Category Archives: Spring

Lemon Pound Cake

Springtime.  Sun, longer days, dreams of Summer bliss.  All such happy, happy  thoughts.

See, the gods and goddesses got the lemon season totally right.  Sunny yellow?  Check.  Tart but ready for a bit of sweet sugar?  Check.  A perfect transition between seasons.

Yet, the gods and goddesses did manage to get a few things wrong.  Limes and avocados ripe in the winter to spring months, but the tomatoes for guac in August.  What in the world does that do to margarita season? Another gripe is the whole root vegetable thing in October.  Here along the Pacific coast, October is sunny and warm and inviting and begs for leisurely walks to soak in the sun’s rays.  Do root vegetables go with this vibe?  I think not.

For now, let’s get back to Springtime, and lemons, and strawberries and make a lemon pound cake and smother a thick slice with strawberries fresh from the field.  We can all get on board with that plan.

Lemon Pound Cake

recipe inspired by Cooking Light , strawberries from Chan’s strawberry stand

Ingredients:

For the cake

  • Cooking spray
  • 3 TBS dry breadcrumbs
  • 3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup butter or stick margarine, softened
  • 2 1/2 cups sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 TBS grated lemon rind
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice, divided
  • 8 oz low-fat sour cream
  • 1 cup powdered sugar

For the topping:

  • 2 baskets fresh strawberries, cleaned and sliced into thirds
  • 1 TBS sugar

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°.
  2. Coat a 10-inch tube pan with cooking spray, and dust with the breadcrumbs.
  3. Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, baking soda, and salt in a bowl; stir well with a whisk. Beat the butter in a large bowl at medium speed of a mixer until light and fluffy. Gradually add the granulated sugar and lemon extract, beating until well-blended. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add grated lemon rind and 2 tablespoons lemon juice; beat 30 seconds. Add flour mixture to sugar mixture alternately with sour cream, beating at low speed, beginning and ending with flour mixture.
  4. Spoon batter into prepared pan. Bake at 350° for 1 hour and 10 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan 10 minutes on a wire rack; remove from pan. Cool completely on wire rack. Combine 2 tablespoons of lemon juice and powdered sugar. Drizzle glaze over top of cake.
  5. Prepare strawberries by combining strawberries and sugar in a bowl and allowing to sit for at least 30 minutes.
  6. Slice lemon pound cake and top with strawberries.

Notes:

  1. Simply delicious!
  2. This is a perfect dessert for a meal you are hosting because the cake can be made a day before.
  3. Sneaking a thin slice of the pound cake for breakfast is totally acceptable.

Lemon Bars

Spring has sprung, and although on one hand this is expected, so many things are new as if for the first time.  California poppies line the highways and byways of daily travel.  Sunlight in the evenings invigorates.  The sun seems to be everywhere … in the sky, in the mood, and in the food.

Lemon Bars

inspired by the amazing Ina Garten

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 pound unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 6 extra-large eggs at room temperature
    3 cups sugar
  • 2 TBS grated lemon zest
  • 1 cup lemon juice, freshly squeezed
  • 1 cup flour
  • Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

Directions:

1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

2.  For the crust, cream the butter and sugar until light in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Combine the flour and salt and, with the mixer on low, add to the butter until just mixed. Dump the dough onto a well-floured board and gather into a ball. Flatten the dough with floured hands and press it into a 9 by 13 by 2-inch baking sheet, building up a 1/2-inch edge on all sides. Try not to eat too much of the “extra bits” as you do this.  Chill.

2.  Bake the crust for 15 to 20 minutes, until very lightly browned. Let cool on a wire rack. Leave the oven on.

3.  For the filling, whisk together the eggs, sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, and flour. Pour over the crust and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the filling is set. Let cool to room temperature.

4.  Cut into bite sized pieces and dust with confectioners’ sugar.

Notes:

  • My favorite grocery store has the most wonderful lemons in stock.  They are the size of limes and just full of juice.  These were certainly what got me onto the lemon bar kick.
  • Lemon bars make great thank you gifts for people who have jumped in to lend a hand.  😉
  • I love this plate.

Jambalaya for a Crowd

Sometimes life is like a puzzle.  Needing to make a meal for a Kaleidoscope family, no kids or teens involved, something that could be stashed in the fridge or freezer if there is an unexpected turn in the cancer treatment, and a 2 pound bag of shrimp in the freezer calling out my name.  Oh yeah, and a newish New Orleans cookbook hanging out on the shelf.  The decision became clear: should I make jambalaya or, um, jambalaya?  Jambalaya it is!

