Sunday, July 29, 2012

Balsamic Chocolate Cake otherwise known as Guilt Free Chocolate Cake

One bite of this cake and you will be hooked! The cake is rich and moist and the Balsamic vinegar pairs up nicely with the chocolate. I used grapeseed oil which has almost no flavor of its own, is high in vitamin E, C and Omega 6. It also contains a natural chlorophyll; a lot of people say to me “why is chlorophyll good?” and the answer is that it helps to eliminate body odors. If you know someone who has smelly feet just have them take alfalfa pills from your local vitamin shop and it will help if not totally eliminate the smell. Grapeseed oil also helps to raise the good cholesterol (HDL).
Now ladies if you were paying attention I have just given you 5 reasons to feel guilt free about eating this wonderful chocolate cake! Maybe I should change the name to: Guilt Free Chocolate Cake.

Balsamic Chocolate Cake otherwise known as Guilt Free Chocolate Cake

2 cups water
2 Tablespoons Balsamic vinegar
½ cup Grapeseed Oil
1 Tablespoon vanilla
3 cups flour
2 cups sugar
2/3 cup unsweetened powdered chocolate
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt

Sift dry ingredients together.

Blend wet ingredients.

Slowly blend the wet and dry together

Bake 1 hour at 350 F

Let cool and serve with Strawberry Whipped Cream (below)

Fresh Strawberry Whipped Cream

1 1/2 cups strawberries, plus more for garnish
1/3 cup sugar
2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and seeds scraped
2 1/4 cups heavy cream, divided
12 ounces high quality, bittersweet chocolate
2 Tablespoons powdered sugar

Place strawberries, sugar, balsamic vinegar, vanilla bean seeds and pod into a small saucepan. Simmer over low heat until the strawberries break down and the mixture becomes thick and syrupy. Remove from heat and set aside to cool completely.

Finely chop the chocolate and place in a medium bowl. In a small saucepan, warm 1 cup of the heavy cream until steam starts rising from it. Pour the warm cream over the chopped chocolate and stir until smooth and shiny. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whip the remaining 1 1/4 cups heavy cream until soft peaks begin to form. Sprinkle in the powdered sugar and continue beating until medium stiff peaks form. Gently fold in the cooled strawberry syrup.

Top cake with desired amount of strawberry whipped cream.

Spoon the chocolate on the top, gently spread it to the edge of the cake so that some falls down the sides. Top with fresh-cut strawberries. Allow the chocolate to set. Keep refrigerated but allow the cake to come to room temperature before serving.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Summer Salad with Orzo and Lemon Olive Oil

Lemon Orzo Salad
Now that the kids are on summer vacation we spend a lot of time at the beach and need some good picnic food. This salad is fun and easy to make and you can make it with any vegetables and server it warm or cold. It travels well without spoiling because it has olive oil instead of heavy mayonnaise.  The kids love it because I let them pick out the color of the orzo (red, white, green) and the vegetables that we use. One time we had spinach orzo with yellow corn and red tomatoes. Today we are having white orzo with green peas, artichoke and white beans with lemon flavored olive oil. You can add chicken or shrimp to either dish if you have some way to keep it cold until you serve it at the beach.
Enjoy the water!
1/2 pound orzo pasta
1 cup cooked fresh peas (or frozen peas if you are in a hurry to get to the beach)
1 can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped into bite-sized chunks
1 can white beans, drained and rinsed in cold water
2 cups arugula
sea salt (try lemon or garlic flavored sea salt)
freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil lemon flavored
Bring a pot of water to a boil. Season the water with some salt, then cook the orzo pasta according to package directions (about 9 minutes). Drain well and set aside in a large mixing bowl. Add the peas, artichokes, white beans, and arugula on top of the orzo and season the salad with salt and pepper to taste. Add the lemon olive oil.  Toss with a spoon until all the ingredients are well combined. It's ready to serve, but tastes best if made a few hours or even the night before so flavors can really develop.   Add some crumbled feta cheese or shaved parmesan if you like just before you serve it.
Here is another version that is good on its own or as a bed for a nice piece of grilled salmon.
1 cup orzo
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 teaspoons freshly flavored Lemon Olive Oil
8 asparagus spears, chopped
1 cup packed fresh spinach
1/3 cup feta cheese
Salt and pepper, to taste
Lemon wedges or slices, to garnish (optional)
Bring 4 cups of salted water to a boil. Stir in orzo. Cook until tender, about 9 minutes. Drain and set aside.
Sauté garlic in 1 teaspoon Lemon Olive Oil over medium heat. Add asparagus pieces and sauté for 3-4 minutes. Stir in spinach. Continue cooking until the asparagus is tender and the spinach wilts.
Stir together orzo and vegetables in a medium bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Drizzle with remaining teaspoon of Lemon Olive Oil. Sprinkle feta cheese over the top of the salad.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Blueberry Yogurt Cake with Lemon Glaze

