Cookies for Breakfast (or Bars)

We just came through Thanksgiving and I know I am FULL! I’m really trying hard to not gain weight this year, through the holidays.

I love the idea of grabbing a granola bar or something quick, in the morning. The problem is that a lot of the commercial bars you can get at the grocery store are really high in calories, fat or sugar. I made this recipe the first time and it was too dry to “slice and bake”, as I wanted.  I pressed it into a sheet pan and made it into bars.  They were good, maybe a little dry but good. I added a 1/2 cup of applesauce and got the moisture I was looking for. This made a perfect cookie.

I hope you enjoy this quick breakfast recipe and don’t gain any weight during the holidays!

Cookies for Breakfast (or Bars)
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Cookies for Breakfast (or Bars)
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Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 325°. Beat Butter, honey and salt until creamy. Add flour, baking soda and vanilla and beat until blended. Add applesauce until just combined.
  2. Fold in dried fruit and nuts. I used apricots and walnuts but you can choose your own combination. How about cherries and almonds? Go tropical with dried pineapple and macadamia nuts.
  3. Shape dough into a log. I like a bigger cookie, so a larger roll is better. Wrap in plastic wrap and store in refrigerator for at least 8 hours. Slice 1/2" cookies and bake on silpat or parchment paper, lined cookie sheet. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown.
  4. You can also make these into bars, follow all the same directions, but press dough into a 9X13 pan or 1/4 sheet pan, lined with parchment paper. Bake until golden brown. It shouldn't take more than the same 20 minutes. Cool and then cut into 12 - 14 bars.
  5. Stir together sugar and juice until desired glaze consistency. Drizzle over cookies or bars when completely cooled.
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Brunch in the Sukkah with the ladies of Hadassah!

Earlier this week I had the pleasure of speaking to the wonderful Women of Hadassah in Southern California. This group of women’s entire focus is to connect and empower women to effect change. They are in fact #WomenWhoDo. They are on the frontlines for healthcare and cures for cancer and advocating for women’s rights.

These women are intelligent and engaging so I took a page from my friend, Robert Schueller’s, playbook. I talked about “sexy veggies” and aphrodisiac vegetables. I was surprised to learn, from Robert, that some vegetables have genders. Things like eggplant, avocado and bell peppers have a male and female fruit.  These are plants that you need to have both to flower and bloom in your garden. The best way to insure that is to ask at your local nursery.

We also talked about aphrodisiac vegetables. There is a lot of talk about this on the internet. I have a very simple philosophy about it. If a fruit or vegetable evokes a “feeling” in you because of the way it looks, smells or tastes, it is an aphrodisiac. If it evokes a memory in you that can cause an arousal, it is an aphrodisiac. Very simple!

Asparagus Legume Bell Pepper Salad
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You can easily add chicken or steak to make this more of a meal.
Servings
4
Servings
4
Asparagus Legume Bell Pepper Salad
Print Recipe
You can easily add chicken or steak to make this more of a meal.
Servings
4
Servings
4
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. You can use the peppers, either raw or roasted. To roast: Preheat broiler. Line a baking sheet with foil, leave an extended edge. Place whole peppers, in a single layer, on the foil and place baking sheet about 6" from broiler. Broil until lightly charred, using tongs to rotate peppers until all sides are charred. Draw foil around peppers and remove from oven. Close foil packet for 5 minutes or so. Once the peppers are cool enough to touch, peel peppers and discard seeds. Slice ninto 1/4" strips.
  2. Blanch asparagus until just tender (al dente). You can do this step before or after you cut into 1" pieces. Set aside.
  3. Make the dressing: In a large bowl, whisk together garlic, lemon juice, oregano, basil and salt& pepper. Whisk in olive oil, slowly. Taste and adjust seasoning.
  4. Add greens to salad dressing bowl and toss, slightly. Add in garbanzo beans, pepper strips and olives, toss well. Add asparagus and toss gently. Sprinkle feta cheese on top and plate to serve.
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Air Fryer vs. Convection Oven

My daughter has been after me to buy an Air Fryer. I did look at a few of them, but when I started asking how they work, it sounded suspiciously like convection ovens. Turns our I was almost right.

Both ovens use fans to circulate hot air around the food. Both ovens cook faster than a conventional oven. The one main difference is that the air fryer keeps the food in a smaller space. SO I started to look around my kitchen to see if there was a way I could create that small space when my eye was drawn to my Cuisinart Toaster/Convection Oven. That’s a small space. That’s a convection oven. Hmm…?

