Saturday, February 6, 2016

Carrot Cake Whoopie Pies

This recipe was originally published in 2004 in Gourmet Magazine, under the title "Inside Out Carrot Cake Cookies." It now appears on the Epicurious website. I made them back in the day when I subscribed to Gourmet, and am happy to have rediscovered this recipe. They're a delicious treat--and fully approved during a "taste test" at Monday night dinner with Mom and Dad (thanks, Mom & Dad!). I followed the recipe almost to the letter (just added a bit more vanilla extract) and they came out perfectly.  It may be worth taking a look at the comments of other cooks on the Epicurious website, though.  Some complained that there isn't enough flour in the dough and the cookies spread too much, so recommend adding more flour (about 1/4 cup).  Others thought that the flavors weren't that strong, so recommend increasing the amount of cinnamon.  Still others left out the raisins and/or the walnuts. We thought the flavor was great.  The filling is simply 8oz of cream cheese mixed with 1/4 cup of honey.  Whether you make these little whoopie pies or not, the honey/cream cheese filling makes a great frosting for any carrot or spice cake!

Mini Carrot Cake Whoopie Pies
1 1/8 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temp.
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar 
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla 
1 cup coarsely grated carrots
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Filling:  8 oz. cream cheese, softened and 1/4 cup honey

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and put racks in upper and lower third of the oven.  Line two baking sheets with parchment or foil and then grease the sheets well. (Some complained about the cookies sticking too much. I used cooking spray to grease the sheets and didn't have any trouble.)


Whisk the dry ingredients together in a small bowl. In a mixer, cream the butter and sugars until light and fluffy.  Add the egg and vanilla and beat for a few minutes.  Using the lowest setting on the mixer, mix in the carrots.  Add the dry ingredients and mix on low until just combined. Stir in the raisins and walnuts until just evenly distributed.

Place by generous, rounded tablespoon onto the cookie sheets, spacing about 2 inches apart and trying to make them as even as possible so they'll be easy to pair when adding the filling.  Bake for 12-16 minutes, turning the sheets once during baking to promote even browning.  The cookies should be nicely browned and the tops should spring back when lightly touched.  Cool for a few minutes on the cookie sheets then place on cooling racks and cool completely.

Blend the cream cheese and honey thoroughly.  Take one cookie, spread the flat side with a heaping tablespoon, and sandwich another cookie on top, pressing a bit so that the filling squishes to the edges.  This recipe made 13 whoopie pies, each about 3 inches in diameter.
 



Saturday, January 30, 2016

Honey- & Garlic-Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Almonds--and Homage to Grandma D.


One night, dinner on my own, I roasted these Brussels sprouts and paired them some simple buttered wagon wheel macaroni ("rotelle"), my ultimate (and original) comfort food.  Buttered wagon wheels were the first dish I learned to cook, standing next to my grandmother at her stove. Grandma always had a box of wagon wheels on her shelf when we visited and my pantry is rarely without them now. She'd let me stir the noodles, help me drain them, and then let me stir in the butter to melt, all by myself. On a cold night when I'm on my own for dinner, buttered wagon wheels feel like a hug from her. I usually have some kind of vegetable with them (Grandma valued a colorful plate). These roasted Brussels sprouts are slightly sweet and nutty.  They're colorful and very, very good.  I thought I'd have leftovers, but ate them all--all by myself!

Honey- & Garlic-Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Almonds
1 lb Brussels sprouts, cleaned trimmed and cut in half
4 cloves garlic, unpeeled 
4-5 tablespoons olive oil, divided
pinch of salt
1/2 cup chopped almonds
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons citrus juice (lemon, lime, orange--I used grapefruit)
pinch of hot red pepper flakes (optional)
pinches of salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Line a rimmed cookie sheet with aluminum foil.  In a bowl, toss the Brussels sprouts and garlic cloves with 2 (or so) tablespoons of olive oil until they're well coated.  (Don't clean the bowl after this--you'll need it later!) Spread the sprouts and garlic onto the cookie sheet.  Nice if you turn them all cut side down.  Sprinkle with salt.  Roast for about 10 minutes.  Check sprouts and garlic, tossing avoid over-browning and roast for 5-10 minutes more.  The garlic should be very soft and easily squeeze out of the skin.  

