CHOCOLATE CHIP COFFEE CAKE: An Old Favorite!

coffee cake3 textMy mother used to love to buy lady’s club cookbooks. You know the ones – they’re made up of the members favorite recipes. Once I left home, she would buy them for me, too. This was years before the internet. Back then, we had to rely on cookbooks, magazines, and recipes passed on from friends and family.

Chocolate Chip Coffee Cake became an instant favorite of mine. Not only is it delicious, but it’s made in a bundt pan, which makes serving easy.

I feel obligated to disclose that back when I was very young and could afford the calories, I would top my serving of Chocolate Chip Coffee Cake with vanilla ice cream, followed by chocolate sauce. Amazing!!!

CHOCOLATE CHIP COFFEE CAKE

  • 1/2 cup + 1 T butter at room temperature, divided
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 cups + 1 T all-purpose flour,  divided
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (I use Nestle’s)
  • 1/3 cup dark or light brown sugar (I use dark)
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, chopped & lightly toasted
  • 2 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350º Fahrenheit.

Prepare the bundt pan by melting 1 T butter and stirring in 1 T flour. lemon cake11Using a pastry brush, paint flour/butter thoroughly on bundt pan – getting into all the crevices. coffee cake8In an electric mixer, cream together 1/2 cup butter and granulated sugar for 3 minutes (don’t cut this time short).chocolate chip cookies5 Beat in eggs and vanilla. coffee cake9In a separate bowl, combine the 2 cups of flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.bundt2 On low speed of mixer, beat in 1/2 of sour cream (don’t worry about being exact). coffee cake10Beat in 1/2 of flour mixture, then beat in remaining sour cream, followed by remaining flour. Stir in chocolate chips. (The picture below shows vanilla being added now – I forgot to add it earlier with the eggs.)coffee cake11In a separate bowl, combine brown sugar, powdered sugar, walnuts, and cinnamon. coffee cake5Spoon half of batter on bottom of bundt pan, gently spreading it out evenly.coffee cake4Sprinkle on half of brown sugar mixture, then spoon on remaining batter, spreading it evenly. Finally, sprinkle on remaining brown sugar mixture. coffee cake6Bake at 350º F for 45-60 minutes, until toothpick comes out clean (it’s okay for there to be chocolate from the chips).coffee cake7 When done, remove from oven and let cake sit in pan for 20 minutes before removing to a wire rack to completely cool. coffee cake1Sprinkle on powdered sugar, if desired.

 

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BELIZEAN RICE AND BEANS: A One-Pot Wonder!

Belezian rice and beans textThis is probably the easiest meal you’ll ever make. Simply chop the onion, cilantro, and red pepper, then throw everything into the pot and cook for 30 minutes.

This recipe is a lovely combination of subtle flavors. Try not to leave out any of the spices – I know most are only 1/8 tsp, but they’re important for the overall effect.

NOTE: Belizean Rice & Beans is super good topped with Avocado Sauce!

BELIZEAN RICE AND BEANS – makes about 5 cups

  • 1  15-oz can pinto beans, including liquid
  • 1 cup onions, chopped
  • 2 T fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 4 T butter
  • 1  15-oz can coconut milk (or 1/2 cup powdered coconut milk plus enough water to make 15 oz)
  • 1 cup uncooked long-grain white rice
  • 1 red pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp chili powder
  • 1/8 tsp celery seed
  • 1/8 tsp coriander
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp onion powder
  • 1/8 tsp paprika
  • 1/8 tsp garlic powder

Mix all ingredients in a 2-quart saucepan. Belezian rice and beans3Bring to boil, then reduce heat to simmer. Cover and cook over low heat for a total of 30 minutes. At first, stir now and then – until it’s been cooking for about 20 minutes. At this point most of the liquid will have been absorbed into the rice. Stir more often now to prevent burning. If all the liquid has been incorporated before the 30 minutes is up, turn off the heat and let the covered pot sit on the hot burner. This is to make sure the rice is completely cooked. belezian rice and beans2Eat as is, or do something crazy (like I do) and serve as an open faced sandwich on a homemade English Muffin or arepa, topped with avocado. Yummmm!

AVOCADO SAUCE: Add A Creamy Tang To…Well, Everything!

