Category Archives: Recipes

Chickpeas with Spinach

This recipe, Chickpeas with Spinach, has been one of my favorite quick meals to make recently.

Originally an appetizer, I decided it looked substantial enough for a meal. I felt the same way about the version of it I made several years ago, too. That version had more liquid than this, and took more time to make. Smitten Kitchen’s version as well had a few extra steps that I didn’t feel like doing. So I simplified it so it’s a one-pot dish, that involves no cutting (unless you slice your bread), that takes no more than 20 minutes to make from the time you begin to measure your ingredients to the time you place it on the table. This adaptation of Smitten Kitchen’s version omits the bread that you blend into it, uses tomato paste instead of sauce (which the bread used to soak up), and wilts the spinach in the pot at the end instead of cooking it first. (I tried frozen cooked spinach, but it wasn’t as good.) Oh, and this version uses much less olive oil.

The sauce is balanced with a dash of vinegar (I’ve used balsamic instead of red wine vinegar since that’s what I have), and there’s not so much sauce that it turns your toast to mush, which I can’t stand. It has negligible heat from the dash of red pepper, though you could boost that if you wanted to. You could probably omit the smoked paprika in a pinch, and the dish would come out fine. And you’re eating chickpeas and spinach, on toast – very healthy. This likely isn’t as rich as the tapas-version of Chickpeas with Spinach should be, but it’s very satisfying as a meal.

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Tres Leches Cake

I made Tres Leches Cake several years ago, and liked it more than I expected. When I decided to have a small Cinco de Mayo party this year, I wanted to try the recipe from Smitten Kitchen. (Or maybe I had a Cinco de Mayo party this year because I wanted to try the recipe. Sometimes it’s hard to tell.)

Tres Leches Cake, literally a three milk cake, is a cake soaked in a mixture of three kinds of dairy, generally sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, and cream. In this recipe, the cake is a (butterless) sponge cake, but simplified so it’s made entirely in a (single) stand mixer bowl. Very lightly sweetened whipped cream takes the place of frosting.

I liked this recipe more than Alton Brown’s recipe, which I made before. This cake was very delicious. It was milky and sweet, without being tooth-achingly sweet since it’s slightly sweetened whipped cream for frosting. The texture of the cake held up even after several days. Since the recipe says to reserve extra milk for serving, very little liquid leaked from the cake when I cut it. I didn’t find the extra milk necessary since the cake stayed very moist.

Technical details: This is usually where I say “the recipe was simple.” And it wasn’t hard – for a sponge cake. Like many people, I find standard sponge cake recipes, where you whip egg whites to soft peaks and stiff peaks, and fold in other ingredients without deflating said perfect egg whites, to be a little tricky and nerve-wracking. This recipe is nice because I could whip the egg whites (consulting the internet for pictures of “soft peaks” and “stiff peaks,” because I still need visual reminders), and use the stand mixer to add all remaining ingredients except flour. Since I could use the stand mixer for everything else, I didn’t worry (much) about deflating the cake when I folded in the dry ingredients. [Admission: I used the stand mixer on low for my first two additions of flour, contrary to the instructions; this didn’t ruin the cake.] With soaking the cake, I only worried that the milk would overflow the pan since my cake rose higher than the edge of the pan on one side thanks to my not-level oven. After I topped the cake with whipped cream (which also rose above the pan), I inverted a second pan over it as a cover.

The only change I might try next time would be to use half-and-half instead of heavy cream in the three-milk mixture – save a handful of calories.  Continue reading Tres Leches Cake

Fake Steak

This is one of my favorite meals from my childhood – Fake Steak. I have no idea where the recipe originated; it was simply in my mom’s recipe box. When I wanted to make it as an adult, the internet didn’t show me the recipe I remembered, and I had to ask Mom to send it to me.

No, it’s not the same as a real steak, but they’re very delicious. They’re patties of hamburger and rice, with onion and Worchestershire sauce mixed in, and wrapped in bacon if I feel like being fancy (which I usually don’t). I cook these on a broiler sheet to let the grease drain beneath, although it’s not strictly necessary if you skip the bacon and use semi-lean hamburger. This recipe should serve 4 people. Alex and I know we should limit ourselves to eating two of these per meal, but we find we want to polish off the entire recipe – not that we do.  We hypothesize that it’s the Worchestershire sauce that makes this taste so much better than we think it should.

People have called these individual meatloafs, which irritates me because I don’t like meatloaf. If I’m being honest, though, I see a vague resemblance. Honestly, I know these aren’t much to look at, but I love this recipe just the same. This is my comfort food; that’s why I was eating these 20 years ago and will still be making this recipe 20 years from now.

