Sunday, December 31, 2006

Wishing to all my friends a 2007 full of excitements, happiness, good health, and lots and lots of love!
Thanks for this awesome year in the "blogworld", 2006 was great and I bet 2007 will be even better!
Love you all!

Ps: I got the puzzle as a Christmas gift from my son, cute!! (It took me 3 hours to finish it, on Christmas Day!)

Friday, December 22, 2006


I bet the majority of my fellows Brazilians have come across a Panettone during Christmas time at least once in his/her lifetime. Panettone, a traditional kind of Italian Christmas Bread, is very popular not only around Europe but also very known and loved in Brazil.
We used to have it every single Christmas at my mother’s and grandmother’s houses, and there were always a few loaves around grandma’s house, as she would get them as presents from different friends and family members. And it didn't matter how many she got, we would polished them off before the school break was over; it was just delicious to eat Panettone for breakfast, afternoon tea, or with milk as a late night snack!
It seems that Panettone is now becoming more and more popular in the US, as it was hard to find it when I first got here, 7 years ago, and it was absurdly costly. Now we can find a variety of more affordable breads, not only in specialty Italian stores, but also in warehouses, and even some larger grocery stores (which may even have their own brand of it!)
This year, although we are not going to Brazil for Christmas, I wanted to keep the tradition and have some Panettone around. And since we were staying and celebrating with friends, why not then making some loaves and sharing with them, right?
So I did! I baked a few mini Panettone loaves and gave away to the teachers and closer friends, just to share with them a little of my Christmas traditions.
It is a long process to bake Panettone, since it has to rise a couple of times, but it sure was fun to make these little gems and I was totally proud of my bread by the end of the day. I have also made them last year, but this time used a different recipe and it came out just right; perfect and beautiful, with a great taste and texture!
Panettone has its own characteristic texture to it, and it is not the easiest thing to conquer the sort of flaky-full-of-little-tiny-bubbles-aerated inside it should have. But this year I did it, and it got me on a very happy Christmas mood!
And since my fellow bloggers and visitors are constantly present in my life, in each post and each comment, you are now more than my friends, so it is only fair to share here the recipe and spread my Christmas Joy and traditions with all of you.
I wish I could send each one of you a little loaf, and make your day a little more “Christmasy” and “Panettoney”, but you get the idea, and from the heart, my wishes are for all of you to have the best Christmas Ever, and a 2007 full of happiness and joy, and love, and recipes, and posts, and blogs, and friends, of course!!

Note: Panettone is traditionally made with raisins and dried/candied fruits, however, some companies also make another version of it called “Chocottone”, which is basically the Panettone dough studded with little chocolate morsels, this way getting on the heart of the chocolate lovers-raisins haters.
Deep inside I think it should actually be called “Chocolate Christmas Bread”, as Panettone for me is the real thing, the one with the fruits. But some do like chocolate (including myself!!!), and this has certainly become a success during Christmas time.
Since some of the friends are most fond of chocolate rather the raisins, I divided the dough and made a few of the loaves with chocolate chips (both dark, milk, and white chocolate), and let me tell you, it sure was a success! (And Matheus loooooved it!!)

(Adaptation of a recipe by Alvaro Rodrigues)

30 grams active dry yeast (or 90 grams fresh cake yeast)
100 grams sugar
250 ml warm water
300 grams all-purpose flour
Mix all ingredients in a large bowl with a mixer until you get smooth dough. Cover and let it rise until doubled in volume (about 1 to 1 ½ hours)

Basic Dough
180 grams butter
150 grams sugar
5 egg yolks
1 whole egg
1/3-cup canola oil
100 ml orange juice (or 75 ml juice and 25 ml cognac or rum)
1 teaspoon salt (omit if using salted butter)
2 teaspoons grated orange zest
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest (optional, I did not use)
About 600 grams all-purpose flour

Options for filling
Panettone: 300 grams raisins and 300 grams dried/candied orange peels (or other candied fruits of choice). I like to soak mine in either warm orange juice or rum (But don’t forget to drain the excess liquid before adding the fruit to the batter)
: 500 - 600 grams chocolate chips (dark, milk, white, or a combination of the three!)

Add first nine ingredients to the starter after it has risen. Beat with a mixer using the dough hook until everything is incorporated. Gradually add flour, beating with the hook, until you get a smooth and shiny dough, full of bubbles, and that doesn’t stick to the mixer anymore (sometimes you will use all the flour, sometimes less, so add it slowly and give the dough time to incorporate it after each addition. I first added 400 grams of the flour and then added the last 200 grams slowly until I got the smooth dough).
Put dough on a clean bowl, cover and let rise until doubled in volume, at least 2 hours.
After this rising, punch the dough and add your choice of filling, gently kneading the dough just until the fruits (or chocolate) get incorporated.
Divide dough into Panettone molds filling just until ½ of its height, cover and let rise one more time, until it doubles in volume or start to come out of the tops of the molds.
Bake the Panettone at 375 F until it is golden and brown on top.
I made mini loafs and they took about 25 minutes to bake. Keep an eye on them, but do not open the oven door before 20 minutes. They will be done when your kitchen start to get infused with the sweet bread aroma!

The recipe yields about 16 mini panettones or 2 medium ones.

Here is a picture of them rising inside the molds

And another pic, just after they came out of the oven. Cute!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Almond Tofee

Now, I have start my post by saying that if you like toffee, and you like almonds, and you like chocolate, then you absolutely have to try making this candy!
Oh my, it was one of the most delicious candies I have had, and since it was my first time at candy making, it was certainly the best I have made too! :o)
I got this recipe from Anna’s blog Cookie Madness, but I have it on my to try list since I saw a post about it, loaded with great comments about the recipe, back in 2002.
Why did I wait so long to try? I have no idea… at the time I first saw the recipe it was maybe because I was taking care of a newborn, but waiting so many years after that, oh well, there are really no good excuses but me being not as organized as I would like to be and postponing to try such delicious treat.
However, this weekend I finally made and I am sure glad I did! I was quite proud of myself, since it was my first trying with candy making and the toffee turned out perfect!
I got all prepared, bought the ingredients and a candy thermometer, told my husband and my son to go play somewhere else but the kitchen while I was concentrated with this, stayed there, with my nose super close to the pan, watching impatiently for the mercury to rise and the candy to work through its stages of ooey gooey “caramely” goodness. It took a bit of time, but it was worth every second of it.
The toffee is awesome, it tastes rich and buttery and the almonds inside just made it as good as can be. Then comes the chocolate, which melts beautifully on top of the warm candy in the pan and is then sprinkled with even more delicious almonds, which by the way were even better, as they were lightly toasted in the oven before. Let it cool, break into big chunks and…. Yummmmm, PERFECT!
So good, so good, words cannot describe!
And even though some people are afraid to give this kind of candy making a try, it was pretty simple to make. The thing here is to keep focused on the process and watch the temperature carefully; if you cook it properly the toffee will for sure set!
I made it last Sunday, we had some, I gave some for friends and the thing is all gone already. Matheus’ teachers got to enjoy this too and I have even been asked for the recipe. How good is that?!
I guess it did turn out right and certainly was a success! So much so that I am considering making some more in the next couple of days, you know, there are always some friends out there to share the goodies with, right?!
Consider giving this a try, it is a seriously delicious treat!
Thanks Anna, your toffee is perfect, its name says it all, and your blog is great too, I love reading about all those cookies of yours!

