Saturday, February 28, 2009


It's Daring Bakers' time again.

The February 2009 challenge was hosted by Wendy of WMPE's blog and Dharm of Dad ~ Baker & Chef. They chose a Chocolate Valentino cake by Chef Wan; a Vanilla Ice Cream recipe from Dharm and a Vanilla Ice Cream recipe from Wendy as the challenge.

Flourless chocolate cake has been a favorite dessert since I first tasted it in the 70's. One particular restaurant used to serve it slightly warmed with clotted cream--yum! Raspberries are a standard garnish, but such decadence can really stand on its own. Not being much of an ice cream fan, I made a simple Irish cream whipped cream to go with this rich, moist, mouthful of heaven.

Many flourless cakes rely on nuts for their texture, but this recipe was more like a souffle, depending on whipped egg whites for its texture. I baked it in a 10 inch springform pan, shortening the baking time to 22 minutes. It was perfect. Thanks Wendy and Dharm for a straightforward pick. I believe that less is more and a 3-ingredient recipe really challenges one to focus on technique.

Chocolate ValentinoPreparation Time: 20 minutes
16 ounces (1 pound) (454 grams) of semisweet chocolate, roughly chopped
½ cup (1 stick) plus 2 tablespoons (146 grams total) of unsalted butter
5 large eggs separated

1. Put chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl and set over a pan of simmering water (the bottom of the bowl should not touch the water) and melt, stirring often.

(I had to include a photo of my double boiler. One of the attendant benefits of aging is that you inadvertently become a collector of antiques. This double boiler was a wedding present to my parents--that makes it 61 years old, so maybe it isn't technically antique, but vintage. Mom passed away last June and it is one of the mementos that I kept. While she didn't bake often, she was a great cook and passed on the "food" gene. Happy Valentino, mom.)

2. While your chocolate butter mixture is cooling, butter your pan and line with a parchment circle then butter the parchment.

3. Separate the egg yolks from the egg whites and put into two medium/large bowls.

4. Whip the egg whites in a medium/large grease free bowl until stiff peaks are formed (do not over-whip or the cake will be dry).

5. With the same beater beat the egg yolks together

6. Add the egg yolks to the cooled chocolate.

7. Fold in 1/3 of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture and follow with remaining 2/3rds. Fold until no white remains without deflating the batter.

8. Pour batter into prepared pan, the batter should fill the pan 3/4 of the way full, and bake at 375F/190C9. Bake for 25 minutes until an instant read thermometer reads 140F/60C. Note – If you do not have an instant read thermometer, the top of the cake will look similar to a brownie and a cake tester will appear wet.

9. Cool cake on a rack for 10 minutes then unmold.

Irish Cream Whipped Cream
1 half pint whipping cream
2 tbs strong coffee, cooled
1 tbs Irish cream liqueur
2 tbs confectioners' sugar

Begin whipping the cream. As it begins to thicken, add the liquids and sugar. Continue whipping until soft peaks form.


Sunday, February 22, 2009


My friend and faithful foodblog follower, Pat, recently gave me some past issues of Taste of Home's Healthy Cooking magazine. I've seen other Taste of Home publications, but never this particular one. I leafed through the back issues and bookmarked a number of recipes to try. When I saw this recipe for raspberry crumb coffee cake, it was a no-brainer. There's a bakery outside Lake Wallenpaupak that Larry and I have stopped at numerous times. I love their almond horns, though after I've eaten one I always vow that it's the last. They are cloyingly sweet and it's really the first 2 or 3 bites that are the best. The rest I eat because I was brought up a member of the "clean plate club." Maybe I should buy one, eat half and freeze the rest. Ya think? But I digress. Larry's favorite is a raspberry crumb thingy that to me tastes more like a pastry/cookie than cake. I find it a bit dry, but he loves the things and generally carts a few home. The photo that accompanied this recipe looked remarkably like his favorite thing, so I decided it was first up at bat.

I tasted one and liked it about as well as I like the ones he buys, which is to say it's just not my favorite thing. He thinks they're good, though, so it was worth trying them. I would cut the sugar substitute if I make them again. I used Splenda, as editors noted they did. I have to confess that I've never liked baking with this substitute. It's supposed to be used in the same proportion as sugar, but I find it overly sweet with a bit of an aftertaste. I'm guessing I could have gone with just the regular sugar and these would have been sweet enough. I will also mention that you can't "pour" this batter. It has the consistency of cookies before it is baked, so needs to be spread. Baked, it is cake, not cookie.

