December 17, 2014

Eggnog Spice Cake

I'm back. The past few months have been full of sadness, hurt, and anxiety. I haven't been cooking. I haven't even been eating or sleeping much. But, things are looking up now and I am hopeful for a happier future.

I was finally inspired to cook something by Davidson's Safest Choice EggsDozen Days of Nog event. I made a spice cake with eggnog instead of milk. It was dessert at a holiday lunch I hosted for some school friends.

I had planned to make an eggnog buttercream to frost this cake, but after tasting it I decided it didn't need any frosting. If you wanted something extra, I suggest a dollop of eggnog whipped cream.

It felt good to be back in the kitchen and to be feeding the people I love. I hope to do more of that in the coming weeks.

Happy Holidays!

Eggnog Spice Cake
adapted from Portuguese Girl Cooks

2 1/4 cups cake flour
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup vegetable shortening, room temperature
2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups eggnog
1 tablespoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground allspice
1 teaspoon ground ginger
3 tablespoons full flavor molasses

  • Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Grease a 9x13 pan with butter. Set aside.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together both flours, the baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  • In a small bowl, combine the cinnamon, allspice, ginger, and molasses. Set aside.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the butter & shortening on medium high speed until creamy, about 3 minutes. Add in the sugar, beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add in the vanilla & eggs, beating until just combined.
  • With the mixer on low speed, add in 1/3 of the flour mixture, then half of the eggnog, then 1/2 of the remaining flour, then the eggnog, and ending with the remaining flour. Scrape down the bowl, and turn the mixer to medium for a few seconds to ensure all the components are well combined. Add in the cinnamon molasses mixture & mix on low speed to combine.
  • Pour the batter into the prepared pan & smooth the top. Bake for 30-45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool the pan on a wire rack.

November 1, 2014

Winter 2014-2015 Cooking Classes

My upcoming classes include a couple of Girls' Night Out demo classes on December 20 and February 21. The first is a champagne-laced feast that features seared scallops with risotto and white chocolate cupcakes. The latter is an Italian-inspired meal with shrimp scampi and limoncello tiramisù.

I also have several Date Night for Couples classes, including a chili cook-off on January 25 and a beer pairing class on March 29. Once again, I'm throwing an Ultimate Cocktail Party on December 21 with a couple drinks and several appetizers. 

My Valentine's Day class will be held on February 7 and feature lobster bisque and fresh linguine with lobster arrabbiata sauce.

I'm also teaching my popular Harry Potter kids' cooking class on January 4 and March 15.

Below is my schedule through March. To register, call Kitchen Conservatory at 314-862-2665 or register online.

  • Discover authentic Croatian cuisine from the coast to the continent, as I share my grandmother's recipes. You will learn to create cevapcici - lamb meatballs with an eggplant-pepper relish (ajvar), brodet - fish stew with shrimp and mussels and cod, sarma - cabbage rolls stuffed with beef and pork and rice in a tomato sauce, blitva - sautéed potatoes and Swiss chard, plus potica - sweet walnut rolls.
SUPPER BOWL SUNDAY - November 16 @ 12:30-3:00 (hands-on)
  • Join me in the kitchen to create four steaming pots of soup: andouille and corn chowder, creamy butternut squash and ginger soup, egg drop soup with homemade pressure cooker chicken stock, lamb minestrone, plus quick and easy yeast-risen baguettes.
DATE NIGHT FOR COUPLES: SUSHI U FOR TWO - November 30 @ 5:00-7:30 OR March 7 @ 6:00-8:30 (hands-on)
  • This menu includes tempura-fried shrimp rolls, sesame tuna hand rolls, smoked eel rolls, spicy scallop rolls, hot-smoked salmon rolls with mango and jalapeño, plus ginger-peach green tea ice cream - all served with cold beer. 
GIRLS' NIGHT OUT: BUBBLES! - December 20 @ 6:30-9:00 (demonstration)
  • Who doesn't love the sound of a popping champagne cork? Celebrate the season as I make pomegranate champagne punch, pear and endive salad with gorgonzola and a champagne vinaigrette, seared scallops in champagne-mushroom sauce, champagne risotto, plus white chocolate cupcakes with champagne buttercream frosting.
DATE NIGHT FOR COUPLES: THE ULTIMATE COCKTAIL PARTY  - December 21 @ 5:00-7:30 (hands-on)
  • In the midst of a festive holiday season, we will mix up cranberry-champagne sangria and gingersnap-apple vodka martinis. Then learn to create a dazzling spread of roasted five-spice cashews, baked cheddar coins with pecan-pepper jelly, caramelized onion bread topped with olives and anchovies, smoked shrimp with cilantro-lime yogurt dipping sauce, plus homemade marshmallow s'more skewers.
DATE NIGHT FOR COUPLES: HIGH STEAKS - December 27 @ 6:30-9:00 (hands-on)
  • Menu includes bruschetta with winter fruit, brie & fennel-infused honey; smoked lentil salad with creamy Sriracha dressing; cedar-grilled flat iron steaks with cayenne-coffee rub; sweet potato and goat cheese "tater tots"; bacon-wrapped green beans with brown sugar and garlic butter; and salted caramel pots de crème.
DATE NIGHT FOR COUPLES: LIFE IS A CABERNET - January 3 @ 6:00-8:30 (hands on)
  • We'll prepare mushroom-red pepper salad with red wine-herb vinaigrette, oven-roasted beef tenderloin with roasted red grape wine sauce, homemade black pepper fettuccine with chardonnay cream sauce, plus fabulous flourless chocolate-red wine cake with rosemary ganache -- all enjoyed with a glass of cabernet wine.
HEIR AND A PARENT: WIZARDS IN THE KITCHEN - January 4 @ 1:00-3:30 OR March 15 @ 12:30-3:00 (hands on)
  • Attention all Muggles! Experience the world of Harry Potter and make magic in the kitchen as I help you prepare delightful dishes described throughout the J.K. Rowling series, including The Three Broomsticks' butterbeer, ham-and-cheese pasties from the Hogwarts house-elves, and Mrs. Weasley's potatoes with béchamel sauce. Before you apparate home, you'll make Aunt Petunia's individual berry-pudding trifles. This class is designed for children, at least 7 years of age, plus a parent.