I am posting here the recipe, exactly how I got from Anna’s website, as her directions are extremely necessary for the makings of the toffee. And you can also check out her post and pictures at her yummy cookie blog, Cookie Madness!

Best-Ever Almond Toffee
1 1/2 cups sliced almonds, divided use
2 sticks butter (I use salted) -- 1/2 pound
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup warm water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
8 ounces good quality dark or milk chocolate, chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spread 1/2 cup of the almonds on a non-stick cookie sheet and bake for 6-8 minutes or until toasted and aromatic. Set aside.
Line a 13x9 inch pan with parchment paper and set next to stove.
Place butter in a heavy, medium sized (3 qt or larger) saucepan and melt over medium heat. When butter is mostly melted, stir in sugar, warm water and salt. Set a deep fry thermometer in pan, being careful that bulb is not touching bottom of pan. Cook mixture over medium heat, stirring once in a while (once or twice around), until it reaches 240 degrees F.
At 240 degrees, add the remaining 1 cup sliced almonds to sugar mixture. After adding almonds, stir constantly, keeping heat at medium, until mixture reaches 295 degrees F. If temperature is not rising at a slow and steady rate, raise heat a tiny bit until mercury starts rising. When mixture reaches 295 degrees F, immediately remove from heat and stir in baking soda. Pour into parchment lined pan. The mixture should be kind of a liquid blob at hit point and if you are on track, the pan will be clean when you dump the blog onto the parchment. Mixture will begin to firm, and butter may pool and separate, Do not pour off any excess butter. Do not panic, because if you cooked the toffee to 295, your candy should set. Sometimes it just takes longer.
Scatter chopped chocolate across top of hot almond mixture and let chocolate melt into and over the candy as candy firms. Using back of a spoon, spread melted chocolate evenly over candy. Crush your toasted almonds and sprinkle over melted chocolate. Let candy cool for 1/2 hour at room temperature. Transfer to refrigerator and chill for about 1 hour to firm chocolate.
When chocolate is set is set, lift candy from pan by grasping parchment. Break candy into large chunks.

Parmesan-Crusted Tilapia

This will be just a quick post before I come back here a little later with some pictures and recipes of my Christmas baking adventure this year!
Yes, since we didn’t travel to Brazil this time I ended up having more fun in the kitchen and baking some goodies to share with friends. Not much, but it was enough to keep me busy, and right now I am in the “rising process” of some Christmas Bread.
But these are for another post. Right now I want to leave you all with a quick and easy recipe that although quite simple is an extremely flavorful fish dish!
I made it once and we liked it sooo much that I didn’t even had time to photograph it, the boys were crazy about the fish so of course I ended up making it again. It is one of those simple things that when you make it makes you think “Why didn’t I think about that myself?!!!”.
It is a Rachel Ray recipe, a TV personality around here that most love but some hate. I don’t have a particular opinion about her, and although I don’t watch her show I have bought her magazine, which sometimes do come with some good recipes in it, this being a perfect example of it!
I served ours this time with some roasted veggies and spinach fettuccine. Hope you all like it too, and this is a good opportunity to try some recipe and at the same time keep our meals on the lighter side in between all those Christmas parties and gathering some of us have the pleasure to attend!
And I promise I will come back soon with some good recipes to share!

Parmesan-Crusted Tilapia
(Adapted from Rachel Ray Magazine)

¾ cups grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon paprika
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
4 tilapia fillets
Salt and pepper to taste
Olive oil for drizzling

Preheat oven to 400º. Combine cheese, paprika, parsley, salt and pepper to taste in a plate or bowl. Drizzle fish with olive oil, dredge in cheese mixture. Place on a baking sheet lined with foil or parchment paper and bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until fish is done. Serve with lemon slices/wedges!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Buttermilk Pie

This was the second of two experiments I did on a Buttermilk Pie recipe, proving clearly that our kitchens are more than susceptible to have a few disasters among the so happy successes we usually may have.
I decided to make a buttermilk pie but, although extremely simple and basically fool proof, the first recipe was an unhappy choice. Although it had the creaminess I was looking for, the taste was totally off. I don’t think I did anything wrong as the recipe for this kind of pie is pretty straight forward, but the combination of brown sugar and buttermilk was not the best one for me, and the color was a little too brownish for us, not very appetizing.
But since I am a persistent girl, I decided to give it a second try and make it my way. I invented, used the ingredients I felt would give the taste I was looking for and it was right on, I got a delicious and creamy pie that satisfied our dessert cravings taste wise and visually too!
I thought I had 1 ½ cups buttermilk, but when I went to make the recipe there was only one cup, so I used ½ cup of half-half I had in the fridge that needed to be used up. And also the second time I used white sugar and the flavor was indeed much better.
The pie had a flan taste and consistency, but was embedded in a crunchy piecrust. We all liked it, especially the husband, who is a big flan fan.
I used a nice organic whole-wheat crust that I bought at a local natural market, but you can use your crust of choice. And to be true, I think it would be even better if baked in a graham cracker crust, which is my favorite and first choice for most pies I bake.
However you chose to make it, I am sure most people would like this one. It was simple in flavor, but creamy and very tasty nonetheless.

