloon whisk until smooth.
Let the batter rest for 10 minutes or longer.  You can easily make the batter a day ahead and store in the refrigerator.
Spoon some batter into your hot waffle iron.  According to what type of iron you have, the amount of batter and cooking time will vary.

Hot Fudge Sauce
From Epicurious
Makes about 2 cups

Sauce can be stored for over a week in the fridge.  Reheat without burning before using.  Enjoy on waffles, ice-cream sundaes, or drizzled over fresh sliced fruit.

2/3 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 ounces fine quality bittersweet (not unsweetened) chocolate, finely chopped
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Bring cream, corn syrup, cocoa, salt and half of chocolate to a boil in a 1 to 1 1/2-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat, stirring until chocolate is melted.  Reduce heat and cook at a low boil, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes, then remove from heat.  Add butter, vanilla and remaining chocolate and stir until smooth.  Cool sauce to warm before serving.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Kale and Apple Salad with Maple Mustard Dressing


Most of April has gone by already and for the last few weeks I didn't turn on the computer or reach for the camera while cooking.  I've been consumed with my full-time job of caring for my toddler whose naps are now very short and frankly at night I am in bed by 9 pm.  My body is also consumed with growing another small human; my mind reeling with questions of how we're all going to adjust once he or she joins us a few months.   I guess this has left me with little creativity left for And Baby Cakes Three.

Then yesterday I got a comment from a friend and blogger named Magda asking where I had been, and if was everything OK. I smiled because I often feel the same way if TracyAmelia, Denise or Fiona haven't posted in a while.  I wonder if they have a touch of the blues, are overwhelmed with work, or if they're even dealing with something more trying.  It's strange but think of these people when I clean my sink at night (Tracy's is always immaculate in her photos.)  Maybe when I'm out walking I think of Amelia's perspective on life and reming myself to look up at the sky.  I see something exciting happening in the literary world and send it to Denise on Twitter.  I wonder how Fiona makes it all happen (work, kids, family, blog) seamlessly, but I'm always thankful when she speaks of the challenges of a particularly difficult week.

These online friends have made blogging seem less of a vain act of marketing myself.  Instead, I blog because I'm sharing something with these special people who I hope one day to meet.  And while I can willingly go a week or more without turning on my computer, I'm glad to have this space to come back to where I can "meet up" with a few of these women and see what they've been up to.

Now for the recipe.  Last night P and I celebrated our 11th wedding anniversary in a neighborhood restaurant called Tiny's. It met all of our expectations for a good night out.  A cozy place with a friendly staff, and unassuming yet perfectly imagined food.  I devoured the Kale and Apple Salad as an appetizer - and then set about to recreate it this morning.  I hope all my friends like it -- both those who I've spent time with in person and those I only see virtually.

Kale and Apple Salad with Maple Mustard Dressing
Inspired by the salad at Tiny's in TriBeCa
Serves 2

I know there has been a wild craze for eating Kale Chips recently.  I've tried making them at home and I was less than excited about them.  Now that I've had kale in a salad, I'm completely sold.  This salad feels so good to eat.  It's one of those things where you know you're treating your body like a temple that deserves respect and reverence.  This recipe feeds two but it took all my willpower not to eat the entire thing myself in one sitting.

One bunch of Kale
1 organic apple (skin on) cut into bite sized chunks
1 carrot, shredded
2 celery stalks sliced thinly on the diagonal
1/4 cup grated gouda
1/4 cup or more chopped walnuts

Prepare the kale by removing the leaves from the coarse stalks and cutting into bite size pieces.  Rinse it well. Remove the moisture from the leaves by using a salad spinner if you have one.  Combine the kale, apple, carrot, celery in a large bowl.  Toss it well with the maple mustard dressing, then add the shredded gouda and walnuts and toss again.

Maple Mustard Dressing:
Adapted From Eating Well
1/2 cup olive oil (Eating Well suggested Walnut oil or Canola oil)
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons coarse grain mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
ground pepper

Mix all the dressing ingredients together in a Mason Jar with a lid.  I used about half for the salad and saved half in the refrigerator for next time.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Lentil Apple Muffins


 Last weekend I attended the IACP culinary expo here in New York City where I met folks from the USA Dry Pea & Lentil Council.  They sent me home with lots of literature and recipes and I was eager to try a few, particularly those that use lentils in inventive ways.

I've noticed a trend on a few food blogs lately to make chocolate cakes and other desserts using beans, or frosting with avocado.  While these are innovative ideas, something in me just wants to let cake be cake.  Muffins are kind of cake's healthy cousin, so I am always willing to tinker with them.


These muffins were a huge hit.  Roman ate four of them in the course of a day.  Maybe it was the allure of the cupcake liners and he thought he was actually eating cake.  (I told him nothing of the sort!) Of course I always feel good giving him a fortified homemade snack like these.  The lentil flavor goes unnoticed - these are just moist, barely sweet muffins with a hint a few nice spices.

Pulses (lentils and peas) have been a favorite of the American farmer since the 2002 Farm Bill.  More and more acres have been planted every year since.  Pulses are as healthy to grow as they are to eat since they replenish soil nitrogen naturally by pulling it from the air.  Pulses are now a permanent player in today's sustainable crop rotations.  So if you haven't been eating them, April (Earth month) is a good time to start! You'll find more recipes on their website.