AVOCADO SAUCE textAvocado Sauce is a quick and easy topping for tacos, salads, quesadillas, or anything else you want. As opposed to guacamole, which is usually chunkier, it’s meant to pour – thus covering more territory.

Queen of Freeze Bonus:  This sauce can be successfully frozen!!! So take advantage of avocados when they’re at bargain prices in the market (or if you’re lucky enough to have your own tree). Make up large batches (make sure you try the recipe first) and freeze in portion sized containers.

AVOCADO SAUCE

  • 8 oz tomatillos
  • 1 avocado
  • 1 jalapeño pepper
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1 T lime juice
  • 1 tsp garlic, pressed
  • 3/4 tsp salt

Remove and discard papery wrap from tomatillos. Wash thoroughly and cut into quarters. Place all ingredients in food processor.avocado sauce4Pulse until creamy – scraping down sides as needed.avocado sauce3 Adjust seasoning to your preference.

AJOBLANCO (ALMOND GAZPACHO): A Refreshing Change!

almond gazpacho textOne, generally, associates ‘gazpacho’ with the red, tomato based chilled soup. But there are other types, including ajoblanco – an almond based gazpacho.

As is typical with these chilled soups, they are easy to prepare. But for maximum flavor, they need to be refrigerated for several hours before serving…so plan ahead!

NOTE: This is a delicious soup, but a little is quite enough. It’s a very rich soup and not meant to be an entire meal.

AJOBLANCO – (ALMOND GAZPACHO) – makes 5½ cups

  • 3 slices good quality white sandwich bread
  • 2 cups water
  • 1¼ cups + 3 T blanched slivered almonds, divided
  • 1½ T sherry vinegar
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • pinch cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/8 tsp almond extract
  • 1 cups green grapes, sliced in half

Remove and discard crusts from bread. Place bread in medium sized bowl and cover with the 2 cups of water. Let soak for 5 minutes. almond gazpacho6While the bread is soaking, grind 1¼ cups almonds in a blender until they become a fine powder – about 30 seconds. almond gazpacho7Gently squeeze water out of bread back into the bowl (you’re going to use this water). almond gazpacho8Place the bread into the blender with the almonds. Set aside 1½ cups of the bread water for later. Into the blender, add the remaining water in bowl (NOT the 1½ cups you set aside), the vinegar, garlic, salt, and cayenne. Blend for 30 seconds. almond gazpacho9With blender running, slowly drizzle in the olive oil.almond gazpacho2 Pour in the 1½ cups bread water and run blender to mix.almond gazpacho3 Strain soup into a serving bowl. almond gazpacho4Into a small bowl combine 1 T of the strained soup with the almond extract. Then pour 1/2 tsp of this mixture into the soup (it enhances the almond flavor) and discard the rest (a little goes a long way). almond gazpacho5Correct for seasoning, if needed (I usually need more salt). Chill, at least, 3 hours – more is better. Toast remaining 3 T almonds in a dry skillet or toaster-oven.

To serve, ladle soup into small bowls and top with toasted almonds and grapes. If you like, you can drizzle on more olive oil – but I think that’s a bit too much richness.

GREEK POTATOES -A Lemony Wake Up Call!

GREEK POTATOES textOne of my favorite flavor combinations is lemon and garlic, so it’s no surprise that Greek Potatoes are a go-to side dish in our house. Not only is it delicious, but it’s super fast and easy to prepare. (It does take about 40 minutes to bake, but that’s hands-off.)

I highly recommend using a firm potato such as Yukon Gold or a red potato – the pieces will retain their shape. I’ve made this dish with russets, and they tend to kind of mash.

GREEK POTATOES – makes about 5 cups

  • 1½ lbs Yukon Gold or red potatoes
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 2½ T vegetable oil
  • 1/2 T olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 3/4 tsp dried oregano
  • 1-3 cloves garlic, pressed (I use 2)
  • 1½ cups boiling water
  • about 2 T chopped parsley

Preheat oven to 475º Fahrenheit.

Chop unpeeled potatoes into chunks that are no smaller than 3/4″. (If they’re too small, you’ll lose the balance of a firm outside and creamy inside of each piece.)