Buttermilk Pie
½ cup white granulated sugar
3 tbsp flour
1/4 tsp salt
3 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups buttermilk (or 1 cup buttermilk and ½ cup half-half)
One piecrust or graham cracker crust

Preheat oven to 350F.
Combine all ingredients on a blender and mix until smooth. Pour over piecrust and bake for about 35 minutes. Cool completely before serving. You can serve chilled or at room temperature.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Creamy Farfalle

I am always searching for new pasta dishes to try, as both the husband and Matheus are truly fan of the stuff. We have been adventurous lately with the pasta recipes, and I actually like trying these different dishes, as I usually make it but sometimes end up cooking something else to make up for most part of my meal (Not a big fan of pasta, plus due to my stomach issues I need to limit my consumption of tomato products and cream, both products that my husband adores in his macaroni!)
Last Sunday I made Farfalle With Creamy Mushroom Sauce, which involves a mix of fresh mushrooms, an ingredient that although we enjoy the flavors, I don't use very often. I don't exactly know why, but I guess it is because it is something neither of us grew up eating, so I was not used to cook with it.
Anyways, I saw the recipe and picture at my favorite magazine and knew I was going to try this dish. It looked pretty and seemed to be easy to make, two big pluses in my style of cooking.
So I went ahead, made the dish, and it was a hit! Definitely easy and simple to make, came together fairly quickly, looked pretty on the plate and tasted very good. What else could you ask for?!
It sure does have some heavy cream (not much though) in the sauce, and I believe that you do need this ingredient to give you a good creaminess and smooth texture to the sauce. But the flavors here goes a lot deeper than the cream itself.
The sautéed shallots and garlic imparted great taste to the sauce, and then there was the earthiness of the mix of mushrooms (I used shitakes and creminis), which melded nicely into the onion mix. But the real improvement to me came when the white wine was added and the sauce was reduced. Wow, the flavors here were great, I could have added just this to the pasta and would have been happy with it.
The cream and cheese sure added a lot of flavor, and the parsley some freshness and color as well. A great combination of flavors, it looked like pasta from a restaurant, and tasted just as it should, without being heavy as some pasta dishes we get when eating out.
The husband said he would like it to have a little more sauce, but I found it to be a nice and flavorful dish as is, and all in all it was certainly a success!

Farfalle with Creamy Wild Mushroom Sauce (Adapted from Cooking Light, December 2006)
1 pound uncooked farfalle (bow tie pasta)
1 tablespoon butter
12 ounces sliced mushrooms
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/3 cup finely chopped shallots
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 1/2 teaspoons salt, divided
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup dry white wine
2/3 cup whipping cream
1/2 cup (2 ounces) grated fresh Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Cook pasta according to package directions. Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add mushrooms, onion, shallots, garlic, 1 teaspoon salt, and pepper; cook 12 minutes or until liquid evaporates and mushrooms are tender, stirring occasionally. Add wine; cook 2 minutes or until liquid evaporates, remove from heat. Add the cooked pasta, cream, cheese, and parsley, tossing gently to coat. Stir in the remaining 1/2-teaspoon salt if needed. You can garnish with minced fresh parsley, and then serve.
Yield: 8 servings

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Roasted Squash, yum!!

This was a dish I made this weekend and came out very good. I don’t have an actual recipe for it, but more a method of preparation for roasting the squash.
Butternut is by far my favorite of the winter squashes. It is sweet and creamy, and when roasted it gets mellow and better tasting yet. I really like this squash, especially when roasted and pureed into a soup, but baked like this, into chunks, it became so soft and intense in flavor that each cube provided the most pleasant taste sensations to my taste buds.
I peeled, deseeded, seasoned with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and roasted the squash at 400F for about 40 minutes. I threw in a diced red pepper into the oven with the squash at the last fifteen minutes of the baking time, just to get an extra flavor in there. The peppers got mellow and sweet, soft and delicious as only red bell peppers can get, plus the flavor went really well with the squash.
After roasting, the squash and peppers can be tossed with simple balsamic vinaigrette, to punch up the flavors even more. I then laid them on top of a bed of fresh spinach (seasoned with salt and pepper) and sprinkled with crumbled goat cheese.
The salad was delicious, tasty, and just talking about it is making my mouth water for some more.
I guess I will have to buy some more butternut squash this week!

Baked Pasta

Another weekend, and here I come with one more pasta dish... however, this was actually the recipe I made a couple Sundays ago. Yeah, I know, I have been a little slow with my postings, but I had so much going on this past week that among helping friends and taking my son to the doctor (winter is hard on the poor children… I hate cold weather!) I barely had time to get all my things done. But finally it seems that this week things will be better, and I sure have accumulated a few nice recipes to post.
Today it is Three Cheese Baked Pasta. Good, yummy, and if you like pasta as my husband does, then it is pure comfort food. He liked it a lot, and Matheus did too!
It is quite simple to make, and the flavors are the basic Italian ones, with the addition of cubes of provolone cheese that melt into little pockets of goodness throughout the cheesy baked dish. The ingredients blended together really well into an ooey gooey baked pasta concoction, which was easy to make and delicious to eat!
I love ricotta, and it makes for a good part of this dish, so I used my favorite, the homemade one. Make sure you use a good ricotta cheese here, as I am pretty sure it does make a difference.
The one ingredient that I don't actually think added much flavor wise to the dish were the sun-dried tomatoes. They kind of got lost into the sauce and you couldn't taste its flavor unless you bite into one. I guess I would prefer to have used my sun-dried tomatoes in another recipe where they could impart more of their great flavor and be more noticeable to my palate.
A basic baked pasta recipe, that brought happy smiles to the table in both my "boys" faces!

Three Cheese Baked Pasta (Adapted from Cooking Light, December 2006)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/4 cups diced onion
1/3 cup diced carrot
4 garlic cloves
1/4 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes (without oil)
1 1/4 teaspoons chopped fresh or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
2 (28-ounce) cans diced tomatoes, undrained
1 1/2 cups (6 ounces) grated fresh Romano cheese, divided
1 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1 large egg white, lightly beaten
1 pound uncooked penne
1 cup (4 ounces) diced provolone cheese
Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 400°.
Heat olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add onion, carrot, cook 10 minutes or until onion is tender, stirring frequently. Add garlic; cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add sun-dried tomatoes, thyme, and diced tomatoes; cook 25 minutes or until thickened, stirring occasionally.
Combine 1 cup Romano, ricotta, parsley, and egg white in a bowl.
Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain; return pasta to pan. Add ricotta mixture to pan, stirring to coat. Add tomato mixture and provolone, tossing just until combined (do not over stir). Spoon pasta mixture into a 13 x 9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup Romano. Bake at 400° for 25 minutes or until bubbly and top is browned.
Yield: 8 servings

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Carrot Cake

Since I was in a row with the cake recipes, I will maintain the sequence and post another recipes I tried from Valentina's blog. Last post was the cookie recipe, and today is her Carrot Cake!
As the name states, it is really a moist cake, and very flavorful too! I liked the orange zest added to the batter; it gave the cake a subtle but yet delicious essence that complemented the carrots very well.
Another simple and easy recipe I made that was a success. With each day of cooking it is more and more obvious that simple foods and simple flavors are for sure the best ones!
Next I want to post here about the “Brazilian way” of making a carrot cake. It is even simpler but just as good! But this is another post yet to come. (Stay tuned, ‘cause I will have more cakes posted here!)
For today’s recipe, I have to admit that I didn’t make the frosting stated in the recipe. Although it sounded very good with the ricotta cheese being part of it, I opted for skiping this part as we were having the cake for breakfast, and particularly I do prefer my cake in the simplest form possible. However, I am pretty sure the frosting is delicious and will certainly make the cake taste even better.
Also, the cake asks for golden raisins, but I used dark ones, as it was the only kind I had at home.
For the picture I whipped a little bit of buttermilk glaze, just as the one I used for the pumpkin cake. And it was also good with this one!
So, for this cake you decide: there is the ricotta topping that came with the recipe, the delicious buttermilk glaze, and the more traditional cream cheese frosting. Well, it is clear that there is no need to have a “frostlees” cake with so many options to choose from, right?!
Great recipe, saved with the winners ones, because it will be repeated in a near future for sure!