While sprouts and garlic are roasting, whisk together honey, citrus juice, and two tablespoons of olive oil.  Add the hot red pepper (if using) and salt & pepper.  Add the roasted garlic to the sauce, mushing with a fork. Place the roasted sprouts back in the bowl, add the almonds and pour the sauce over it, tossing well.  Spread the sprouts and almonds back on to the cookie sheet and roast for another 5-10 minutes.  Check seasoning and serve. This dish makes enough for 2 generous servings
Wagon Wheels-n-Butter 
Bring a pot of water to boil over high heat.  Add a goodly amount of salt and the wagon wheels--about 1/2 cup per person.  Stir and return to a boil.  Boil briskly until the noodles are done to your liking--usually 6-9 minutes.  Drain, return to the pan, and immediately add a pat (about a tablespoon) of butter and stir to melt.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper, if you like.  I like pepper now--would have pitched a "Jennie fit" if Grandma had put it on my wheels when I was little! :) 

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Black Bean Soup with (yep!) Honey and BONUS recipe-Mom's Salmon Chowder!


We skirted the blizzard hitting the east coast this weekend, and woke up to a beautiful (and thankfully small) blanket of snow outside.    A perfect day to spend making soup!

In addition to this nice Black Bean Soup with Toasted Orzo, I'm also including my Mom's recipe for Salmon Chowder, which she made for our regular get together on Monday.  My mom doesn't think of herself as much of a cook, but she is a masterful soup maker!  She has a wonderful recipe for tomato-y bean soup that we often request.  I'll try to remember to get the recipe and post it here.

This Black Bean Soup turned out a bit soupy, so I made some toasted orzo to soak up some of the soup.  The orzo was really (really!) good.  The soup would also be nice over rice, if you prefer.  And truth be told, you could just boil the orzo, too.

Black Bean Soup with Honey & Toasted Orzo
1 pound black beans, rinsed and checked for stones (or 4 15-oz cans black beans)
Olive oil to coat the bottom of the soup pot
2 medium or one large onion, chopped
3 ribs of celery, diced
2 carrots, scraped and cut into rounds
2 sweet red peppers (or 1 red and 1 green), diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 or 4 tablespoons cumin
1/2 teaspoon hot pepper flakes (more or less)
6-8 cups vegetable broth
2 tablespoons cooking sherry or cider vinegar
2 tablespoons honey
salt and black pepper
Garnishes could include sour cream or yogurt, green onions, avocado, shredded cheddar cheese
(recipe for toasted orzo follows)

Prepare the beans:  Either soak them overnight if you're on top of things.  Or, if you're more like me, do a "quick" soak:  Place the beans in the soup pot and cover with water by about an inch.  Cover pot, bring to a boil and boil for two minutes.  Turn off heat and let stand for an hour.  The beans are then ready to go.  If you're using canned beans, then, of course, skip this part.  Drain and rinse the beans well and set them aside.

Coat the bottom of the soup pot with olive oil and turn on medium high. Add the onions, sprinkle with salt--about 1/4 teaspoon, stirring to coat, and cook for a few minutes.  Add the celery, carrots and peppers, and sprinkle with another 1/4 teaspoon (or so) of salt.  Stir well and cook for about another 5 or 10 minutes until the vegetables soften (but don't brown).  Add the garlic, cumin and red pepper flakes, tossing to combine with the other vegetables and cook for another minute.  Add the prepared beans and six cups of the vegetable broth (if you're using canned beans, then you might want to cut back on the broth--maybe 3 cups?).  Wouldn't hurt to add another pinch of salt and about 1/2 teaspoon black pepper.  Stir, bring to a boil, then turn down low and simmer partially covered until the beans are done.  This could take more than an hour or two. Stir the pot occasionally and add more broth if you think it needs it. 

When the beans are fully cooked but not mushy, put about three cups of the soup in a blender or food processor and blend (careful! it'll be hot!).  Add the blended soup back to the pot.  Stir in the honey and sherry or vinegar.  Be sure to do that after the beans are fully cooked.  Honey and sherry are acidic and will make the skins tough if they're not cooked.  Check and add more seasoning--salt, black pepper, hot pepper flakes, if desired.  Serve with garnishes over pasta or rice--or try the toasted orzo!

