Monthly Archives: November 2008

Orange Spice Cake


Mmmmm, cake! Not normally a cake baker, this has become a welcome addition to my repertoire. Aromatic spices? Check. Local oranges? Check. Makes the house smell autumnal? Check. Gotta love this one!

Spice Cake


  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon grated orange peel
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup whole milk


1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter three 9-inch-diameter cake pans. Line bottom of pans with waxed paper. Butter and flour pans; tap out excess flour.

2. Sift first 8 ingredients into medium bowl.

3, Using electric mixer, beat sugar, butter and orange peel in large bowl until fluffy. Beat in eggs 1 at a time.

4. Stir flour mixture into butter mixture alternately with sour cream and milk. Divide batter among prepared pans.

5. Bake cakes until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Transfer pans to racks and cool 10 minutes. Turn cakes out onto racks and cool completely. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.)



  • 2 8-ounce packages chilled cream cheese
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 teaspoons grated orange peel
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup chilled sour cream


Using electric mixer, beat cream cheese and butter in large bowl until well blended. Beat in sugar, then orange peel and vanilla. Beat in sour cream. Cover and refrigerate until frosting is firm enough to spread, about 30 minutes.

To Assemble:

Place 1 cake layer on platter. Spread 2/3 cup frosting over. Top with second cake layer. Spread 2/3 cup frosting over. Top with third cake layer. Cover top and sides of cake with remaining frosting.


* Do get a fresh orange and use a microplane grater for the peel. The scent is just amazing!

* If you are not familiar with cardamom, you may want to cut it in half for the first go round with this recipe. It is a strong flavor, but oh, so savory!

* In my oven, I can’t get all 3 pans to sit evenly on the same rack. Knowing that opening and closing the oven to swap around pans brings its own problems, I usually just do 2 pans. Of course that leads to some extra frosting, which I just load up between the two layers.

* Made this once with low fat cream cheese. Not a good idea at all as it just didn’t hold up well. Go for the gusto with this one and don’t look back!


Szechwan Carrot Soup

carrot-soupCarrots. Such a quiet, unassuming pedestrian root vegetable. For years I avoided these dependable roots that seemingly were just filler in other pedestrian dishes. Need a sturdy veg for a stir fry or curry? Add some carrots. Need some color in a quick salad? Add some carrots. But, if we wait for inspiration, and honor the carrot ITSELF, we find beauty.

When I first found this recipe, I just had to make it. A quick glance at the directions led me to my favorite puree technique; cook up a few key ingredients in 2 o 3 layers, toss in a blender, and reheat. These make quick soups because the ingredients just need to be cut into chunks, making the whole process quicker and not requiring much attention. More importantly, anything with sesame oil, peanut butter, and red pepper flakes either had to be “Wow!” or “Ohhhhhhhh.” This one is either, based on your own preferences. I’ve shared this at a few events, and no one thinks it is just “OK.”

If you’re game, give it a go and let me know if you think it is “Wow!” or “Ohhhhhhhh.”


  • 1 medium onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 celery rib, roughly chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
  • 1 pound carrots, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • a 3/4-inch piece fresh ginger root, peeled and sliced thin
  • 1/8 teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon Asian sesame oil
  • 1 cup milk
  • Garnish: 1/4 cup sour cream mixed with 2 tablespoons heavy cream


1. In a large heavy saucepan cook onion, celery, and garlic in oil over moderately low heat, stirring, until onion is softened. Add carrots, ginger root, red pepper flakes, and broth and simmer, covered, until carrots are very tender, about 45 minutes.

2. Stir in remaining ingredients and in a blender purée mixture in batches (use caution when blending hot liquids).

3. Return soup to pan and heat over low heat until hot, being careful not to let boil.

4. Serve soup drizzled decoratively with sour cream mixture.carrots


* If you are of the “double the garlic and peppers” persuasion, as I am, resist your first time through this one. That little bit of red pepper truly does add quite a bit of pop to the soup.

* To speed this up a bit, chop the first batch of veggies, and while they cook, chop the second batch. Since you don’t need to worry about any type of presentation here, those perfectly cut vegetables are just not needed. Enjoy the break!

* When blending hot soups, do work in batches, don’t fill the blender more than about 1/4 to 1/3 full. I’ve found that removing the center from the blender lid, and gently holding a wadded up paper towel over the hole lets the steam escape as needed while also keeping the soup from flying all over your kitchen cabinets. Yes, this is experience speaking here. 😉

* The squiggly decoration is easily made by using a squeeze bottle.