By the way, you can take a look at Valentina’s picture and recipe here.

Moist Carrot Cake
(Adapted from a recipe from Delia Smith)

175grams brown sugar
2 eggs
120 ml oil
200 grams whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 ½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg (I omitted this one)
1 teaspoon grated ginger (I omitted this too)
Zest of an orange
200 grams grated carrots
175 grams golden raisins

250 grams ricotta cheese
20 grams sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 tablespoon cinnamon, to sprinkle over the cake after it has been frosted

Juice of ½ orange
1 teaspoon lemon juice
40 grams brown sugar

Preheat oven to 350 F (180C).
Cream the sugar, eggs, and oil for 2 minutes, until creamy. Add the flour, baking soda, baking powder, nutmeg, cinnamon, and ginger, beating just until incorporated. With a spoon, fold in the carrots, orange zest and raisins. Put mixture in a greased rectangular pan and bake for 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
To make the frosting, mix all ingredients until fluffy. Keep refrigerated until ready to use.
To make the syrup, mix all ingredients until sugar dissolves completely. Pour the syrup over the top of the cake while still warm (you can poke some holes on top so the syrup can penetrate the cake). Let cake cool, frost and sprinkle with cinnamon.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

One of the Best Oatmeal Cookies Ever!

I mentioned cake recipes being posted this week, and there is still a couple more to come. But first I had to come here and post about these cookies I tried today. They were the absolutely BEST!
So, before I keep going I need to thank my friend Valentina, because this recipe was an adaptation of a recipe she posted on her blog, Trem Bom. Thanks Valentina!!
The recipe is for Oatmeal Cookies with Almonds and Apricots, and really, these were one of the best cookies I tried lately; they hit the spot for a nice afternoon treat and at the same time are filled with healthy and wholesome ingredients.
Oatmeal and whole-wheat flour are paired with some butter and brown sugar; deliciously chewy chopped apricots and slivered almonds are added to the batter finishing up the goodness with the yummiest combination of all! I guess other dried fruits and nuts could be used in many different combinations here, but these were ingredients I had on hand and to be true, it was so good that I am not even thinking about modifying this recipe any longer.
The base of the cookie was just perfect, simple but yet flavorful, and held it together nicely without being dry. The cookies came out nicely browned and crispy on the outside, with a consistent inside, making, in my opinion, for the perfect healthy cookie!
And if you have kids around you too might be wondering if this would work with chocolate chips inside… well, being the chocoholic I am this is definitely what I am going to try next, and I bet they are going to be great!
I loved the texture, the crisp and crunchy outside, and was really surprised with how nice and soft the apricots got during baking; it was truly delicious. I used sliced almonds and really liked that they became crispy and toasty in the oven, giving the cookies a slight crunch without interfering with the cookie as whole, as some big chunks of almonds sometimes do.
These cookies were not only delicious but also super easy to make; a great recipe that will certainly be repeated here many and many times to come!
By the way, Valentina’s original recipe is posted in Portuguese at her blog. I made a few adaptations myself, and that is what I am translating and posting in my kitchen space, but you can certainly take a peek at the original recipe here. And even if you don’t understand the language, it is still worth to take a look over the great collection of recipes and pictures that she has posted there!

Oatmeal Cookies with Almonds and Apricots

1 ¼ cups oatmeal
1 ½ cups whole-wheat flour
½ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup brown sugar
½ cup chopped dried apricots
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ cup toasted sliced almonds
1 stick of butter (113 grams / 8 tablespoons), melted
1 egg, slightly beaten

Preheat oven to 325F.
Add dry ingredients in a bowl, including almonds and apricots. Add melted butter and egg and mix well until everything is well incorporated.
Shape dough into balls and place on a cookie sheet. Bake for about 18 minutes or until golden and delicious!

Even Matheus' army guys agreed that these cookies were worth fighting for!

Monday, November 27, 2006

Banana Cake

It seems every time I want to make some healthy cake for breakfast we all agree to make it a banana cake! If it is not cake, then it is muffin, and which one is the favorite around here? Oh yes, banana muffins!!
I had three very ripe bananas sitting on the counter last week and decided to make a cake on an afternoon. What a great idea it was. We had cake for snack and on the next couple days for breakfast, and the cake was not just very moist but deliciously tasty too!
I sort of created the recipe based on what I had on hand and on previous cake recipes I made. And since it came out so good I wrote down the recipe later on so that I could post it here and share with you all!
The picture is definitely not the prettiest one, but I have to say that the cake was one of the best I have made!
Simple, easy and so good! Perfect when you have excess of bananas, or just when that little cake craving hits on the afternoon but you just want some comforting flavors without ruining the healthy eating habits you are so hardly trying to conquer.
The boys here raved about this one, I hope you like it too! Oh, and I used raisins (per Matheus request), but chocolate chips would be just as good here!!

Simple Banana Cake

About ½ cup raisins soaked in some warm water or apple juice (just to make them plump!)
1 ½ cups whole wheat flour
½ cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ cup brown sugar
4 tablespoons butter (1/4 cup), at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs
3 very ripe bananas
½ cup buttermilk

Preheat oven 350F.
With a mixer, beat butter and sugar until creamy. Add vanilla, eggs, bananas, and buttermilk and beat until well mixed. Add flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon. Mix until everything is incorporated. Add raisins and mix with a wooden spoon.
Pour batter into a greased bundt pan and bake for about 30 to 35 minutes, or until it is golden and a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Cake recipes to come…

