April 16, 2014

Taste the rainbow

I love this dish, not only because it's easy and delicious, but it's also so dang pretty. I love all the bright colors from the carrots, kale, curry, and turmeric. The flavors are a bit sweet, a bit sour and a little bit spicy, and it's a great side dish for chicken or fish.
This one is SED friendly, and now it's also Kosher for Passover friendly! Alex and I love it, and I've made this about 6 times in the past few months. As long as you have the quinoa pre-cooked and ready to go, it will take about 15 minutes to throw it all together. Normally, it calls for almonds, but I was all out, so I used cashews. They got a little too soft and lost their crunch, so stick with almonds when you make this. And you should make this! Look how pretty it is!
Moroccan Quinoa Pilaf
adapted from Nourishing Meals
2 to 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
4 carrots, sliced into rounds
1 cup raw almonds, chopped
½ cup currants or raisins
1 ½ to 2 teaspoons mild curry powder
½ teaspoon turmeric
½ teaspoon ground cardamom (I never have this, so I just leave it out)
4 cups chopped kale
4 to 5 cups cooked and cooled quinoa
1 small lemon, juiced

Heat a large over medium heat. Add olive oil, then add the chopped onions. Sauté onions for 4 to 5 minutes. Then add the sliced carrots and sauté for about 10 minutes more. Keep the heat at a medium temp to allow the onions to cook but not brown.
Add the almonds, raisins, spices, and salt and sauté 5 minutes more. Add the kale. Sauté about 5 minutes, or until kale is tender. Then add cooked quinoa and stir together over low heat. Add a few tablespoons of water if the pilaf seems dry. An extra tablespoon of oil will also help prevent the quinoa from sticking to the pan.

Remove from heat and add the juice of the lemon. Stir together, taste, and adjust salt and seasonings if needed.

April 7, 2014

Cooking with Gwyneth

Me and Gwyneth Paltrow are total BFFs. Okay, not really at all, but I did technically have her over for dinner the other night. This recipe is from her blog, which I had never heard of until I started my elimination diet. Apparently good ol' Gwynnie likes to eat clean and the majority of her recipes are Standard Elimination Diet (SED) friendly.
This recipe is one that I will keep in our rotation long after this diet is over. It's incredibly easy, delicious, filling and even the 3 year old likes it. Well, he picks out the kale, but I'll take what I can get. Alex wraps this up in corn tortillas, and I just eat it plain. We both like to top it with diced avocado, but I imagine it would also taste good with some sour cream or tomatoes. I recommend doubling the recipe so that you have more than enough for lunch the next day.
Sweet Potato, Black Bean and Kale Skillet
adapted from Goop

2 sweet potatoes, peeled (I like to leave the peel on)
1 can black beans
2 hearty handfuls kale, torn into bite-size pieces
1 lime
olive oil
pinch of sumac (I omitted)
pinch of cumin
sea salt
freshly ground pepper

Dice the sweet potatoes into small/medium chunks.

Place large sauté pan over medium high heat and drizzle with olive oil. Add sweet potatoes, sumac(if using) and cumin to pan and cook for a minute until they begin to brown, stirring throughout to coat. Cover after a minute, bring the heat down to medium and let cook for about 5-8 minutes, stirring once or twice, until they’ve softened up.

Add black beans. Stir to mix. Add kale, season with salt and pepper, mix and cover. Let cook for 2-3 minutes, uncover and stir. (It will most likely be a bit too dry at this point, so drizzle over more olive oil.) Cook for another minute or so until kale is cooked to your liking. Squeeze the lime juice over top and toss gently to coat.

Serve with diced avocado, warm tortillas or any other topping you desire.

April 1, 2014

Elimination Creativity

Some of the meals I've made for the Elimination Diet have actually been so delicious (and easy!) that I will keep them in our meal rotation, even after I'm off this blasted diet. This salmon dinner is definitely one of them. I will admit that our grocery budget has gone up since I started this diet, because unfortunately cleaner, healthier, and fresher foods cost more. We are still cautious about how much we spend, but it's unavoidable in some ways. 

