December 30, 2008

Chocolate Sour Cream Cake

3 eggs, at room temperature
2 1/2 cups flour
1 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup cocoa
1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
8 oz sour cream
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease and flour one Bundt pan. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until fluffy. Add the egg, buttermilk, vanilla and sour cream, stir to combine. In separate bowl, Whisk together flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a large bowl until well combined. Add to the wet ingredients and mix until a uniform batter forms. Pour into prepared pan. Bake 55 minutes or until a thin knife inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool 5 minutes on a wire rack, then remove from the pan. Cool completely.

My thoughts:

This a simple cake in implementation and in appearance but the flavor is remarkably chocolaty. The buttermilk and sour cream keep it moist and heighten the chocolate flavor. It it is the perfect cake to just make at the spur of the moment to have for dessert or to take to a gathering-it mixes together quickly and doesn't need an icing or a glaze to be perfect.

December 26, 2008

Potato-Carrot Latkes

2 1/2 lbs Russet potatoes, grated
2 large carrots, grated
1 large onion, grated
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup matzo meal
canola oil

In a large pan, heat about 1/4 inch oil. In a large bowl, combine the eggs and the matzo meal. Add potatoes, carrots and onion. Toss to combine.


Form into flat patties. Fry in hot oil, flipping half way through, until just golden. Drain on paper towel lined plates.

Yield: about a dozen latkes, depending on size.

My thoughts:
For this year's latkes I was excited to try out my new mandoline which made great, long, thin strips of the potato, carrot and onion much faster than traditional grating. I also thought that the latkes cooked through a little better than when I've grated potatoes with a box grater; none of the latkes had even the slightest bit of raw potato, something I've occasionally encountered in these types of potato latkes. That said, you don't need a mandoline to make great latkes, a box (or other) grater works fine. A lot of people use a food processor to shred the potato but I personally think it chops the potato up a bit too much and the latkes sometimes become a little gluey as a result.

This Hanukkah I added carrot to the potato and really enjoyed it. It wasn't much of a change texture-wise but it added a bit of sweetness to the potato. Plus it is always a good idea to sneak in a little extra vegetables on a holiday devoted to fried foods. Latkes are rather time consuming and I know we rarely bother to make another side dish when we have them.

December 24, 2008

Spiced Cranberry (Overnight) Oatmeal

4 1/2 cups water
3 cups old fashioned rolled oats
2 cups (fresh) cranberries
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon allspice
sprinkle salt

Place all ingredients in the slow cooker. Cook on low overnight (6-8 hours). Stir and serve.

Yield: about 6 servings

My thoughts:
Is there anything easier to make for breakfast than overnight oatmeal? It is super creamy and requires no effort in the morning-perfect for workday mornings, holidays, brunch etc. I added more sugar than I normally would to oatmeal because cranberries are quite tart but the cereal wasn't sugary, just pleasantly spicy and cranberry filled.

December 23, 2008

Lime & Coconut Cookies

1 cup flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1/4 sweetened flaked coconut
5 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 egg
zest of one lime

juice of one lime
1/2 cup confectioners sugar

Preheat oven to 350. Line or grease 2 cookie sheets. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, coconut, baking powder and salt. Set aside. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and the sugar. Beat in the egg. Add the lime juice, zest and mix. Add the flour and mix until a soft dough forms. Drop heaping teaspoons of batter on the lined cookie sheets about 1 1/2 inches apart. Bake for 10 minutes or until just golden. Remove to a wire rack to cool. In a small bowl, whisk together the glaze ingredients, adding more confectioners sugar if needed to thicken. Brush on cooled cookies.

Yield: about 2 dozen cookies

My thoughts:

These are remarkably light and fresh tasting cookies. They have a slightly chewy texture and the glaze highlights their sweet-tart flavor. They also freeze well.