First of all, a little late Happy Thanksgiving to everyone! And Thanks for those who stopped by to wish us a happy holyday as well, you all are the reason I love this blogsphere!
It’s been a while since my last post, however I haven’t abandoned the kitchen, especially with the Thanksgiving and all the cooking and yummy food it involves.
This year we went to one of our best friends house, and we did have a great time there! I wish I had taken pictures of everybody and the delicious feast we had, but surely enough I did the favor of forgetting my camera… oh well, it happens to all of us!
We contributed with three dishes, a simple mixed leaf salad topped with apple slices and dried cranberries, cranberry compote, and a sweet potato casserole! All were very good and got me many compliments. The one my friend likes the most is the cranberry compote, and although I cannot show you pictures, I can certainly share the recipe here, just let me know!
Well, enough of that Thanksgiving talk, as I believe most people here in the US had its share of it, right?!
So, moving forward to the nice cake picture above. Well, I think it looks nice, but I have to tell you that it tasted even better than it looked!
Really, it was a very nice cake. Extremely moist and not as dense as I was expecting it to be, especially with the “pound cake” presented in the recipe title.
As I said, the cake part was delicious, full of yummy fall flavors and as moist as it could be, good, really good! And lets not forget the glaze, which as a great exception, I loved too!
I am not a fan of glazes, frostings, powdered sugar stuff on top of my cake, and you know, this cake might not even need a glaze at all, but this one was so good that I was glad I included it too, plus it did made the cake look prettier!
The glaze was simply made with buttermilk, sugar, cornstarch, and a tad of butter, which definitely made it taste smooth. It was sweet for my taste, but that is how glazes are supposed to be, right?
I really liked the tang provided by the buttermilk and it complemented the cake flavors really well, even more so because the cake was not overly sweet, so it was a very happy combination in between the two. And as a fellow baker who tried this recipe mentioned in the CLBB, this glaze was almost drinkable by itself! Yes, I found it to be that good, and will certainly use it in other recipes as well!
All in all, we had a nice week and a happy Thanksgiving!
And for the title of the post, it is just as it says; be prepared to see a few more cake recipes posted around here in the days to come. Our microwave broke and while we don’t replace it the husband doesn’t have a quick way to reheat his beloved muffins, so I have been baking muffins and cakes almost daily for breakfast, and we are eating it as snack too. They are healthy cakes, of course, and I have a couple recipes and pictures that accumulated to share here with you!
So, please come back, and in the meantime try this pumpkin cake, it was a delicious surprise to all of us, and to some friends that I took the cake to share with on a breakfast gathering. Everyone really enjoyed this one!

Pumpkin Pound Cake with Buttermilk Glaze (Adapted from Cooking Light, Dec. 2006)
15 ounces pureed pumpkin
¾ cup white sugar
¾ cup brown sugar
½ cup butter, softened
4 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour (13 ½ ounces)
1 ½ teaspoons pumpkin pie spice (I used 1 teaspoon cinnamon and ¼ teaspoon cloves)
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
¾ cup buttermilk

1/3 cup buttermilk
¼ cup sugar
2 tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/8 teaspoon baking soda

Preheat oven to 350F (180C). Grease and flour a 10-inch tube pan.
While you get your ingredients ready, put pumpkin puree in a fine sieve and lay it on top of a bowl to drain excess liquid.
With a mixer cream butter and sugars. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until well blended. Add the drained pumpkin and vanilla and mix well. Add baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices, incorporate those ingredients and then alternately add the flour and the buttermilk, mix well until well blended.
Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for about 50 minutes. Cool in pan for about 10 minutes, remove and let cool over a rack.
For the glaze, combine all ingredients in a saucepan and cook it over medium heat until thickened, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and drizzle over cake.

Editing to add: for the pumpkin pie spice, according to foodsubs you can make your own by combining "4 parts cinnamon + 2 parts ginger + 1 part allspice + 1 part nutmeg, all ground OR equal parts cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, mace, and cloves, all ground."

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Penne Al Forno

The recipe I am posting today is a very nice one, with restaurant flavors! Well, and it should be, because I got the recipe from our local newspaper, and it actually came from a local restaurant, which coming to think about it, it may even be a chain, it is called Biaggi’s.
We went to this restaurant twice already and, coincidentally, my husband had this very same dish. He liked it a lot and, fortunately enough, the recipe was featured in a section of the newspaper where people ask for recipe of dishes they have had at restaurant and eatery places around the town.
The husband was really happy to see the recipe; he even clipped it out and saved it for us to try on the weekend. So, under his commandment, I prepared it for our Sunday’s Pasta Lunch!
The original recipe actually called for ziti, but I used penne pasta, which was what I had on hand.
The dish is full of flavors, imparted mainly from the prosciutto that is initially sautéed and the white wine later added to the sauce. It is a rich and creamy, deliciously tasty sauce that I believe most people would enjoy!
I actually would have liked it more without the prosciutto in it, as it is not my favorite flavor, but the sauce would certainly suffer from the lack of it, as it does give some nice sort of “smoky” undertone to the whole dish.
I made half recipe and used half-half instead of the cream asked for in the recipe, just because that was what I had on hand. To be quite true, I don’t think the sauce was less good because of it… and it was probably a nice change for our hips!
The chicken and shrimp are very delicious together with the sauce. This is not your everyday pasta; it is more of a special dish, to be made on weekends and even when you might have company around, but certainly one that is worth trying at least once!
Hope you all enjoy too!

Note: I just want to say that I am sorry for the picture being presented inside the pan… I should actually have baked it in a casserole-type dish, but just for the sake of my “dishwasher husband”, I decided to bake it in the same pan I made it and save my loved one a few minutes in the sink.
And as it was done everyone was so eager to try the dish that I ended up not plating it nicely enough for a decent picture… Hope you still enjoy it as it was!

Penne Al Forno
(adapted from the News and Observer newspaper)

1 pound penne pasta
1 tablespoon butter
½ cup chopped onion
4 ounces diced prosciutto
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts, diced
8 ounces shrimp
½ cup white wine
3 cups heavy cream (I used half-half)
2 ounces (1/2 cup) Parmesan cheese, grated
6 tablespoons chopped scallions (green onions)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup grated mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 400 F. Grease a 9x13 inch baking dish.
Cook pasta according to package instructions, drain and reserve.
In a pan melt butter, add onions and prosciutto and sauté for about 5 minutes. Add garlic and chicken, sauté for 3 minutes. Add shrimp and continue to cook for 3 minutes more.
Add wine and cook until liquid is reduced by half, 3 minutes. Add cream and cook for 5 more minutes. Stir in the Parmesan and scallions, season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the cooked pasta and simmer for 3 minutes. Pour pasta into prepared dish, top with mozzarella and bake for about 15 to 20 minutes, until lightly browned. (I baked 10 minutes and them put it under the broiler for 2 more minutes to brown the top!)

Monday, November 06, 2006

My Grandma’s Banana Cake

Today’s recipe is one that a lot of Brazilians like; especially those grew up around my family and got to know my grandma’s yummy foods. This was one of her cakes that everyone loved, and after being together for a while, I learned that my husband liked this cake very much too!
So, when I have a few extra bananas hanging around, if I don’t make muffins, into Banana Torte they turn!

It is basically caramel and bananas layered in the bottom of the pan with a cake batter poured on top. When you cut the cake the bananas are deliciously cooked and ooey gooey due to the caramel, lending the yummiest and sweetest taste to the cake base, really, really good!