This diet has also forced me to be much more creative in the kitchen, which is fun. Now that I have a good grasp of what I can/can't eat, I am able to improvise some meals, either by altering recipes or gathering what I can find in the pantry. This recipe is a collection of a few different ones I've made in the past. It's fast and easy because the salmon cooks very quickly, and you can throw together the avocado and cucumber salad while it's roasting.

Skillet Salmon with Avocado Cucumber Salad
2-4 salmon fillets, skin removed
2 TBS olive oil 
2 ripe avocados, pitted and diced
1 large cucumber, de-seeded and diced

Pre-heat the oven to 450

Lay the salmon on a flat surface and generously salt/pepper each side of the fillets. Put the olive oil in an oven-proof skillet (if the handle is not oven-proof, you can wrap it in foil), and bring it up to high heat. When the oil is almost smoking, place the salmon fillets in and let them sear for about 3-4 minutes so they form a nice crust. 

After, flip the fillets over carefully, and place the skillet into the pre-heated oven, until the fish cooks through, about 7-8 minutes (depending on the thickness). While it's cooking, combine the diced avocado and cucumber in a bowl, and season with salt, pepper and lemon juice to taste. 

When the fish is done, squeeze more lemon over the top and serve immediately.

March 19, 2014

Elimination Diet - aka "Boring"

Well, it's happened folks. My eczema has gotten the best of me, so I decided it was time to go big or go home. That means I'm on a full elimination diet to try and pinpoint the cause of my lifelong itching. Since January 14th, I have been off dairy, gluten, sugar, eggs, corn, soy, peanuts, coffee, and nightshade vegetables (eggplant, white potatoes, peppers, cayenne and paprika). The first two weeks were AWFUL. I wanted to kick puppies and steal everyone's candy. I didn't realize how addicted I'd become to sugar and gluten! I craved bagels like I did when I was pregnant, and I started drooling when my coworkers ate candy.

Slowly, the cravings went away, and I began to feel better. The big question I get these days is "What on earth do you eat!?" My diet consists of vegetables, chicken, fish, quinoa, rice, almond milk, GF oatmeal, nuts and water. Lots and lots of water.

I'm going to start blogging my Elimination Diet recipes because after combing through Pinterest, Google, Amazon, the library and the rest of the vast universe, I discovered something sad. There are not a lot of resources dedicated to ED recipes. So I'm going to put some more information out there, in the hopes that it can help someone else. For now, here are some of the resources I've been using:

My Pinterest board

Oh She Glows (vegan recipes, delicious!)

Nourishing Meals

Nightshade Free Recipes

And last, but not least, my awesome nutritionist, who has been holding my itchy little hand every step of the way

December 8, 2013


So I've been a bit lax about posting. What can I say? Life is busy. So busy, in fact, that I blinked and my baby turned 3. THREE! He's sweet, sassy, curious, funny and full of attitude some days. We call him our "threenager."

One of my favorite parts of celebrating Eli's birthday is making him a special birthday cake. This year, I wanted to incorporate his favorite things (Thomas and train tracks) into it, and I just about died when I saw the perfect cake idea on Pinterest.

It came together really well, and it was surprisingly easy! I used Hershey's chocolate cake recipe for 4 9-inch cakes (1 batch makes 2 cakes), and my favorite buttercream recipe. I am really picky about my frosting because most buttercream recipes are too cloyingly sweet for me. This one uses a dose of salt and lemon juice, and I think it makes for a perfect frosting. I also don't like to fill my cake layers with frosting because I think it's too much. I prefer jam because it helps to balance out the sweet cake and frosting, and lends a nice bit of tartness.

The carving can be a bit of a challenge, but freezing the cakes made them easy to shape. I followed the advice on this website, which lays out all the numbers for you. I also fill my cake layers using this bit of advice I learned from my Wilton decorating classes. Instead of just slopping the jam/custard/etc in between the layers, pipe a barrier of icing around the cake and use it as a "wall" for your filling. This way, when you lay the top cake down, it won't squish out all the filling and make a mess. It also prevents the filling from leaking out the sides and ruining your final frosting coat. Works perfectly!

