March 25, 2020

Marble Cake for an Anniversary under Quarantine


for the cake:

2 cups flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
pinch salt
1/2 cup olive oil (or canola or vegetable)
1 1/2 teaspoons white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup water
1 tablespoon cocoa

for the icing (optional)
4 oz brick cream cheese, at room temperature
1 oz butter, at room temperature
2 cups confectioners sugar


Preheat oven to 350. Grease and flour an 8x8 inch baking dish. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. Pour in the wet ingredients, whisk until the batter is smooth. Scoop out 2/3 cup batter. Place in a small bowl. Whisk in the cocoa.

Pour the vanilla batter into prepared pan. Scoop spoonfuls of the chocolate batter on top in a polka dot pattern and swirl with the tip of a knife.

Bake 35 minutes or until a toothpick in the middle of the pan comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes then turn out on a wire rack and cool completely.

If icing:

Mix together the icing ingredients until smooth. Spread on cooled cake. Decorate as desired.

Alternatively, sprinkle with confectioners sugar, glaze or make a simple buttercream using all butter instead of cream cheese.

My thoughts:

We are spending our 15th wedding anniversary at home on our 13th day of self-quarantine for the coronavirus/COVID-19. We got married at a courthouse in front of no witnesses so I guess it is sort of fitting to celebrate alone together! We had plans to go out for a seafood dinner but as Maryland has closed all restaurants and businesses and we have already been avoiding contact for the past two weeks (we haven't been anywhere but our own house in 13 days) we don't really have any choice but to be at home.

I've already made one cake from pantry ingredients last week that was very good so I was inspired to make another. I'm trying to ration out our butter and eggs so making a "wacky" or "crazy" cake that doesn't use dairy or eggs and minimal other ingredients made sense. I had cream cheese leftover from making a cake for my parents' anniversary last month so I iced it but it would be great with just powdered sugar or a simple glaze.

I had made "wacky" cake a few times before last week, it's an old fashioned concept from days of rationing and Depression that's incidentally vegan and we seem to know more than our share of vegans but I had always made a chocolate version like the one I posted last week. I wasn't sure how it would be in a vanilla cake. To make it a little more festive, I made it a marble cake. I'm super pleased with how it came out. It's very moist with a light crumb yet very flavorful. It's simple to make and am 8x8 square cake is perfect for small gatherings.

March 19, 2020

One Bowl Pantry Chocolate Snack Cake


1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup light brown sugar (can sub regular or dark)
1/3 cup cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
pinch salt
1/2 cup olive oil (or canola or vegetable)
1 1/2 teaspoons white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup water
2 tablespoons cold brew coffee concentrate (optional or replace the water with brewed coffee)


Preheat oven to 350. Grease and flour a 8x8 inch baking dish. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. Pour in the wet ingredients, whisk until the batter is smooth. Pour into prepared pan.

Bake 30 minutes or until a toothpick in the middle of the pan comes out clean. Cool, in pan,  on a wire rack. Sprinkle with confectioners sugar. Slice and serve.

My thoughts:
This is a riff on Depression and wartime era "wacky" or "crazy" cakes that were made without eggs or butter as a cost and resource cutting measure. They rely on acidic ingredients and baking soda to make the cakes rise. Snack cakes were pretty popular in that era when a lot of baking was done at home. Snack cakes aren't mean to be fancy, decorated celebration cakes, they are a simple cake meant to be tucked into lunch boxes and served at casual get-togethers. They were the precursor to the packaged Hostess and Tastykakes we are familiar with today.

Since we are all stuck at home thanks to Covid-19 and many people are cooking from their pantries I thought an easy no butter, no eggs, no skill, no perishables cake was in order. The cake has a surprisingly rich flavor thanks to a high cocoa ration and a splash of coffee. Perfect for a little pick-me-up and who doesn't need that right now? It's pretty adaptable--I listed some substitutions above--normally I make it with canola oil but our reserves are getting low and I have lot more olive oil on hand. Feel free to add some spices and make it your own!

It's so moist and rich tasting, no one would know you made it with odds and ends off the shelf.

Check out what else I've been making during self-isolation on my new blog, Cooking in Isolation.

March 16, 2020

Peanut Butter Reese's Pieces and Peanut Butter Cup Cookies


1 2/3 cup flour
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 1/2 tablespoons smooth peanut butter
1 cup light brown sugar
2 eggs, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
8.5 oz Reese's Baking Peanut Butter Cups and Reese's Pieces Candy
1/3 cup mini chocolate chips


Preheat the oven to 350. Line 2 cookie sheets with silicone baking mats or parchment. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. In a large bowl, cream the butter, peanut butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and vanilla extract and combine thoroughly. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and mix until a very thick dough forms. Fold in the chips. Form cookies by dropping 1 heaping teaspoon of dough two inches apart.

