Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Majestic and Moist Honey Cake

Honey Cake

L'Shana Tova!

Honey Cake - dry ingredients

It's Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year!  I'm very excited to let my readers know that I am collaborating with Gather the Jews, another DC based blog, to bring you this delicious Honey Cake recipe.

Honey is sweet, and symbolizes bringing in a sweet new year.  We typically dip our apples in honey, but I figured a little extra honey couldn't hurt at dessert time.  Especially when laced with a little booze, just the way my Mimi would have made it.

honey cake - adding wet to dry ingredients

I am spending the holiday with my friend in Baltimore this year, and I'll bring a dessert up to her family as a big thank you for welcoming me in.  I also brought 2 of these cakes up to my family in New York this weekend, where they were met with much approval.  It keeps well enough for up to 3 days, so it's a great dessert to make ahead of time and bring to your Rosh Hashana host.

I also appreciate that this makes 2 cakes - perfect for each night of Rosh Hashana.  Growing up, we'd often celebrate with family one night and friends the next.  With this recipe, you can share the sweet honey love with everyone you love!

Honey Cake in the oven

Please take a minute to head over to my post at Gather the Jews, where I share more about my Rosh Hashana traditions.  If you are Jewish and live in the DC area, this website is a great resource for Jewish News and Events here in the District, so definitely poke around.

Have a sweet New Year!

Honey Cake

Majestic and Moist Honey Cake
from Smitten Kitchen

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup honey
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
3 large eggs at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup warm coffee or strong tea
1/2 cup fresh orange juice
1/4 cup rye or whiskey (optional)
1/2 cup slivered or sliced almonds (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Generously grease 2 9-inch round cake pans with non-stick cooking spray. (For extra protection, you can put a piece of lightly greased parchment at the bottom, too.)
2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, cloves and allspice. Make a well in the center, and add oil, honey, white sugar, brown sugars, eggs, vanilla, coffee or tea, orange juice and rye or whiskey, if using. (If you measure your oil before the honey, it will be easier to get all of the honey out.)
3. Using a strong wire whisk or in an electric mixer on slow speed, stir together well to make a thick, well-blended batter, making sure that no ingredients are stuck to the bottom.
4. Spoon batter into the prepared cake pans. Sprinkle top of cakes evenly with almonds, if using. Place cake pan(s) on two baking sheets, stacked together (this will ensure the cakes bake properly with the bottom baking faster than the cake interior and top).
5. Bake until cake tests done, that is, it springs back when you gently touch the cake center, 40-75 minutes.
6. Let cake stand fifteen minutes before removing from pan.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Picadillo filled Eggplant Boats

Picadillo filled eggplant boats

The Monkey Scientist and his roommate came over to my apartment for dinner this week and I wanted to make something that had a great presentation and was super flavorful.  I stumbled across this recipe and it peaked my interest - I'm on a huge eggplant kick lately, and ground pork is just loaded with flavor.  Plus the spice combination was so different than my usual Asian palate that I use for pork.

Picadillo seasoningPicadillo seasoning

I had just never seen such a flavor combo! Allspice cinnamon, and molasses are usually reserved for baking.  Oregano and garlic powder I'd throw on pizza.  Well, red pepper flakes I put in everything (of course I doubled the proportion in this recipe) so maybe that was a given.  It was incredible how well these spices worked together and were sweetened by the raisins.

Picadillo flavor

I also just adore the adorableness of these eggplant boats.  How cute are these?  You can serve up all kinds of fillings in eggplant, squash, or any other oblong veggie.  A big thanks to my handsome boyfriend for buying me a paring knife to make these boats.

Eggplant boats

Of course, I had all this eggplant leftover from hollowing out the boats.  I covered it in salt, pepper, and a little olive oil and roasted at 425 degrees F for about 30-40 minutes, then ate it for lunch the next day.  yumyumyum  I love finding ways to add some veggie to my now usual lunch of homemade PB and jelly.

Picadillo - not cooked yet!Picadillo, pre-evaporationPicadilloPicadillo filled eggplant boats- pre-baking

So, did I mention this recipe was awesome?  It totally filled my eggplant craving (which is endless) while filling me up with flavor.  I tried to eat only 2 halves and give each of the boys 3 halves, but I could not stop picking at the filling off of the Monkey Scientist's plate.  Ok and his roommate's plate too.  It's warm and hearty, just delicious.  Plus the presentation is really pretty.  I'd definitely recommend making this next time you want to impress a new date or a dinner party (it would be easy to multiply!)

Picadillo filled eggplant boat

Picadillo filled Eggplant Boats
slightly adjusted from Healthy Delish on tablespoon

1 medium sized yellow onion, diced
2 tbsp olive oil
1 lb ground pork
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp oregano
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1 c water
2 tbsp tomato paste
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp molasses (it helps to spray the measuring spoon with Pam)
1/4 c raisins
3 small graffiti/Japanese eggplants

1. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the onions and cook until just softened, about 4 minutes.

2. Add the ground pork and spices.  Mix well and break up the pork with the side of your wooden spoon.  Cook until golden brown, about 6 minutes.

