Irish Apple Cake

Quick, simple and so delicious, with chunks of Gala or other sweet apples!
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Apples by Shelley Pauls on Unsplash

Ingredients:

2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter (1 stick) softened and cut into pieces
1 egg
1/2 cup milk
2 big apples, or three smaller ones, chopped  (no need to peel)
2 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
powdered sugar for topping

Preheat oven to 350.

In the bowl of a mixer, gently blend the flour, baking powder and sugar.  Add the butter and stir just until the butter is in little pea-sized shapes.

Mix egg and milk together in a cup and pour into the flour. Mix just a few moments until they are combined and there is barely any flour mixture left on the bottom.  It make quite a thick dough.

Mix 2 Tbsp sugar and cinnamon in a medium bowl and toss the apple chunks in it until they’re coated.

In a 9 springform pan, or a quiche dish, spread about half the cake batter evenly.

Sprinkle apples evenly on top of that, scraping out the bowl to get every last bit of cinnamon and sugar.

Cover the top with the remaining batter.  It will be pretty chunky so it’s easier to just drop spoonfuls and not worry about smoothing out the top too much. 

Place on a baking sheet (a little butter sometimes leaks from springform pans) and bake 35-40 minutes, or until lightly browned on top.  Serve with powdered sugar, whipped cream, or caramel sauce.

Southern Chicken & Veggie Spaghetti

This is one of those very simple, yet surprising delicious old-fashioned casseroles and I think the recipe is from Southern Living.   You could add mushrooms or cooked spinach or zucchini and it would be just as good.  The sauce soaks into the pasta and creates a nice, satisfyingly creamy main dish.

6 cups chicken stock or water
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken thighs
2 Tbsp butter
1 1/2 cups chopped bell pepper, any color
1 1/2 cups yellow onion, chopped
8 oz spaghetti
1/2 cup half n half or milk
2 Tbsp flour
1 Tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
2 tsp hot sauce
2 tsp kosher salt
pinch of black pepper
2 cups chopped fresh tomatoes (lightly drained to remove excess liquid)
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Bring chicken stock or water to boil in a dutch oven.  Add chicken and cook 20 minutes or until chicken is cooked through.  (If you start with frozen thighs, which I did, just allow a little extra cooking time.  If you don’t have stock, you can always just use water – the thighs have enough fat and flavor to create a good stock.

Remove chicken  to a plate and add spaghetti to the stock. Cook spaghetti about 9 minutes until done, then remove spaghetti, keeping stock. Turn the heat up to medium and let stock cook down until there are about 2 1/2 cups left. Once chicken is slightly cooled, cut it into 1/2″ thick slices.

Meanwhile, in a large oven proof frying pan, melt butter and saute onions and bell peppers for 5-6 minutes, stirring occasionally.

In a small bowl, whisk together half n half, flour, Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, salt and pepper. Pour into the stock, stirring constantly and continue cooking 3-4 minutes, until the stock is thickened a little.  Remove from heat.  Check seasonings.

Add spaghetti, chicken and tomatoes to the sauteed veggies and gently stir to combine.  Pour the stock over and make sure the stock is coating everything.  Drop the shredded cheese on top and bake at 350 for 25 minutes.

You can also serve this in a 9×13 baking dish sprayed with vegetable oil.  It makes a delicious main dish that is bursting with veggies and fresh flavors!

Warm Cabbage with Apples and Bacon

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image by Isara Somboon at Unsplash.

Love this recipe that came from a local grocery store around St. Patrick’s Day!

So much so that I’ve made this beautiful, colorful dish twice in the last three weeks.  It’s delicious but also such great comfort food – which is something we all need right now.  I serve it with a cheddary sausage and they’re really good together.

The lovely thing is that cabbage is so hardy – you can use half the cabbage now, and then make this again in a few weeks.

Ingredients:

6 slices bacon, chopped into 1/2″ pieces (if using turkey bacon, add 2 Tbsp Olive Oil)
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
8 cups chopped green cabbage (1″ pieces are fine) about 1/2 medium cabbage
1 apple, cored and chopped into 1/2″ pieces
1/2 red onion, chopped
1/2 cup dark beer (or the equivalent in cider, plus a Tbsp of cider vinegar)
1/4 cup apple cider (or apple juice)
2 tsp brown sugar or honey
1 tsp caraway seeds
1 tsp Kosher salt
1 Tbsp butter (optional)

In a large cast-iron skillet, cook bacon sprinkled with black pepper until crispy. Remove from pan, but leave drippings. Add onions and cook for a couple of minutes, then add cabbage and apples. Cover and cook 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

In a small bowl, mix beer, cider, brown sugar, caraway seeds and salt. Add to cabbage mixture and cook 5 minutes more until everything is soft the liquid has reduced a bit. Drop bits of the butter on and give a final stir.