Toasted orzo
Toasted Orzo
This recipe cooks the orzo like it is rice--almost like a risotto.  It cooks just as fast as boiling the pasta--about 10 minutes--but it requires constant attention and stirring.  Why do it?  Well, the toasting turns the orzo into nutty goodness and makes it a bit more special.
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup orzo (I used whole wheat, but regular is fine)
1 1/2 to 2 cups boiling vegetable broth (or you could use salted water)
1 tablespoon butter
Heat the olive oil in a saute pan over medium heat.  Sprinkle the orzo over the olive oil and stir to coat the pasta with the oil. Stirring constantly, toast the orzo until it begins to brown, but be careful--once it begins to color, it can quickly burn!  (See photo.)  Add 1/2 cup boiling broth to the pan, stirring constantly.  (If you're using water, then add some salt, too.)  Keep stirring until most of the water is absorbed.  Add another 1/2 cup of the broth and keep stirring until it's absorbed and add another 1/2 cup of broth, continuing to stir.  When the broth is absorbed and the pasta begins to look creamy, check to see if it's done.  It may need another 1/2 cup of broth, and if so, add it and keep stirring.  Stir in the butter and serve with the soup!

Mom's Salmon Chowder 
I wish I had a photo of this pretty soup!  Ate it all up before I could snap a pic! 
1 pound fresh skinless salmon fillets or one 15 oz can salmon, rinsed  drained, flaked, and skin and bones removed 
1 tablespoon cooking oil 
2 cups shredded carrots
1 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 cup thinly chopped celery
1 1/2 cups water
4 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
2 1/2 cups cubed red-skinned potatoes (3 medium)
1 10-ounce package frozen whole kernel corn
1 teaspoon snipped fresh dill or 1/2 teaspoon dried dillweed
1 bay leaf
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon salt, plus more to season if needed
2 cups whole milk
1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch

1. Rinse fresh salmon; pat dry.  Set aside.  In a large saucepan heat oil over medium-high heat. Cook and stir carrots , onion, and celery in hot oil about 10 minutes or until the vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally.
2. Meanwhile, to poach fresh salmon, in a large skillet, bring water to boiling.  Add salmon.  Return to boiling; reduce heat covered, for 6-8 minutes, or until the salmon flakes easily with a fork. Remove salmon from skillet, discard poaching liquid.  Flake salmon into 1/2-inch pieces: set aside.
3. Stir the broth, potatoes, corn, dill, bay leaf, thyme,cayenne pepper, and salt into vegetables in saucepan.  Bring to boiling; reduce heat.  Cook, covered, over medium-low heat about 15 minutes or until the potatoes are tender, stirring occasionally.
4. Stir together 1/2 cup of the milk and cornstarch.  Add milk mixture to saucepan. Stir in remaining milk.  Cook and stir over the medium heat until thickened slightly and bubbly.  Cook and stir for 2 minutes more.  Gently stir in poached salmon or canned salmon.  heat through.
Mom included these notes with her recipe:  So...some notes about my stew....I didn't have the bay leaf..used red pepper instead of cayenne pepper (very little).  And I think I messed up on the corn starch and it might have been a little thicker.  Oh, and I used two of the salmon steaks we buy frozen. It was delicious, Momma! :)



Saturday, January 16, 2016

Honey and Balsamic Glazed Mushrooms



I had some mushrooms that were on their way south and went looking for a recipe that would use them all up.  This honey and balsamic glazed mushroom recipe did the trick, which I developed after perusing some recipes on-line.  They'd make a nice appetizer or a side dish with beef.  I made a meal out of them with a grilled cheese, onion, and spinach sandwich. Ate the whole bowl myself!  I will say that they're not very pretty, but they are very good in a sweet-n-salty way.  If you use them as an appetizer, I'd keep all of them whole and serve with toothpicks.