3. Add the water, tomato paste, vinegar, molasses, and raisins.  Reduce heat to medium-low and cook until the liquid has evaporated (you may need to turn it back up to medium) and the flavors come together, about 5 minutes.

4. Cut the eggplants in half, lengthwise.  Use a sharp pairing knife to carefully hollow out the center of each eggplant half, creating the boats. (Save the extra eggplant to roast for lunch!)  Fill each eggplant half with picadillo (the meat filling).  Bake at 350 degrees F for 15-30 minutes, or until eggplant is cooked through.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Peanut Butter: Attempt #1

Have you tried this?

Trader Joe's PB

It is the bomb.  I'm totally obsessed.  The only issue is how difficult it is for me to get to a Trader Joe's.  The ingredients are so simple - Roasted Valencia Peanuts, Roasted Golden Flax Seed, and Sea Salt - so I figured, why not try to make it myself?

Peanut Butter with Flax Seed

I popped around and realized that homemade peanut butter is actually super easy to make.  I've always found peanut butter, unless purchased at a natural market like Trader Joe's or Whole Foods, usually either isn't smooth at all or has all sorts of weird ingredients.  I really appreciate the ability to make my own foods from scratch and control all of the ingredients.

Peanut Butter with Flax Seed

I also love adding flax seed.  This is such a healthy ingredient, and I love to sneak it into anything I can.  I kind of jumped the gun on this one and I didn't think about roasting the flax seed before I added it to the peanut butter - that's why I'm calling this one try 1.  Next time I'm going to do some seed-roasting, I'll let you know how it goes.

Peanut Butter with Flax Seed

This homemade peanut butter is delicious!! It isn't as smooth as Jiff or Skippy, but it has comparable texture to my favorite Trader Joe's brand. I even found it a little bit easier to spread, even straight out of the fridge. It was fantastic on a PB&J sandwich for work.  I stored it right back in my old peanut butter jar for my reduce/reuse/recycle moment of the day.  I'd call it a great success, I can't to try some new iterations.

Peanut Butter with Flax Seed

Smooth Peanut Butter with Flax Seed
inspired by Joy the Baker
(makes about 1 cup peanut butter)

1 1/2 c unsalted, dry roasted peanuts
1/4 c flax seeds
1 tsp sea salt

Combine all ingredients in food processor.  Blend until peanut butter is smooth and shiny.  You may need to stop halfway and scrape down the sides with a spatula.  Store in an airtight container in the fridge.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Falafel with Chipotle Mayo and Spicy Homemade Hummus

Spicy Falafel

I'm going to be honest with you, this won't be the blog post I'm the most proud of.  It's a bit of a sham.  For one, I started with this:

Falafel mix

Now you know I know how to make falafel.  It really isn't difficult.  But I just didn't take a lot of time to read this recipe before I made it, and I thought I'd be doctoring the falafel mix more than I actually did...which ended up being not at all.  Still, I know some people might really like the kind that comes in a packet, so I didn't think it could hurt to show you how to make falafel from a packet a little more special.

Falafel mix

Of course, making the hummus isn't all that different from making falafel.  In fact, it's almost exactly the same.  But at least this way you don't need to clean the food processor twice.  I adjusted this basic hummus recipe to be a little bit spicy, and I really enjoyed it! But, this brings me to the other reason why this post is a sham, my brain was totally slipping on remembering to take pictures, so you only get the final product.  Sorry!

Homemade Hummus

And I'm also sorry to say that my other pictures aren't exactly my best either.  I don't even have more than 1 decent picture of the finished sandwich - my others were totally out of focus.  It was just one of those days. I'll try to make sure I do better next time :)

Chipotle Mayo

This recipe was so easy and really great.  I think the hummus can have so many other applications, including just having it with some carrots as an appetizer.  Making hummus couldn't be easier, and it's way cheaper than buying it pre-made, so I hope that's the big takeaway here.  Chipotle mayo, always great, and you can use greek yogurt instead (like I did here), and adds that creamy moisture a good sandwich needs.  I think these ingredients are all easy to keep in the house at any time for a simple dinner you can throw together in no time!


Falafel with Chipotle Mayo and Spicy Homemade Hummus
slightly adapted from Weight Watchers' New Complete Cookbook

1 (10-oz) package falafel mix
1 1/4 cups water
4 tsp olive oil
4 (6-inch) whole wheat pita breads, halved
6 tbsp chipotle mayo (see below)
1 cup spicy homemade hummus (see below)
8 small romaine lettuce heads

1. Stir together falafel mix and water in a medium bowl until combined well; let stand according to package instructions.
2. Drop falafel mixture by 2 tablespoonfuls onto large sheets of wax paper (I used my silpat), making a total of 20 mounds (I made bigger but way fewer).
3. Heat 1 tsp oil in a very large nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Shape 5 mounds of falafel mixture into 2-inch patties and add to skillet as they are shaped.  Cook until golden and firm, about 2 min per side.  Transfer patties to plate covered in paper towel and keep warm.  Repeat with remaining oil and falafel mixture.
4. Spread 1 1/2 tsp chipotle mayo and 2 tbsp hummus in each pita.  Cut 4 falafel patties in half and add to each pita along with 1 lettuce leaf.

