Monday, March 30, 2015

Orange-glazed Cranberry Orange Bread

A Cooks of Cake and Kindness Culinary Experience Part III: To round out our 3-course dinner of Portabella mushroom caps and Spaghetti and No-Meat Balls, we finished off with a deliciously tangy citrus dessert - certainly a departure from our typical chocolate-based choices! Not only did we have our hungry dinner party to feed (who, by this time, had a high expectation for dessert!), but we also promised one of our coworkers some baked goods, so we ended up making 1.5x the original recipe, resulting in some of the odd ingredient quantities seen below.

2¼ cups all-purpose flour (we would typically do a partial substitution with whole wheat flour, but this was our first time making this bread so we didn't want to try anything too radical)
¾ tsp salt (more like just a pinch)
1.5 tsp baking powder
1.5 cups brown sugar
zest of 1-2 large oranges (we had clementines on hand, so we used the zest from 5 of them)
1⅛ cup buttermilk (if you don't have buttermilk on hand, you can make your own: 1 cup buttermilk = 1 cup milk + ~1 TBSP vinegar. Let it sit for a few minutes until the milk curdles)
¾ cup canola oil
3 large eggs, slightly beaten (we used egg-beaters)
1.5 TSBP orange juice
¾ tsp vanilla extract
1 cup fresh cranberries (we used dried cranberries, soaked in warm water for about 30 minutes)
4 mini-loaf pans or 2 4x8 loaf pans (we made one larger and 2 mini loaves)

For orange glaze: ½-1 cup powdered sugar + 1-2 TBSP buttermilk + 1 tsp orange zest (or more if you want more orange flavor)
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease loaf pans and set them aside.

In a large bowl, mix together flour, salt, and baking powder. In a separate small bowl, combine sugar and orange zest (rub them together with your fingers to better infuse the orange flavor), then add to the flour mixture.

In another bowl, mix buttermilk, oil, eggs, orange juice, and vanilla. Slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Drain the cranberries, then mix them into the batter. Pour batter into the prepared loaf pans, filling each pan until they are about ⅘ full.

Bake 30-40 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. The larger loaves will take about 5-10 minutes longer than the small loaves. Once the bread is done baking, remove from the oven and let cool for 15 minutes.

While the bread is cooling, mix together the glaze. In a small bowl, start with 1 TBSP buttermilk and ½ cup powdered sugar and about 1 tsp orange zest. Whisk together until the glaze is smooth. Adjust the quantity of sugar and buttermilk as needed.

Drizzle the glaze over the bread. We did this in 2 steps: for the first, we drizzled enough to cover the top of the loaf, then waited about 10 minutes for this first layer of glaze to set. For the next application, we drizzled the glaze in a zig-zag or scribble pattern and let it set.

When you're ready for a sweet but tangy citrus dessert, slice and serve!


Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Spaghetti and No-Meat Balls

A Cooks of Cake and Kindness Culinary Experience Part II: Karla mentioned last week that we cooked a 3 course dinner for some of our friends, and she shared the recipe for our first course - portabella mushroom caps with spinach and fried egg. After the delicious first course, the expectations were high for the second course of our meatless menu. We chose spaghetti with spinach balls inspired by this recipe. Just like our first dish, this one also has multiple components, but each component is quite simple to make, and they all complement each other very well in terms of taste and texture.

Ingredients (8 servings):

1 lb uncooked thin spaghetti or vermicelli/angel hair pasta (we used half regular and half whole wheat)

For Spinach balls:
~2.5 cups frozen spinach (but you can use chopped fresh spinach)
0.5-1 tbsp chopped garlic (adjust according to taste - we like it garlicky so we went with a lot)
~1 cup ricotta cheese (we used part-skim ricotta)
~1 cup bread crumbs / oat bran / crushed cereal (we used panko bread crumbs)
salt and pepper to taste
paprika (optional)
oil for shallow frying

