Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Spiced Applesauce Cake

This is another recipe I learned about through my sister (and no surprise it's a recipe from Smitten Kitchen). Last time I was in Denver visiting her she had just made a huge batch of fresh applesauce that needed to be used. She made this cake before and thought it was great, so while she was stuck at work, I raided her kitchen and made this. This is another perfect autumn recipe. Apples and cinnamon seem to be getting used quicker than ever this year, thanks to my vacation time. I've been experimenting with lots of fun fall recipes, most of which have been really good (my summer experiments were 50/50).

This is a really moist cake that can be served as is for breakfast or as a snack. Or you can top it with a cream cheese frosting and make it the perfect cake for any brunch or dessert table. I have not yet tried the cream cheese frosting, but I will add the recipe since I have never made a cream cheese frosting that wasn't delicious. I'm sure this one will not disappoint. I also have not yet tried this with the walnuts since the people I made this for preferred having it plain. This cake also freezes really well if you want to make one now while apples are still in season.

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Thursday, December 20, 2012

Angel Hair with Sun-dried Tomatoes and Goat Cheese

I don't usually make pasta dishes as a main course, but sometimes it is the perfect thing. The other week my mom and I were preparing her yard for winter, which means hours spent outside raking, cutting, mulching, and lugging tons of yard waste to the compost pile. This can build up quite an appetite. We came in one afternoon just as the rain was beginning to come down, and at that point we decided to have lunch. I had already bought the ingredients for this recipe, so I got started.

This meal comes together really quickly without too much effort. I love goat cheese, so this was the perfect, comforting meal to enjoy on a cool autumn day. Next time I make this I will try it with basil instead of parsley since I tend to prefer basil in my pasta dishes, but the parsley version was still great. My mom and I devoured the entire dish in about 10 minutes (not a pretty sight). I don't know from experience, but I imagine cold leftovers would even be good.

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Saturday, December 15, 2012

Orange Poppy Seed Cookies

Before you start comparing my cookies to the perfect looking ones on the Fine Cooking website, have some mercy. I forgot to set the timer when I put them in the oven, forgot about them altogether, and only realized they were still baking when the house smelled like (slightly overdone) cookies. I had to throw half of them away and the rest were really tasty, but extra crispy. Oven failure aside, these cookies are great! They're really easy to make, the dough freezes well if you want to prepare it ahead of time, and the flavor is just right. The citrus and poppy seed combination is always one of my favorites, so these cookies quickly made it into my baking repertoire.

I was going to serve these as part of a holiday cookie platter, where they would have been a nice change from the usual ginger and chocolate and sugar cookies that seem to be popular this time or year. From my small sampling, these were nice to have with tea and coffee (probably because of the added crunch). Don't get me wrong, the cookie is meant to be crispy, but mine just took it to the next level. Give these cookies a try for a refreshing flavor this holiday season.

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Monday, December 10, 2012

Mini Blackberry Caramel Cheesecakes

I love cheesecake, but for some reason I rarely make it. I was flipping through Alice Medrich's cookbook when I stumbled upon this recipe. I kept turning back to the recipe, so I knew I had to give it a try. It is definitely time consuming, but the end result is delicious. I tried versions of this recipe with and without the caramel sauce, but it is worth the extra effort to make the sauce. I also didn't have ramekins when I made these and used a muffin tin. It works OK, but it's a bit tricky removing the individual cheesecakes when they're all on the same tray. It works, you just need patience. If you do not need as many mini cheesecakes, the recipe can easily be halved.

This dessert would be an impressive addition to any small gathering (a ladies lunch, a family dinner, etc...). Just remember to prepare them the day before. These cheesecakes require a lot of time to set in the fridge. Also, when you're turning them onto your serving dish or individual plates, make sure you flip them over where you want them placed for serving. They are delicate, so I don't suggest moving them around too much. Even with all these finicky little details, I love the end result. If you have time and was to make a beautiful, mouth-watering dessert, these mini cheesecakes are the way to go.

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Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Vivian's Cod with Tomatoes and Herbs

When I was going to college in Illinois, my parent's friends took me in for all holidays as well as occasional family dinner nights. This was always a treat for me since Vivian, the lady of the house, is an excellent cook as well as great company. She made this dish at one of the many times I was invited over. I loved it and asked for the recipe. Vivian is the kind of cook that doesn't need a recipe, so she gave me the list of ingredients she uses (with no specific amounts) and the cooking process.

As it turns out, this recipe is really easy to make and really difficult to mess up. It's extremely healthy and flavorful, thanks to the spices and herbs. You can make this with any kind of white fish you want, as long as it doesn't fall apart too easily. I've tried it with tilapia before and that combination was just as good. Also, adjust the crushed red pepper amount to your liking. If you feel like the dish is drying out in the last 15 minutes of baking (this has never happened to me, but if you double the amount of fish without adding more sauce, it may occur), add a little bit of water to the dish. I've made this dish many times and it has always turned out great. This is a perfect, easy, weeknight dinner idea.

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Saturday, December 1, 2012

Pesto alla Genovese

The last of the basil was just picked from my mom's garden. She had 2 huge plants this summer that have provided more than enough basil for the summer and autumn. Before the weather got cool, my mom picked most of remaining leaves and decided we'd make pesto. She's made lots of pesto already this summer, but its a great way to use up any leftover basil and it is delicious.

I've experimented with different types of pesto in the past (such as pistachio pesto), but have never been that impressed. This recipe has the classic pesto taste I was looking for. If you have leftover, or if you double the recipe, it freezes well for later use. I like serving my tossed in whatever kinds of pasta I have at home. I keep it simple so the pesto flavor shines, but you can use it for whatever you like.

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