Flatten slightly then bake until light brown, about 14 minutes. Slide them out on the baking mat on to a cooling rack and allow them to cool 1-2 minutes on the baking mat/parchment on the wire rack before removing them to cool directly on the wire rack.

Yield: about 1 1/2-2 dozen cookies
My thoughts:
If there is ever a time I needed a cookie it's now. We have been self-quarantining since Thursday thanks to the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and I'm trying to look it as a chance to become even more creative with my cooking. I've been stocking up the last few weeks and organizing what we already have. While I bought the usual canned goods and frozen vegetables, I also made sure to stock up on butter, flour, and sugar so I could give us a treat. We had picked up these chips back in the fall at HersheyPark (they are also available online and in stores) and never did anything with them. What better time than now? If you don't have the chips on hand, you could sub in Reese's Pieces and chopped peanut butter cups or even M & Ms or just chocolate chips. It's very versatile! Make do with what you have.

If you'd like to follow along with what I'm making while in quarantine, check out my new daily blog, Cooking in Isolation, where I'm sharing what I'm making, recipes and tips.

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March 13, 2020

Steelhead Trout Salad with Horseradish and Arugula


1/2 lb cooked steelhead trout
1 hard-boiled egg
1/4 cup minced arugula
1/4 teaspoon prepared horseradish
3 tablespoons mayo
3 tablespoons minced red onion
3 tablespoons minced celery
1/2-1 tablespoons nonpareil capers


In a small bowl, mix all ingredients until evenly distributed. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

My thoughts:
I made the steelhead trout recipe I posted earlier this week when my husband wasn't feeling well and basically just eating bananas and yogurt so I had a lot leftover. I'm trying not to waste food (even more so as we are clearly heading into quarantine of some sort (check out my getting-ready-for-quarantine cart here)  so I repurposed the leftovers into this salad. I love what I call "sandwich salads" (see also: tuna salad, fake crab salad, smoked salmon salad, chicken salad, egg salad etc) and they are a great way to jazz up leftovers. I stretched the trout a bit by adding a hard-boiled egg and was delighted by the results. It added some welcome flavor and texture interest. The arugula added some sharpness and made me feel like I was eating some vegetables and the horseradish gave it some assertive heat. All in all, a delight.

March 10, 2020

Steelhead Trout with Fennel and Cara Cara Oranges


1 small bulb fennel, very thinly sliced
1 small onion or shallot, thinly sliced
1 Cara Cara orange, thinly sliced
1 lb steelhead trout filets
1/4 teaspoon fennel pollen
freshly ground pepper
fennel fronds

Preheat oven to 325. Lightly oil a 1 1/2-2 quart baking dish (I used a 8x8 inch baking dish). Toss together the fennel, onion/shallot and orange slices on the bottom of the dish. Top with the trout.

Rub the trout with a bit of olive oil and sprinkle with fennel pollen, salt pepper, and fronds. Bake for 30 minutes or until cooked through and flaky.

My thoughts:

Transition into spring with this delicious trout dish. Fennel is mostly a fall and winter vegetable but it feels springy and fresh to me. Cara Cara oranges are some of my favorites (and not just becuase they are pink!) and they come into their peak at the end of winter. The flavors really seep into the fish in an amazing way.

Steelhead trout is a wonderful, sustainable alternative to salmon. Despite being from the same family as rainbow trout, it looks very similar, has a familiar meaty texture and is just as easy to cook as salmon. It is a bit lighter and softer in texture and not quite as oily thanks to a lower fat content. I haven't found many recipes for it but I would think that you could sub it in most salmon recipes. Aldi has it pretty frequently for a good price.

Take care to really thinly slice the fennel, I had a few thicker pieces and they werent' quite tender when the fish was completed. I like using fennel pollen to kick the fennel flavor up a bit but it can be left out (or sub fennel seeds) if you don't have any on hand.

March 05, 2020

Corned Beef and Cabbage Cottage Pie


3/4 cup chopped onions
2 carrots, diced
1 parsnip diced
1 medium rutabaga, diced
2 small turnips, diced
1/3 of a head of cabbage, chopped
2 cups cubed (cooked, cold, leftover) corned beef
superfine flour (like Wondra)
1-2 cups beef stock
2 lbs Yukon gold potatoes, cubed
1 tablespoon butter
handful chopped Italian parsley


Preheat oven to 350.

In a medium Dutch or French oven or another heavy-duty cookpot, saute the onions, cabbage*, carrots, turnip, rutabaga, and parsnips in butter until the vegetables begin to soften.  Add meat to the vegetables. Sprinkle with flour. Stir to coat Add the stock to just cover the mixture and simmer until the vegetables are tender and the mixture has thickened.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to boil. Boil the potatoes until tender. Drain. Season, mash in butter and parsley.  Cover and set aside.