A super simple and easy recipes, that uses basic ingredients we all have at our homes, but that to me couldn’t exemplify better the flavors and aromas that I used to sense in my grandma’s house.

This cake does bring great memories to me, and a lot of smiles on the faces of my loved ones!

Oh, and the name of the recipe was my idea here… my grandmother used to call it simply Banana Torte (Torta de Bananas), but doesn’t the caramelized bananas look like jewels on top?!


Grandma’s Anna “Jeweled” Banana Torte

Bananas to cover the bottom of the pan
Sugar to caramelize the pan
3 egg whites
3 egg yolks
1 cup warm milk
1 ½ cups sugar
2 ½ cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder

Melt enough sugar to cover the bottom of a cake pan (rectangular or round). Slice bananas and put on top of caramel, covering the entire bottom of the pan.
Beat egg whites into stiff peaks and reserve. In a blender mix egg yolks, sugar, and milk. Pour batter on a bowl and with a wooden spoon mix in the flour and baking powder. Using a spatula, gently fold in the egg whites.
Pour batter into prepared pan and bake at 350F for about 40 minutes. We like it served warm!

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Chocolate Syrup

Kids must talk about a lot of stuff when they are at preschool. Even though Matheus only stays at school for 3 hours, he sometimes come home with the greatest ideas, and sometimes not all that good…
Lately he has been asking me to take him to a specific fast-food chain, just because a couple of his friends said it is their favorite place to eat. Oh my, and here I go, planning on a day to take my kid to have some greasy chicken nuggets… yuck! At least I hope that all my teaching about healthy foods will help him make good choices when eating out as he grows up.
Another of his requests lately was that he wanted to try chocolate milk make with chocolate syrup, instead of the chocolate powder we normally use. Well, this one was easy, as I had a recipe on my to try pile just waiting for an excuse to be tested.
Besides being super easy, it is a healthier choice for chocolate syrup, made with natural and simple ingredients, as opposed to the “corn syrup and artificial flavorings’ filled” commercial variety.
I made the syrup yesterday, and at night the three of us enjoyed yummy cups of chocolate milk! Fun, and delicious! It does taste really good, plus it is great to use in ice cream and all kinds of desserts, and to make your plates look pretty too!

Note: I made 1/3 of the recipe and it yielded me one squeeze bottle! Oh, and there was a couple tablespoons of corn syrup on the original recipe, which I omitted, as I don’t have that stuff in the house.

Cocoa Syrup
(Adapted from – Recipe from Alton Brown)

1 1/2 cups water
3 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups Dutch-processed cocoa
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

In a small pot, bring water and sugar to a boil and whisk in cocoa, vanilla, salt, and corn syrup. Whisk until all of the solids have dissolved. Reduce sauce until slightly thickened. Strain and cool to room temperature. Pour into squeeze bottles.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Apple-Date Bars

I made this recipe yesterday and it was so good that I had to come here and share with my blog friends! The recipe comes from Cooking Light magazine, and it is another one that will certainly be repeated, as I already got requests to make it again.
These apple-date bars were a nice treat for a cold afternoon, something sweet and warm that will definitely make you feel good. What can be better than warm apples with the sweet taste of cinnamon to it? Add some nuts and a few flavorings more and what you get is a tasty and moist bar, with juicy and yummy apple pieces inside, divine! I love baked apples; apple cake and muffins are my favorite, so this was for sure one of the best treats for me.
And for those of you that like dates, then you will probably like it even more! The combination is good, however, I have tried and just can’t get myself to like dates. I have tried dates by itself, wrapped in proscciutto, in baked goods, and nope, they are definitely not for me. So many good reviews on this recipe made me want to try them again, but I assure you, this was it for me. I don’t know why, but their texture and taste are just difficult to swallow, plus I can barely eat ¼ of it, as I find them to be sickly sweet.
Yeah, I know, most people enjoy them, and so did my husband and my son (they really liked them in the cake!), unfortunately they are not for me; but I am proud that I gave them another try.
I halved the recipe when I made it yesterday, baking it on a square baking dish; but I have to say that I should have made the whole thing as the bars were literally devoured (mainly by me!) on the same day. Most reviewers of this recipe mentioned the bars being great on the next day, but I didn’t get a chance to try. There was indeed one piece left, and Matheus asked me to save it for him to have for breakfast today. I warmed it slightly for him today and he loved it even more! He was sad to eat the last piece, and already requested that I make it again soon, “This apple cake is very delicious Mommy”!
I have a ton of bananas ripening on the counter right now, and when I mentioned making something with bananas today he looked at me and said: “but that apple cake was so good, I wanted more apples, not bananas in my cake!” Cute, huh!?!!
Here is the original recipe from Cooking Light, but I made mine with half all-purpose and half whole-wheat flour, added a little more apples than asked for (my apples were big!), used walnuts instead of pecans (what I had on hand), and also reduced the sugar by half, and believe me, they were plenty sweet for us, even more with the super sweet date pieces around (which I will leave out next time…).
Hope you all like it too, they were very moist and delicious, we really enjoyed them here at home! And with less sugar and some whole-wheat flour, they sure are suitable for a yummy breakfast treat!

A picture of them right out of the oven!

Apple-Date Bars
(Adapted from Cooking Light, Oct. 2006)

2 cups all-purpose flour (about 9 ounces)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups sugar
7 tablespoons butter, softened
1 large egg
2 large egg whites
1/4 cup applesauce
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup chopped pitted dates
1 teaspoon all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups chopped peeled Granny Smith apple (about 1 large)
1 1/2 cups chopped peeled Red Delicious apple (about 1 large)
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
2/3 cup chopped pecans
Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 325°.
Lightly spoon 2 cups flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine 2 cups flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt in a large bowl; stir with a whisk. Set aside.
Place sugar and butter in a large bowl, and beat with a mixer at high speed for 2 minutes or until light and fluffy. Add egg and egg whites, beating well after each addition. Stir in applesauce and vanilla. Gradually add flour mixture to sugar mixture; stir just until combined to form a stiff batter. Toss dates with 1 teaspoon flour. Toss apples with juice. Add dates, apples, and nuts to flour mixture, stirring just until combined. Pour batter into a 13 x 9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Bake at 325° for 1 hour and 5 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool completely on a wire rack.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Tilapia Baked in Couscous