Chipotle Mayonnaise
from Weight Watchers' New Complete Cookbook

6 tbsp reduced fat mayonnaise
1 chipotle pepper from can of chipotles in adobo, minced
2 tsp adobo sauce

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl with a spatula.  Store in an air-tight container in the refrigerator.

Spicy Homemade Hummus
adapted from Weight Watchers' Complete New Cookbook

1 (15 1/2-oz) can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
3 garlic cloves, peeled
2 tbsp tahini paste
juice of 1 lemon
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp water
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp black pepper
3-4 drops hot sauce (I used Frank's Red Hot)
1 chipotle from a can of chipotles in adobo
1 tbsp adobo sauce
1/2 tsp paprika

1. Combine all ingredients except paprika in food processor and puree, adding a little bit more water if hummus is too thick.
2. Transfer hummus to serving dish; sprinkle with paprika.  Serve at once or refrigerate in a covered container up to 3 days.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato-Stuff Eggplant Rollups

Eggplant roll-ups

Finally, I am back in the kitchen.  It felt so good to cook my own meal after a couple weeks of letting Mom and the Monkey Scientist cook for me.  They both make slam dunk dinners, but I just love the act of cooking - there's something about slicing veggies at the end of the day that I truly enjoy.


The Monkey Scientist had a great idea this week.  Instead of waiting until January to start resolutions, we're going to have some Fall resolutions.  Mainly, this involves eating healthier and exercising more.  I think this is great - I was so good in the first quarter of the year of following my resolutions (blog more, eat better, run a 5K) but I've let a lot of it slip.  This will be a great pick-me-up going into the often unhealthy holiday season.

spraying eggplant to grill

For me, eating healthier is going to be a lot about eating with the Monkey Scientist without eating as much as him. I've mentioned before that a home-cooked meal lasted me a week before I met him, as I'd eat a little and have leftovers all week.  Now, it lasts that night.  My rule is to try to let him eat 2/3 of what I make - we'll see how it goes.  Also, just making some healthier foods!

Roasted red pepper

This recipe came from the Weight Watchers' New Complete Cookbook, which a friend recently borrowed from the library and let me make a couple photocopies out of it.  It's a super easy cookbook, and it's all available on Google Books, so I recommend checking it out.  I plan to make a few more recipes from it in the coming weeks.  It has loads of options for Meatless Mondays - like this one!

Stuffing for Eggplant roll-ups

Weight Watchers designed this recipe to make 4 servings, and 1 serving has only 95 calories and 5 g fat (my adjustments only related to spices, so this should still be about right), so even if I ate almost 2 servings that's a pretty light dinner.  (Complete nutrition facts are available in the cookbook, see link in the recipe). The eggplant is meaty and filling so I wasn't left hungry or missing meat.  I served it up with some seasoned brown rice (made in the rice cooker - getting way better at using it!) which is healthier than pasta or white rice.

grilling eggplant

Of course, I kicked up the spice.  Feel free to leave out the cayenne and red pepper flakes if that scares you. I had a little bit of a portion issue on the stuffing - my tomato was too small and my onion was a little too big, so I'd adjust that next time.  I'd also probably roast the tomato and onion along with the red pepper.  I'm just not a huge fan of raw onion.  I found rolling the eggplant to be pretty difficult and it didn't come out quite as pretty as I would have liked.

Eggplant roll-ups

Still we liked this recipe.  I liked the small amount of goat cheese instead of loading it with ricotta.  All the veggies made it pretty hearty and I enjoyed the kick from the cayenne and red pepper flakes.  The Monkey Scientist said he didn't know what to expect, but was pleasantly surprised (he might not have used exactly those words).  Overall, a nice, easy, healthy dinner.

Eggplant roll-ups

Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato-Stuffed Eggplant Rollups
adjusted from Weight Watchers' New Complete Cookbook

1/4 c crumbled soft goat cheese
1 large plum tomato, chopped (optional - roasted)
1 chopped roasted red pepper
1 small onion, chopped (optional - roasted)
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 (1-lb) eggplant, cut lengthwise into 8 slices
Olive Oil non-stick spray (I used Pam)
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp chopped fresh mint

1. Stir together goat cheese, tomato, roasted red pepper, onion, oregano, 1/4 tsp salt, black pepper, crushed red pepper, & cayenne in a medium bowl.
2. Spray Forman grill with olive oil nonstick spray and preheat.  Lightly spray eggplant slices with nonstick spray and sprinkle with remaining 1/4 tsp salt.  Place eggplant on Forman grill and grill until well marked and tender, about 3 minutes. (note: only the bottom got marks on my Forman, but it should be ok!).  Transfer to plate; let cool.
3. To assemble rollups, spoon about 2 tbsp of tomato/onion/red peper mixture on wider end of each slice of eggplant.  Rollup tightly and place, seam side down, on platter (use a toothpick if needed).  (At this point, if you want you can roast in a 450 degree oven for 20 min or so). Drizzle oil over rollups and sprinkle with mint.