Blueberry Yogurt Cake with Lemon Glaze
Adapted from Vegetarian Times
I have made a few changes with this cake to make it gluten free.  I have changed the flour to almond flour and grapeseed flour which gives it a nutty taste that goes well with the blueberries.  I am sure that your friends will not even know that it is gluten free unless you tell them. The cake is light and fluffy and is great for breakfast or after dinner as dessert.
1-1/4 cups almond flour, divided
1/4 cup grapeseed flour chardonnay
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1/3 cup grape seed lemon infused oil
2 Tablespoons Cointreau liqueur (or water)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs, room temperature
7 oz. plain Greek yogurt
2/3 cup fresh or frozen blueberries (thawed)
3 Tablespoons lemon juice
2 Tablespoons light brown sugar
1 Tablespoon Cointreau liqueur (or water)
Sift together 1 cup plus 3 Tablespoons almond flour, grapeseed flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl.
Beat brown sugar, oil, Cointreau (or water) and vanilla in a separate bowl with electric mixer until smooth.  Beat in eggs.  Alternately add flour mixture and yogurt to egg mixture until combined.
Toss blueberries with remaining 1 Tablespoon flour and fold into batter.
Grease and flour a 9 x 5 loaf pan.  Pour batter into prepared pan and bake in a 350 degree oven for 70 minutes (mine only took 50 minutes, possibly even less but I hadn't checked on it; that's a big discrepancy to me so watch your cake starting at 45 minutes) or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.  Cool for 10 minutes before flipping out of pan.
To make glaze: Whisk together all ingredients in small bowl.  Poke holes all over the top of the cake with a wooden skewer.  Brush cake with glaze.  Cool completely before serving.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Pecan Stuffed Eggplant

Pecan Stuffed Eggplant
Fresh from the garden grilled eggplant is a summer favorite. We add cinnamon to it for a little extra flavor.
3 medium eggplants
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
2 medium onions diced
2 or 3 tomatoes diced (3 cups)
¾ cups roughly chopped pecans or walnuts
2 ¼ teaspoons ground Saigon Cinnamon
1 ½ teaspoons dried oregano
¼ cup panko or breadcrumb or your choice
2/3 cup crumbled feta cheese
Half eggplants lengthwise, and scoop out flesh and seeds, leaving about ½ inch thick edges on eggplant shell. Cut scooped out eggplant into ½ inch pieces and let drain. Sprinkle a little salt on eggplant to help remove moisture. Let stand about 30 minutes and rinse and pat dry.

Bring a big pot of water to a boil and drop eggplant shells into water and simmer for 5 minutes or until barely tender. Place in colander to cool and dry.

In skilled heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat, sauté onions until they are translucent, add eggplant pieces, tomatoes, pecans, cinnamon, oregano and ¼ cup water. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook about 8 minutes stirring occasionally.

Turn Broiler on and brush each eggplant shell with remaining oil and place cut side up. Broil for about 5 minutes or until eggplant start to get tender and start to brown. Divide filling among eggplant shells. Sprinkle with breadcrumb and top with feta cheese. Bake on medium heat (375 in oven) for 30 minutes. Serve.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Root Beer Baked Beans

Root Beer Baked Beans

I know this is another one of those recipes that if they know what the ingredients are they will say NO WAY! But these are the best baked beans and you REALLY can’t taste the rootbeer. They have a flavor that is different and addictive.

4 slices bacon cut into small pieces
1 large onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
4 (15 ounce) cans white kidney beans (any bean will work) rinsed and drained
1 ½ cups Root Beer
3 Tablespoons molasses
2 Tablespoons tomato paste
2 Tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 ½ Teaspoons chili powder
1 Teaspoon salt
1 Teaspoon pepper

Cook bacon in a pan over medium heat until crisp. Using slotted spoon, to remove bacon to paper towels to drain. Add onions to pan and cook until they begin to brown, about 8 minutes. Add garlic. Stir for about 1 minute. Add beans, root beer, molasses, tomato paste, mustard and seasonings, mix. Stir in bacon. Transfer to a 9 x 13 pan, bake uncovered until liquid thickens, about 30 minutes.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Peach and Homemade Mozzarella Salad

Peach and Homemade Mozzarella Salad
With the weather sooooo HOT we have been making use of the great summer fruits and vegetables. We start with our homemade mozzarella cheese (see last week’s blog and I usually sever this salad with two dressings one sweet and vinegar based.
1 fresh peach per serving
8 to 10 pieces of your favorite bread cubed
Fresh salad greens (we love spinach)
Slices of fig salami or prosciutto
Mozzarella balls or chunks

Peach and Cinnamon Dressing:
½ cup canned peach juice
½ teaspoon Saigon cinnamon
1/8 cup of chopped walnuts or pecans
Mix and drizzle over salad.

Lemon and Vinegar Dressing:
3 Tablespoons lemon juice
1 Tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/3 cup Olive Oil
Mix and drizzle over salad