Saturday, February 23, 2013

Ellen's Green Cake

Ellen's Green Cake

As long as I have known our friend, Ellen, she has been making "Green Cake" and bringing it to gatherings, as she did to the Superbowl party. 

So I took the opportunity to take a photo of it and interviewed her. 

How many times have you made "Green Cake"?

I started making it in 1982 (year I was married). Have probably made it at least 10 times a year for 31 years!!

That's over 300 times you've made it! 

Made it for Lake House, dinner parties, birthdays, office parties, pot lucks, new baby, new house, just because, etc

Who named it "Green Cake"?

Official name: Creme de Menthe Cake. Dubbed "The Green Cake" by Cindy Lyness

Is it a secret recipe?

No!! Recipe came from my Mom. Here it is:

Ellen's Green Cake

(Creme de Menthe Cake)

-Pillsbury Moist Supreme Yellow cake mix
-Royal Instant Pistachio pudding
-1/2 cup of oil
-1/3 cup creme de menthe
-4 eggs
-1 cup sour cream
-6 ounces chocolate chips

Mix all ingredients (except chips) together. Beat well. Fold in chips. Pour into greased and floured bundt pan. Bake at 350 for 50-55 minutes. Remove immediately from pan and sprinkle with confectionery sugar.

Thanks for sharing, Ellen!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Did you know you can fail a drug test if you eat too many poppy seeds?

Poppy seeds come from the same plant which produces opium and can carry traces which will show up as a false positive in a drug test.
So, competitive athletes should avoid them. And international travellers should avoid carrying them. 
The poppy seed used for cooking is the ripened, dried seed of the Oriental or opium poppy.  It doesn't have any drug effects remaining by the time it is harvested. 
 There are over a million poppy seeds in a pound!
Some of the poppies in our gardens (Papaver somniferum) are the same as the poppies used in confections.  Blue gray seeds are the best.  I read in a gardener's chat room that you can plant seeds from the jars in the grocery store, if they are fresh.  McCormick seeds become white, for example. 

According to the reference books, it takes over a million poppy seeds to make a pound of poppy seeds and there are 3,300 per gram. 
Poppy seeds are highly nutritious (magnesium, calcium and fiber) and less allergenic than other nuts.

I associate them with breads and pastries, but they are also in Eastern European pasta dishes, and Indian dishes. Lemon and poppy seeds is popular combination.
You should smell your poppy seeds before using them to be sure they are fresh, and not a bad batch, just like you would taste wine before using or drinking.

Poppy seed oil can also be used for cooking, and it brings a rich nutty flavor to foods. It is also used in soaps and paints. For example, it is an alternative to using linseed oil as a medium for creating oil paintings.

Some people say poppy seed oil can be used to treat insomnia. Take 1 tsp. before bed.
 I use them to make muffins.  Here's a recipe I made for our grandson's 1st communion brunch last year. 

This recipe breaks with tradition. You start with dry ingredients then beat in the wet ingredients.  Be sure to grease your muffin tin well.

Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins
(adapted from Homemade by Ivy Vann)

Makes 12 extra large muffins

1/2 cup poppy seeds
grated rind of 1 - 2 lemons
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 t. salt
1 t. baking soda
2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1 cup yogurt
2 eggs
1/3 cup
3 T. lemon juice mixed with confectioner's sugar to taste

Mix dry ingredients thoroughly.  Beat in butter.  Combine eggs, yogurt, and 1/2 cup lemon juice.  Add 1/3 of egg mixture to flour and beat 1 minute.  Add 1/2 more egg mixture and beat 20 seconds, add remaining egg mixture and poppy seeds and lemon rind and beat 20 seconds.  Spoon into greased muffin tins.  Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes.  Remove from oven and immediately poke 6 to 8 holes in the tops of the muffins and spoon remaining lemon juice over them.  Remove from pans when lukewarm. 


P.S. -- Do believe everything you read on the Internet?  If so, I have a French model I can introduce you to. 

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Winter Apple Crisp

Winter Apple Crisp

This is a good recipe to make if you have a lot of apples and lemons rolling around in the bottom of your fridge drawer as I did. I had a mix of hard and soft fleshy apples. The variety of apples made for nice texture in the crisp and new taste sensation in every bite.