This version is truly enough for a full crowd of friends ready for a good meal.  I was a bit worried in that the ingredients and directions are so straight forward.  There was no secret ingredient, no fantastically original cooking method, nothing to show that this would be simply perfect.  This just has the perfect proportions of delicious ingredients with classic cooking techniques.  And really, isn’t that what we’re looking for in a classic dish like jambalaya anyways?

Jambalaya for a Crowd

adapted from the book Gumbo Shop: Traditional and Contemporary Creole Cuisine by Richard Stewart

Serves at least 12    |      Jambalaya for a Crowd (printable version)

Ingredients:

1 chicken, cut into 8 pieces

¼ cup vegetable oil

1 lb smoked sausage, sliced into ¼ inch rounds

1 large onion, chopped

1 large or 2 med. Green peppers, chopped

1 cup celery, chopped,

5 cloves garlic, diced

2 16 oz cans petit diced tomatoes

1 tsp white pepper

1 tsp black pepper

½ tsp cayenne pepper

2 tsp salt

1 cup long grain rice

3 cups stock (from step 1 below, cooking the chicken)

2 lbs peeled raw shrimp

Directions:

1. Cover the chicken with water ans set over a medium heat. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 45 minutes. Remove the chicken pieces from the pot and reserve the stock. When cool enough to handle, remove the chicken meat from the bones and skin and break into bite sized pieces. Set aside.

2. Meanwhile, in a large heavy bottom dutch oven over a medium heat, saute the sausage in the oil until lightly browned. Remove from pot and set aside with the chicken pieces. Add the onion, celery and bell pepper to the pot and saute until just tender. Add the diced tomatoes, garlic, salt and pepper, and cook for 10 minutes, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pot.

3. Stir in the rice and mix well. Stir in 3 cups of the reserved chicken stock, bring the pot to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer. Add the sausage and chicken and cook uncovered 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add shrimp, stirring into the jambalaya and cook until they are just pink.

Notes:

  • If you are squeamish about cutting up a chicken, this is a great place to learn since the chicken will be shredded anyways.
  • Did I mention the yum factor?
  • If you’ve never even made jambalaya before, this will still feel wonderfully familiar to you.  Its just one of those cozy meals.
  • Why is the title Jambalaya for a Crowd show this simple one person serving?  After delivering loads of jambalaya to the Kaleidoscope family and eating dinner at home, this was all I had for a photo to share.  Be lucky there was anything at all to share!

Cold Noodle Salad

Washington DC and New York City.  For years, my husband has lead a group of 8th graders to these fine cities for a one week whirlwind tour.  And yes, we have the souvenirs to prove it.  It started with the typical stuff, such as I heart NY T-shirts, moved on to wine and food goodies, and then onto gorgeous detailed Christmas ornaments from Mount Vernon and other presidential collections.  Trip after trip he would announce, “just one more year, then I’m handing off the trip to someone else.”  That finally happened.  Of course, the new leader decides it would be beneficial to have some of that second hand experience along for the journey and asked me to chaperone.  So, there I was, flying across the country with the most amazing group of teens you ever did see.  And, I needed to bring home some souvenirs.  Shopping for the kids and hubby was actually quite fun.  But I also wanted something for myself.  That same self that has been the happy recipient of souvenirs from these exact same places for years.

It was time to get off the beaten path.  We were in China Town, NYC.  The kids had specific guidelines to stay on the main street for their shopping.  So, I wandered.  And I found it.  A shop just like Ollivander’s Wand Shop in Harry Potter where he buys his famous wand.  It was just a little slip of a store, filled with small boxes from floor to ceiling, with one helpful gentleman to guide me through the options.  Chopsticks.  The options were mind boggling:  plastic or wood, types of wood, inlaid or painted designs, 3 sided or octagons, blunt or pointed tips, pairs or sets.

With a new set of chopsticks in hand, I headed home to California, ready for a beat the heat meal friendly to chopsticks.  And No Recipes posted this cold noodle dish seemingly just for the occasion.  This dish includes his noodles and dressing with toppings that just sounded good to me at the time.  Enjoy!