There are these pita chips at my local Farmer’s Market. I love them. They are deep-fried and seasoned with a yummy lemon pepper seasoned salt. I wanted to re-create them.

When you use an air fryer it advises you set the fryer to 360°. So I set the oven to convection at 350° (there wasn’t a 360°). I let the oven preheat with my pan in there.

While the oven was preheating, I cut a whole pita into 8 wedges. I brushed each wedge, on both sides, lightly with olive oil. I also sprinkled each wedge with lemon pepper and salt.

I baked the wedges for 5 minutes and then turned them over and baked for another 5 minutes. Watch them closely. Temperatures vary by oven.

I love them!! they are crispy and that little brush of olive oil is all I needed to get that “fried” flavor. I finished the chips with another quick sprinkle of salt.

The verdict is, you can buy an air fryer, if you’d like. But if you don’t want to buy another small electronic or your counter space is almost full, this is a great option.

Have fun! enjoy!

 

Caramel Apple Upside Down Cake

As promised on Instagram here is the recipe for that delicious Caramel Apple Upside Down Cake. I used store bought Caramel Sauce (Mrs. Richardsons). You can easily make your own. Here is a quick recipe:

1 cup brown sugar, 1/2 cup unsalted butter, 1/4 cup whole milk, and 1 tsp. vanilla

Stirring constantly bring all ingredients to a boil and cook until thickened, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. You can use right away or store in an airtight jar in refrigerator.

On another note can you do me a favor? I am trying to get a book deal and need to up my Instagram followers. If you aren’t already following me, will you please go to @diaryofalostchef on Instagram and give me a follow?  I really appreciate it. As soon as I have my book deal I will give away books to the first ten of you that follow me.

THANK YOU!!!!

 

 

Caramel Apple Upside Down Cake

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This is a light almost pudding like cake. It is so easy and yet impresses. It would work well with pears too.

Caramel Apple Upside Down Cake

Print Recipe

This is a light almost pudding like cake. It is so easy and yet impresses. It would work well with pears too.

Ingredients


Servings:

Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 320°

    Melt the 2 Tbsp. butter in caramel sauce and remove from heat.

    Pour caramel sauce into a 9" non-stick cake pan.

    Arrange apples on top of caramel in circles and in center.

  2. In a large, bowl beat the 1/2 cup butter with both sugars, until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time. Add sour cream and vanilla and continue beating until just smooth.

  3. In a medium bowl whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt together.

    Alternating with buttermilk, add dry ingredients to butter mixture. Start and end with dry ingredients.

  4. Pour cake batter over apples in cake pan and smooth out.

    Bake for 35 - 40 minutes, until tester is almost clean.

    Cool in pan for 10 minutes then invert onto plate.

    This would be great served warm with vanilla ice cream or room temperature with whipped cream.

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Restaurant Recipe Redux- My Favorite Thing!

People are always asking me, “What is your specialty?”. Recently, I’ve been saying baking. As I was reminded, I did write a cookbook about cakes (coming soon). However, one of my most favorite things to do is to have a fabulous meal out and then go home and recreate it. I especially love great finds when I’m traveling and can meet with the chef and get their recipe or tips for re-creating it at home.

I just got back from a fantastic trip to New York City, with girlfriends, and I brought home some great ideas and a couple of tips. One of my friend’s son is the Head Sommelier at the Standard Grill, Rocco Di Spirito’s newest endeavor, at The Standard Hotel, in the Meat Packing District. We had an amazing meal and lots of wine! There were the things we ordered and the things that were sent to the table, by our favorite sommelier. Let me just whet your whistle a little. We had an amuse bouche of Hamachi (yellow tail) and caviar. We had Beet Tartare, Jamon Iberico, and Asparagus with a Creamy Cashew sauce. We had Rocco’s Risotto that is so special only he can make it!

I am working on cracking the code for that risotto but I think I have come close to his Beet Tartare. It is so delicious and fresh. I recommend serving it with a hearty cracker. I made it for friends the other night and one of the guys who “doesn’t like beets” ate almost the whole bowl! Think outside the box, try it.

This dip is sweet and savory and so easy to eat. You definitely get a hit of horseradish but the rest of the ingredients play a magnificent game of hide and seek. It wasn’t at all salty but there was salt. The heat was too subtle to be pepper. Was the tart flavor lemon or vinegar? My investigation began.

On our last day there, we were enjoying Chelsea Market. It’s one of my favorite places in NYC. There is lots of cute places to shop and it feel a little like a foodie paradise with the kitchen shops and artisan food places. Plus the New York Food Network Studios are at Chelsea Market so I feel close to my people when I’m there.