Serve as is on a baked potato, or with a lovely cheddar-ry sausage! (If you start pan-frying the sausage at the same time, the sausage should be done when the cabbage is.)

For a vegan version, leave out the bacon, and add a bit of chipotle pepper for that smoky flavor and a bit more salt to make up for the saltiness of bacon.

Cream of Spinach Soup

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Spinach by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

Recipe from Elise Bauer, with a few tweaks. This soup is super easy, really delicious and so satisfying on a cold winter’s night.  Comes together in about 40 minutes.

INGREDIENTS
1 cup chopped onion
2 Tbsp butter
2 medium potatoes, peeled and quartered (about 1/2 pound)
3 cups chicken broth
4-5 cups chopped fresh spinach
1 1/2 cups half and half
1 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp freshly-ground black pepper
3/4 cup sour cream
pinch of ground allspice

In a medium-sized saucepan, saute onion in butter for 5-6 minutes, until translucent.  Add potatoes, chicken broth, salt and pepper and cook 20 minutes, until potatoes are soft  Add spinach and cook 2-3 more minutes. Buzz all in a food processor or blender until quite smooth.  (Don’t need to completely obliterate the spinach.)

Put back in pan, and whisk in half and half, then sour cream and allspice.  Bring heat back up to just a simmer.

Serve with home-made croutons: cut bread in 1″ cubes and toss in olive oil, sprinkle with kosher salt and pepper on a small sheet pan.  Bake in a 300 degree oven for 30 minutes or more, until bread is golden and crisp.  I used a small baguette, but really any hearty bread will do.

Fast and good!

Vegan Parmesan

Even if you aren’t vegan, you’ll flip over this vegan parmesan recipe from Minimalist Baker.  It’s  so delicious I can’t stay away from it – I’ve literally been stealing spoonsful from the container!  It’s super easy to make and keeps for a couple of weeks, if it lasts that long.

3/4 raw cashews
3 Tbsp nutritional yeast (I used Bragg’s Nutritional Yeast.)
1/4 tsp garlic powder
3/4 tsp kosher salt

Buzz all in a food processor until mixture is in small crumbles. Be careful not to overprocess, or you’ll end up with cashew butter.

This is wonderful in all the places you might use Parmesan, but is also tasty on top of any veggies.  Enjoy!

Brodo with Chicken and Spinach

brodo-3Another great recipe from Johanne Killeen in the Slow Food Fast recipes in the WSJ – with some changes.  Brodo is a simple soup that comes together fast and is incredibly satisfying.  It’s also quite flexible and can use different pastas and different greens

It’s been ridiculously cold and windy here!  We needed something to warm us up – and this sure fit the bill.  This makes enough for two people, roughly.

Ingredients:

kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 cups rich chicken stock
2 eggs
1 cup chopped cooked chicken, optional
2 cups chopped fresh spinach or thinly sliced kale
1/3 lb capellini, spaghetti or linguine
fresh grated Romano or Parmesan cheese

Bring a pot of salted water to boil and add the pasta. Cook until al dente and drain water. Keep warm.

At the same time, add the chicken stock to another pot and bring to the boil, then reduce heat and gently drop eggs in to poach. After 3 minutes or so, scoop eggs out onto a plate.

Add spinach to chicken stock and cook for a few moments. (You may need to cook a little longer with Kale.) Add chicken meat if using and stir. Add a pinch of salt and 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper.

Place some pasta on one side of each bowl. (It’s going to slip around a bit, but that’s okay.) Ladle the chicken and spinach with broth on the open side of the bowl, and top with the poached egg.

Grate cheese over, sprinkle once more with black pepper and serve. The egg yolks will help thicken the broth and add incredible richness.

So fast and so delish!

Rich Custard for Maya (with Variations)

This recipe, which seems too simple to be so delicious, has always been an integral part of my Strawberry Trifle recipe. But my daughter Maya asked me to list it separately, so it’s easier and quicker to find. So here you go, Maya!  

1 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup cornstarch
5 cups whole milk
4 eggs, well beaten in a medium sized bowl
1 1/2 Tbsp vanilla

Blend sugar, salt, cornstarch and whole milk in a large saucepan on medium heat. Bring to a gentle boil stirring constantly. Once the custard reaches the boil, remove from heat and add 1 cup to the eggs in the bowl, stirring vigorously so the eggs don’t cook. Add another cup of milk mix to the eggs, and continue stirring.