Honey and Balsamic Glazed Mushrooms
  • 1 12-oz package of fresh button or cremini mushrooms.
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary (plus a bit more for garnish)
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced fresh thyme (plus a bit more for garnish)
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Remove the stems from the mushrooms (save them in the freezer to make vegetable broth!). If serving as a side dish, quarter large mushrooms, half medium ones and leave the small ones whole.  If serving as an appetizer, leave them all whole. In a small bowl, whisk three tablespoons of olive oil, the vinegar, honey, rosemary, thyme and pepper and set aside.  In a large skillet (so that the mushrooms don't touch and have lots of room to caramelize), heat two tablespoons of the olive oil over medium high heat until it shimmers.  Add the mushrooms, toss a few times and then let them brown--about 3-5 minutes.  Stir when they start to give up their juices, then add another tablespoon of olive oil, the garlic, and sprinkle the salt all over.  Stir well, turning down the heat if needed so that the garlic doesn't burn. When the garlic becomes fragrant (a minute or so), add the balsamic/honey mixture and bring it to a boil, stirring constantly.  Cook until the balsamic/honey mixture reduces at least by half (or more) into a nice, tasty glaze.  Check seasonings. If you like things spicy, you could a pinch or so some ground hot red pepper now.  Sprinkle a little rosemary and thyme on top to serve.  Serve hot or at room temperature.  Serves two as a side dish, perhaps four as an appetizer, or one hungry diner for a meal on her own.


Saturday, January 9, 2016

Feta Spinach Pizza WITH HONEY!

The joke here at SteffesWood Apiary is that if you stand still long enough, someone will drizzle honey on you.  We put honey on everything!  While honey and pizza may not seem like a likely combination, just a little bit of honey on this kind of Greek-y (and geeky) white pizza  marries well with the salty feta cheese.  The inspiration for this pizza came from a flatbread recipe on Epicurious that uses artichokes and prosciutto. I didn't have any of that, so I sauteed garlic, some sweet red pepper, spinach and black olives.  If I had had kalamata olives, I would have used them instead. On the spur of the moment, I invited a friend over to share it with me and she pronounced it "good."  After a few glasses of wine, we each had another slice and I think it was even better at room temperature (though the wine may have had something to do with that)!

Feta Spinach Pizza with Honey
3 cloves garlic, chopped
an ungodly amount of olive oil (say about 1/4 cup)
1/4 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
1/2 sweet red pepper, sliced thin
2 cups fresh spinach (chopped a bit if not baby spinach)
1/4 cup black olives, sliced 
4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
1 tablespoon honey
frozen pizza dough, thawed (Need a pizza dough recipe?  Try Mark Bittman's, which I featured in a recipe for dessert calzones a few years ago.)

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees. (Home pizza enthusiasts suggest heating the oven for at least 30 minutes if not an hour.)  If you have a pizza stone or steel, put it in the oven to heat up.  If not, bake the pizza on a cookie sheet (won't be as crispy, but it'll still be good).

Place the garlic in a large saute pan, pour the olive oil over it and saute on medium high until the garlic just begins to sizzle.  Sprinkle the red pepper flakes and add the sweet red pepper.  Saute for a few minutes more, turning down the heat if necessary so that the garlic doesn't burn.  Add the fresh spinach, cover the pan, and remove from the heat.  When the spinach is fully wilted, toss in the olives.  You might want to add a little bit of salt and black pepper, too--but remember that the feta adds a lot of saltiness if you do.


Roll out the pizza dough.  If you're using a pizza stone or steel, place the dough on parchment paper on top of a cookie sheet without sides.  If you like, turn up the edges to keep the toppings from spilling over. Prick the dough in several places with a fork.  Slide the dough with the parchment paper (but without toppings!) into the hot oven and bake for 3 minutes.  Remove the dough from the oven and set the parchment paper aside.  The dough may puff up a bit. If so, just tamp it down with a fork. Spread the spinach/pepper/olive/garlic topping all over the partially baked dough.  Crumble the feta cheese on top.  With a tablespoon held high, drizzle the honey all over.  Return the pizza with the toppings back to the hot oven and bake for 5 to 10 minutes more, until the underside of the crust is well-browned and the feta has melted a bit.  If you don't have a pizza stone, then you can place the pizza on a cookie sheet.  You might still want to bake the dough for 3 minutes before putting on the toppings.  

This made one medium pizza, plenty for two people.

