Monday, January 23, 2012

Apple-Cream Cheese Bundt Cake

In celebration of my 3-year blog anniversary, I am sharing a cake recipe with you.  I’m not much of a cake lover (you know, cake with thick frosting and flowers), so I haven’t spent much time perfecting my cake making techniques.  Though, while I was flipping through cake recipes for inspiration the layer cakes intrigued me.  I have to admit layer cakes have intrigued me since I saw Pollyanna eat a 3-layer mile-high slice of cake at the town fair (Do you remember that scene in the movie with Hayley Mills?).  I’m still searching for a layer cake to love like the one Pollyanna ate.  The Chocolate-Covered Strawberry Cake from Rose’s Heavenly Cakes looked like a layer cake I could love, but her description of the frosting as, “…tricky to apply, requiring the patience of a craftsperson.” frankly, scared me.

The cover recipe of Southern Living’s September issue has called to me for months.  Apple-Cream Cheese Bundt cake is right up my alley.  I like more homey rustic cakes, and this cake is amazing!  I wanted to eat the praline frosting straight out of the saucepan, and if I wasn't worried about how much frosting the recipe made, I would have eaten more.  From the look of the cake in Southern Living, it had at least a double recipe of frosting.  Next time I will triple the frosting, so I can eat more out of the saucepan, and still have frosting dripping all the way down the sides of the cake.

I wanted to have a beautiful layer cake to celebrate my blog’s anniversary, and though Apple-Cream Cheese Bundt Cake isn’t beautiful, it is a homey, moist spice cake that tastes like fall, but is perfect in January too.  I hope I’m invited to dinner somewhere soon.  I’ll bring dessert!

Apple-Cream Cheese Bundt Cake
Adapted from Southern Living
Printable Recipe
Cream Cheese Filling
1 8 ounce package cream cheese, room temperature
¼ cup butter, room temperature
½ cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon vanilla

Apple Cake Batter
1 cup finely chopped pecans
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon table salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground allspice
3 large eggs lightly beaten
¾ cup canola oil
¾ cup unsweetened applesauce
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups peeled and finely chopped Gala apples

Praline Frosting
½ cup firmly packed light brown sugar
¼ butter
3 Tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup powdered sugar

Prepare the Cream Cheese Filling:  Beat the cream cheese, butter and granulated sugar with an electric mixer until blended and smooth.  Add egg, flour and vanilla, and beat just until blended. Set aside.

Prepare the Apple Cake Batter: Preheat the oven to 350F°.   Bake pecans in a shallow pan until toasted, about 8 to 10 minutes.  In a large bowl, mix together flour, granulated sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, salt, baking soda, nutmeg, and allspice.  Make a well in the dry ingredients, and add the eggs, oil, applesauce, and vanilla.  Stir just until all ingredients are moistened.  Stir in the apples and pecans.

Grease and flour a 14-cup Bundt pan.  Spoon half the batter into the pan.  Make a trough in the apple cake batter, and spoon the cream cheese mixture into the trough.  Swirl the filling through the apple cake batter using a paring knife.  Spoon the remaining apple cake batter over the cream cheese filling.  Bake at 350F° for 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Cool cake in pan for 15 minutes. Remove from pan and cool on wire rack until cooled completely (about 2 hours).

Prepare the Frosting:  Bring ½ cup of brown sugar, ¼ cup butter and 3 Tablespoons milk to a boil in a saucepan over medium heat.  Whisk constantly.  Boil mixture of 1 minute.  Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla.  Gradually whisk in powdered sugar until smooth.  Stir the mixture gently for 3 to 5 minutes, or until frosting begins to cool and thickens slightly.  Pour frosting immediately over cooled cake.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Game Day Chili Con Carne

I laughed when I realized I inadvertently chose a red bowl with a red and gold napkin for the picture of my Chili Con Carne.  When I chose the bowl, I knew the 49ers (red and gold) were in the playoffs, but I didn’t think they would go very far.  I couldn’t believe the 49ers won their nail-biting game last week!  And, I can’t believe they will be playing this weekend for a place in the Super Bowl!  The 49ers haven’t been in the playoffs for nine years, and they haven’t been to a Super Bowl since 1994.  You have to understand, when I moved to northern California, the 49ers were in the middle of a winning streak earning playoff spots in 14 of the 17 years between 1986 and 2002.  Don’t tell anyone, but I believe in the sports motto of, “If you can't be with the team you love, love the team your with.”  And it was easy to do when I moved to a place with a winning team!  But, the last few years have been hard on die hard 49er fans.