Super Simple Spicy Snapper

northwoods-fireWe can pretty much add this under the “Uh, This is a Recipe?” category, but it is soooooooo good and healthy that I’m going to share it anyways.  You see, I’m one of the many who are just too afraid to cook fish.  Its so, mysterious.  On the other hand, ground beef doesn’t freak me out, and that dichotomy is clearly frightening. When we eat out, I often order fish cuz I really like it … when someone else cooks it.

So, for last months’ Potato Ho-down, I planned a quick little fish fry with some snapper (rock fish actually, but the name is not so enticing) and potato chips.  To be quite clever, I was going to make my own chips, not fries, to go with the fish.  Fried potatoes … how tough can that be?  And if the fish was a miserable, messy failure, at least we could munch on fresh potato chips which would keep us all happy.  And … Giada had whipped up these easy little sweet potato chips with garlic.  “Easy” she said, and I was all in for that.

In short, I picked up some fresh, locally caught rock fish (I know what this stuff really is and why they don’t use that name on the little sign), bagged fish fry mix, potato and sweet potato.  The quickly fried fish was a huge hit … perfect and just yummy!  The white potatoes were just a pathetic soggy mess, and the sweet potatoes quickly over cooked and the garlic topping was gummy and clumpy.  I don’t even remember the last time a new meal had totally tanked so completely!

But, the fish had been divine!  This time, I went simple, simple, simple.  I used one of my favorite Penzy’s spice mixtures, but you could use most any spicy mix in the spice aisle (except steak rubs which contain too much salt for your little fishy) for this super simple spicy snapper and served it with some very non-gummy rosemary potatoes.


2 snapper / rock fish filets

1/2 tsp Northwoods Fire seasoning

2 TBS canola oil


1.  Rinse fish, pat dry, cut each filet into 3 sections, sprinkle with seasoning on each side.

2.  Heat skillet over medium high heat.  Add oil.  When oil begins to move in slow circles (not boiling), add fish filets. 

3.  Cook for 2 to 3 minutes on each side, or until the fish is opaque half way through.  Flip each piece of fish and cook for another 2 minutes.  Remove to a plate.

Potato Ho-licious Rosemary Potatoes

rosemary-potatoesBoy am I ever thankful for my neighbor T sharing a bit of the herb with me.  Hey, I know what you’re thinking, but it is NOTHING like that!  His rosemary bushes are quite prolific, and he’s always kind enough to share.    Today, as I dreamed up my lovely Potato Ho dreams, I imagined my home filled with the woodsy scents of lovely rosemary. 

Mind you, these are some simple, roasted baby red potatoes, but do not undersestimate their power to impress!  I made a whole tray full of these little wonders, knowing I’d have plenty left for a nice little photo for you and some for my lunch (heck, breakfast!) the next day.  But, do you notice the ever so petite serving of these beauties?  You guessed it, the rest were happily gobbled up at the dinner table.  Now that is a true seal of approval!

 Thank you to Baking Delights for hosting the Ho Down for November.  Boy do I have an ugly story to share about my attempt to create the the beautiful potato chip on your site!  Potato and oil, should be simple, no?!potato_ho


Roasted Rosemary Potatoes

Super Simple Spicey Snapper

Brussel Sprout Hash


Roasted Rosemary Potatoes


2 tsp olive oil

2 tsp kosher salt

1 to 2 tsp freshly cracked black pepper

rosemary leaves from 3 small stems

20 baby red potatoes, washed and cut into fourths


1.  Heat oven to 400 degrees.

2.  Put olive oil, salt, rosemary and potatoes in a jelly roll or roaster pan and use your hands to mix it around so all of the potato pieces are evenly coated.   Just be sure the pan has a lip on each side so the oil doesn’t make a mess of your spotless oven.  (wink)

3.  Bake 15 to 20 minutes.


* Yeah, it really is that simple.

*  To remove the rosemary leaves, just pull the stem through your fingers against the grain.

A Little Bit of the Herb

bag of herbRecently, my next door neighbor asked for some help setting up a new wireless router.  No problem … to put it bluntly, I’m quite in touch with my inner geek.  But, there were a few awkward moments.  You see, T and I are “outside” friends.  You know, we chat out front, like when he is detailing his truck and I’m driving off in my less than perfect car.  We chat out back, over grilled dinners, obviously, as we are both avid grillers and the folk around the lake all have little three foot fences.  In this neighborhood, we can end up knowing our neighbors more than we ever wanted, but that’s a whole other story and we’re just not going there today.