Return the whole thing to the saucepan and put back on medium/low heat. Heat for 1-2 minutes until the custard is just starting to bubble a little. Don’t leave it for a second at this point or it will curdle. Remove from heat and add in vanilla. Let cool before adding to trifle dish.  It will thicken as it cools

This recipe also makes a lovely pouring custard. Just add another cup of milk. We don’t eat pouring custard much in the US, but it’s delicious dessert sauce. Just a bowl of fresh fruit with pouring custard poured over – simple and wonderful.

This Vanilla custard is delicious as part of a Strawberry Trifle.  

Variation #1  Mango Trifle with Cardamom Custard 

Variation #2 for Chocolate Custard:  skip the Vanilla, add a generous 1/3 cup cocoa to the sugar and cornstarch, and pour in a little of the milk. Stir well until the cocoa is completely mixed in.  We didn’t increase the sugar and it tasted fine.   See my Chocolate Raspberry Trifle.

 

 

Silver Lining Sour Cream Rhubarb Coffee Cake

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Image by MikeGoad on Pixabay (be sure to cut off and discard all leaves!)

Rhubarb can be a bit too tangy for many people, but it is amazing in coffee cake. My version is stuffed with fruit and features a slightly crunchy, cinnamony crumble top.

We had a huge hailstorm a couple of nights ago and among other things, my rhubarb was demolished. There was nothing to do but gather up the broken stems and dice them up for baking. I froze most of the diced rhubarb, but used 4 cups for this recipe.

Fingers crossed, my plant will recover, but in the meantime, we’re enjoying this moist, delicious cake as the silver lining from an awful storm.

Cake ingredients:

1 cup white sugar
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp kosher salt
2 cups flour
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup sour cream
1 tsp vanilla
4 cups rhubarb, diced

Topping:

1 cup sugar
¼ cup melted butter
1/3 cup flour
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

Mix 1st cup sugar, baking powder, salt and flour In a large bowl. Add in 1 cup sour cream and eggs and stir until smooth. (Batter will be very thick.) Add rhubarb and stir to distribute evenly. Scoop into a 9 x 12” baking dish and smooth top with a spatula.

In a small bowl, mix 2nd cup sugar, melted butter, flour and cinnamon until very crumbly. Sprinkle evenly over cake.

Bake for 45-50 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.  So good – I’ll be surprised if you can stop at just one piece!

Caitlin’s Curried Avocado Toast

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Avocados by twinsfisch on Unsplash

My friend Caitlin is a wonderful cook and she made curried avocado toast the other day that was delicious. Don’t know why I never thought of putting a spin on avocado toast, but why not?  Avocados are not a common food in the Indian Subcontinent at all, but putting those flavors together is incredibly good.

Ingredients:

1 avocado, seeded and peeled and very slightly mashed in a bowl
sprinkle of curry powder (Caitie used Madras Curry Powder)
pinch of Cayenne pepper
quick grind of black pepper
sprinkle of Maldon Salt

Toast a good, hearty bread. Scoop avocado onto toast and sprinkle with rest of ingredients. Devour.

Variations: Caitie also suggested an alternative of avocado, salt and pepper and chopped fresh rosemary, which I will definitely try. She also said avocado toast made on Herbes de Provence bread is amazing. I have a feeling this is going to be a summer of Avocado Toast at our house!

Tangy Fruit Salad

Another great recipe from Ree Drummond, that’s both pretty and delicious.  I ended up halving Ree’s original recipe, which serves 12, and still had more than enough for the 6 of us, with plenty left over for nibbling later.

The Orange Vanilla sauce adds just enough sweetness and tanginess to brighten everything up without being too sweet.  We loved it and had leftover fruit and syrup on vanilla ice cream the next day.

1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
juice of 1 orange
zest of 1 orange
1 tsp Vanilla extract
2 pints strawberries, hulled and halved
2 pints blueberries
1 cup red grapes, halved
1 cup green grapes, halved

INSTRUCTIONS

Place the sugar, water, orange juice and orange zest into a small saucepan and stir to combine. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat to low and simmer for 15-20 to thicken slightly. Set aside to cool, then stir in vanilla. Store in the fridge until cold.

Mix together all the fruit in a large bowl and refrigerate.  Just before serving, pour the syrup over the fruit, tossing gently to coat.