Me?  I chose to ignore the fact my team wasn’t winning by immersing myself in planning and executing the perfect Super Bowl party food.  I was, also, happy not to have to cheer against my team in order to win the football pool.  You know, “Come on 49ers! Just take a safety, and I could win 100 bucks!”  It just seems wrong to cheer that way.  I’m better off concentrating on the food.

I have brought countless snacks and appetizers to Super Bowl parties in the last 10 years.  And, last year my chili even won second place in a chili cook off!  I don’t know what I’ll make this year, but if we are invited to another chili cook-off, this recipe for Chili Con Carne might win 1st place!  This chili is spicy and meaty, and I really like what the fresh poblano and jalapeno do to the flavor.

I’m not sure how the 49ers will do in their game on Sunday, but I know I’ll be in the kitchen with the food, trying not to hope for a safety in order to win the football pool!

Chili Con Carne
Adapted from Fine Cooking’s One Pot Meals
2 pounds beef chuck, trimmed of all visible fat and cut into ½ inch cubes
2 Tablespoons canola oil, separated
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 medium poblano chile, seeded and chopped
1 large jalapeno chile, seeded and diced
3 medium garlic cloves, minced
1 Tablespoon ground ancho chile
1 ½ teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground chipolte chile
1 ½ teaspoons dried Mexican oregano
Kosher salt
1 14½ ounce can petite diced tomatoes
2 Tablespoons fresh lime juice, separated
2 15 ounce cans pinto beans, drained and rinsed

Shredded cheddar cheese
Cubed avocado
Diced red onion
Chopped fresh cilantro

Season the cubed meat with ¼ teaspoon of salt.  Heat 2 teaspoons of the oil in a 6-quart Dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Add half the meat, and cook until browned on all sides, about 5 minutes total.  Remove the meat to a plate.  Repeat with another two teaspoons of oil and the other half of the meat.  Transfer the second batch of meat to the plate, and set aside.  Add the remaining 2 teaspoons of oil to the Dutch oven, and add the onion, poblano and jalapeno, and cook until softened, about 4 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.  Add the ancho chile, cumin, coriander, chipolte chile, and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes.

Return the beef to the Dutch oven with any juices, and add 2½ cups of water, the tomatoes and their juices, 1 tablespoon of lime juice, and 1 teaspoon of salt.  Bring to a boil, and then reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered for 1½ hours.  Uncover and continue cooking for another 30 minutes, or until the meat is tender.  Stir in the beans, and raise the heat to medium high.  Cook until the beans are heated through, about 5 minutes.  Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of lime juice, and season to taste with salt.

Top with cheddar cheese, avocado, red onion and cilantro, and serve.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Butternut Squash Soup with Chipotle Sour Cream

I’ve been on a butternut squash kick lately.  Les and my daughter loved the Winter Vegetable Stew with Moroccan Spices, and I made some butternut squash soup with the leftover squash. Then I bought another butternut squash from the store a few weeks ago.  I had intentions of making something new with it, but as sometimes happens, I didn’t get around to using the squash that week.  It sat forgotten and ignored on my counter waiting for me to use it.

I hate to throw out food, so I was glad when my boss told me about some butternut squash soup with chipotle peppers she’d had.  I was inspired!  I could use my sad and lonely squash, and I had everything else I needed in the pantry.  I could make dinner without going to the store.  I love when I don’t have to go to the store!

