Monday, September 24, 2012

To Brighten Your Day (Lemon Yogurt Cake)

I live in a land kissed by the sun.  I wake up before the she rises and see her break the horizon almost every morning.  So soft and beautiful, a delicate ball rising only to sear my shoulders in a few short hours.  Living under a cloudless sky seems like happiness, maybe romantic, but I grow tired of the bright, hot days.  It is as if I live in my own Groundhogs Day.  A repeat of sunny days, bright weeks and scorching months.

Last week we were granted a break.  A glorious gloomy day.  The sun never broke through the clouds and it was a perfect gray.  The drizzle and light rain danced around one another and never grew tired.  The performance was lovely.  For a moment I was transported to the overcast skies of the northwest, though the heft and warmth of the air quickly brought me back home.

I found myself making a bright, bold lemon cake that day.  Ironic to find me, the one who loathes the bright sunny days, making up for her absence.  As fall begins and will turn into winter, the grayer days are upon us.  If you find yourself missing the sun, make this cake.  She will brighten your day.

Lemon Yogurt Cake
recipe from Barefoot Contessa at Home, Ina Garten
yield:  1 loaf

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup plain yogurt
1 1/3 cups sugar, divided
3 extra large eggs
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

For the glaze:
1 cup confectioners sugar
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease an 8 1/2 by 4 1/4 by 2 1/2-inch loaf pan.  Line the bottom with parchment paper.  Grease and flour the pan.
  2. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt into 1 bowl.  In a bowl of an electric mixer, mix together yogurt, 1 cup sugar, the eggs, lemon zest, and vanilla.  Slowly add the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients.  With a large rubber spatula, fold vegetable oil into the batter, making sure its all incorporated.  Pour batter in prepared pan and bake for 50-60 minutes, cake tester will come out clean.
  3. Meanwhile, cook the 1/3 cup lemon juice and remaining 1/3 cup sugar in a small pan until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is clear.  Set aside.
  4. When the cake is done, allow it to cool in the pan for 10 minutes.  Remove cake from pan and place on a rack that has been set inside a rimmed cookie sheet or pan.  While the cake is still warm, poke holes on the top using a skewer.  Using a brush, soak the cake with the lemon syrup.  Allow it to soak in.  Cool completely.
  5. For the glaze, combine the confectioners sugar and lemon juice and pour evenly over the cake.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Nutmeg is her BFF (Macaroni & Cheese-Greek Yogurt Style)

I saw the following quote months ago as my friend Charles's FB status.  I appreciate really good food humor and of all my FB friends out there, he never disappoints.

"I love making Bechamel. Such and easy sauce, equal parts flour to fat with enough milk and bay leaf to bring it to the right consistency. What a versatile little kitchen slut. She'll go with cheese, dairy, wine, whatever. Nutmeg is her BFF."

Cute right?  I also followed a link of his that led me to a Macaroni & Cheese recipe using FAGE Total Greek Yogurt.  The recipe makes a great cheese sauce and the sauteed onion & red bell pepper lend a slight sophistication in flavor.

Macaroni & Cheese-Greek Yogurt Style
serves:  6
8oz medium shells whole wheat pasta
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, finely diced
1/2 red pepper, finely diced
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup butter, plus more to butter casserole dish & dot the topping
1 1/2-2 cups whole milk, warmed
1/2 cup Greek Yogurt
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon Sriracha sauce
10 ounces sharp cheddar shredded, plus 1/4 cup shredded for topping
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
  1. Bring pot of salted water to a boil.  Add pasta and cook for 6 minutes.  Drain and rinse with cold water to stop cooking.
  2. Saute the onion & bell pepper in olive until onions are translucent.  Set aside.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees & butter a 2 quart casserole.
  4. Melt 1/2 cup butter in saute pan and add flour, cooking for 2 minutes.  Slowly whisk in the warm milk and 1/2 cup of yogurt, whisking until smooth.  Add nutmeg.  Bring to a low simmer and remove from heat.  Add 10 oz. cheddar and whisk until smooth.  Add remaining yogurt & sriraca.  Toss together pasta, onion/pepper mixture & cheese sauce.  Transfer into prepared casserole.
  5. Bake for 30 minutes.  Meanwhile, toss 1/4 cup cheddar, feta & panko bread crumbs into a small bowl.  Remove casserole from oven and add topping.  Dot with butter.  Return to oven for 15 minutes or until golden brown & bubbling.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Summers last berries (Spinach Salad with Strawberries, Candied Pecans & Poppy Seed Dressing)

Spinach Salad+Frittata=a perfect summer meal
I can hear the hum of the yellow school bus at the stop.  The kids are back in school and the neighborhood is now quiet.  I see the transition of fruit in the produce department-less berries, more apples and oranges.  Honeycrisp apples have arrived and I can't wait to sink my teeth into their crisp, sweet flesh.  I am anxious for fall.

The air is still hot and heavy and fall is definitely absent from the gentle breeze, but I suppose it can be present in my heart.  Before I dive into the dreams of golden, cooler days, I will share with you this very summery salad.  Sweet, crunchy, tangy and bejeweled with summer's last berries.

Spinach Salad with Strawberries & Candied Pecans & Poppy Seed Dressing
1 pound fresh baby spinach
1 pt fresh strawberries, sliced
1/2 cup candied pecans (found in the bulk sections of the market)

-Toss with poppy seed dressing just before serving

Poppy Seed Dressing
1/2 cup sugar
2 T sesame seeds
1 T poppy seeds
1 1/2 tsp minced onion
1/4 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup vegetable oil

-Mix first 6 ingredients.  Slowly add  vegetable oil.  Refrigerate 1 hour before tossing the greens.