Eli's Train Cake -  Kit Kats for train tracks and M&Ms to help it look more finished. I'm really glad I used them because I ran out of frosting along the bottom edge of the cake!

The final product was really cool and incredibly delicious. Unfortunately, a few of his friends weren't able to make the party due to a snowstorm, so we have some leftover cake. I might have to go grab another slice...just to make sure it's still good. You know, for research's sake and all.

Cake Recipe found here

Buttercream Recipe
Adapted from Demolition Desserts, Elizabeth Falkner
Makes about 2 cups (I tripled this for my cake. I think that doubled would be good for 1 9-inch layer cake)
4 oz. (1 stick) unsalted softened butter
2 1/2 c. or 10 oz. powdered sugar
1/2 t. kosher salt
1 T. plus 1 t. whole milk
1 t. pure vanilla extract
1 t. fresh lemon juice (I put 1/2 t.)
In a stand mixer, fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and salt for about 30 seconds and then add half of the powdered sugar and the milk to the butter and beat again until combined. Scrape down the bowl.  
Add the rest of the powdered sugar, the vanilla, and the lemon juice and beat until combined.  Scrape down the bowl again.  Beat on high speed for 5-6 minutes or until the frosting is fluffy.

Set a small amount aside for piping the train tracks, if you so desire. Gel food coloring is the best choice here, as it won't alter the consistency of your buttercream.
Creating the Cake Shape
Once the cake is cooled, stick the layers in the freezer for at least a few hours (overnight is best, so they can be made a few days in advance).

For the number "3", take each layer of the cake and remove an 8cm circle from the middle. I made a paper circle template, put it on top of the cake, and cut around it. Remove about a 1/4 of one cake for the base of the three and about 1/3 of the remaining cake for the top. Position to make the number, trimming as required. It's best to put everything together on a cake board, as the final product is heavy. I cover my cake boards with foil because I like the way it looks.

Pipe your frosting in a wall around the bottom layer and fill with jam. Top with cake. Repeat for the other part of the 3. Using a light hand, go over the entire cake with frosting for your crumb coat. This doesn't have to be perfect; in fact, the point of this is to lock in the crumbs so it doesn't ruin your final layer of frosting. Just get everything thinly covered and pop it all in the fridge for at least an hour.

Note: the inside of the 3 was more difficult to frost than I expected. It's the inside of the cake, therefore it was crumbier and took more frosting to cover. I was glad I made a triple batch of buttercream.

Cover the cake with your final layer of buttercream and while it's still wet, stick on the Kit Kats for train tracks. If you're using M&M's, do those around the base now as well. Pipe the train rails carefully, and then set it all in the fridge to chill. I stored it there overnight because I didn't want to keep buttercream out that long.

September 5, 2013

Raisin Challah and Braiding Tips

L'shana Tova Umetukah! A happy and sweet new year!
On Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, we eat a lot of round and sweet foods. The round symbolizes the cycle of a year, and the sweet is for your sweet year. One of my favorite traditional dishes is a round raisin challah. I've made challah before, but never attempted a round one. It seemed really intimidating!
However, I found a great recipe and tips from The Shiksa in the Kitchen, via Bon Appetite online. The Shiksa is a great blog for Jewish/Kosher recipes and food history (and let's not forget that Bubbie Ruth's Mandel Bread won an honorable mention in her recipe competition!). This article gave a great suggestion for round challah, which was creating a chain of dough links in a circle and letting it bake into a full round. I love the symbolism and the result!
I made the challah in advance, and then wrapped the fully baked and cooled rounds in foil and plastic wrap to freeze. When it was time to serve, I unwrapped and let them come to room temperature over 6 hours. Then I re-wrapped them in foil and popped them into a 250 degree oven for about 20 minutes. They tasted great!
Adapted from The Shiksa in the Kitchen
This will make 1 large braided challah or 2 smaller round challot
1 1/2 cups lukewarm water, divided
1 packet active dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
1 egg
3 egg yolks
1/3 cup honey
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 teaspoons salt
4 1/2 to 6 cups all-purpose baking flour

