Sticky Toffee Pudding Cake

sticky-toffy-pudding-cakeI’ve always wondered why British people are so obsessed with Sticky Toffee Pudding Cake.  After all, I’ve had pudding cakes and they were fine.  Usually awfully sweet, but nothing worthy of hero worship.  Then one day, I decided to try making it.

My friend Donna and her husband Bob had come over for  dinner and brought a gorgeous carrot cake with cream cheese frosting and caramel sauce, which is the only way I will ever be able to eat it again.

There was some caramel sauce left over and I thought – Sticky Toffee Pudding Cake!  Fortunately Kumy loves dried dates and figs so we always have dates in the pantry.

I found a recipe on Mel’sKitchenCafe.com, made it and the world tilted on its axis. (Mel’s recipes are truly the best!)  The cake is tender, moist and not too sweet.  Kumy loved it plain.  I couldn’t resist the caramel sauce and cream on top.

Sooo good!   I understand now, British people.  I understand.

Ingredients for Cake

6 ounces dates, pitted and finely chopped (they’ll be quite sticky – but just power on through them!)
3/4 cup boiling water
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup granulated sugar
6 Tbsp butter, softened
2 large eggs
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

Ingredients for Caramel Sauce   (I haven’t made this yet, but I’m sure it’s good.)

3/4 cup brown sugar
8 Tbsp (1 stick) butter
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
Pinch of kosher salt
1/4 to 1/2 cup chopped pecans (optional)
Additional heavy whipping cream for drizzling (optional)

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease an 8×8 or 9×9 pan.  (I used a small rectangular pan.)

For the cake, in a medium bowl, stir together the dates, boiling water, baking soda and vanilla extract. Let the mixture sit for 15 minutes.

In a separate medium bowl, cream together the granulated sugar and butter with an electric mixer (handheld or stand mixer) until well-combined and fluffy, 2-3 minutes.
Add the eggs and mix.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients, and mix until just combined. Fold in the dates and the water they soaked in until combined; don’t overmix.

Spread the batter evenly in the prepared pan and bake for 22-25 minutes. Cake is done when the top springs back from a touch.  Let cool.

Make the sauce by adding the brown sugar, butter, cream, and salt in a saucepan. Stir over low heat until the sugar dissolves and the sauce is smooth, 5-7 minutes.

Serve cake warm or at room temperature with a drizzle of caramel sauce and a smaller drizzle of heavy whipping cream.  Your world will never be the same again.

Chicken, Pepper, Tomato & Zucchini

chicken,zucchini,-peppers-aWe love dishes with good flavor and lots of colorful veggies – and this one fit the bill perfectly.  It’s based on a recipe from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe. (Mel is a wonderful cook and she makes it with Orzo, but I felt like Couscous.)  I also changed out the veggies a bit.  I can’t wait to make it again!

INGREDIENTS

1/2 cup dry couscous
1/2 cup water
1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbsp butter

1 tablespoon olive oil
4-5 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp freshly-ground black pepper
1 cup chopped red, orange and yellow bell pepper (can use green pepper, too)
2 cups halved grape or cherry tomatoes,
2 small zucchini, halved and cut into 1/2″ pieces
1 tsp oregano  (I was out so I used 1 tsp Greek Seasoning.  You could also use 1/2 tsp oregano, a big pinch of basil and a little pinch of dill)
1 tsp garlic powder
1 cup feta cheese, crumbled

Bring water to a boil and stir in 1/2 tsp salt, butter and couscous.   Remove from heat, cover and let sit for at least 5 minutes.

Heat the oil in a large 12-inch nonstick or stainless skillet over medium heat. Add chicken, sprinkle with the salt and pepper, and cook 6-7 minutes until golden on the outside,flipping halfway through.

Push the chicken to the outer edge of the pan and add everything else except the feta cheese.  Cook for 8-10 minutes, stirring often until the mixture begins to dry up.

Push chicken back into the middle and nestle among the vegetables.  Continue cooking for another few minutes.  Check salt and pepper and add more Greek seasoning if needed.

Add 1/2 the crumbled feta and stir through.  Remove from heat and sprinkle on the rest of the feta.

To serve: Put a couple of spoonfuls of the Couscous in a wide flat bowl and top with the meat and veggies.

To make a gluten-free version – serve over rice or buttery mashed potatoes.

 

Shrimp and Sausage Skillet Corn

shrimp-and-sausage-corn
Another tasty recipe from Southern Living, that’s easy and pretty quick. I made some substitutions based on what I had on hand. I like the idea of using sweet corn as a “starch”.  You could substitute almost any protein for the sausage and shrimp, and it would still be good.