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Fudgy Butterscotch Bars

These are butterscotch blondies with a layer of fudge in the middle. That’s really all the description you really need to be convinced to make these.

These bars are rich, but very delicious.  The fudge keeps them moist, even after a few days, and I expect that they’d freeze well. The recipe was simple. Layering blondie and fudge layers isn’t something I usually like doing, but it was easy, and honestly, still took less time than dropping cookie dough and baking sheets of cookies would. These bars bake in a 15×10 inch pan, so the recipe makes a lot – great for sharing. The entire pan yields 48, and you certainly don’t want them bigger than that.

I rediscovered this recipe as I’ve been going through my archives from when I started this blog, and I wish I’d revisited it sooner. The recipe actually comes from the Pillsbury Best Cookies Cookbook, one of the first cookbooks I bought, off of a bargain shelf at a mall bookstore while I was in high school. It’s also one of the cookbooks that survived the cookbook purge I made when I moved from St. Louis to New Jersey, probably because it’s the source of my Mexican Wedding Cookie recipe. Definitely worth the five dollars I spent on it; I’m glad I kept it.

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Lemon Bars

It’s spring, and one of the most cheerful and spring-like things I could think of to take to a recent party was the Lemon Bars recipe from Smitten Kitchen. I’ve made them before, but years ago, and I didn’t have the recipe actually written here on the website. It’s time to fix that, particularly since they’re so delicious and so easy to make.

These lemon bars are incredibly bright and citrusy. They’re nicely tart, definitely sweet but not overwhelmingly so. The base layer is a simple shortbread that comes together very easily with an electric or stand mixer, and the extra-thick layer of lemon curd is easily whisked together. The most time consuming part of making these bars may be juicing the lemons! These bars are great for a potluck or party, because one batch yields a full 9×13 inch pan that will feed a lot of people, especially if cut into 64 two-bite bars (a perfect serving size that lets you get seconds or thirds!). Mine were a little softer than they probably should have been, as I baked them on the shorter end of the time, but the filling still stayed in place except when jostled.

One trick to these: use a metal baking pan that’s lined with parchment paper along the bottom and sides. This keeps the bars from sticking horrendously to your baking pan and allows you to pull them from the pan for easy cutting. Skip it and you’ll be sorry.

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Roast Beef Hash

I’m incredibly excited about this recipe for beef hash.

I like beef hash, and I don’t always find it when I’m out for breakfast; when I do, so often it’s corned beef hash from a can. I like that sometimes, but it’s so salty! Hash seemed like it should be simple to make, but I never tried to make it until recently when I had a leftover roast that I really couldn’t figure out what else to do with. It was perfect!

I used this recipe as a jumping board. Other recipes added liquid, including milk or cream (I guess to make it more of a gravy?). I resisted initially, but found that adding a little liquid at the end added moisture to the beef and allowed me to scrape up browned bits from the pan. Leftover liquid from your roast is perfect as it should already be seasoned to your liking. I’d need to salt lightly if using broth since it’s often salty (and the liquid cooks off), and I’d need to add some extra salt, pepper, and other seasonings like thyme or garlic if I used water. Mushrooms are optional; they didn’t add much to the dish for me. I wouldn’t forgo the red bell pepper, though – it adds a little more flavor and oomph to the dish. Another thing I like about this recipe – from start to finish, it only took 30 minutes, which is about as much time as I want to spend on a single meal.

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Happy Early Pi Day!

Happy early Pi Day! I thought about waiting until tomorrow, Pi Day (3.14), to talk about pie, but honestly, which is better? Making a pie on Pi Day, or making the pie the day before so you can eat it on Pi Day? I’d rather you also have the option of making a pie in advance.

I wanted to give you a new pie recipe for Pi Day, but whenever I thought about pie over the last few weeks, all I could think about was this Black Bottom Oatmeal Pie that was my first baking project after Amelia was born. So I made it again yesterday (using a frozen pie crust and forgetting to toast my oats), and all the goodness I remembered it being – a chewy oatmeal cookie-like layer over a layer of chocolate. I adore chocolate and oats together, and I don’t combine the two nearly so often as I should.

I have two other favorite pies on this site. First is Key Lime Pie. It is about the easiest pie you could ever possibly make. If you use a store-bought crust and use bottled juice (which I have almost always done), you can make the pie in less than 30 minutes. (Unfortunately, you still have to wait for the pie to chill.) I have two recipes on here, and both are rather good, but I’d probably make this one again.

My other favorite is Coconut Cream Pie. It’s a stirred vanilla custard you make on the stove, with lots of coconut added to it. Sometimes I really crave it, and I have no trouble eating almost the whole pie over a few days, even without Alex’s help. Sometimes I consider finding a different recipe for it, but I’m still really satisfied with this one.