Egg Wash
1 egg
1 tablespoon cold water
1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cups raisins (for Rosh Hashana)
Sesame seeds or poppy seeds

Pour 1/4 cup of the lukewarm water (about 110 degrees F) into a large mixing bowl. Add 1 packet of active dry yeast and 1 tsp of sugar to the bowl, stir to dissolve. Wait 10 minutes. The yeast should have activated, meaning it will look expanded and foamy. Add remaining 1 1/4 cup lukewarm water to the bowl along with the egg and egg yolks, honey, canola oil and salt; whisk till blended.

Begin stirring the flour into the bowl by half-cupfuls. When mixture becomes too thick to stir, use your hands to knead. I added in about 3.5 cups and mixed it with the paddle attachment on my stand mixer. Then I slowly started to use the dough hook with an additional 1.5 cups. Continue to add flour and knead the dough until it’s smooth and elastic, not sticky. The amount of flour you will need to achieve this texture varies; only add flour until the dough feels pliable and “right.” If you plan to add raisins to the challah, incorporate them into the dough as you knead.

Preheat your oven to 250. Once it reaches temperature, turn it off, but don't open the oven yet. Remove the dough from your mixing bowl and wash out the bowl. Grease the bowl with canola oil. Push the dough back into the bottom of the bowl, then flip it over so that both sides are slightly moistened by the oil. Cover the bowl with foil, then place it on the top rack of your oven. After 1 hour, take the dough out and punch it down into the bowl several times to remove air pockets. Place it back inside the oven and let it rise for 1 hour longer.

Take the dough out of the oven. Flour a smooth surface like a cutting board. Punch the dough down into the bowl a few times, then turn the dough out onto the floured surface. Knead for a few minutes, adding flour as needed to keep the dough from feeling sticky.

Now your dough is ready to braid. See the "How to Make a Round Challah" link at the bottom of the page here.

After you’ve braided your challah, place it on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper–one braid per cookie sheet. Prepare your egg wash by beating the egg, salt and water till smooth. Use a pastry brush to brush a thin layer of egg wash onto the visible surface of your challah. Reserve the leftover egg wash.

Cover the challah loosely with plastic wrap and let it rise 30 to 45 minutes longer. You’ll know the dough is ready to bake when you press your finger into the dough and the indentation stays, rather than bouncing back.

Remove the plastic wrap from the challah. Heat oven to 350 degrees F. The challah needs to bake for about 40 minutes total. First, bake your challah for 20 minutes. Take the challah out of the oven and touch up the center of the braid with another thin layer of egg wash (this area tends to expand during baking). Turn the cookie sheet around, so the opposite side is facing front, and put it back into the oven.

Bake the challah for about 20 minutes longer (bulkier shapes like round challahs might need more time in the oven). For this last part of the baking process, keep an eye on your bread–it may brown faster than it’s baking. When the challah is browned to your liking, take the tray out and tent it with foil, then place it back in the oven. Remove the foil for the last 2 minutes of baking time.

Take the challah out of the oven. At this point your house should smell delicious. You can test the bread for doneness by turning it over and tapping on the bottom of the loaf–if it makes a hollow sound, it’s done. Let challah cool on the baking sheet or a wire cooling rack before serving.

August 14, 2013

The Cherpumple

I can't resist a baking challenge. That's why I loved my time in The Daring Bakers a few years ago. Now, I don't have time for TDB, but I still love to challenge myself in the kitchen on occasion. A few years ago, someone introduced me to this monstrosity of a cake, the Turducken of desserts - the Cherpumple. So named for its CHerry-PUMPkin-apPLE pies baked inside of various cakes, all layered together, it's a huge and obscene dessert. 

Of course, I had to bake it.

A few months ago, we got together with a group of friends for dinner, and I volunteered (as always) to make dessert. Alex teased me about having promised a Cherpumple on various occasions, so I figured this was as good a time as any! I did modify it a little bit, though, as there were only 6 of us at the dinner. I eliminated the pumpkin layer and just made a Cherple. It was MORE than enough! 