December 21, 2008

Cranberry Ginger Muffins

1 1/4 cup flour
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup old fashioned rolled oats
1 cup cranberries
1/3 cup canola oil
1/3 cup chopped uncrystallized candied ginger
1/3 cup light brown sugar
2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg

Preheat oven to 350. Line or grease and flour one 12 well muffin tin. In a large bowl, mix together the oatmeal, egg, oil, milk, and sugar. After it is thoroughly mixed, add in the flour, salt and baking soda. Stir to combine. Fold in the cranberries and ginger chunks. Divide evenly amount 12 muffin wells.


Bake 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the center muffin comes out clean.


Cool on a wire rack, serve.

My thoughts:
My husband really enjoys having muffins on hand to take to work for breakfast (his workday starts at 7 AM) so I am constantly trying to think of new muffin variations to make. I had about a cup of cranberries in the fridge and some uncrystallized candied ginger leftover from an earlier baking gig and wanted to make something that used both of them up. Matt requested a muffin with oatmeal so I combined the three and this is what I came up with. They are on the tart and spicy side-no confusion over muffin vs. cupcake here-but not so tart or spicy they are unpleasant and are full of interesting chunky bits. I think they are suitably festive enough to serve at some sort of holiday brunch or even to give as a gift-it is that time of the year-but they also freeze well for everyday eating. My husband like to freeze some of the batch and then take them frozen to work and microwave them to fully defrost. The oats really make the difference, they are very satisfying to eat, one really fills you up for breakfast.

December 19, 2008

Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups

5 oz 70% dark chocolate
1/3 cup confectioners' sugar
1/4 cup smooth peanut butter
1/2 tablespoon butter
12 roasted peanuts

Line 12 wells of a mini muffin pan. Using an electric mixer, thoroughly combine the sugar and peanut butter. Set aside. In a small pan, melt the butter and chocolate together over low heat, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly. Place about a teaspoon of chocolate in each lined well and use a small spatula to coat the sides and bottom of each liner. Add about 1/2 tablespoon of the peanut butter mixture to each well. Cover each with remaining chocolate. Top each with a peanut. Refrigerate or place in a cool location until firm. Store uneaten chocolate cups in a cool, dry place.

Yield: 12 cups

My thoughts:
I am a big dark chocolate fan and rue the day that Hershey stopped making their dark chocolate Reese's Cup miniatures, they had a great chocolate to peanut butter ratio and weren't nearly as sweet as the milk chocolate ones. Luckily it is pretty quick and easy to make a homemade version. I like to use super dark chocolate but you could use something a little closer to semi-sweet if you'd prefer.

December 18, 2008

Golden Acorn Squash Chili

2 1/2 cups peeled, cubed golden acorn squash
30 oz canned dark red kidney beans, drained
15 oz canned diced tomatoes (with juice)
10 oz diced tomatoes with green chile (like Ro-tel)
3 cloves garlic, diced
2 chipotle chiles in adobe, chopped
1 onion, chopped
2 teaspoons mesquite liquid smoke
2 teaspoons hot sauce (I used Garlic Hoganero)
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon ground chipotle
1 teaspoon ground jalapeno
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice

Place all ingredients in the slow cooker and gently stir to evenly distribute the spices and squash. It might look a bit dry but the ingredients will release a fair amount liquid as it cooks. Place on low for 6-8 hours. The squash should be tender but not mushy when ready to serve so try to avoid allowing it to cook for much more than 8 hours. Stir and serve piping hot.

Yield: 4-6 servings

My thoughts:
Golden acorn squash looks just like "regular" acorn squash, except the skin is bright orange, sort of pumpkin-looking. I think the flavor is a bit is sweeter but you can substitute the green skinned variety.

I was really happy with how well this chili turned out. I wasn't sure how the acorn squash would hold its shape and flavor but it really did, even with the long cooking time. I loved the juxtaposition of the sweet squash and the spices, it made for the best vegetable chili I've ever had. The leftovers the next day were good too.

Note: If you don't have a slow cooker, I'd try sauteing the onions and garlic in some oil then adding the remaining ingredients to cook on low until the squash is fork tender.