 

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Banana & Ginger Honey Cake and (BONUS recipe!) Homemade Vegetable Broth

A 2015 NPR story about food waste notes that Americans throw away about 1/3 of our available food. So this year, I've resolved to try to waste less food.  Maybe banana cake and bread is a bit cliche in that regard, but instead of tossing out the bananas that get too ripe before I can eat them, I am peeling them, putting them in a baggie and freezing for the future.  Here's a nice banana honey cake from the National Honey Board that I adapted and served for a dinner with some good friends a few nights ago.  It's a sturdy, pound cake-like cake, that's even better if it sits for a day.  

We're also saving almost all of our vegetable scraps in a bag in the freezer and making vegetable broth with them.  Scroll down for the bonus recipe!

Banana & Ginger Honey Cake
2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1-1/4 cups honey
3 Tablespoons sour cream
1 Tablespoon grated lemon zest
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 eggs
2 very ripe bananas, mashed (thawed if frozen)
1/4 cup chopped crystallized ginger (optional, but nice!)
1/4 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Butter and flour a Bundt pan. Sift or whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and ginger together and set aside.  In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter and honey together until light and fluffy, about three minutes.  Add the sour cream, lemon zest and vanilla extract and mix to combine well.  Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing to combine well after each one.  Add the flour and mix just until it's well combined (don't over mix).  Fold in the crystallized ginger and nuts.  Pour into the prepared pan and bake in the center of the oven until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 40-45 minutes.  Cool for about 15 minutes and then turn out on to a plate.  When fully cooled, tightly wrap with foil or plastic wrap. Enjoy!

Bonus Recipe:  Homemade Vegetable Broth from Food Scraps
As you peel and prepare vegetables for other meals, save the scraps that you don't use in a freezer bag, adding to the bag every time you have some scraps.  Onion peels, carrot scrapings, ends of celery, mushroom stems, sweet red or green pepper seeds, leek tops, garlic peels and ends, parsley and other herb stems--all work well. Hot pepper seeds will make a very spicy-hot broth, so use them sparingly.  Also, skip strongly-flavored cruciferous vegetables like cabbage leaves, broccoli stalks and Brussels sprouts, which tend to overwhelm the broth. 

When the bag is full, place the contents in a large stock pot and, over low heat, slowly braise them so that they begin to release their juices. Check and stir the pot regularly to be sure the veggie scraps don't burn.  Once the scraps are fully thawed and have released their juices, pour in enough water to cover, add a handful of peppercorns and a good measure of salt. You can add other flavorings, too, like bay leaves or thyme, if you'd like. Bring to a boil and then lower the heat to very slowly simmer the broth for about an hour or two, stirring occasionally. Strain the broth and taste, adding more salt or other herbs if desired.  If you want a very clear broth, then don't press too hard on the scraps when straining.  Compost the scraps.  You can place the broth in containers and freeze for future use or turn the broth into a nice soup that day.  
 




Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Festive Red Cabbage Salad

If you're starting to think about a resolution for healthy eating in 2016, then this salad might be a delicious way to begin the new year.  The recipe, from the BBC Good Food website, combines  red cabbage, beets, apples and oranges with a honey-sweetened dressing, and toasted walnuts for crunch and flavor.  It can be made ahead, though the cabbage will wilt a bit if it sits in the fridge for a few days.  We took this to our Christmas Eve celebration with family and our nephew asked us to leave the leftovers for him.  Can't think of a better endorsement!

Festive Red Cabbage Salad
1/2 small red cabbage, finely shredded
1 small red onion, finely diced
2 tart apples, cored and diced
4-5 small cooked beets, diced
1 large orange 
5 tablespoons red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons red currant jelly (or other tart jelly)
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup toasted walnuts, chopped
salt and pepper to taste

Toss the cabbage, onion, apples and beets in a large bowl.  Finely grate the zest of the orange over the veggies in the bowl.  Cut the rest of the pith off the orange.  Holding the orange over a smaller bowl to catch the juice (to use in the dressing) cut the orange segments from their membranes, chop them into two or three pieces, and add them to the bowl with the veggies. Squeeze the remaining orange membranes over the smaller bowl to get every bit of juice that you can. Add the vinegar, jelly and honey to the  bowl with the orange juice and whisk until well blended.  Continuing to whisk, dribble the olive oil into the dressing until well emulsified. Pour over the salad, add salt and pepper and toss well.  Check seasoning.   If you're serving right away, then sprinkle the walnuts on top.  If not, then hold off on adding the walnuts until you're ready to serve.  Happy New Year!