Sunday, October 23, 2011

Pumpkin Cake

I saw this cake being demonstrated by pastry chef Katherine Thompson on the Martha Stewart TV show. It was such a quick, easy cake I had to try it to see whether the taste could stand up to the ease of preparation. It did.

It's a very moist cake with lots of flavor and good texture. I even substituted one cup of whole wheat flour (I didn't have quite enough regular flour on hand) with no complaints. There's one more reason you should try this cake: it makes your house smell absolutely wonderful while it's baking and for several more hours after you take it out of the oven!

Nonstick cooking spray with flour

3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 1/4 teaspoons coarse salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg

2 cups canned pumpkin puree

2 1/2 cups sugar

4 large eggs

1 cup vegetable oil

1 1/4 cups chocolate chips

For The Creme Fraiche Glaze

3 tablespoons creme fraiche (I used sour cream)

3/4 to 1 cup confectioners' sugar, sifted


Make the cake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray an 8-to 10-cup Bundt pan with cooking spray; set aside.

Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and nutmeg together into a medium bowl; set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix together pumpkin, sugar, and eggs on medium speed. With the mixer running, slowly add oil. Add flour mixture and chocolate chips; mix on low speed until just combined.

Pour batter into prepared pan and transfer to oven. Bake until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 70 to 80 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool for 20 minutes before inverting cake onto rack or serving plate.

Make the creme fraiche glaze: Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix together creme fraiche and 3/4 cup confectioners' sugar until smooth. Add more confectioners' sugar as necessary to reach desired thickness. Drizzle glaze over cake and serve.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Fall Soups and a Sandwich

As much as I love to cook, there are times when I'd rather not. That's when I either call for takeout, or fall back on simple, quick meals that don't require much thinking or cleanup. Two of my easy favorites are soups-- Spicy Thai Kale and Chickpea Stew and Chicken Soup with Barley. The chicken soup can also serve as a good cold remedy if you add special hot sauce and some extra garlic. More good news: both these meals are healthy, filled with vegetables, and neither break the calorie bank. I think 'good and good for you' is how the saying goes.

Salads are never a bad addition to round out a dinner meal, but grilled cheese sandwiches are especially nice with soup. I love apple slices on my grilled cheese. I saute thin apple slices in a little Smart Balance just to soften. Layer the apples between pieces of your favorite cheese and good bread and grill until the cheese melts. The result is so good you could almost call it dessert.

The next time you don't feel like cooking, try one of these quick recipes. You'll hardly notice you're in the kitchen.

Thai Stew with Chick Peas and Kale

(8 servings)

2 tablespoons Smart Balance butter

1 sweet onion, chopped

1 sweet potato, peeled and diced

3 garlic cloves, chopped

2 inches of ginger, peeled and chopped

One-half teaspoon turmeric

2 teaspoons cumin

1 teaspoon coriander

One-half teaspoon salt

One-half teaspoon pepper

4 cups chicken or vegetable broth

1 cup lite coconut milk

One-third cup pad Thai sauce

2 cans (16 oz. each) chick peas, drained

1 bunch of Kale, triple washed, center stem removed and kale chopped

Add Smart Balance to large soup pot over medium heat with chopped onion and sweet potato. Stir and cook until onion begins to soften. Add garlic, ginger, and spices and stir and cook another minute or two. Now add chicken broth, coconut milk, and Thai sauce and bring to a simmer. When soup is bubbling add chick peas and kale, stir to combine, cover and simmer over low heat for 35 minutes.

Serve over cooked barley (or rice), garnished with cilantro and red pepper strips.

This is also delicious served with blue cheese crumbles on top!

Grilled Cheese with Softened Apples
Chicken Soup with Barley
(adapted from Martha Stewart)
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

4 carrots, diced

4 celery stalks, diced

1 medium sweet onion, diced

3 garlic cloves, minced (or more garlic if feeding a cold sufferer)

3 boneless chicken breasts cut into one-half to one inch pieces

Salt and pepper

6 cups chicken broth

5 thyme sprigs (remove stems after cooking)

1 cup quick cooking Barley

pinch of red pepper flakes

5 cups baby spinach leaves

Shredded Parmesan Cheese, optional

Mongolian Fire Oil, optional garnish (found in Asian food section) for cold sufferers

Add olive oil to large soup pot over medium heat. Stir in carrots, celery, onion and garlic. Cook until vegetables begin to soften, about 8 minutes. Add chicken, salt and pepper, stir to combine and cook another two minutes, until chicken is becoming opaque on outer edges.

Add broth, thyme, barley and pepper flakes. Cover and cook until chicken is cooked through and barley is tender, about 10-12 minutes.

Add spinach, cover and cook another minute or two until spinach is wilted.

Adjust to taste with salt and pepper and serve with shredded Parmesan cheese and Mongolian Fire Oil, if desired.