December 16, 2008

Chocolate Dipped Animal Crackers

for the cookies:
1 1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar
5 1/2 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon mace
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 egg, at room temperature

to decorate:
6 oz semisweet chocolate chips
2 tablespoons butter

animal shaped cookie cutters

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugars. Add the egg and vanilla and beat until fluffy. Meanwhile, whisk together the flour, spices, salt and baking powder in a small bowl. While the beater is going, slowly incorporate the flour into the egg/butter mixture and mix until a thick dough forms. Place in a bowl, cover and refrigerate 1 hour or until it is quite cold and stiff. Flour a clean, flat surface. Preheat oven to 350. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper or silpats. Place the chilled dough on the flour and roll it out until it is about 1/4 of an inch thick. If the dough is too cold to successfully roll out, wait a few minutes then try again. Cut out into animal shapes. I do not suggest re-rolling the dough so try to cut out the cookies as close together as possible. Place each cookie onto the lined cookie sheets about 1/2 inch apart. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden. Cool on a wire rack. Meanwhile, in a small pan, melt the butter and chocolate chips together. Dip the bottom of the cooled cookies into the chocolate (carefully!) or brush the chocolate on to the bottoms to form a thin layer. Sprinkle with nonpareils if desired.

Yield: about 2 dozen cookies

Note: if you are doubling or tripling this recipe it will probably take more than an hour to chill. Even overnight would be okay.

My thoughts:
After sampling a number of animal crackers (and reading their ingredients) I became convinced that the secret ingredient, what gives them that distinctive animal cracker taste, is a fair amount of mace. You don't see many recipes that call for mace (and it is the spice I get the most e-mails from people asking for a substitution or if they can just leave it out) but adding it really made the difference. Mace is made from the reddish outer coating of the nutmeg seed* so it has a similar flavor to nutmeg but is a bit more spicy and much stronger tasting. Mace is most commonly found ground but it is possible to purchase mace "blades" which are pieces of this outer coating. By incorporating mace into my go-to sugar cookie recipe and scaling it down quite a bit (but feel free to double or even triple the above recipe-I just made a manageable amount of cookies for us) and making a few tweaks here and there and voila! Animal crackers! I think these would make great gifts or a lovely addition to a cookie swap-who makes homemade animal crackers? People are always impressed by homemade versions of traditionally store bought treats. Dipping them in chocolate makes them a bit more festive looking but isn't completely necessary.

*Quick fact: it takes 100 lbs of nutmeg seeds to produce 1 lb of mace!

December 13, 2008

Homemade Dog Biscuits

homemade dog biscuits

2 cups whole wheat flour
2/3 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup rolled old fashioned oats
2 tablespoons canola oil
3/4 cup chicken stock
2 eggs PLUS 1 egg, beaten

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line 3 baking sheets with parchment paper. In a large bowl, mix together all of the ingredients except for the beaten egg. The dough should easily form a ball and be rather firm. On a floured surface, roll out dough to 1/4 inch thick. Cut into shapes. Re-roll scraps (just once, any more and the biscuits will be tough) and cut out the remaining biscuits. Brush the tops of each biscuit with the beaten egg. Bake for 25-35 minutes or until golden brown and crisp. Remove to a wire rack and cool completely. Store in airtight container.

Yield: about 3 dozen biscuits

My thoughts:
I have thought about making dog treats many times over the years but never actually took the the time to make them. I finally thought the time was right this year (think: cheap present!) and whipped up a batch for our three dogs Elvis (pug), Violet (whippet) and Pippi (dachshund), the neighbor's dog Rocky and my mom's two mixes Caramel and Star (who was my Grandpop's dog-he got her as a puppy when he was 81-13 years ago!) all of whom I thought would appreciate a treat. I don't know why I waited so long, they were super quick to make and I made them using ingredients I always have on hand so I didn't have to buy anything special. These particular biscuits are chicken flavored and full of whole grains. The dogs just gobbled them up!