Into a flat bottomed, high sided casserole dish combine the potatoes, lemon juice, vegetable oil, olive oil, salt, pepper, oregano, garlic, and boiling water.GREEK POTATOES3 Place in 475º F oven uncovered. Bake, stirring gently every 20 minutes, until almost all the water is evaporated. This will take about 40-60 minutes. There will still be oil remaining on the bottom.GREEK POTATOES2 Remove from oven and sprinkle on parsley. Serve while hot.

 

SPINACH FETTUCCINE WITH CAULIFLOWER & BROCCOLI – Fast & Easy!

fettuccine with brocc caulif textI’m always looking for quick and easy recipes that are low in calories.  I found Spinach Fettuccine with Cauliflower & Broccoli in Green’s Cookbook, and it filled the bill. Of course, I had to tweak it a bit, as you probably will, too.

I’m a bit of a compulsive DIY-er, so I make my own pasta.  (I’ve included my recipe for spinach fettuccine at the end, for you brave souls.) You can shave off some time by purchasing the fettuccine. By the way, you don’t have to use fettuccine – choose a different pasta if your prefer (or don’t have any in the house).

FETTUCCINE WITH CAULIFLOWER & BROCCOLI – makes 2 large servings

  • 4 T butter
  • 3 shallots, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, pressed
  • 2 tsp balsamic vinegar
  • 2 T Dijon mustard
  • 1 T sun dried tomatoes packed in oil, chopped
  • 1 T salt
  • 3 cups total broccoli and cauliflower, chopped in bite-sized pieces
  • 1/2 pound fettuccine (or any pasta you prefer) Recipe for Spinach Fettuccine follows at end.
  • 1 tsp lemon zest

Melt butter in 3 or 4 quart saucepan. Add shallots and sauté for 3 minutes over medium flame. Add in garlic and cook another 30 seconds.fettuccine with brocc caulif2 Remove from heat and stir in vinegar, mustard, and dried tomatoes. fettuccine with brocc caulif3In a Dutch oven, bring 2 quarts of water and 1 T salt to a boil. Remove 1/2 cup of this water and stir into shallot mixture. fettuccine with brocc caulif4To the pot of boiling water add the broccoli and cauliflower. fettuccine with brocc caulif5When the water resumes boiling, cook veggies 1 minute only, just to blanch them, then scoop them out and add to the shallot mixture (which is still off-heat).fettuccine with brocc caulif6 Add the pasta and lemon zest to the boiling water, cooking until the pasta is done. fettuccine with brocc caulif7Save a cup of the pasta water in case you need it, then drain pasta. Into the empty Dutch oven combine the shallot mixture and pasta.fettuccine with brocc caulif8 Adjust seasoning, if needed. Add saved pasta water if you feel it needs to be looser.

SPINACH FETTUCCINE  – makes 2 servings

  • 1 cup fresh spinach leaves
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 cup + extra all-purpose flour

Note: For this recipe you’ll need a food processor and a pasta machine (I use the Atlas hand cranked brand)

Remove and discard stem ends from spinach leaves. fettuccine, spinach6Chop leaves with knife, then place in food processor and pulse until leaves are very finely chopped. fettuccine, spinach11Add egg and oil, and pulse a few times to blend. fettuccine, spinach7Pasta making is all about having the right ratio of liquid to dry ingredients. The spinach, egg, and oil are the wet, and the flour is the dry. You’ll have to go by feel since the water in the spinach and the size of the egg are variable. Don’t worry, there’s wiggle room!

Add in 1 cup of flour and run machine about 10 seconds, until mixture is blended. It will probably be too dry. Try to form a ball with some of the mixture. If it crumbles, you’ll need to add some water, 1 tsp at a time. If it feels like Playdough (i.e., it holds together and feels kind of tacky), it’s done. If it forms a ball but sticks to your fingers, it’s too wet – add more flour, a tablespoon at a time.fettuccine, spinach9 When dough reaches the proper consistency, form 2 balls and place them back in food processor with lid to rest for about 1/2 hour or so. fettuccine, spinach10Attach pasta machine to a table or countertop with plenty of room to lay out dough. You’ll also need something to hang the dry pasta over, such as a dowel. Pour about 1/4 cup of flour on the work surface. Work as quickly as you can so the dough doesn’t dry out.