I made the butternut squash soup last Saturday night for dinner, and I don’t recommend the following technique (at least the part my husband helped with), but it's how I tested the soup.  I started the soup a little late Saturday afternoon, and after the step where I boiled the vegetables until they were tender, I took the soup off the heat, and and set it aside.  My son and I rushed off to mass where he was was altar serving that evening.  Les came home from work while we were at church, and I guess he was hungry, because when we got home he confessed he’d had a bowl of the soup that was on the stove.  Really!?!  The soup wasn’t finished.  It was really chunky, and it wasn't seasoned correctly.  Les said he liked the soup the way it was.  I completed the soup with his portion missing from the pot.  The soup was delicious despite the change.

Butternut Squash Soup with Chipotle Sour Cream is silky smooth with rich flavor from the chicken broth and chipotle peppers.  I made the soup as written with chicken broth (it’s what I had on hand), but I think it would be delicious with vegetable broth too.  Les said he liked his extra chunky soup, but I know he liked the smooth, and properly seasoned soup better.

Butternut Squash Soup with Chipotle Sour Cream
Adapted from
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 medium butternut squash, washed, halved lengthwise and seeded
Kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 medium onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 medium carrots, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
6 cups chicken broth, divided
2 teaspoons minced chipotle peppers in adobo

Chipotle Sour Cream
1 teaspoon minced chipotle peppers in adobo
1/2 cup sour cream
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 400°F.  Arrange the squash cut side up on a baking sheet.  Brush the cut side of the squash with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Roast squash until browned and very tender, about 45 minutes.  Remove from the oven and let cool.

In a Dutch oven over medium heat add the remaining olive oil, onion, celery and carrot.  Season the mixture with a pinch of salt.  Cook the vegetables until they start to soften, about 10 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.  Using a spoon, scoop the flesh of the butternut squash away from the skin, and add it to the softened vegetables.  Add 4 cups of the chicken broth and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer until the vegetables are very tender, about 30 minutes.

Take the soup off the heat and blend it with an immersion blender until it is completely blended and smooth.  Add the remaining chicken broth to achieve the desired consistency.  Mix in 2 teaspoons of the chipotle pepper and adjust the seasoning by adding salt and pepper to taste.

In a small bowl, mix together 1 teaspoon of chipotle pepper and the sour cream.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Serve the soup with a dollop of chipotle sour cream on top.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Salmon with Mustard-Dill Glaze

I have another recipe to share from my Christmas entertaining.  If you’re like me, and made a New Year’s resolution to eat healthier this year, this recipe will go farther to help you with your goal than the cookie, fudge and appetizer recipes I shared during the holidays. I can’t blame the Salmon with Mustard-Dill Glaze we had on Christmas Eve for the scale trauma I had on January 1st.  (No, I enjoyed way too many helpings of cookies, fudge and appetizers over the holidays, and am now paying the price on the scale.) 

Margot, Jeff and their kids joined us again on Christmas Eve (we’ve been celebrating Christmas Eve together for 15 years.  What a great tradition!)  Margot is my hero!  She has been fighting colon cancer for five years, and she watches what she eats carefully.  I like to make something she feels good about eating, so Salmon with Mustard-Dill Glaze was one of the dishes I served for Christmas Eve.  I only started cooking fish a couple of year ago, and I never would have dreamed of serving it to guests until recently, but while I was enjoying my Christmas Eve dinner, I was thinking Salmon with Mustard-Dill Glaze was perfect to serve to friends on Christmas Eve.

I generally will barbeque or poach salmon, so I’m glad I found a baked salmon recipe we like.  The mustard and dill glaze tastes great on the salmon, and when you add the sour cream sauce, the salmon is delicious. But, what I like best about Salmon with Mustard-Dill Glaze is it’s easy enough to serve on a weeknight, but it’s fancy enough to serve to guests.

