Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Lemon-Blueberry Swirl Cake

This is another dessert concocted by my sister-in-law Amanda and I for our Easter brunch.  This was simple, but delicious.  Also, another dessert that's relatively healthy (as long as you don't decimate the entire cake like we tried to do ...)  Amanda also noted that the cake could be made without the cream cheese layer in the middle, saving additional calories.

Lemon-Blueberry Swirl Cake
from Kraft Spring 2010 magazine


1 pkg (2-layer size) white cake mix
3/4 c water
3 egg whites
2 T oil
1 pkg (3 oz.) Lemon flavor gelatin, divided
1 c blueberries
1 pkg (8 oz.) cream cheese, softened
1 whole egg
3 T water


Heat oven to 350 degrees

Beat cake mix, 3/4 c water, egg whites and oil until well blended. Add 1/4 c dry gelatin mix; beat on low 1 min., then on medium 4 min. Beat cream cheese and whole egg in small bowl until well blended.

Pour half the cake batter into greased 12-c fluted tube pan or 10-in tube pan; cover with layers of cream cheese mixture and remaining cake batter.

Bake 45-50 min or until toothpick inserted near center comes out clean. Cool cake in pan 10 min. Loosen cake from side of pan with knive. Invert cake onto wire rack; gently remove pan. Cool cake completely.

Place cake on plate. Microwave 3 T water in microwaveable measuring cup on HIGH 30 sec. Add to remaining dry gelatin mix; stir until dissolved. Brush over cake until mixture is absorbed. Refrigerate leftovers.

Makes 16 servings.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Tabasco and Asparagus Quinoa

Asparagus is one of those vegetables that I didn't eat when I was a child.  I almost wrote that "I didn't eat a lot," but that isn't true - I didn't eat asparagus at all.  I'm not sure if it was something that my parents had tried once and didn't like or if they had never really ate it either, but I remember that the first time I tried asparagus was when I was out of college and in my 20s.  It was the start of a seasonal love affair.  I have never tried frozen or canned asparagus and I doubt that I ever will, because there's something so decadent about asparagus - I don't ever want that sense ruined by something that's sub-par.

So you can imagine how excited I was when I tried this recipe from Heidi Swanson's 101 Cookbooks.  I was a bit intimidated by the idea of liberal amounts of Tabasco, intrigued to cook quinoa for the first time and excited to cook a dish that promised to be healthy and something different for my lunch box.

As Heidi mentions in the headnote of this particular blog post, the taste of the Tabasco is subtle ... it's enough to bring your taste buds to attention, but not enough to have you running for a water glass.  The notes of lemon and mustard marry well with the butter.

My husband even liked this dish - I imagine that this will be one for the books and one that will be incorporated into our repertoire for years to come.

Tabasco & Asparagus Quinoa

1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
25 drops Tabasco sauce
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt

**Just a note - knowing that this was going to make more Tabasco butter than needed, I ended up halving this recipe.  It worked just fine.

1 pound asparagus, cut into 1-inch segments
4 cups cooked quinoa*
1/3 cup pine nuts, toasted (I omitted)
scant 1/4 cup creme fraiche - optional (I omitted)
more Tabasco sauce to taste

Start by making the Tabasco butter. I used my mini food processor and combined the butter with the mustard, Tabasco sauce, lemon juice and salt.

Boil the asparagus in a large pot of well salted water, for just for a minute or so - depending on the thickness of your asparagus. Drain.

Take 4 cups of hot cooked quinoa and toss with 3 tablespoons of the tabasco butter. Stir in the asparagus. Serve with more Tabasco sauce on the side.

Serves 4 - 6.

*To cook quinoa: Combine 2 cups of well-rinsed dried quinoa with 3 cups water and 1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat and simmer for 25 - 30 minutes or until quinoa is tender and you can see the little quinoa curliques.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Lemon Crumb Cake

I had the pleasure of spending my Easter holiday with my in-laws this past week.  And although I missed some of my family's traditions, my sister-in-law let me loose in her kitchen and we made a couple new traditions. This lemon crumb cake was for our Easter supper.

Lemon Crumb Cake
from Healthy Cooking April/May 2010

2 c buttermilk
1 c sugar
2 eggs
2 T butter, melted
2 tsp. vanilla
3 c all-purpose flour
1-1/4 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 can (15-3/4) oz. lemon pie filling

1 c all-purpose flour
2/3 c sugar
1/3 c cold butter
1/4 c sliced almonds, toasted
Reduced-fat vanilla ice cream, optional

1. In a large bowl, beat the first five ingredients until well blended. In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda; gradually beat into buttermilk mixture until blended. Pour into a 13-in x 9-in baking pan coated with cooking spray. Drop pie filling by teaspoonfuls over batter.
2. In a small bowl, combine flour and sugar. Cut in butter until crumbly. Stir in almonds; sprinkle over batter. Bake at 350 for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.
3. Cool for 10 min on a wire rack. Serve warm with ice cream if desired.

Nutrition facts: yields 20 servings; 1 piece (w/o ice cream) = 295 cal, 7 g fat (3 g saturated fat), 62 mg cholesterol, 255 mg sodium, 53 g carbohydrate, 1 g fiber, 5 g protein.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Spicy Lentils

Digging in my formerly dormant garden.  Trying to make healthier food choices.   Starting a new job.  Spending time with family.  Quitting a part-time job.  Embracing change.  Re-reading Tolkien's books.  Re-watching the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy.  Letting emails pile up.  Letting dishes pile up.  Enjoying the sunshine on my face.  Planning camping trips.  Thinking of flowers to plant.

These are all the things I've been doing other than cooking and blogging.  But I'm back and while I love you all, I've also been in love with simple dishes and eating simple meals in the garden.  (Incidentally, I don't really have a garden - it's a huge work in progress, so we eat outside in the driveway looking at what will someday be a garden. :) )  But this lentil dish wasn't overly complicated and kept me from having to make a trip to the grocery store.  As for the cornbread muffins, I just used the recipe that's on the side of the Quaker cornmeal container.

Spicy Lentils

Adapted from

2 cups green lentils
2 carrot, sliced
3-4 garlic cloves, minced
1 bay leaf
1 beef bouillon cube (used a chicken boullion cube)
6 whole cloves
6 peppercorns
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1-2 hot chili peppers (I used ancho chilis)
3 cups water (used chicken broth)
1 tablespoon oil

In a large pot warm the oil under medium heat, then add the sliced carrot and minced garlic, fry for about 5 minutes just until the garlic has cooked. Then add the bay leaf, peppercorns, whole cloves and chilies (leave out for a non-spicy version), you'll fry these for about 2 minutes, this brings out or release the flavors and scents of the spices.  Next add the paprika, salt, bouillon and lentils. Stir to distribute all the spices and lentils. Now add water to the pot. (Note for every cup of lentils you add one and half cups of water.)

Bring the lentils to boil over medium heat, then lower the heat and continue cooking until the lentils are soft. It depends on your taste if you want the lentils to have more of a soupy texture than you'll need to add more water. Check on them often to make sure they don't get too dry.