There is a lot of information online about baking a Cherpumple, but after doing my research, I decided that this post was the most well-written and informative. It also helped me understand that this was a 2-day undertaking (at least!) and I needed to make sure that there was enough time to do everything. 

I saved myself some stress by doing premade pies and box mix cake, which isn't my favorite, but is cheap and easy. I did make my own cream cheese icing, though. The canned stuff is just too icky. 

Overall, it was tasty...but very rich and a little too much. The flavor of the pie filling blended nicely with the cake, and it was fun to taste everything together. 

If you decide to make a Cherpumple for your next gathering, please take note: 
  • This will easily feed at least 12+ people
  • The finished product is HEAVY
  • You'll need 2 days for baking and assembly
  • Cream cheese icing works best. Anything else is too sweet
  • Tiny slices are more than enough 
I recommend following VittleMonster's guide for easy instructions! Have fun :-)

Baked, cooled and crumb-coated

 Decorated, and ready for transport! 


July 26, 2013

Whole Wheat Ricotta Blueberry Scones

Scones are one of those baked treats that seem very impressive, but are really embarrassingly easy to assemble. If you are new to baking, I recommend trying scones as a gateway recipe, because they are also pretty forgiving.

This recipe is from the Smitten Kitchen cookbook, and I made it for our brunch while we were in the Outer Banks for a week. The original recipe calls for raspberries, but they are so expensive at the grocery store. We happened to have a big bucket of blueberries, so I just adjusted accordingly. You really could do these with other fruits, but it should be something jammy and squishable. Yes, those are official baking terms.

You wouldn't think that whole wheat flour and ricotta would make for a nice and delicate scone, but it does! The end result is a light, cakey and flavorful treat, perfect with a cup of coffee or a mimosa.

Whole Wheat Ricotta Blueberry Scones
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen Cookbook

1 cup whole-wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder, preferably aluminum-free
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled
1 cup fresh raspberries (or blueberries), chopped
3/4 low-fat ricotta
1/3 cup heavy cream

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. In the bottom of a large, wide-ish bowl, whisk flours, baking powder, sugar and salt together.

Cut the butter into small pieces with a knife and work the butter into the flour mixture with your fingertips until the mixture resembles a coarse meal. Roughly chop the raspberries (or blueberries) on a cutting board and stir them into the butter-flour mixture.

Add the ricotta and heavy cream together and stir them in to form a dough with a flexible spatula.
Using your hands, gently knead dough into an even mass, right in the bottom of the bowl.

With as few movements as possible, transfer the dough to a well-floured counter, flour the top of the dough and pat it into a 7-inch square about 1-inch tall. With a large knife, divide the dough into 9 even squares. Transfer the scones to prepared baking sheet with a spatula.

Bake the scones for about 15 minutes, until lightly golden at the edges. Cool in pan for a minute, then transfer to a cooling rack. It’s best to cool them about halfway before eating them, so they can set a bit more.