So, if you're watching your calories--as who doesn't seem to be--and you have a sweet tooth, I recommend these. You get 20 generous servings for just under 200 calories each. That's a whole lot better than many of the costly prepared "lite" desserts that are out there, less expensive and better tasting.

Prep: 35 min
Bake: 30 min

1/4 cup sugar
sugar substitute (Splenda, for example) equivalent to 1/4 cup
1/4 cup cornstarch
3/4 cup cold water
2 cups fresh or frozen raspberries
1 tbs lemon juice

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
sugar substitute equivalent to 1/4 cup sugar
2 1/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 cup cold butter
1/4 cup cold reduced-fat butter
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup fat free milk
1 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 cup all purpose flour
sugar substitute equivalent to 1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup cold butter
1/4 cup slivered almonds

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 13 X 9 inch baking dish with cooking spray (I like the one for baking with flour in it).

In a small saucepan, combine the sugar, sugar substitute, and cornstarch. Stir in water until smooth. Add raspberries and bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened. Remove from the heat and add the lemon juice. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the first 8 batter ingredients. Cut in the butter and the reduced fat butter until the mixture is crumbly. In another bowl, combine the eggs, milk, and vanilla. Stir into the crumb mixture. Batter will be thick (like cookie dough).

Spread half the batter into the prepared baking dish. Spread evenly with the cooled raspberry mixture. Drop the remaining batter by tablespoons over the filling.

For the topping: combine the flour and sugar substitute in a small bowl. Cut in the butter until crumbly. Stir in the almonds. Sprinkle evenly over the batter.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool on a wire rack.

Cut into 20 pieces.

Thursday, February 19, 2009


I still remember when I bought the first volume of what would become a rather extensive cookbook collection. I was visiting the Coop in Harvard Square, a favorite side trip on a visit to my favorite city, Boston. It was 1982 and the book in question was Jacques Pepin's Everday Cooking with Jacques Pepin. These were pre-Food TV days, but Jacques Pepin had a cooking show and I watched it whenever I was able. For a budding culinista, preparing French-inspired food was a first step in expanding my repertoire of kitchen skills. I still have that volume, though I haven't made my favorite recipe from it--chicken liver mousse--in many years.

A few years ago I came across a recipe in the Sunday magazine section of the newspaper that was adapted from one of Jacques Pepin's classics--chicken in vinegar. It's surprisingly easy to make and the dish is always well-received. I've cut back on some of the fat and increased the herbs to make the dish healthier. I've served the chicken with everything from garlic mashed potatoes to egg noodles to plain white rice. Leftovers are delicious either reheated or eaten at room temperature.

While this is something I make for a weeknight dinner, it is elegant enough to serve for company.

Serves 4
1 frying chicken, 4-4 1/2 lbs, cut into 8 pieces
1 tsp Kosher salt
freshly ground pepper
4 tbs butter, divided
1/2 cup red wine vinegar, divided
1/4 cup water
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbs tomato paste
2 tbs each chopped fresh parsley and tarragon

Sprinkle the chicken pieces with salt and pepper. Melt 2 tbs of the butter in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the chicken pieces, skin side down, and cook, turning often, until golden brown (10-15 minutes).

Add 1/4 cup of the vinegar and the water to the skillet and cover. Cook until the chicken is cooked through, about 20 minutes. Turn pieces over halfway through cooking. Transfer the chicken to a plate.

Add the garlic to the skillet and cook, stirring, for one minute. Add the remaining 1/4 cup of vinegar. Increase the heat to medium high and heat to a boil, scraping up any browned bits in the skillet. Add the tomato paste, incorporating well; correct for seasoning.

Remove the skillet from the heat and whisk in the remaining 2 tbs butter, a teaspoon at a time. Pour the sauce over the chicken and sprinkle with the parsley and tarragon.

From start to finish, this fragrant chicken entree takes about 35 minutes. Promise!

Monday, February 16, 2009


If you're reading this, chances are you already know that Foodie Friends are among the best. My friend Gloria from Cookbook Cuisine ( is celebrating the publication of her latest cookbook, Foods and Flavors of San Antonio. I'm looking forward to submitting one of my favorite Tex-Mex dishes to her blog of the same name. A real sweetie, Gloria graciously sent along a "Foodie Friend" award, which I've proudly displayed on my sidebar.