Take one dough ball and smash it into the flour. Flip dough and smash other side into the flour.fettuccine, spinach1 Brush off extra flour the run dough through machine at the lowest number setting (this will be either ‘0’ or ‘1’). Fold dough like an envelope and run it through again. fettuccine, spinach2Lay dough flat and rub a little flour over both sides of dough. fettuccine, spinach3Fold in half and run it through machine at same setting. Repeat this last step 3 more times. You will have run the dough 6 times through the machine on the lowest setting. Repeat with second dough ball.

TIP: Each time you run the dough through the machine, say the number you’re on aloud so you don’t forget what number you’re on. It’s better to do too many than not enough – by the 6th run-through you’ll see a big difference in the dough consistency.

Turn the machine number up 1 digit and run each dough strip (without folding it) through 1 time only. Rub the dough (like before) with a little flour. Increase the number, run the strips through (again, without folding). You’ll notice the strips get longer with each number increase. It’s a personal preference as to how thin you want your pasta – I like to stop after number 5.

When you’re making your final pass with a strip, cut it to the length you want your pasta – I usually cut it in thirds. fettuccine, spinach4Run these pieces through the cutter before doing the other strip, so the cut edges don’t dry out.

Hang cut dough until ready to boil.fettuccine, spinach5

ITALIAN LOAF: No Need To Knead!

italian loaf textWho doesn’t love a warm loaf of Italian bread? Well, now you can make one just as good as any bakery….for pennies!

I’ve adapted America’s Test Kitchen Italian Loaf recipe to make it even easier and, IMO, tastier. The process in a nutshell: the day before, mix the ingredients in a bowl (no kneading!!!), cover, then at least an hour before serving, bake. You’ll never want to buy bread again.

Note: I highly recommend weighing your flour rather than using measuring cups – there’s too much variety, depending on how you pack in the flour.

Note: You’re going to need a 3 or 4 quart saucepan, or a Dutch oven, with lid. Make sure the handle and lid knob can withstand 500º Fahrenheit. I prefer using the 4 quart saucepan because it’s smaller in diameter thus producing a taller loaf.  However, if you prefer a squatter but wider loaf, use a Dutch oven.

ITALIAN LOAF – makes 1 round loaf

  • 15 oz (about 3½ cups) all-purpose flour
  • 1½ tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp dry active yeast
  • 9 oz water
  • 3 oz (3 T) beer (I prefer a pale beer)
  • 1 T white distilled vinegar

The day before you plan on serving the Italian Loaf, prepare the dough.

In a large bowl, stir together the flour, salt, and yeast. Add in the water, beer, and vinegar. Mix with a spoon until all the flour is incorporated. italian loaf14Cover bowl with a plate or tea towel and let the dough rest on the counter 8-18 hours (the longer, the better flavor). You’ll notice a significant change to the dough – it will become wetter and bubbly:italian loaf15

About 2 hours before serving, preheat the oven to 500º Fahrenheit, rack in the middle position. As it gets close to 500º F, place the saucepan (or Dutch oven) with lid into the hot oven to heat it up.

When oven reaches 500º F, empty dough onto a floured surface. Fold it onto itself a few times to firm it up. italian loaf3Cut a piece of parchment paper big enough to line the saucepan with corner ‘ears’ sticking up. Rub paper with a light coating of vegetable oil. Place dough in center of paper and rub top of dough with a little oil. Remove hot saucepan from oven and lift paper and dough by the corners into the hot pot.

Make a 1/2″ deep slash across the center, edge to edge. (I use kitchen shears rather than a knife.)italian loaf9Cover with lid and place in oven.  italian loaf10Bake at 500º F for 1/2 hour. Remove pot from oven and turn out the loaf. Discard the paper and replace the loaf in the hot pot. Put the pot without the lid back in the oven. italian loaf8Bake about 10 – 15 minutes (I only need 10 minutes), until temperature of loaf is about 109º F. If you don’t have a thermometer, do a visual check – the top should be browned. Remove the loaf and the bottom should be browned, too. italian loaf7Remove loaf from pan to a wire rack to cool. Let loaf cool at least 20 minutes (this takes some will-power) before slicing in order to get a cleaner slice.italian loaf13