December 11, 2008

Swedish-ish Meatballs

2 lb ground pork
2 slices white sandwich bread
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup breadcrumbs
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 eggs
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
white pepper

for the sauce:
3 cups pork or chicken stock
1 cup milk
1/3 cup flour
1/2 cup defrosted frozen spinach
3 tablespoons butter
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
white pepper

to serve:
lingonberry preserves
1 lb egg noodles, cooked to package instructions or boiled small red potatoes

Tear the bread into small pieces place in a small pan and top with milk. Allow to soak 2 minutes over low heat or until the milk is full absorbed by the bread. Combine the milk-soaked bread with the rest of the meatball ingredients in a large bowl. Then follow these directions to make mini meatballs or simply roll 1 tablespoon's worth of the meat mixture into balls and broil, turning once until they are cooked through.

Meanwhile, in a heavy saucepan, melt the butter. Whisk in the flour and spices then the milk and broth. Bring to boil then add spinach and reduce heat and simmer until slightly thickened, about 3-5 minutes. Add the meatballs and cook for an additional 5 minutes.

Serve over noodles or with boiled red potatoes for a meal or with toothpicks as an appetizer.

Yield: 6-8 meal sized servings or 10-15 appetizer sized servings

Spring this recipe!

My thoughts:
Swedish meatballs are a somewhat retro party food. Great as appetizers or a snack they also make a wonderfully comforting dinner. Who doesn't, if even secretly, love meatballs? They are easy to make and can be kept warm for a long time over a slow simmer on the stove or in the slow cooker.

I call these Swedish-ish meatballs because there are a few differences between how I like to make them and what is strictly traditional. I like to use ground pork instead of beef or a pork-beef combination; they end up much less greasy and I think the flavor is better. Since I am using pork I like to use pork or chicken broth instead of beef stock. I also like to add spinach to the recipe to eliminate the need for a side dish when I am serving them as a meal and a splash of color when they are on appetizer duty. I also like to use milk instead of heavy cream in the sauce. The sauce is still quite rich and creamy but not nearly as heavy.

December 09, 2008

Pomegranate Chocolate Chunk Cookies

1 1/3 cup flour
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup pomegranate seeds
1 egg, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
6 oz semisweet chocolate chunks*

Preheat the oven to 350. Line 3 cookie sheets with parchment paper. In a medium sized bowl combine flour, salt, and baking powder. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla and combine thoroughly. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the sweetened butter and mix until a very thick dough forms. Use a spoon to fold in the chunks then the pomegranates and distributing both evenly. Form cookies by dropping 1 heaping teaspoon of dough on the sheet two inches apart. Flatten slightly then bake until light brown, about 12 minutes. Let cool on wire racks (if you can wait that long) then serve with plenty of cold milk.


*In the past I have a hard time finding high quality chocolate chunks but lately, I have been able to find Scharffen Berger chocolate chunks in both 62% Cacao Semisweet and 70% Cacao Bittersweet varieties at well-stocked grocery stores. I bet they will be even easier to find now that it is the holiday season so keep an eye out!

My thoughts:


Sweet+tart=delightful cookies. I have never seen much less had pomegranate cookies before but I had a bunch of pomegranate seeds (arils) that I had liberated from 3 pomegranates and decided to give it a shot. I am glad I did! The pomegranate seeds keep their bubble of juiciness while the seed at the middle of each aril softens to the texture of baked nut.

December 06, 2008

Grocery Lists, Menu Planning & Holiday Meals, Oh My!

In the past several weeks I have been working with SpringPad, a new online notebook website that is currently in beta, to bring you some of the "extras" that many of you have been asking for over the years. These include a meal planner, grocery lists and holiday menus. Simply sign up at SpringPad to begin using these features. You will also start to see links like the following

Spring the Coconut & Lime Weekly Meal Planner!

showing up on the bottoms of some of my recipes so you can easily "spring" them into your online notebook to use and share with others. I hope you all take advantage of these new features!

December 04, 2008

Tortilla Soup

tortilla soup

25 oz crushed tomatoes
15 oz fire roasted tomatoes
4 oz canned chopped green chile peppers
2 habanero, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cups chicken or turkey stock
2 cups shredded chicken or turkey
1 1/3 cup fresh or frozen fire roasted corn
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon hot Mexican chili powder
1 teaspoon ground chipotle
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

to serve:

6 corn tortillas, cut in half
avocado, sliced
shredded cheese
lime wedges


Slow cooker instructions:
Place the spices, tomatoes, broth, garlic, onion and peppers in the slow cooker. Cover, and cook on low for about 6 hours. After 6 hours, add the corn and turkey. Cover and cook for an additional 45 to 60 minutes.