I have been posting so many sweets and baked goods that it doesn’t even look like I cook anymore. It is definitely not it, since I do cook our meals everyday, but I have mostly been making easy and simple things, and haven’t had many new recipes or pretty pictures to post here.
Last weekend though I tried a savory recipe that was worth mentioning here. I will begin saying that I really liked the method of preparation here, since it was easy, simple, and quite practical, as you basically have only one dish to clean. But I have to say that the flavors can definitely be improved.
We liked the combo of tilapia and couscous, plus the cooking method kept the fish really moist, which we all enjoyed a lot.
You basically lay the fish fillets on a baking dish and scatter the seasoned couscous on top of them, add a bit of water to the dish, cover up with foil, bake for 20 minutes, and voila! A nice and easy meal for those busy days that we all have, quite often I might say.
As I said, the fish was very moist, and the couscous perfectly cooked, nice and fluffy! However, the fish here absorbs some of the flavors that are sitting on top of it, so I think that the couscous could have been better seasoned. Cumin and lemon do go together well, as do fish and lemon too, but I still don’t think it was the best combination for my palate on that day. In a certain way it did complemented each other, and the dish was tasty too, but I guess I would like something different for the couscous. I was thinking about something like a “parmesan-type” flavoring, but am not sure it would go well with the fish.
Actually the flavors I have in mind seems to go better with chicken than with fish, so I am considering trying this method with chicken breasts… it might work, don’t you think?
Also, I think that the flavors would have benefited by the use of vegetable broth (or fish broth, it does exist, doesn’t it?) instead of water in the bottom of the dish. It would have added some seasoning to both the fish and the couscous.
See, I did like the method and the idea of this dish, and will certainly try it with the variations I have in mind. Meanwhile I will leave here the recipe for those who would like to try, as it was a very easy to make dish!
Oh, I just wanted to say that I found the quantity of the couscous to be a lot more than necessary for 4 people. I adapted the recipe for 3 fish fillets and used about 6 ounces of couscous, which did increased in volume quite a bit and basically took up a lot of space in the dish. You can barely see the fish in the picture, as it was literally covered up with the couscous. We had quite a bit of it leftover (and wasted, as it had the fish smell/taste to it, both which I don’t care much when reheated…) so you may feel free to adjust the amounts to suit your tastes and appetite!
Another thing is, I forgot to add the parsley to my finished dish, and only realized that after we were already eating the fish… so, my picture looks a lot paler than the one in the magazine, which was so bright and vibrant-looking. I was a little disappointed with that, but the dish tasted good, so I decided to let it go. But in case you want to see the major inspiration for me trying this dish, there is a nice picture here, and the original recipe, as I did change a few things on mine... mostly reducing the fat)
I served ours with stuffed squash and some baby roasted potatoes (the potatoes were not necessary here, but I had it in the pantry for a while and needed to use them up….), all of which I baked while preheating the oven/baking the fish, definitely a happy meal to us all!

Tilapia Baked in Couscous
(Adapted from Rachel Ray Magazine)

10 ounces couscous
½ cup slivered almonds
¼ cup sun dried tomatoes, chopped
½ tablespoon ground cumin
Salt and pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 lemon thin sliced
4 (8oz) tilapia fillets
3 tablespoons chopped parsley

Preheat the oven to 375°. In a large bowl, combine the couscous, almonds, sun-dried tomatoes and cumin and season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir in the olive oil and the lemon juice.
Arrange the tilapia fillets in a single layer in a 9-by-13-inch baking dish, season with salt and pepper. Cover the fish with the couscous mixture and arrange the lemon slices on top. Pour 2 ½ cups water around the fish, cover with foil and bake until tender, about 25 minutes. Top with the parsley.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

May all the kids have lots of fun, get lots of candy, and have a safe and happy halloween!!

Monday, October 30, 2006

Pumpkin Bread

I roasted another small pumpkin today and got about 6 cups of pumpkin puree from it. Yumm!
Matheus asked for pumpkin soup, which we happily had for lunch and used about 2 cups of puree. Another cup was used in the recipe below, and the rest are already in the freezer, although they won’t stay there too long, as we are definitely in a pumpkin mood and I already have plans for them!
The recipe I am posting today and so easy, but very yummy! I adapted a recipe for Pumpkin Bread and came out with this one. Simple ingredients, and it is basically the same recipe I use for banana bread, just using pumpkin in its place.
I still want to get it a little bit spicier, but it is just a matter of adjusting the amounts and maybe even adding something else in there the next time I make it. I will probably be making this recipe one more time soon, so if I get better results I will certainly report back!
You can add chocolate chips, dried fruits, and even nuts to this bread. Chocolate goes surprisingly well with the pumpkin flavors, and another great combination are dried cranberries and walnuts; I think they really add another dimension of flavors and textures to the finished product!
Today I actually baked my cake (yes, I do think it had a cake texture, and still don’t see this or the banana breads as being actual breads… they are really cake to me!) into some mini panettone molds that I recently got from the Internet. Aren’t they cute??
I bought them to make panettone for the holidays (for ourselves and to give out to the dearest friends!), and couldn’t wait longer to see how something baked in them would look like. And I have to say that I really liked the looks of the pumpkin bread in it, and the molds do have a certain “holidayish” feel, don’t they?!

Pumpkin Bread

3/4-cup brown sugar
1-cup pumpkin puree
1/4 cup canola oil

1/4 cup plain yogurt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
¾ cup whole-wheat flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

A pinch of ground cloves
1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350°.
In a bowl combine sugar, pumpkin, oil, yogurt, vanilla, and egg. Add flours, cinnamon baking soda, and salt to the bowl, and mix just until moist.
Pour batter into 1 greased loaf pan (8x4inches). Bake at 350° for 1 hour, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Remove from pan after about 10 minutes and let cool on a wire rack.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Espresso Cake

The recipe I am posting today if for a cake that really impressed me last week. It is a super simple and easy cake to make; however the flavor is intense and extremely pleasant.
Espresso Cake first called my attention because the recipe had another recipe that came with it where the leftover cake could be used to make truffles (more on this latter). Second I liked the idea of trying a new Chocolate Cake recipe!
And what a chocolate cake that was! Delicious, moist, and with a great flavor distributed all over it. I would say it is sort of a “grown up chocolate cake”, but have to add that Matheus just loved it too! He said it was one of the best chocolate cakes, which by the way is his favorite cake!
The husband liked it too, but being the “coffee hater” he is, he really pointed out that the coffee flavor was rather strong. I on the other hand really loved this cake, it was not too sweet, and ultra moist, which is a plus for me, and chocolate cakes in general. I have tried a few simple chocolate cake recipes and this one was by far the best one I made.
I will certainly make this cake again, even more because Matheus already asked for it and I also want to try the alternative recipe that came with it. And next time I make it I will probably use half coffee and half water, or maybe even substitute milk for the coffee, just to please my lovely hubby!
I got this recipe from a book called “Conscious Cuisine” by Cary Neff. The author is a spa chef and the book is full of delicious and nutritious recipes. I borrowed the book from the library and am now considering buying it for myself, as I liked and still want to try a few more recipes from it (and I already renewed it once, so I am running out of time with the library here!).
As I mentioned earlier, there is another recipe in the same book that uses this cake to make truffles! I loved the idea, but unfortunately didn’t have the time to make it sooner and when I went to take a look at the leftover cake, other than not having much left, it was also sort of smelling weird, with a pronounced prune smell and flavor. So I decided to toss it (oh no!) and will definitely make the truffles the next time I make the cake (which I am planning to do pretty soon). And I promise to post the recipe and reviews for that here, of course!
I used prune puree when I made my cake but you can also use applesauce, which I plan to try next (I opted for the prunes since it was a chocolate cake, and I do believe it contributed to the cake rich dark color too). You can easily make your own prune puree, but I saved time by using the baby food little jars, which for my surprise came in little plastic containers, with lids and all. I though they were really nice (usually when I was young there were only the glass jars…), and the prune puree was also very good!
Right now I will leave the cake recipe and some pictures here. It is a very nice cake, really really easy, super moist and incredibly tasty! Plus, another light recipe, each slice has only 80 calories, can you believe that? See why I loved the book? Yummy and healthy recipes, what else can you ask for?!