For sauce:
4 8oz cans of tomato sauce
1 14.5oz can of diced tomatoes
~1-2 TBSP canola oil (optional)
Italian seasoning to taste
*If you don’t have a pre-made Italian seasoning mix, you can add the following spices to taste, which is what we did: garlic powder, thyme, rosemary, sage, oregano

To make the spinach balls, heat 1 tsp of oil in a pan over medium heat. Add garlic and saute until fragrant. Add spinach, salt and let it cook for ~8 minutes the liquid released by the spinach is mostly evaporated. You do not want any liquid left as this will make it difficult to form the balls. Once cooked take the pan off the heat and let the spinach cool down. Add ricotta cheese and breadcrumbs to the cooled spinach. Adjust the quantities of both as required until you get a consistency which holds well on its own, almost like soft cookie dough that has just come together. Season with salt, pepper, paprika (optional) and form balls about 1 inch in diameter.
Heat a little oil in a pan. Keep the heat at low-medium - the spinach ricotta balls can burn very easily. Add a few balls to the pan and shallow fry, turning them so that all sides get browned. Remove from pan and set aside. Repeat until all the ballas are shallow fried. If required, these can be reheated in the microwave for 30 seconds.

For the sauce, you can make a more elaborate tomato sauce with sautéed garlic, onions (also chopped peppers if you like), followed by crushed/diced tomatoes and tomato puree and seasoning. We went with a quicker route, using canned tomato sauce and diced tomatoes. For this version, combine 2 cans of tomato sauce and 1 can of diced tomato over medium heat. Add canola oil and season with salt, pepper, and blend of Italian spices. Stir well and let the sauce heat through.

Boil spaghetti according to package instructions until al dente.

Serve the spaghetti topped with the sauce (or you can mix it in), and the spinach ricotta balls. Sprinkle some grated parmesan cheese on top for extra deliciousness.


Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Portabella Caps with Spinach, Egg, and Wild Mushroom Sauce (or: Portabella kind-of-Benedict)

A Cooks of Cake and Kindness Culinary Experience Part I: It had been WAY too long since Gayatri and I had gotten together to cook one of our fabulous meals, so we decided it was high time we did. We drew up a menu for a tantalizing 3-course meal (recipes for the other two courses to come!) and threw a small dinner party to show off our mad skills. The first course was inspired by this dish, and, of course, we made some modifications of our own. It has a Parmesan-mushroom sauce that turned out to be a big hit, and when our guests left with some leftovers, they came up with creative ways to repurpose the sauce themselves!
8 large Portabella mushrooms (with stems)
8 eggs
2 ounces dried mushrooms (ours was a wild mushroom mix)
½ onion finely chopped (we used about ¼ to ½ cup dried chopped onion)
1 clove garlic, minced
½ cup milk (we used whole milk)
½ tsp thyme
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 lb fresh spinach
salt and pepper to taste
Canola oil for cooking

Preheat oven to 400F.

Soak the dried mushrooms in hot (but not boiling) water (about ¾-1 cup) for about 20 minutes.
Rinse and de-stem the Portabella mushrooms, setting aside the stems for later use. Bake the mushroom caps with the gill side up for about 20 minutes (time will vary depending on thickness of the mushrooms), until they are tender. Set them aside to cool. Water from the mushrooms will have collected in the baking pan; set this aside for later use.
While the mushrooms are baking, either steam or blanch the spinach. We didn't have a steamer handy, so we blanched: bring a pot of water to a rolling boil, then add spinach to the boiling water and let it cook for only about 20-30 seconds before removing from the water.
Chop the Portabella mushroom stems, as well as the re-hydrated dried mushrooms, reserving the water they were soaking in.

In a large saucepan, heat canola oil. Sauté the chopped mushrooms, onion, garlic, and thyme, adding salt and pepper to taste. Add the reserved water from the dried mushrooms and the baked Portabellas and simmer at medium-high heat until the liquid has reduced by about half. Add the milk and Parmesan cheese and simmer until the mixture thickens, about 5-10 minutes.