We stumbled in Miznon the Chelsea market outlet of Israeli Chef, Eyal Shani. You may not know the name but you can pretty much give him credit for the cauliflower craze. His famed roasted cauliflower boasts only four ingredients but it is special. When I first looked at the menu and saw “Lavan”, a pita sandwich with cauliflower as the star , I couldn’t have imagined the specialness that awaited me.

The cauliflower had lost all the sulphur aroma and was simply sweet. It was creamy and buttery. There was a small kick of heat but just on the tip of the tongue, nothing overwhelming. The tahini was perfect! Not too much garlic, not too much lemon. Once I figured this recipe out, I knew it would be in regular rotation! I’ve also included a recipe for Schwarma “style Chicken. It makes a great meal with the cauliflower. Have the beet tartare as you’re appetizer.

I hope you enjoy these recipes as much as I do. Next up I am going to recreate The Lamb’s Club Pastrami. This may take some time but man was it good. If there is a restaurant recipe you want me to try and recreate message me. I always love to hear from you!

Vegan Beet Tartare
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Vegan Beet Tartare
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Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Into a large bowl, grate beets on the large hole side of grater box. I don't like the food processor for this.
  2. Stir in all ingredients, except parsley. Let stand at room temperature for 10 minutes. Taste and adjust flavoring. I added a little more Dijon, but it is personal preference.
  3. Right before serving stir in chopped parsley. It adds such a great fresh flavor. Serve with a hearty cracker. Store any leftovers, (doubtful) in refrigerator in a covered dish.
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Roasted Cauliflower with Tahini, Tomato Salsa, and Chives
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Roasted Cauliflower with Tahini, Tomato Salsa, and Chives
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Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Wash cauliflower and remove large, tough leaves. Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a rolling boil. Place cauliflower in pot, cover and boil until just tender. Preheat oven to 425°.
  2. Remove cauliflower from water and let cool slightly, Just until you can handle it. Put cauliflower in a glass or ceramic baking dish. Pour olive oil into a shallow bowl and dip hands in. Let excess oil run off and start massaging oil into cauliflower. Work it into all the nooks and crannies. Drizzle any remaining over the top and season with salt and pepper. Place cauliflower in preheated oven and bake until top just starts to brown. About 20 minutes.
  3. While cauliflower is baking, make tahini sauce. Using a mortar and pestle or, carefully, an edge of a knife mash the garlic into a paste with 1/4 tsp. salt. Stir tahini well, to get solids off bottom of can, and pour into a medium bowl. Add in garlic paste and start whisking in lemon juice. Start with a little and add more as it "catches". The sauce will continue to thicken as it sits. If you need to thin it out you can whisk in a little water or more lemon juice. Adjust seasoning.
  4. You can cut the cauliflower into florets and toss with the tahini sauce, then serve with salsa and chives. I poured the sauce on a platter, ladled the salsa over the sauce and sprinkled chives over that. Then I place the cauliflower over that. The cauliflower is so tender that It can be cut with a spoon and scoop up sauce as you serve.
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Schwarma "style" Chicken
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Servings Prep Time
6 people 15 minutes
Cook Time
30 minutes
Servings Prep Time
6 people 15 minutes
Cook Time
30 minutes
Schwarma "style" Chicken
Print Recipe
Servings Prep Time
6 people 15 minutes
Cook Time
30 minutes
Servings Prep Time
6 people 15 minutes
Cook Time
30 minutes
Ingredients
Servings: people
Instructions
  1. In a large ziplock bag pour the oil, garlic, salt, pepper, cumin, allspice, cinnamon and turmeric and stir together to make a paste. Add the chicken and toss and massage to coat evenly. Let marinate at room temperature for at least 20 minutes. Preheat oven to 425°.
  2. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray with non-stick spray. Arrange chicken, in a single layer, on baking sheet and roast until browned and cook through, about 30 minutes. I turn it half way through. Let chicken stand for 5 minutes before serving.
  3. I serve this chicken on a platter with lettuce, sliced tomatoes and cucumbers. I have pita on the table.
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Waste Not Want Not

There is a movement happening in the food world and beyond. We are all looking at waste and how to prevent it. James Beard House has put out a book called, Waste Not. Websites such as The Feed Feed and Food 52 have posted articles and recipes and magazines like Cooking Light and Food & Wine have also featured articles on food waste prevention. Kitchens for Good is even hosting an event directed at using “waste and scraps”.