Cold Noodle Salad with Fresh Vegetables

Ingredients:

16 oz fresh ramen or chow mien noodles

2 scallions, finely sliced

1/2 English cucumber, sliced into 3 inch by 1/4 inch pieces

1/2 cup shredded imitation crab

1/2 cup snow peas, julienned

2 crimini mushrooms, sliced

3 TBS sesame oil

1 TBS garlic, minced

1 tsp ginger, minced

3 TBS rice vinegar

2 TBS soy sauce

2 TBS toasted sesame seeds

1 TBS sugar

Directions:

1.  Prepare dressing by mixing sesame oil, garlic, ginger, rice vinegar, soy sauce, toasted sesame seeds and sugar in a small mixing bowl.

1. Cook noodles according to directions.  Rinse with cool water and drain well.  Add to dressing and mix until noodles are evenly coated.

3. Portion noodles into serving dishes and top with crab and vegetables.

Notes:

  • This was both yummy and fun.  Yummy because each person can choose their own toppings.  Fun because we used the new chopsticks!
  • The original recipe called for an egg component that was fun to make, but the texture matched the noodles to much for my taste.  While I omitted the eggs in the end, you may find them enjoyable in your version.
  • Fresh noodles are best here.  Do not use the ramen noodles from those little soup packages.
  • If you have some noodles around, this is a great summer time “clean out the fridge” or “finish up the farmer’s market purchases” type of meal.
  • Did I mention the yummy part?  I made a decent sized batch, and the leftovers disappeared quickly.  Always a good sign!

Mini Cherry Muffins

Previously, cherry season pretty much passed me by before I even knew it was here.  Other local produce tends to arrive, hang out for an extended chat, and slowly move on its way.  Its like really enjoying a song on your iPod, then seeing the band in concert and they stretch out the music with the perfect guitar solo.  The local corn, peppers, tomatoes, squash are old school rock and roll.  Cherries are more punk rock.  You see the trees, the blossoms, the gorgeous cherries hanging from the branches by the hundreds.  Finally, families open the orchards for business and bam!  its over before you know it.  One super sonic punk number going full throttle, then  disappearing off stage.

Here’s your chance to make some punk rock cherry muffins before the season’s over.

Cherries from Seko Ranch.

Mini Cherry Muffins

Ingredients:

1 3/4 cup all purpose flour

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1/3 cup butter, softened

1/3 cup brown sugar, packed, plus a few TBS more for sprinkling on the muffins

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1 egg

1 cup buttermilk

1 cup cherries, pitted and chopped

Directions:

1.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Lightly grease 24 mini pan or place paper inserts into cups.

2.  In a medium mixing bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

3.  In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter, 1/3 cup of brown sugar, and the granulated sugar.  Beat until light and fluffy.

4.  Beat in the egg then the buttermilk and mix well.  Add the flour mixture into the buttermilk mix and stir until just blended.  Fold in the cherries.

5.  Spoon the batter into the muffin cups. Sprinkle with brown sugar.  Bake in the preheated oven for 12 minutes or until they pass the clean toothpick test.

Notes:

  • This recipe came from the tried and true method of looking in the fridge and pantry, checking recipes, and just figuring out what should work.
  • The next time I make these, I’ll go for regular size cupcakes so there is a better proportion of fluffy parts to crusty parts.
  • Hint:  do not chop cherries wearing khakis.  🙂
  • A great resource for those in the California bay area wanting to pick cherries is Brentwood Cherries.

Asparagus Asparagus and Sausage Strata

Have you ever had one of those work projects where the forward motion of the whole train depended on a few key people?  You have great admiration and respect for these people who keep everything at work running smoothly, and the whole mojo of the project depends on their first impression?  The kind of project where these key people have to rearrange their own work days, find people to cover for them, be ready to learn more skills than mere mortals can absorb in a day, and then return to their regular posts to find out what catastrophes graced their work places that still need to be cleaned up?  That kind of project.  At times like this, food is essential.  Nothing says “you are appreciated” first thing in the morning than a home made breakfast.

The food was perfect, the project well received, and everyone is on board with the project.  “nuff said.

Breakfast stratas are perfect for sharing because they can be made the night before, feed a crowd, and are simply delicious!  This recipe is a combination created from a standby recipe I have used for years that frankly has way too much cheese, a few ideas found in other blogs, and the fact that I had lots and lots of asparagus on hand.  As has been my bent lately, I upped the veggies and cut way back on the grated cheese.  This is also the first time I tried ricotta in a strata.  I had some in the fridge and it just sounded good.  The ricotta turned out to be a perfect match with the asparagus as it didn’t overpower the flavor.  When a dish has double asparagus in its name, you darned well better be able to taste asparagus!