Scrape the corned beef mixture into a 9-inch deep-dish pie plate, individual 8-10 oz ramekins or an 8x8 inch baking dish. Smooth with the back of the spoon to create a single layer.

Top with an even layer of mashed potatoes. Bake until the edges are browned and bubbly.

*If your cabbage is already cooked, add it when you add the corned beef.

My thoughts:
This recipe isn't quite as fanciful as my corned beef and cabbage knishes were but it is just as tasty! It's a bit easier too if you've ever made shepherd's (lamb) or cottage pie (beef) before, it's a very similar technique just with cabbage added to the mix. I like my cottage pie with lots of vegetables so I also added carrots, parsnips, and rutabaga. Doesn't it look so colorful in the pan?

I started with leftover cooked corned beef but started from scratch with the vegetables but you are someone who makes corned beef and cabbage with onions and carrots or other vegetables (no potatoes), you could jump ahead. Simply heat it up and thicken it up with the flour and then layer the potatoes on top. That would work as well but if you have time, making it this way so good! Savory, meaty yet veggie-packed but surprisingly not terribly heavy. It easily became one my new favorite (easy!) ways to use up the corned beef that is so readily available (and affordable!) this time of year.

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March 02, 2020

Corned Beef and Cabbage Knishes


for the dough:

2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup sour cream
2/3 cup water
2 tablespoons melted butter
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 egg

egg wash:

1 egg
1 tablespoon water

corned beef and cabbage filling:

1 onion, chopped
3 tablespoon schmaltz or canola oil
1 1/2 cups chopped cabbage
3 1/2 cups plain mashed potatoes (cooled)
2 cups cubed corned beef (cooked and cooled)


For the filling: (can be done the day before and refrigerated, covered overnight)
Heat the schmaltz in a skillet. Add the onions and cook until quite dark. Add and cabbage and saute until soft, seasoning with salt and pepper. Mash the onion/cabbage into the potato, stir in the corned beef.

Preheat oven to 375. Allow your filling to cool while you make the dough.

for the dough:

Whisk together all of the dry ingredients. Pour into a large bowl, preferably in the bottom of a stand mixer. In a medium bowl, whisk together the sour cream, butter, water, and egg. Pour on top of the dry ingredients and mix using a dough hook until a solid ball of elastic dough forms.

Divide the dough into 12 equal pieces.

Roll each piece out on a floured surface to a 5-inch circle about 1/8 inch thick (I like using this small rolling pin). Place a 1/4 cup of filling in the middle. Fold the sides up to close, pinch shut. Place seam-side down on a lined baking sheet. Prick the top with a fork, once.  Alternatively, wrap the dough around the filling, leaving about 1/2 inch wide window on the top.

Beat the egg and water together for the egg wash. Brush over the top of the knish. Repeat for remaining dough. Bake for about 20 minutes or until very hot but not browned.

Note: As the dough contains dairy, this means this recipe is not kosher. If you'd like to make a kosher version, there are a ton of oil-based knish bough recipes that this filling would be wonderful in. We prefer this dough as we think it is tastier, easier to work with and less greasy and keeping kosher is not a concern.

My thoughts:
How is it almost St Patrick's Day already?! I have to admit, I never really celebrated it beyond wearing green to school and don't do much now but one thing I've really enjoyed over the years is coming up with new recipes using corned beef and cabbage. It's oddly very satisfying. I think my favorite is still corned beef and cabbage bao and corned beef stuff cabbage is a close second.

I actually made this just after St Patrick's Day last year and saved the recipe so I could actually get it up in time for you to make it before the holiday. Take advantage of those corned beef sales!

Not only do we love knishes here there is a neat origin story for the very American combination of corned beef and cabbage. Back in the early 1900s Irish and Jewish immigrants lived side by side in many lower-income NYC neighborhoods like the Lower East Side. Back in Ireland cabbage and another cured meat, bacon was a popular dish. Corned beef had been popular in Ireland but was more due to English laws mostly exported and out of the reach of most Irish citizens. By the time of the Irish Potato Famine when many Irish people immigrated to the US, it had fallen in out of favor for the more readily available and affordable bacon--if they had the money for meat at all--potatoes were the real staple of their diet.

Apparently, in New York, the Irish immigrants noticed that the more readily available corned beef from Jewish delis, the kosher butchers where they were already shopping and food carts was fairly similar (and inexpensive!) to Irish corned beef (and salty back bacon) and started cooking that with cabbage and potatoes. Voila: the American tradition of corned beef and cabbage began.

To celebrate the fusion of Jewish and Irish culture all those years ago, I had to make the deli classic knishes! They are easier to make than you'd think and while I love a potato knish, adding corned beef and cabbage really kicks up the flavor. They are amazingly good.

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