Larry had Presidents' Day off, so I thought I'd make him one of his favorite breakfasts, a frittata AKA a tortilla. Once you've made a few of these, you realize how fast and easy they are and how open to an abundance of creativity on your part. Today's frittata featured potato, bacon, red bell pepper, and shallots along with eggs, of course. My favorite seasoning is a packet of Sazon. I decided to finish the frittata in the oven today instead of flipping it and I think the results are far better. This will be my plan of attack from now on.

Serves 4
1-2 tbs olive oil
2 large potatoes
1 lg shallot, minced
1/2 lg red bell pepper, chopped
6 slices bacon, chopped
8 eggs
salt and pepper
1 packet Sazon seasoning

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Wrap the handle of a large, nonstick skillet with aluminum foil (this will keep it from burning in the oven).

Peel the potatoes and slice them very thinly. Heat the olive oil in a nonstick skillet and place the potato slices in a single layer. Brown on one side, carefully turn over and brown on the other side. Remove from the skillet.

Cook the chopped bacon in the same skillet. When the fat has rendered, remove the bacon to a sheet of paper toweling and saute the shallot and red pepper in the bacon fat (about 5 minutes). Remove the bacon and vegetable mixture.

Place the cooked potato slices in a single layer to cover the bottom of the skillet. Sprinkle the bacon and vegetables evenly over the potatoes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Beat the eggs with the Sazon. Pour over the other ingredients and place the heat on medium high. As the eggs begin to set around the edges, use a spatula as you lift and rotate the pan so that the uncooked egg slips below the cooked portion. Continue to do this until almost all the egg is set, about 3-5 minutes (the top will still be wet).

Place the skillet in the preheated oven and cook for 5 minutes.

Remove from the oven. Use a spatula to carefully remove the frittata to a plate or board. Cut into 4 servings.

If you have any leftovers, this reheats beautifully in the microwave. Larry has his piece tucked into his lunch bag. It is great as is or on an onion roll or hard roll.

Friday, February 13, 2009


I've subscribed to Cooking Light from its inception and I am almost always pleased with the recipes I try. From time to time I consider canceling my subscription because I feel there are too many non-cooking articles, but then I think of the good dishes that I would miss. This recipe, which I've tweaked over the years, comes from that magazine.

I adore spaghetti carbonara, but almost never order it out. The reason is that most restaurants serve up something that is almost an Alfredo sauce and call it carbonara. Carbonara sauce does not have any cream in it. It is, in fact, a dish eaten in the wee hours of the morning, a breakfast dish almost. The "sauce" is the egg and cheese mixture that cooks from the heat of the pasta. It is a perfect food in my mind. This version is made healthier by reducing the amount of sauce and adding in some vegetables. This is not a pasta that reheats well, in my opinion, so the fact that it makes 4 small or 2 hearty servings is a good thing.

While we're on the subject of pasta, let me say that I have tried a plethora of whole grain and whole wheat pastas. I would rather give up pasta than eat any of them. And that's all I'm going to say about that.

Spaghetti Carbonara with Leeks and Pancetta - Serves 4
8 oz uncooked spaghetti
1/2 cup (2 oz) finely grated cheese (I love locatelli and asiago, but parmigiano will do)
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp salt
1 large egg plus 1 large egg white
2 oz pancetta, chopped
2 cups thinly sliced leeks (about 2 large leeks)
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tbs chopped parsley
1/3 cup pasta water

Cook the pasta according to package directions for al dente. Drain, reserving 1/3 cup of the water.

As pasta is cooking, cook the pancetta in a large, nonstick skillet until crisp. Add the leeks to the drippings and saute 4 minutes. Add the garlic and saute for 1 minute more.

Combine the cheese, pepper, salt, egg, and egg white in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk. Gradually add the reserved 1/3 cup of cooking liquid, tempering the egg mixture by stirring constantly with the whisk.

Add the pasta and the cheese mixture to the pancetta, leeks, and garlic; reduce heat and cook for 1 minute, tossing well to coat. Sprinkle with the parsley and serve immediately.

If you haven't used pancetta before, it is an Italian bacon that is cured with salt and spices. It is more readily available in supermarkets these days, prepackaged in the deli section. If you can't find it, you can substitue 6 slices of chopped, center-cut bacon, but it won't have the same wonderful flavor.

I like to have a glass of a good Barolo or Chianti with this dish and remember: red wine is good for your heart. Mangia bene!