Winter Apple Crisp
(from The Yellow House Cookbook)

Makes a 13 x 9 pan of crisp

12 cups apples, peeled, cored, and cut into 1 inch dice
1/2 cup sugar
juice of l lemon
1 t. lemon rind, minced or grated
1 t. fresh ginger, peeled and grated

For the topping:
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 t. ground cinnamon
1/2 t. grated nutmeg
1/2 t. salt
10 T. unsalted butter, cool but slightly softened, cut into small pieces
1 1/2 cups chopped pecans, walnuts or almonds or any combination

Heat oven to 375 degrees.  Toss prepared fruit with lemon juice, sugar, lemon rind, and ginger in a large bowl and set aside.
In a medium bowl, combine the flour, sugars, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt.  Add the butter and rub  into dry ingredients until the mixture looks crumbly and well mixed.  Add the nuts and toss with your hands to incorporate.  Be sure not to over mix, or the topping will become a sticky mess.
Place the fruit in a 9  x 13 pan.  Sprinkle topping over the fruit and bake for 30 minutes.  Increase the oven and bake for an additional 10 minutes.  Fruit mixture should be bubbling and topping should be a deep golden brown.  Let cool for 15 minutes.  Serve with heavy cream or vanilla ice cream. 

You can use any fruit you like for this fruit crisp recipe, e.g., peaches, pears, plums.


Thursday, February 14, 2013

Chili-Rubbed Pork Loin by Tom

Roasted Garlic and Chili-Crusted Pork Loin

For a change of taste, we decided that a Cuban inspired pork dish might be a good mid-winter respite.  Remind us of the warmer weather we hope is just around the corner, or at least that is what the groundhog has predicted!  So into my favorite cookbook I went exploring and found this serious garlic and chili inspired pork loin recipe.  Other than cooking it on a grill using indirect heat, I did this dish in the oven while staying true to the recipe. A novelty for me!  Easy and relatively quick to make.  I complimented the dish with a version of black beans and collard greens. 


Roasted Garlic and Chili-Crusted Pork Loin
(Dinosaur Bar-B-Que cookbook)

Serves 6

The Rub
2 heaping tablespoons roasted garlic
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons ground ancho chili
2 teaspoons chipotle chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon olive oil

The Roast
3 pounds boneless pork loin
4-5 large cloves garlic, quartered
Salt and black pepper to season the meat

Preheat the oven to 340 degrees or there about.  This pork loin will cook slowly, which keeps it nice and juicy.   You are looking for an internal temperature of 150 degrees at completion.  For a 3# roast, it will take between an 1 hour-15 minutes and 1 hour-30 minutes.  Use a meat thermometer to monitor the internal temperature.
Mix all of the ingredients for the rub in a small bowl and stir together thoroughly.

Remove the paper skin from the garlic cloves and chop into quarters so that your pieces are still rather large.

Remove some of the visible fat from the pork loin.  It is not possible to get rid of all of it, so do not worry about seeing some visible fat.  Using the tip of a sharp knife, make slits throughout the pork loin and insert the quartered slivers of garlic.  Season with some salt and black pepper.

Generously coat the pork loin with the rub and place  into your preheated oven..

After roasting to an internal temperature of 150 degrees, remove the pork loin from the roasting pan and let sit for at least 15 minutes on your carving board.

Cut into 1/2" slabs for serving.

I used a bag of collard greens already pre-washed and cut up.  To a very large skillet, I added 6 cups of water, the juice from one lemon, 1 tablespoon of garlic, 1 tablespoon of kosher salt, 1 teaspoon chopped minced onions and the collard greens.  On high heat, I covered the pan with all of the ingredients and cooked it for about 35 minutes.  The collard greens will turn color and become tender after this time.  I prepared these while the pork loin was roasting.  These were surprisingly good!  Even though no butter was added, they were actually buttery tasting and not bitter at all.

For my black beans I diced one sweet onion, one red bell pepper, one jalapeno pepper.  I sauteed them in a large sauce pan with about 1 tablespoon of olive oil, 1 teaspoon ancho chili powder, 1 teaspoon chipotle chili powder, one teaspoon dried garlic flakes, one teaspoon cumin, and some kosher salt to taste.  After the vegetables were very soft, (about 10 minutes), I added one can of black beans and about a half cup of chicken stock.  I let this concoction simmer for about 30 minutes while the roast was baking.

The Cuban inspired meal!