Espresso Cake
(Conscious Cuisine, by chef Cary Neff)

2/3 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup pureed prunes or unsweetened applesauce
3 large egg whites
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup coffee

Preheat the oven 350 degrees F. Spray a 9-inch cake pan with cooking spray and dust with additional cocoa powder, set aside.
In a medium bowl, combine the flours, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside. In another bowl, combine the prune puree, egg whites, vanilla, and coffee. Mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and pour into the prepared cake pan.
Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean. Cool the cake in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of the cake and invert onto a wire rack to cool completely.

A picture of a cake slice...

And the prune puree I used.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Graham Crackers

I have seen recipes, pictures, and more about homemade graham crackers, but every time I needed it I would run to the store and buy a box of them, and always trying to make sure I would get a reasonably healthy cracker, without much fat or sugars in it (that meant a lot of experimentation with healthy brands of the stuff – some were good, some not so great).
Last weekend though, I decided to try making my own Graham Crackers, and boy was it worth it!
Did it look like the boxed stuff? Not much, and I actually didn’t try to make it look like that in appearance either. Did it taste like the store bough ones? No…. it was MUCH BETTER and superior in taste than the boxed stuff. It was easy to make, used simple ingredients, but the end result was amazingly good. Definitely and for sure the best Graham Crackers I have had! And I do like graham crackers a lot, so that is where my enthusiasm about it comes from.
I actually tried two different recipes on that weekend, and it was a consensus that this one was the best. The other recipe I made used oil, as opposed to this one, which has butter in it, and the end result was simply “not a graham cracker” at all.
This recipe in the other hand was just right, it tasted great, and the texture was perfect, plus the dough really easy to work with. It did score a perfect 10 with Matheus and I, the official cracker’s consumers of the house!
If I have the time, I will certainly make these over and over again, when I need them for a recipe, or simply to eat with milk, which is how we ate almost our entire batch in two days… Really, I loved the crackers, and knowing it doesn’t have any of the HFCS, colorings, and added stuff of the commercial variety, is the best thing ever. I now can enjoy my crackers and feed them to my son without feeling guilty about it.
It is worth a try! And I am making more today, as both Matheus and I are already craving them again!!

Note: I changed the recipe slightly (with more than good results!), but you can find the original recipe here.

Homemade Graham Crackers

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 3/4 cups whole-wheat flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold butter, cut into pea-size bits
2 tablespoons honey
1/4 cup cold water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a large bowl mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add the cold butter and with a pastry blender, two knifes, or your fingers (as I did) work the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add the honey, water, and vanilla. Mix until the dough comes together in a ball.
Between 2 sheets of waxed paper or plastic wrap, roll the dough 1/2-inch thick. Chill for 1 hour, until firm. Set a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Lightly flour the dough and roll 1/8-inch thick. With a sharp knife or cookie cutter, cut into 2-inch squares. Arrange the crackers on nonstick or parchment lined cookie sheets. With a fork, prick several holes in each cracker. Bake for 15 minutes, until lightly browned at the edges. Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan.
Yield: 48 crackers

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Peanut Butter Brownies

Matheus has a thing with the peanut butter grinder of our local natural store. He think is the coolest think to turn it on and see zillions roasted peanuts inside become peanut butter! Does he like peanut butter? Well, not really… but the always begs for me to buy some for him when we go to this particular store, just because of the machine. Most of the time I won’t buy it, but there are some days I end up giving in.
He is always hearing about peanut butter and pb&J sandwiches from his friends; he has tried it several times, but definitely doesn’t care for it at all. Neither my husband nor me grew up eating the stuff ourselves, so we are not crazy for it either (although we all like to eat salted peanuts!). I don’t even buy peanut butter, unless I am making one of my husband’s favorite ice creams, which by the way I should post here, in another post, of course.
The other day Matheus went to the grocery store with me and he had to have his little peanut butter/grinding machine fix, so I bought the smallest amount for him, and we all came home happy.
However, after one week, the thing was still sitting there, at the corner of the refrigerator shelf, completely isolated and ignored. So I decided to use it up in come sort of recipe, and hope that at least someone would eat my baked good.
I then found a recipe for Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Brownies, and decided to give it a go, as Matheus declared that he would eat a cake with the peanut butter in it, and oh yes: “I love chocolate chips mommy”!
He indeed ate the brownies, and said he liked it, but nothing major as some other cakes and stuff I make that he really likes (one piece and then it was the brownie’s turn to be forgotten and left in the corner by itself…)
I have to say that this is not my favorite recipe. First of all, because to me brownies should be chocolate! It was actually interesting trying this recipe, as the texture of the finished cake (yes, to me this should be called cake, but anyways…) was exactly like that of a chocolate brownie: was moist and sort of fudgy in the middle. The peanut flavor however was very subtle, so I believe that the amount of PB could be increased here, or maybe adding some crushed peanuts to the batter might help too.
It is super easy and quick to make, so I will post the recipe and the improvement options for you all, in case someone would like to try it! ‘Cause for me… if I want brownies, I will make brownies, and by that I mean chocolate brownies, of course!
Oh, and before I go, I just wanted to say that the chocolate chips were a good complement here, and just as Matheus, I liked them too!

Peanut Butter-Chocolate Chip Brownies (Adapted from Cooking Light – Jun/00)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup semisweet chocolate minichips
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 large egg white

Preheat oven to 350°.
Coat bottom of an 8-inch square baking pan with cooking spray (do not coat sides of pan).
Lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine flour, chocolate chips, soda, and salt in a bowl.
Combine sugars and remaining ingredients in a bowl; stir until well-blended. Add flour mixture, stirring just until blended. Spread batter in bottom of prepared pan. Bake at 350° for 25 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out almost clean. Cool on a wire rack.