For obvious reasons there is always an influence on feeding kids healthy foods.  But don't forget that the investment in bodies of all ages is just as important.  

Lentil Apple Muffins
This recipe comes from the USA Dry Pea & Lentil Council, but I made a few changes.  The original recipe called for canned apple pie mix - I used one shredded apple.  I used two eggs instead of one and half the amount of oil that they called for.  These keep in an airtight container for at least a day or two.
Makes 12.

2 eggs
1/4 cup canola oil
1 cup lentil puree (see below)
1 apple, peeled and grated (I've also made these using a grated pear- delicious.)
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Preheat the oven to 400.
In a medium bowl, combine the eggs, oil, and lentil puree.
In another bowl, sift together the dry ingredients.  Combine the wet and dry mixtures, then stir in the grated apple.
Spoon the batter into the muffin pan (lined with papers or greased) and bake for 15-17 minutes.

To make the lentil puree: rinse and drain 3/4 cup of dry lentils. (I used red.) Bring the lentils to a boil in 2 cups of water.  Cover, reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes.  The longer they cook, the softer they become.  Cool and do not drain.  Puree in a blender or food processor until the consistency of canned pumpkin.  Add water to thin if needed.  This renders 2 cups of pureed lentils.  You can freeze half for future use.

Friday, March 30, 2012



It's supposed to be Springtime but we have been greeted lately with 30 degree weather and strong winds.  The sun is deceptively shiny, which leads to me choosing the wrong coat and basically freezing.  Roman wants to be closed into his stroller with the plastic covering, like a mobile pod to keep the heat in.  I'm ready for the temperatures to rise so I can finally regain feeling in my fingers and relax my shoulder and back muscles which tense against the whipping winds.

While I'm dreaming of turning off the central heating in the apartment, I've been kicking it up in the kitchen.  I've been through a bottle of hot sauce every week for the last three, made my own pickled peppers (the tiny green ones I bought in Chinatown were great) and made this beautiful Piri-Piri sauce which was gone in two days.


All I've been craving is spicy foods.  I suppose once you start eating them, the endorphins make you crave more and more.  For the duration of my pregnancy I've given up all caffeine, alcohol, and most sweets.   If hot peppers are my only vice, at least they're filled with iron, niacin, riboflavin, folate, potassium, vitamins A and C.  It seems there is a logic to some crazy cravings after all.

I've been a bit disappointed because nothing I've tried has felt hot enough.  The commercial hot sauces tasted like they could be served to babies.  Even this fragrant piri-piri made from red fresno peppers wasn't hot enough, but it did add an amazing amount of bright flavor to everything, including my breakfast omelet.  I guess now I'll be turning to habaneros.

Piri-Piri Sauce
Fresh Red Jalapeño Relish
From Marlena Spieler's Hot & Spicy Cookbook

Piri-Piri is a Portuguese condiment also eaten in Brazil and Mozambique.  I remember it being much spicier in Portugal- perhaps different chilis were used.  I halved Marlena's recipe since this was the first time I was making it.  I made no substitutions and it was wonderful as-is.  I would recommend it on pasta dishes, vegetable or meat curries, as a spread for sandwiches, anything dish that needs a little livening up.

10 fresh red jalapeños (or red fresno peppers)
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon oregano leaves, crushed
Juice of one lemon or lime
Salt to taste

Chop jalapeños (keep seeds in)  in food processor.
Combine all ingredients.
May be kept, covered in refrigerator, 3 to 5 days.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Lemony Mustard Dill Egg Salad

Dying eggs for Easter

I'm not the most traditional of gals when it comes to holidays, but something told me that Roman would appreciate decorating Easter eggs and it was time to get in the spirit of things. So I bought some eco-dyes to use on our free-range eggs (it's important, you see!) and introduced Roman to the concept of colored eggs. I told him that in a few days a bunny will bring a basket with surprises. Then I remembered the hand written cards left for me on Easter morning singed "the easter bunny" (in my dad's obviously disguised handwriting) with bunny ears and some treats to go with it.   For a time I had actually believed all of this.  Now I can't wait to see Roman's face a week from this Sunday when he finds his very own basket.

Eco-dyed eggs

Colored eggs aside, the best part about hard boiled eggs is egg salad. I lay sleepless the other night dreaming up this egg salad, and waited two whole days to pull it together. It was a wholly satisfying lunch, especially for my pregnant palate. These days, everything gets doused in something tangy, spicy, marinated- basically I've been pumping up the flavor in all my food like mad. Since egg salad can be bland, (I always wonder who buys that boring looking egg salad in the delis in NY) I wanted to do everything in my power to avoid that.  And there you have it.  One lemony, mustardy, dilly egg salad with extra cornichons, comin' up.

Lemon Mustard Dill Egg Salad

Lemon Mustard Dill Egg Salad
Makes one sandwich

2 hard boiled eggs (boiled for 10 minutes and cooled)
2 scant tablespoons mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon English mustard powder
2 or 3 generous squeezes of lemon juice
fresh dill, about a tablespoon (snipped with scissors)
one stalk of celery, finely diced
4 cornichons, finely diced
freshly ground pepper

In a bowl, combine the mayonnaise, mustard powder, lemon juice, fresh dill and stir with a fork.  Chop your hard boiled eggs, and add them to the dressing with the chopped celery and cornichons.  Pile this on top of your favorite bread or roll with some bright red tomato, top with ground pepper.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...