In a separate pan, heat oil for cooking the eggs. Individually fry each egg (this is what makes it kind-of-Benedict, which layers a poached, rather than fried, egg, on a base). Egg rings come in really handy for this so you can make more than one egg at once! We made ours to order, and everyone wanted over-easy, but sunny-side-up could be another popular option.
To assemble, top a Portabella mushroom with spinach, then layer on a fried egg, then top with the mushroom sauce. Take a moment to admire before devouring!
All the components of this dish are pretty simple to make, but combined they add a nice complexity to the finished dish. Each bite has distinct layers of taste and texture that blend really nicely - and the slightly runny egg yolks (if you're a fan) make the sauce even more delicious!

Friday, March 13, 2015

Happy Pi(e) Day!

Not that we need a reason to eat pie, but March 14th (3.14) makes for a good excuse. Like every year, we had a celebration at work yesterday featuring a variety of pies (a lot of them were homemade!). Of course we had to make the uber berry pie that we love so much, and Karla even cut out the pie crust so it would say "pi" :-)

We also attempted a Boston cream pie - which really is a cake, but does have the word "pie" in the name, so it works for Pi day! The pudding part of the pie didn't set as thick as intended so it wasn't as much a layer of filling, but was still delicious and moist.

Check out our
mixed berry pie recipe, and stay tuned for the Boston cream pie recipe coming next month.

~ Karla & Gayatri

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Spinach Raita (The "other" warm spinach salad)

Before we bid adieu to the winter (finally!), here’s another warm spinach salad recipe for those crisp “almost spring” days. This is actually a spinach raita (or koshimbir), which is an Indian yogurt salad. You can make raita with a lot of different ingredients, and it is typically eaten along with roti or rice as a cool and creamy condiment which goes well with spicy Indian food. Not a lot of raitas are “warm” salads, but my sister introduced me to this extremely delicious spinach raita with a cumin tadka (tempering), and now its one of my favorite salads! I have made a few modifications to adjust to my liking - I like my salads crispier because I typically pack them as a side with my lunch for work, and don’t eat it with roti. So I added onions to her recipe for extra crispiness and also reduced the cooking time for spinach. Whichever way you make it, its a delicious salad with a strong cumin flavor.


2 cups fresh spinach leaves
½ cup roughly chopped onion (optional)
2 cloves garlic sliced (optional)
½ tsp oil
¼ tsp cumin seeds
⅛ tsp asafoetida/hing powder (optional - but gives a nice aroma especially if using onions. See note)
1 dry red chili pepper (optional) - broken in half (I also removed seeds to reduce the heat)
2 tbsp thick yogurt (or more depending on how creamy you like it) - I used 2% reduced fat Greek yogurt
Salt to taste

Heat oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add cumin seeds and red chili once the oil is hot. Add the asafoetida powder, quickly followed by the onion and garlic. Add salt, and saute for just a little bit so that the raw onion taste is gone but it still keeps the crunch. At this point take the pan off the heat. Transfer the onion, garlic mixture to a bowl. Add spinach to the bowl and mix well. This wilts the spinach just a little, but still has a bite. If you would prefer a creamier version, you can add spinach to the pan once the onions are a little soft and saute for a minute or so before transferring the mixture to a bowl. Mix in the yogurt and enjoy as a snack on its own, or served with roti or a nice pita sandwich with homemade lentil patty and hummus!


Asafoetida, or hing is an herb used extensively in Indian cooking to enhance flavor and aid digestion. It can be found in any Indian store.
If you’re like me and don’t like a lot of heat, you can take the red chili pepper out before mixing the yogurt. If left in, it keeps adding heat - which works well if you like that kick.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Warm Spinach Salad

Salads can be a quick and easy way to get some good nutrition (as long as it's not just iceberg lettuce and dressing!), but they don't often make for good leftovers. Limp raw lettuce? No thanks. Something I can reheat, however, might be doable. I've had some really good warm spinach salad at restaurants before, so I thought I'd try it out myself. Turns out it's pretty easy to make, and prepping the ingredients takes up most of the time. The nice thing about warm spinach salad is that you can personalize it any way you wish!