Salmon with Mustard Dill Glaze
Adapted from Holiday magazine
3 Lemons, 2 thinly sliced, 1 cut into wedges to serve with salmon
½ cup spicy brown mustard
¼ cup mayonnaise (I used canola mayonnaise)
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
½ cup chopped fresh dill
2-3 pounds boneless side of salmon
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
¾ cup light sour cream

Preheat the oven to 450°F.  Spray a rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray, and then place the lemon slices diagonally across the baking sheet.   Place the salmon, skin side down on the lemons, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

In a medium bowl, mix together the mustard, mayonnaise, sugar vinegar and dill.  Stir until the sugar dissolves.  Set aside half the mustard mixture.  Brush the remaining mustard mixture on top of the salmon.  Bake the salmon until it is just opaque through, 13 to 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, mix together the mustard mixture set aside earlier, and the sour cream. 

Place the salmon on a large platter with the lemon wedges, and serve it with the sour cream sauce.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Spiced Tomato and Red Lentil Soup

I’m sitting enjoying the quiet evening knowing my vacation is over, and I will be returning to work tomorrow.  I always feel a little bittersweet about going back to work after my Christmas vacation.  On one hand, I like my job and the people I work with, so I’m looking forward to getting back to my routine.  On the other hand, I’m sad that my winter rest is over.  I never quite attain the same relaxed pace any other time of year.  After Christmas, my life slows down, and I am more “in the moment” than I am for the rest of the year (no matter if I’m on vacation or not).  I’m not sure exactly why.  And, this year I was able to maintain a balance of rest, exercise, and entertainment that was nothing short of blissful. 

I spent yesterday cleaning up Christmas decorations.  I know I should leave them up until Epiphany, but I do like to start the year with a clean house, and Les was home to help me get the Christmas bins in the attic.  I’ve put everything away and vacuumed the needles (Can anyone tell me why my fake Christmas tree has needles to vacuum??), and was reminiscing about my vacation.  I was able to get in a couple of hikes, we went to a couple of movies, watched countless movies at home, and I was able to try out some new recipes, during my vacation. I made Spiced Tomato and Red Lentil Soup for dinner a couple of days after Christmas, and my whole family liked this soup (even my son).  Les is always very complementary of my cooking, but after he ate two bowls of the soup he said, “I really, really like this soup.”  High praise! 

I will be adding this healthy soup to my menu rotation since my whole family likes it, and more importantly, will eat it.  The original recipe gives the option of using Madras curry powder or garam masala.  Since my daughter doesn’t like curry, I chose to use the garam masala (I love the flavor of garam masala, so I probably would have chosen it anyway).  The recipe also calls for vegetable broth, but I had chicken broth on hand, so that's what I used.  Spice Tomato and Red Lentil Soup is hearty and filling.   The red lentils have a different, lighter flavor to me than green lentils, and I like them better.  I served the soup with grilled cheese sandwiches, but you could serve it with salad or a nice loaf of whole grain bread to complete the meal. 

I hope you have a Happy New Year!

Spiced Tomato and Red Lentil Soup
Adapted from Fine Cooking’s One Pot Meals
3 tablespoons oil
2 medium yellow onions, chopped
Kosher Salt
2 teaspoons garam masala
2 quarts low-salt vegetable or chicken broth (I used chicken broth)
2 14½ ounce can petite-diced tomatoes
1 pound (2½ cups) dried red lentils, picked over, rinsed and drained
2 medium celery ribs, diced
1 medium carrot, peeled and diced
2 medium cloves of garlic, chopped
¼ teaspoon cayenne

Heat the oil in a 6-quart or larger Dutch oven over medium heat.  Add the onions and a pinch of salt and cook until the onions are soft and just beginning to brown, stirring occasional.  Add the garam masala and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute, stirring constantly.

Add the broth, tomatoes, lentils, celery, carrot, garlic, cayenne 1teaspoon kosher salt and 2 cups of water.  Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring frequently, so the lentils don’t stick.  Skim any foam.  Reduce the heat and simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, 35 to 40 minutes or until the lentils and vegetables are all tender. Check soup for seasoning, and add more salt if needed.

Serve with a dollop of yogurt or sour cream and chopped cilantro to garnish.


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