Many years ago my sister was at my house and I mentioned that I had nothing in the house to eat. She replied that she could live in my house a month with what I had in my house! A self-challenge was born. At least once a week I try to do a “clean out” of my refrigerator and pantry. I like to challenge myself to make meals using just those ingredients. A few weeks ago I made a great “Pantry Pasta”. I had two half full boxes of pasta and a half a jar of sun-dried tomatoes, in oil, and some hard salami, my husband got in a gift basket. I always have fresh vegetables (and frozen) and I have fresh herbs in my garden. I keep good butter, olive oil and parmesan cheese in the house too. Voila, great pasta! I am fortunate that I have a great garden and have a bounty of lettuce and cucumbers so a salad is an easy addition.

This past week was July 4th and so I had a lot of leftovers in the house. The challenge was easier in the respect that I had a lot to work with; but harder because I wanted to use specific recipes, with said leftovers. Our meal was eclectic but delicious. My husband had picked up the Street Taco package at Costco. It was great and the chicken had a little smoky flavor, like it was fresh from the street grill. I recommend trying it the next time you are there. It’s also great to buy and keep in the house for unexpected guest or a last minute appetizer or dinner.

In addition to the tacos, I had been to the farmers market and kept my carrot tops on, so I made a delicious carrot top pesto, based on a recipe from Chalkboard Magazine, served over more half boxes of pasta. I am testing a salad recipe, which I can’t share yet, so we had that. We had a ton of fruit so I made a version of a Deb Perelman’s Strawberry Summer Sheet Cake.

What I love about all these recipes is that you can really change them up to fit what you have in your home.  Add more fruit, use different fruit. If you don’t have carrot tops use whatever herbs you have or even a green like arugula. If you don’t have pasta serve the pesto over chicken or steak. You can even make it thick and serve on crostini. Get creative with what you have in your home already.

You know I love to hear from you. Let me know what you are “not wasting”!

Carrot Top Pesto
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Carrot Top Pesto
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Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Put all ingredients down to olive oil, in a food processor or Vitaminmix™. Turn on processor and blend until chopped fine and coming together as a paste. Use a spatula to scrape down sides, occasionally.
  2. Once you have desired consistency, from chunky to smooth, turn processor back on and slowly drizzle in olive oil until you have thickness you desire. More liquid for a sauce, more paste if for crostini. Add salt & pepper to taste. Blend slightly. Adjust for taste and maybe add more lemon juice, If needed.
  3. Toss with hot pasta. Spread over toasted crostini also topped with ricotta, Serve as a dip for veggies and crackers.
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Summer Fruit Sheet Cake
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Servings
24 2 inch pieces
Servings
24 2 inch pieces
Summer Fruit Sheet Cake
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Servings
24 2 inch pieces
Servings
24 2 inch pieces
Ingredients
Servings: 2 inch pieces
Instructions
  1. Wash fruit. Hull and halve strawberries. Make sure stems are off of blueberries. Preheat oven to 350°. Spray 9x13 pan with non-stick spray and then line bottom with parchment paper.
  2. In the bowl of a stand up mixer, fitted with paddle, cream together butter, salt and 1 1/2 cups sugar until light and fluffy. Add in egg, additional yolk and vanilla and continue beating until well combined. Add milk and continue mixing. Sprinkle baking powder evenly over the top of batter and mix in thoroughly. Scrape down sides of bowl and slowly add flour, until just combined.
  3. Spread batter evenly in pan. Arrange strawberry halves, cut side down on top of batter. Fit as many as you can ad press into batter. Toss blueberries with extra flour and sprinkle on top of batter. Press into areas left open between strawberries. Sprinkle with extra 3 Tbs. of sugar, use it all.
  4. Bake until golden brown and cake tester inserted comes out with just crumbs. About 45 - 50 minutes. Let cool in pan. Cut into even squares and serve. You can serve it with whipped cream or ice cream.
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Brownie Bark!

Brownie Bark!
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Brownie Bark!
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Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Position rack in middle of oven and preheat to 325°. Generously butter an 18x13 rimmed baking sheet.
  2. Melt the butter in microwave or on stovetop.
  3. In a medium bowl whisk together sugar, cocoa, vanilla and salt. Pour the melted butter over the mixture and stir until smooth. Add the eggs, one at a time, stirring vigorously until batter is thick, shiny and smooth. I like to use a heavy wooden spoon. Stir in the flour until well blended then beat vigorously, another 30-40 strokes
  4. Spread batter evenly onto baking sheet in thin, even layer. Push it all the way to the corners. It will seem too thin but the batter will rise. Add your toppings, pressing in firmly. I used about 1/2 cup peanut butter and swirled it through the batter and then pressing lightly with wet hands. I also used mini marshmallows and walnuts for a rocky road as well as dried cherries and almonds. You can get as creative as you want. This is a great activity for a kids or teens party.
  5. Bake until firm to the touch and tester comes out clean, 18-20 minutes. Let cool completely then cut into pieces and serve. I did one batch and divided it into thirds to try different toppings. Have fun!
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Ahhh… Fresh Bay Leaves.