Ingredients:

1 cup chopped onion
2 Tbsp butter
5 cups frozen corn
1/2 cup whole milk ( or 1/2 ‘n 1/2)
4 oz. cream cheese
(Or sour cream that accidentally froze, was thawed, drained and whipped. Just saying.)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 Tbsp green onions (originally called for 2 Tbsp fresh chives, chopped)
1 tsp olive oil
8 oz. any kind of sausage, cut into 1/2″ slices (I used smoked sausage and some other kind of sausage which was frozen.)
1 lb. shrimp, peeled and deveined with tails on
1 Tbsp fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped
Little more salt and pepper

Heat butter in a cast iron skillet.  Add onions and cook for 5-6 minutes until nicely softened and starting to brown just a bit.  Add corn and cook another couple of minutes stirring frequently.

Add milk, cream cheese, salt, black pepper. and green onions.  Stir and cook for a minute or so. Remove from heat, and cover to keep warm.

In another frying pan, heat olive oil and saute sausage for 5-6 minutes.  when cooked and browning just a bit, remove to the top of the  corn mix – keeping some of the drippings.

Sprinkle a little more salt and pepper on the shrimp and saute in the hot drippings for 3-4 minutes, until pink and cooked through.(If the shrimp is frozen, it will probably release water. Just scoop the shrimp up and save the “broth” for another time.)

Toss on top of the corn and sausage mixture, and sprinkle with parsley.

Quick and good!

Irish Apple Cake

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Apples by Shelley Pauls on Unsplash

Simple, delicious and not too sweet!

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

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.

Bake in a 350 oven for 35-40 minutes, or until lightly browned on top.  Serve with powdered sugar, whipped cream, or caramel sauce.

Vegetable Paella

I’ve had my eye on Caroline’s Vegetable Paella recipe from TasteLoveandNourish.com for a long time, and I finally decided to give it a go.  She has wonderful plant-based recipes with tons of flavor.  Here is a link to her completely vegan original recipe. Caroline adds artichoke hearts to her, but I think it was fine without them.

Fortunately, I had almost all the ingredients in my pantry, and was able to make a few substitutions that worked well.  I don’t know about you, but during this time of social distancing and staying home, I’m learning to be much more creative!  I roughly halved her recipe since I’m only cooking for three right now.

Ingredients

1/2 tsp saffron threads
2 Tbsp hot water
2 1/2 Tbsp olive oil or bacon drippings (to add smokiness)
1 large onion, diced
4 ounces mushrooms, sliced (I used half regular button and half baby bellas)
2 big cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 very small zucchini, halved and sliced

1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp hot smoked paprika
1/8 tsp ground cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp dried thyme leaves
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper

1 1/4 cups short-grain rice (I used Arborio)
1 cup dry white wine
1 1/2 cups vegetable broth (or chicken broth)
14.5 ounce can diced fire-roasted tomatoes (or regular diced tomatoes), drained
1/2 cup frozen green peas
2 Tbsp capers, drained
1/4 cup big green Italian olives with pimentos,halved

handful fresh parsley
drizzle extra virgin olive oil

In a small bowl, pour hot water over the saffron. Set aside for at least fifteen minutes.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Move a rack to the bottom third of your oven.

Keep the onion, mushrooms, zucchini, garlic, spices (see below), rice, white wine, broth and saffron/water in bowls near the stove – you’ll be adding them separately and cooking them fairly quickly.

Heat the olive oil in a large oven safe skillet over medium high heat.
Add the onion and cook for just two minutes.
Add mushrooms and cook without stirring for about two minutes. Stir and cook for two more minutes or until just beginning to brown.
Add the garlic and cook for one minute.
Add the zucchini slices and continue cooking for three minutes.

In a small bowl, mix the spices: paprika, smoked hot paprika, cayenne, thyme and bay leaves, salt and pepper. Add to skillet, stir and cook for a minute or two.

Add the rice and stir to coat.
Add the white wine. Simmer until reduced by about half.
Add the vegetable broth and the saffron with the water. Stir gently and bring the pan to a simmer. Cook for a couple of minutes.
Scatter tomatoes over the top.
Transfer the pan to the bottom third of the oven, and bake for 15 minutes.
Scatter the peas, capers and the olives over the top.
Continue baking the paella for 10 minutes or until the rice is tender.
Remove the bay leaves.
Garnish with fresh parsley and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

Warm Cabbage with Apples and Bacon

cabbage-isara-somboon

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.

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!