10 oz. fresh spinach
1-2 garlic cloves, minced
1 small sweet onion (or half a red onion, if you prefer the flavor; I have tried both)
1-1½ sweet bell pepper (I used one half of each red, orange, and yellow)
~1-2 TBSP apple cider vinegar (or balsamic for a more tangy flavor)
~4 oz. feta cheese, crumbled
Canola oil for cooking
Fresh ground pepper to taste
Dried fruit (I used cranberries) and/or nuts (I used sliced almonds) for garnish

Roughly chop the bell pepper and onion into strips about 2 inches long. In a little bit of oil, sauté pepper and onions for maybe 5 minutes. Add minced garlic and season with fresh ground pepper. Pour in vinegar and let simmer for a minute or two. Remove pan from heat, and add the feta cheese directly to the pan and mix. The cheese will melt a little bit, but mostly still maintain its crumbled form.

Put the fresh spinach in a large bowl. Add the contents of the pan to the spinach and mix well. The spinach leaves will "cook" a little bit from the heat of the veggie mixture and wilt a little, but won't go limp. Add in the cranberries and almonds, or garnish each individual bowl when serving.

You can refrigerate the leftovers and reheat portions for about 30 seconds whenever you want more!

NOTE: If not a fan of bell pepper, cherry tomatoes also add some nice color and flavor. You can also use sun-dried tomatoes or raisins or other dried fruits in place of cranberries. And other goat cheese instead of feta. The possibilities are endless!

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Cabbage and potato pie

Continuing with more guilt free, cold day comfort food, here is a recipe for a pie that uses hardly any oil, and is a good vehicle for any veggies in your fridge that you need to use up. I made this with green cabbage, but will use red cabbage next time for more color. I also didn’t have a lot of vegetables, so I used only mushrooms. Hence it turned out to be not a very colorful pie, but it was certainly delicious.

6-8 whole cabbage leaves + 1 cup chopped cabbage
3 small-medium potatoes - boiled
About 1 cup of chopped vegetables (optional) - I used only ½ cup of mushrooms. Peas, broccoli, carrots etc. would add a lot of taste and color!
½ cup of soy based vegetarian protein / cooked ground meat (optional) - I used MorningStar Grillers Crumbles
Garlic - 1 clove minced
Paprika/ chili flakes (optional)
Preheat oven to 375 F.
Mash the potatoes and set aside. Boil water in a large sauce pan and add the cabbage leaves. Once tender, remove from the water (about 2-3 minutes), cut out the thick stem and set them on some paper towels. In the same water, add the chopped cabbage and cook for another couple minutes. You may add salt to the water before cooking cabbage, but thats optional. Drain and add the cooked chopped cabbage to the mashed potatoes.
With very little oil, saute the garlic and mushrooms (or other vegetables if using any). Add the cooked soy protein/ground meat. Season to taste. Saute until heated through. Add to the mashed potatoes and cabbage. Season this mixture with salt and pepper (add chili flakes or paprika if desired).
Lightly grease a pie pan or a small cast iron skillet. Arrange half of the cabbage leaves to completely cover the bottom, and if possible the sides of the pan. Add the filling over the cabbage leaves and flatten the mixture with a spatula. Cover with the remaining cabbage leaves. Sprinkle a little salt and freshly ground pepper on top. Cover the pan with aluminum foil.
Place a cookie sheet (or larger baking pan) in the oven with about ½ an inch of water. Place the pie pan on the cookie sheet and bake covered for 35-40 minutes until lightly browned on top. Remove the aluminum foil and broil on high for a minute or two till the top is browned to your liking.
Let it cool for 5-10 minutes before cutting. Enjoy with a side of some crisp salad.


Note: I used a 6” cast iron skillet and needed 6 small cabbage leaves to cover the bottom, sides and top. For a larger baking dish, you might need more cabbage leaves.