Asparagus and onions from Tachella Family Farm, strawberries on the side from “The Stand on the Corner” as we call it around here.

Asparagus Asparagus and Sausage Strata

serves 10 to 12

Ingredients:

8 large eggs

2 1/2 cups skim milk

1 pint skim ricotta cheese

5 green onions, sliced including greens

1 cup Swiss cheese, grated

1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

1 pound spicy Italian sausage, casings removed

2 bunches asparagus, ends trimmed, and cut into 2 inch pieces

1 1/2 loaf french bread, sliced

salt and pepper to taste

1/4 tsp Paprika

Directions:

1.  Coat 13 x 9 inch pan with spray oil.

2.  Cook sausages in a skillet, breaking up the meat into small bits.  When the sausage is almost cooked through, move it to one side of the skillet and add the asparagus. Continue cooking until the sausage is cooked through and the asparagus just starts to brown.  Remove from heat and let cool slightly.

3. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, ricotta, green onions, salt and pepper.

4.  Prepare the strata by layering half of the bread slices in the baking pan, sprinkle with half of the sausage and asparagus mixture, and then with half of the Swiss and Parmesan cheeses.  Repeat layering.  Slowly pour egg mixture over the layers, making sure all of the bread is moistened.  Stop adding liquid when it reaches 1/2 inch below the rim of the pan.  Cover with foil and refrigerate overnight.

5.  Bake the next morning uncovered for one hour in a 350 degree oven.  Remove from oven and sprinkle with Paprika.

Notes:

  • The amount of bread and liquid needed will depend on the type of pan you use.  A metal baking pan seems to hold an endless amount of food, while the stoneware pans hold less.  You may not need all of the liquid called for in the recipe.
  • This is a very flexible recipe!  Swapping out the asparagus for another veggie and the sausage for another meat works well.
  • I bought my cheese from my favorite supermarket … the one with the huge variety of vegetables, peppers, and lentils.  It wasn’t that flavorful.  Next time I’ll be sure to get at least some decent cheese.

Grilled Strawberry and Shrimp Skewers with Fennel Slaw

Its summer time and the livin’ is easy.  Time to pull out those quick and light recipes that are just good, good, good to have on hand.  Last weekend, while dog sitting for some friends, I took a few minutes to relax with their cookbooks.  You know when you see a recipe that is just off kilter enough that it has to be either a big hit or a major bomb?  That’s exactly what went through my mind when I saw this.  Strawberries on the grill?  Really?  Really!

Grilling the strawberries doesn’t do anything magnificent to enhance the flavor, but it softens the berries which is a great textural contrast with the shrimp and fennel.  And, its just a nice change of pace.  The vinaigrette is a total keeper with its balance of sweet and bitter.  I’ll be looking for more ways to use this little ditty.

Grilled Strawberry and Shrimp Skewers with Fennel Slaw

adapted from California Home Cooking by Michele Anna Jordan

Ingredients:

Skewers

10 bamboo skewers, soaked in water for 30 minutes

20 to 30 prawns, at least 30U in size

2 baskets of strawberries, divided

1 cup Honey Pepper Vinaigrette  (recipe below)

1 small fennel bulb, trimmed and sliced thin

1 TBS mint leaves, julienne

Vinaigrette

3 TBS rice vinegar

3 TBS balsamic vinegar

1/4 cup honey, warmed

1 shallot, minced

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 TBS freshly ground black pepper

1 tsp kosher salt

1/2 cup olive oil

Directions:

1.  Prepare the vinaigrette by mixing the vinegars and honey in a bowl, then stirring in the shallots, garlic, pepper and salt.  Whisk in the olive oil slowly until incorporated.

2.  Prepare a hot fire on the grill.

3.  Thread each skewer with 3 prawns and 2 whole strawberries.  Brush lightly with vinaigrette  on each side and place them on the grill.  Turn the skewers after 2 minutes and bush again with the vinaigrette.  Continue cooking until the prawns are pink and no longer translucent on the inside, about 2 more minutes.

4.  Add the mint to the remaining vinaigrette.  Quickly toss together the remaining strawberries, sliced, and the fennel, along with 1 to 2 TBS of the vinaigrette.

5.  Serve the shrimp and strawberry skewers alongside the fennel and strawberry slaw.

Notes:

  • This vinaigrette on the shrimp was simply magnificent!
  • Not being the biggest fan of fennel, I think the next time Napa cabbage may be a good substitute for the fennel.  It does have to be something with some crunch and heft.  Butter lettuce would not hold its own in this dish.