So, awkward moment number one was just going into his home.  Long story short, after a bit of crawling, replugging, and making the router think it was at the location it should have known it was at to begin with, the wireless problem was resolved.  This leads to awkward moment number two.

We’re exchanging pleasantries at the door, when T remembers that he has something for me.  He walks over to the kitchen counter and picks up a baggie that sure looks to contain some, um, herb.  Speaking of awkward moments!  T is a great guy, straight shooter, and not one I’d imagine to um, partake.  And without going into any other details, lets just say that I am not in a position to be accepting said gift.  But, he was happy to pass this along.  Luckily, as the herb came closer to my possession, I noticed the distinct aroma… Rosemary!!!  Ah, yes, of course!  T is the neighbor with the great supply of rosemary who is always willing to share.

Gotta love a neighbor like that!

And now, I’m so ready to put that rosemary to good use in my next Potato Ho creation!

How Do We Know?

I know I’m not the only one with a story like this…. Yesterday, my husband told me there was a phone message from someone in Kaleidoscope. That is the cancer support organization that where I cook for families with cancer via the Krockpot Brigade. Immediately I thought, how sad that Mrs. M passed away; I think I’m scheduled to cook for them next week. The message was actually about a change in Thanksgiving plans. Hmmm, in my mind it all just didn’t match up. Something was wrong.

Later that evening I received word that indeed Mrs. M had passed away that day. I had only met her once, but quite clearly, I KNEW what had happened. What a lovely lady, and her husband proudly showed me example after example of her craft work, glowing with pride at his incredible wife.

How is it that we just know these things?

Flying Salsa

salsa and chipsIs your mouth ready for a big ol’ hit of flavor?  Have I got a salsa for you!  The idea for this came from my mother in law, and I’ve been loving it ever since.

Mind you, this is what I call a “Friends and Family” salsa, as in you really need to be with friends and family when you indulge, or carry some really minty breath fresheners in your back pocket.

At this point, you surely have three questions:  what’s with the “flying” part of the salsa, why is this a local recipe, and why do those chips look so darned good?

Flying salsa:  salsa that flies around in the food processor, preferrably while the talented chef samples the beer.  Oh yes, this is THAT kind of salsa.  Here are the proportions and a few gentle reminders, again, hating to call such a simple concoction a recipe …

Flying Salsa


1 white onion, roughly chopped

2 tomatoes, cut into wedges

1 serrano chili, seeded and cut into thirds or so

1 scant handful cilantro, chopped  (this is one of the few times I actually recommend going light on the cilantro, and just because the other ingredients get so tiny that the cilantro is all the wrong size, and oh my … I do think too much about my salsa!)


1.  Put onion in the food processor, pulse so it flies around until pretty tiny.  Scoop into a bowl.

2.  Put tomato in the food processor, pulse so it flies around until pretty tiny.  Scoop into the onion bowl.

3.  Put chili in the food processor, pulse so it flies around until pretty tiny.  Scoop into the tomato and onion bowl.

4.  Add cilantro and stir.


* Chill for at least an hour.  On the first day, it tastes a bit oniony, with the sweetness of the tomato.

*  Day 2 it tastes more like traditional salsa, nicely blended.

*  Day 3 that serrano chili flavor is everywhere, so be ready for an extra kick of heat.


Local angle:  all but the cilantro were purchased from Smith Family Farm. Yes, really.  In November.  To all of my mid-west friends, sorry to have even mentioned it.

The chips were home made … something you’ve just got to do a few times a year to remember how good fresh, hot, greasy, salty corn chips can really be.  Um  hmmm!



corn oil

corn tortillas


1.  Heat corn oil in a cast iron skillet, not until boiling, but until the oil is showing some circular movement.  Test by gently placing in a bit of a corn tortilla and seeing if you can cook it until crisp on the inside and outside without burning it.  Trial and error my friends.

2.  Stack up some corn tortillas, cut into sixths, and fry in small batches, removing to paper towel covered plates.  Be sure to flip each little chip half way through cooking to make them nice and even.  If you are going to go for the salt, apply while they are still hot.  Try not to munch on too many before sharing!


*  If you have a dog that loves to wait at your feet for any small scrap you may spill while cooking, keep that dog out of the kitchen with the hot oil on the stove.  Just in case.