August 31, 2014

Zucchini Dip with Mint & Za'atar

I haven't been cooking much lately because I'm kind of obsessed with a new hobby.

I've been knitting.

I learned the basic knit stitch a few years ago after I took a class. Everyone raved about how easy knitting is, that you can even knit a scarf while watching a movie! They lied. At that time, I found knitting to be tedious and exhausting. The patterns were too mathematical for me, I got frustrated when I made a mistake and had to start over (which happened often), and so I gave up. Half of a red scarf pierced with wooden knitting needles sat in my nightstand drawer until last fall.

I decided to reteach myself how to knit by watching YouTube videos and to finish that scarf. Since I'd made many mistakes, the scarf was uneven and had a bunch of holes in it. I ripped it all out and started over. Then, I made another scarf using a different stitch. Then another. Then a baby blanket. Then a couple of ear warmer headbands. Then a hat. I'm working on another scarf now.

I'm addicted. I have a bag full of needles and yarns. I have a list of things I want to make: more scarves and hats, fingerless gloves, a shawl, a bigger blanket...

Now I find knitting to be soothing, a way to calm my frequent bouts of anxiety. When I feel wonky, I pick up my needles and focus on the stitches. It forces me to think about something else. Plus, I like the sound of the needles softly clicking together, the feel of the soft yarn as it pulls through my fingers.

I've realized that knitting is a lot like cooking. I feel a sense of productiveness and accomplishment when I make scarf just as when I make a soufflé. I start with a ball of yarn and a pair of needles and made something new, just like when I start with eggs, milk, and flour to bake a cake. I MADE THIS, I think. It's hugely satisfying.

* * * 

I tried this new recipe to use up a giant zucchini that a co-worked gave me & some chocolate mint (which only has a faint chocolate flavor but is named so because of a tinge of brown in the leaves & stems of the plant) a friend gave me a couple weeks ago. Za'atar is a Middle Eastern seasoning blend of herbs (often oregano, thyme, marjoram, and savory), sesame seeds, and sumac. Traditionally, it is eaten with pita dipped in olive oil. I served this refreshing green dip with pita chips.

Zucchini Dip with Mint & Za'atar
adapted from Eating Well

August 21, 2014

Chicken & Dumplings

School started on Monday. I ended my summer break last week by binge watching season 2 of The Mind of a Chef. Sean Brock is just so damn adorable. And his southern comfort food is absolutely swoon-worthy.

One recipe that I knew I wanted to make as soon as possible was his mother's version of chicken & dumplings. Here's the clip:

All last week, I needed comfort food as I watched the world implode around me. The unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, hits close to home...literally. Ferguson is only 15 miles from my front door. So I decided there was no better way to start the school year and to relieve some of the tension of current events than by inviting friends over for chicken & dumplings and pie.

Here's my version of the Brocks' recipe:

Chicken & Dumplings

Note: This dish is much brothier when it's first made, more like a soup. The picture above was taken after the leftovers had been in the fridge for a couple of days, soaking up all the stock. Still delicious.

August 18, 2014

Old Fashioned Raspberry Pie with Hot Water Crust

I'm calling this an "old fashioned" pie because it features a hot water crust and tapioca in the filling...two things you don't see much of these days.

This recipe comes from The American Gothic Cookbook, copyright 1979.  The small, 62-page booklet was inspired by Grant Wood's iconic painting.

The introduction explains:
Born in Cedar Rapids through the eye, mind, and paintbrush of Grant Wood, the American Gothic couple uniquely reflect the cultural traditions of the Midwest.
Here are the recipes from the models who posed for the painting, from the artist who painted them, from people who knew them, and from their neighbors, including the famous.
While the Woods and the McKeebys, as their names imply, were of stock from the British Isles, their Iowa neighbors were the Germans of the Amana Colonies, the Czechoslovakians, the Scandinavians, and the Amish of the Kalona area. Part of the essence of the Midwest is the blend of culinary traditions now even including the Oriental. Here are the recipes of the American Gothic people.
I bought this book at a used cookbook sale. Considering my love of American Gothic, I had to have it.

I referred to this pie as "Raspberry Frankenpie" because I had some problems with the top crust. It wasn't crumbly, but it would break whenever I tried to roll it out or pick it up. So, I pieced it together on top of the pie, going for a patchwork look, and added some "stitches" for decoration.

I know what I did wrong. The recipe says it will make two crusts. It does not. So, when I mixed a second crust, I didn't use boiling water...I used the hot water that was left in the kettle without reboiling it. As a result, the shortening never got creamy when mixed with the water. Since the first crust worked perfectly, I'm sure this was the problem.

Still, it tasted just fine! I did miss the buttery flavor of my regular pie crust recipe, but this was an interesting recipe to try...and an easy way to make a crust for those who might be intimidated by making pie.

The filling, however, was spectacular. I liked using instant tapioca to thicken the filling as opposed to cornstarch or flour. It created tiny, translucent, fruit-flavored pearls. It wasn't slimy, gelatinous, or chunky (which is what I think of when I think of tapioca pudding). I may use it in all of my fruit pies now!