Even if you’re not mathematically inclined, please take tomorrow as an excuse to eat some pie, like I do!

Grapefruit Yogurt Cake

Since I posted last, the weather took an unseasonable turn. We had a weekend in the 70s! Most of another week was in the 60s. I took Amelia on walks and to parks several days to let her burn off some of her endless 2-year-old energy. It takes her a while to run out of steam, and I began to fear we’d sunburn in February.

Having had a taste of beautiful weather and sunshine, I have spring fever. I’m pretty sure I’ll cry if we have cold weather again, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

In the meantime, I’d like to share this bright Grapefruit Yogurt Cake with you. I first made it in 2011 and have made it several times since, although not since I moved to New Jersey.  Although it’s been a while since I made it, I love this recipe. The cake has a subtle citrus flavor that people can’t quite place, but usually assume is lemon. There are so many lemon recipes out there, that it’s nice to do something a little different. This cake is sweet but not too sweet, so it’s perfect for breakfast or a snack.

The cake is simple to assemble. It takes oil but not butter, and yogurt helps keep it tender. Grapefruit zest lightly flavors the batter, but grapefruit juice poured onto the hot cake shortly after it comes from the oven helps keep it moist and gives it extra grapefruit flavor. A simple glaze of grapefruit juice and powdered sugar pretties it up (particularly if your edges brown excessively like mine tend to do). I find it gives the cake an extra bit of flavor, but feel free to omit it.

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Decadent Hot Chocolate Mix

I’d like to introduce you to my new favorite hot chocolate mix.

I’ve made hot chocolate or hot cocoa mix for the past several years as part of the gift boxes I like to send to friends and family. When I started, I would make hot cocoa mix that included powdered milk. Then I switched to this hot chocolate mix. The past two years, I’ve made Decadent Hot Chocolate mix from Smitten Kitchen.

Both this and my previous favorite are mixes that you combine with hot milk. I had problems with my previous recipe not fully blending into the milk at times. The last time or two I made it, I felt that it was a little too sweet at times (like drinking a candy bar, although I’d be remiss if I didn’t admit that’s nice from time to time). This recipe uses a little less mix per cup of hot chocolate, which helps remedy that.

This recipe is a dark hot chocolate mix, so if you prefer milk hot chocolate, I suggest you try using that instead of regular semisweet or dark chocolate bars or chips. You can experiment with adding less mix per cup of milk to make it less chocolatey (although I certainly won’t do that!). I generally use chocolate chips when I make hot chocolate mix, so I don’t have to chop up chocolate. I always make hot chocolate mix with a food processor, as it pulverizes the ingredients the most finely, which is important in ensuring the chocolate dissolves well in the hot milk. If you don’t have a food processor, you can try grating chocolate bars for this instead.

This chocolate mix is very giftable. One batch yields about 1 3/4 cups, or 9 servings, and is a great size gift for a couple or family. I’ve also heard that spoonfuls of this mix are an excellent addition to coffee, so be sure you give plenty to your friends and family.

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Smoky Cashew Dip

It’s been longer than I’d like to admit since I last posted a recipe here. I haven’t stopped cooking. It’s simply that I hadn’t made much until December that I had to write about, and we all know how busy December can be.

To motivate myself to write more, I came up with a new food goal for 2017. This year, I’m going to use up all the extraneous ingredients in my pantry. We all have them – those random ingredients that we buy for a single recipe, only to put the rest back into the cabinet, to be pushed back behind all the cans of tomatoes or boxes of pasta or canisters of cocoa powder (if you’re me). I’ve inventoried my pantry and refrigerator, and on my fridge is a list of all the ingredients that I have that I should use up. It’s more than a once-a-week cooking task. I doubt I’ll write about all of them, but I hope I’ll find some great things to share.

That said, I decided to make this recipe long before I decided on 2017’s food goal. I found this smoky cashew dip when I happened to read an email from Bon Appetit, which I usually don’t read. It’s my new favorite thing – by which I mean I’ve made it three times in the last week. I don’t eat dip, but I make an exception for this one, as it’s simply cashews, chiles in adobo sauce, water, and salt to taste.

Chiles in adobo sauce are something that recipes only use a tablespoon or two of, meaning I store the remainder in my fridge to hope that I can use before I feel obliged to throw it away. I’ve never used up an entire can, until now. (For those curious, I’ve brushed the adobo sauce on grilled pork before.) The chiles add a little spiciness and smokiness to the ground cashews. I generally can give or take cashews, but this dip makes it worth buying them.

Other things I like about this dip: it takes less than 5 minutes to make. It’s high in protein and fat (to make up for all the crackers you might eat it with). It’s also gluten-free and vegan.

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