Thursday, February 12, 2009


It's been a while since I posted. Just got back from a wonderful week on the Gulf Coast. It was 78 degrees on Tuesday. Thank heavens it's warmed up a bit here. It's hovering in the 40's, though the forecast is for a windy day and a cold front moving in.

Focusing on healthy eating doesn't have to mean doing without your favorites. It just means you may have to find a way to rework those favorites. While I won't try to say that these scones are as flaky and flavorful as the "real deal," they are quite good toasted and spread with a bit of jam. I like them for a snack with a cup of tea. Each one is just under 100 calories, so if you're in the mood for a small extravagance, give them a try.

Classic Scones - 8 servings
1 cup plus 2 tbs all purpose flour
1 tbs sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup plain lowfat yogurt (I like Greek)
1 large egg
1 tbs butter, melted and cooled
fat free half and half and sugar for sprinkling

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Spray a baking sheet with nonstick spray.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a snall bowl, combine the yogurt, egg, and butter. Add the yogurt mixture to the flour mixture and stir until just blended.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough into a 1/4 inch thick round. With a sharp knife, cut the dough into 8 wedges. Arrange the wedges on the baking sheet.

Reduce the oven temperature to 400 degrees and bake the scones until golden brown, about 12-15 minutes. Brush with fat free half and half and sprinkle with sugar. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes.

These can be split and toasted.

Monday, February 2, 2009


I love all things lemon. This love of lemons did not begin in childhood; rather, it sneaked up on me as I got older. But it's only recently that I've begun to hoard lemons so that I'm able to add zest to everything from drinks to entrees to desserts. As a child I thought lemon meringue pie was revolting. That assessment was based on looks alone; I never tasted it until I reached my 40's. Now it's my hands down favorite.

Over the past few months I've begun to appreciate the subtle nuances of foods enhanced with lemon zest. In a wet rub it adds flavor and succulence. In a dessert, it plays counterpoint to the sugar. I'm amazed and awed by the lemon's ability to heighten flavor without taking over the taste.
Half paying attention to to the Barefoot Contessa's Sunday program on Food Network, I heard the words "lemon yogurt cake with blueberry sauce" and my ears immediately perked up. Ina poked fun of herself as she noted that instead of beginning with a pound of butter as she has been accused of doing on many occasions, this reworking of Dorie Greenspan's recipe used plain yogurt in place of fat. That is not to say that Ina eschewed the use of sugar and eggs and vegetable oil, but small steps.

I knew that I had to make this cake even if all I got to eat was one piece. I decided to use one of my new favorite foods: Greek yogurt. If you haven't tried this, I highly recommend it. It has the consistency of sour cream and is so much better than regular yogurt. I usually eat a low fat version, but Ina's recipe called for whole milk, so I deferred to her in this.

The cake is so easy to make. t's enhanced with a lemon syrup. Ina also served hers with a blueberry sauce. At first, I thought I'd skip the blueberry sauce, but then I decided to go for broke. I'm so glad I made it. This simple sauce would be incredible over vanilla ice cream, too. It provided just the right amount of contrast for the cake.

I know this recipe will be a favorite. I can't wait for an occasion to make it for friends and family.

Recipe - 10 servings
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp Kosher salt
1 cup plain whole milk yogurt
1 1/3 cups sugar, divided
3 extra-large eggs
2 tsp grated lemon zest (1 large or 2 small lemons)
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup freshly-squeezed lemon juice

For the cake:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8 1/2 X 2 1/2 inch loaf pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper. Grease and flour the pan.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt in 1 bowl. In another bowl, whisk together the yogurt, 1 cup of the sugar, the eggs, lemon zest, and vanilla. Slow whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. With a rubber spatula, fold the vegetable oil completely into the batter. It's important to make sure all the oil is incorporated. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 50 minutes.

For the syrup:
Cook the 1/3 cup of lemon juice and the remaining 1/3 cup of sugar in a small pan until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is clear. Set aside.

When the cake is done, allow it to cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Unmold it and carefully place it on a baking rack set over a sheet pan. While the cake is still warm, brush it all over with the lemon syrup. Allow the cake to cool as the syrup soaks through it.
Blueberry Sauce
1 1/2 pints fresh blueberries
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1 tbs freshly-squeezed lemon juice

Place all ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and simmer for 15 minutes. Pour the sauce into a bowl and press the solids through a sieve. Stir the thickened sauce.

Serve slices of the lemon cake topped with blueberry sauce. Refrigerate leftover sauce.