July 6, 2013

Gooey Cinnamon Squares

So you should probably prepare yourself to be bombarded with Smitten Kitchen Cookbook recipes for a while. This was another one that I let Alex choose, and I was secretly glad he did. I really wanted to try these, but managed to talk myself out of it due to the incredibly large amounts of butter, sugar and um...butter. But when he asked for them, I oh-so-kindly relented and then made him my sous-chef.
The recipe, according to Smitten Kitchen, is a combination of snickerdoodles and St. Louis gooey butter cake. Now, I've only had gooey butter cake once, and it was a Paula Deen recipe that someone brought to a party. It was TERRIBLE. Too much powdered sugar, too much butter, all just coating your mouth. Ick. So, needless to say, I was a bit hesitant, but I trust SK. I love snickerdoodles and I love butter...so, how could it be bad?
Oh. My. It's good. You know you're biting into something that will kill your diet in one fell swoop, but you don't care. I do recommend cutting it into little squares, because it's so rich, but otherwise, it's just perfect as written. When you let it sit for a few hours, or even chill in the fridge, the layers become more defined, and you're left with a buttery cake layer topped with a creamy sweet custard that meld together perfectly. YUM.
So it uses a lot of butter. So what? YOLO, right?
Gooey Cinnamon Squares
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen Cookbook
Cookie base:
1/2 cup (113 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup (150 grams) sugar
1 large egg
1/4 cup (60 ml) whole milk
1 1/2 cup (188 grams) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
Gooey layer:
1/4 cup (60 ml) light corn syrup (or honey. I was worried honey would change the flavor, but it doesn't at all)
1/4 cup (60 ml) whole milk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup (170 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup (200 grams) sugar
1 large egg
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (125 grams) all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and line a 9x13 inch baking pan with parchment paper with a 2-inch overhang.
To make the cookie base:
In a large bowl, combine the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment or a bowl with a hand-held mixer, beat the butter and sugar on medium high speed until pale and creamy.
Add the egg, mixing until incorporated. Add the flour mixture in two additions, alternating with the milk, and mix just until combined. Spread batter into the bottom of the prepared baking pan.
To make the gooey layer:
In a small bowl, whisk together the corn syrup, milk, and vanilla. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment or a bowl with a hand-held mixer, beat the butter and sugar on medium high speed until pale and creamy.
Add the egg, mixing until incorporated, followed by the salt. Add the flour in three additions, alternating with the milk mixture, starting and ending with the flour. Spread the batter evenly over the cookie base in the baking dish.
To make the topping:
In a small bowl, combine the sugar and ground cinnamon to make the topping. Sprinkle evenly over the batter. Bake until top is golden brown, 25-30 minutes. The gooey layer won't set until the squares have cooled completely.
Let cool, then slice into 2-inch squares. Store in an air-tight container at room temperature.

June 17, 2013

A Sweet Father's Day


Wait...are you going to tell me that not everyone celebrates Father's Day with caramelized bananas and buttery pastry? No? Oh...well then y'all are missing out. 

I think that there might be some unwritten rule about not buying your wife kitchen appliances or cookbooks for major holidays, but Alex knows I am the exception to that rule. He picked up on my heavily dropped hints and gifted me with my very own copy of the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook for Mother's Day, and I'm in love. Serious hard-core food porn love. I want to make EVERYTHING in there, immediately. So in honor of Father's Day, I let him pick his dessert choice. 

RUN, do not walk, straight to your kitchen and make this. It's stupid-easy and knock-your-socks-off delicious. The bananas soak up all the dark caramelized sugar and drip down into the pastry while it bakes in the oven. As Deb of SK says, don't even think about serving this without vanilla ice cream.

Butterscotch Banana Tarte Tatin
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen Cookbook 

Ingredients:All-purpose flour, for work surface
1 sheet frozen puff-pastry dough, thawed in the refrigerator for 1 day
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup packed dark-brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon sea salt flakes
5 large ripe (but not speckled) bananas, peeled, halved lengthwise
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tbsp bourbon or Scotch (optional)
Vanilla ice cream, for serving

For this recipe, you’ll need a 9-inch heavy skillet. Preheat your oven to 400°F. Roll out your puff pastry on a floured surface to a 9-inch circle, and trim if necessary. Place the pastry between two pieces of wax paper and transfer to the fridge until needed.

Melt the butter in the skillet over medium-high heat. Stir in the sugar, salt, and cinnamon or nutmeg (if using). Cook, stirring frequently to make sure the sugar doesn’t burn, until the mixture turns medium amber, about 3 minutes.

Arrange the bananas in the skillet, overlapping them slightly. Cook, without stirring, for 3 minutes. Drizzle the vanilla and the alcohol of your choice (if using) over the bananas, and cook until most of the liquor has evaporated and the liquid has thickened, about 1-2 minutes. Remove the bananas from heat.

Place the pastry round on top of the bananas, and transfer it to the oven. Bake until the pastry is golden brown and puffed, about 25 minutes. Remove the tarte from the oven, and carefully invert the tart onto a serving plate.