I recently came across a small blurb about buying fresh bay leaves from a French purveyor. It caught my eye because the photo made it appear that you could tie some kitchen twine around the stems and hang this aromatic in your kitchen. I wanted to learn more about this ubiquitous herb, that I use but don’t much about. Here’s what I learned.

Apparently there is “good” bay laurel from Turkey and Central America and then there is the bay laurel from California. The California version is more minty, a little oilier and can be bitter. If you are allergic to bay leaves, or have had allergic like symptoms, it is the California version. Bay Leaves are native to the Mediterranean and have a natural oil that has a similar nose to eucalyptus or clove but a lot more mellow. When you do start to cook with either the fresh or dried versions, remember you don’t need much to reap all the benefits.

Typically, bay leaves are used in vegetarian stocks, brines, and longer cooking dishes like soups and stews. I was intrigued with the idea of adding them to your coals for barbecue like you mesquite wood chips. You can also light a couple on fire and toss them into a covered dish, right before serving, to impart a smoky, aromatic flavor. Bay leaves pair well with anise, lemon, onion, oregano and white pepper. As a matter of fact you can grind dried bay leaves with any of these and make your own spice blend. Stay tuned. When I try this I will let you know.

Fresh bay leaves are usually available in the produce section of your local market or can be found at your farmer’s market. I even found a link to buy them from Amazon, of course. When buying fresh make sure they are Laurel.

Here’s a couple of fun facts about bay leaves. They are a good source of magnesium, potassium, calcium, Vitamin A, C and iron. They are great for digestion and are a natural anti-inflammatory. Food with benefits.  I love it!

Here are a few recipes that use bay leaves in a more forward way.

Bay Leaf Roasted Chicken
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Bay Leaf Roasted Chicken
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Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375° Remove giblets and such from cavity of bird and discard. Rinse inside cavity and let dry completely.
  2. Loosen skin on breasts and legs with fingers. Rub salt and pepper all over the chicken and under skin on breasts and legs. Arrange 3 bay leaves under the skin on one breasts, in a decorative design. Repeat on other side and under the skin of legs. Place remaining leaves in cavity of chicken.
  3. Tie legs with twine and tuck wings under chicken. Arrange celery, carrots and onions in roasting pan in a single layer so that chicken can roast on them.
  4. Place chicken breasts side down on vegetables and bake at 375° for 35 minutes. Turn chicken breasts side up. Increase heat to 450° and cook for 25 minutes longer. Watch that chicken doesn't burn. Check internal temperature to 170°.
  5. Remove chicken to cutting board and let stand for 15 minutes before carving. You can serve chicken with the carrots and onions or discard all vegetables. I think this chicken will be juicy and flavorful without a gravy. However, if you want a gravy; bring pan drippings to a simmer in a saucepan. Make a slurry of 2Tbs. flour and 3 Tbs. water. Stir slurry into simmering drippings until clear and thickened.
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Braised Fingerling Potatoes with Fresh Bay Leaves
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A fresh way to prepare potatoes. Adapted from a Food & Wine recipe.
Braised Fingerling Potatoes with Fresh Bay Leaves
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A fresh way to prepare potatoes. Adapted from a Food & Wine recipe.
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. In an enameled cast iron pot or large saucepan, arrange potatoes in a single layer and pour chicken broth over. place bay leaves, garlic and olive oil also in pot. Before covering, give a good sprinkle of salt.
  2. Cover and cook over a low heat until potatoes are tender. This really depends on size of potato, but think 30-40 minutes. Check occasionally on broth. You can add more if needed.
  3. When cooked tender place in a serving bowl and give another sprinkle of salt. Serve immediately.
Recipe Notes

One great thing about this really flavorful potato dish is leftovers. I made a potato salad the next day by simply adding some dijon mustard and a little celery for some crunch.  Wow! it was great.

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You can serve these together. I think the bay leaf flavors show up very differently. But you can also dip your toe in slowly with one or the other. As always please let me know what you think of these recipes or how you are using bay leaves other than in soups and stews.

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