Stovetop instructions:
In a large pot, saute the onions, garlic and habanero in a tablespoon of canola oil. Add the tomatoes and spices. Cook to a near boil then add the corn and turkey and reduce heat. Cook through.

To serve:

Slice the tortillas into 1/4 inch strips. Fry in a shallow skillet until crisp and golden. Drain on paper towel lined plates. Ladle the soup into bowls, then sprinkle with cheese, avocado, tortilla strips and serve with lime.

Yield: 4-6 servings

My thoughts:

Tortilla soup is a Southwestern soup that comes in a few variations. This one is my favorite. The fire roasted tomatoes and corn give it a slightly smoky flavor which adds depth to the soup. The avocado and tortilla strips add texture interest. For this version I used turkey, but an equal amount of shredded (cooked) chicken could be substituted. I prefer the slow cooker method for this, it is even easier than the stove top method and the slow, low simmer really brings out the flavors but really either way yields an excellent, spicy, tomato packed soup.

Note: A few people have emailed me about where to get the fire roasted tomatoes. I like to use Muir Glen fire roasted tomatoes and I have found them at both "natural" and "regular" grocery stores, just ask for them.

December 02, 2008

Sweet Potato Cupcakes

1 1/2 cup flour
2/3 cup light brown sugar
2/3 cup milk
2/3 cup cooked sweet potatoes*, at room temperature
6 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon mace
1/8 teaspoon allspice
1 egg, at room temperature

toasted marshmallow frosting

Preheat oven to 350. Line or grease and flour 12 wells in a cupcake pan. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar. Add the egg then mix thoroughly. Add flour, baking powder and salt to the butter mixture. In a small bowl, mix together the mix and potatoes. Add the mixture the rest of the batter and mix until well combined. Fill each well 2/3 of the way full. Bake 12-15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted the center of a cupcake comes out clean or with just one or two dry crumbs. Cool briefly in the pan, then remove cupcakes to wire racks to cool completely before icing with toasted marshmallow frosting.


*This is a great way to use up leftover mashed or baked sweet potatoes or yams. Even something like these dressed up yams would work and be tasty but you would have to adjust the spices accordingly.

My thoughts:
Sweet potato casserole has never made an appearance at any holiday table I've been to but I have read so much about it, I know it must be popular. I am against sweet side dishes or really anything sweet served at a time other than dessert or maybe breakfast but I have always been intrigued by the idea of the marshmallow topping. So I decided to make a cupcake out of it. The result: a super moist cupcake full of spice and sweet potatoes. The toasted marshmallow frosting is sweet, but the spice balances it and it just all comes together to make one really festive cupcake.

Note: I also think these would be good with vanilla cream cheese frosting.

 photo coconut-sig_zpsb2fb208a.jpg

Toasted Marshmallow Frosting

Toasted Marshmallow Frosting

1/4 oz. unflavored powdered gelatin
1/4 cup cold water
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup corn syrup
1/8 cup water
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon vanilla paste


In a large bowl, sprinkle gelatin over 1/4 cup cold water. Allow to seep for 10 minutes. In a medium saucepan, combine sugar, corn syrup, and 1/8 cup water. Bring to a vigorous boil and boil for 1 minute. Pour boiling syrup into gelatin and mix at high speed for 1 minute. Add the salt and vanilla and beat for 12 minutes. Quickly spread on one dozen cooled cupcakes. Allow to set (about 15 minutes) then brown with a small torch, or in the broiler. Be careful!

Spring this recipe!

My thoughts:
This is a really marshmallow-y icing. In fact, it basically sets up into an actual marshmallow after a day or so, which you need if you are going to toast it, although it is just as tasty untoasted. If you want a lighter more traditional marshmallow frosting, try this fluffy white icing, just don't try and toast it. However, I don't want this recipe's extreme marshmallowness to put you off, it makes a great frosting, just know that the longer it sits the more set up it becomes.