Monday, February 11, 2013

Irish Brown Bread

Guinness adds barley flavor to the bread
I've been working my way through Jim Lahey's popular no-knead bread cookbook, called My Bread.  Next to his basic bread recipe, this is our favorite.   (We've also made his whole wheat, and rye breads, and they weren't as flavorful as this Irish Brown Bread.) 
His no-knead technique is simple  --- you just need a dutch oven -- and time.  The dough ferments for 12 - 18 hours, then you scrape it down and reform it into a ball for second rise of 1 -2 hours, and then bake in a preheated dutch oven inside a very hot oven.  The result is a rustic bread -- very crispy on the outside but soft and flavorful inside.   
Irish Brown Bread
(Jim Lahey's recipe)
300 grams bread flour (2 1/4 cups)
100 grams whole wheat flour (3/4 cup)
1 t. salt
1 T. wheat bran (not wheat germ)
1/4 t. instant or other active dry yeast
3/4 cup Guinness stout, at room temperature (72 degrees)
3/4 cup well-shaken buttermilk at room temperature
additional wheat bran or flour for dusting
In a medium bowl, stir together the flours, salt, wheat bran, and yeast.  Add the beer and buttermilk, and mix until you have a wet, sticky dough, about 30 seconds.   (I had to add 2 more T. because it is so dry this time of year. )  Cover the bowl, and let sit at room temperature fro 12 to 18 hours. 
Generously dust a work surface with wheat bran.  Scrape the dough out of the bowl in one piece.  Using lightly floured hands or a scraper, lift the edges of the dough in toward the center.  Nudge and tuck in the edges of the dough to make it round.
Place a tea towel on your work surface and generously dust it with wheat bran.  Gently place the dough on the towel, seam side down.  If the dough is tacky, dust the top lightly with wheat bran.  Fold the ends of the tea towel loosely over the dough to cover it and place it in a warm, draft-free spot to rise for 1 to2 hours.  The dough is ready when it is almost doubled.  If you gently poke it with your finger, it should hold and impression.  If it springs back, let it rise for another 15 minutes.
Half an hour before the end of the second rise, preheat the oven to 475 degrees, with a rack in the lower third, and place a covered 4 1/2 to 5 1/2 quart heavy pot in the center of the rack. 
Using pot holders, carefully remove the preheated pot from the oven and uncover it.  Unfold the tea towel and quickly but gently invert the dough into the pot, seam side up.  Cover the pot and bake for 30 minutes 
Remove the lid and continue baking until the bread is a deep chestnut color but not burnt, about 10 - 20 minutes more.  Use a heatproof spatula to lift the bread out of the pot and place it on a rack to cool thoroughly.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

High Fiber Bran Muffins

High Fiber Bran Muffins

These bran muffins are super moist and high in fiber.  They remind me of the Costco bran muffins Steve and Colleen used to serve when I would visit.  Found the recipe on the back of the package of Bob's Red Mill wheat bran we bought for making bread.

Honey (or molasses) is used for sweetening instead of sugar.  I used buckwheat honey from a farm north of here. It is dark and tangy sweet like molasses.

Wheat bran is the outer protective layer of wheat kernel. It comes off when making wheat flour. It is light and fluffy and looks a little like sawdust. 

fyi -Wheat Bran is found in the organic foods section of Wegman's. Don't confuse it with wheat germ. 

Moist Bran Muffins
(from Bob's Red Mill Natural Foods)

Makes 12 Marvelous Muffins

1 cup wheat Bran
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup raisins (use 3/4 cup if eliminating the nuts)
1 t. baking powder
1 t. baking soda
1 cup milk
1/2 cup molasses or honey
3/4 cup applesauce
1/4 cup chopped nuts (optional)
2 T. oil
2 Eggs beaten

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Combine wheat bran, flour, baking soda and baking powder. Stir in nuts and raisins.  In a separate bowl, blend applesauce, milk and molasses, oil and beaten eggs.  Add to dry ingredients and stir just until moistened.  Spoon into greased muffin tin and bake for 15-20 minutes.

I made lots of substitutions  --- buckwheat honey instead of molasses ---my raisins were dried out so I re-hydrated them for a few minutes on the stove in brandy and let them cool ---I didn't have milk so I used heavy cream ---I didn't have enough applesauce so I added some leftover coffee to make up the difference  --- and they still came out great!


Friday, February 8, 2013

Jeanne's Chocolate Cake Recipe

Jeanne's "Awesome" Chocolate Cake
Note from B:  This recipe was originally posted in May 2009, but I didn't have a photo of it at the time.  Jeanne has now moved back to the U.S and she brought her chocolate cake to the Superbowl party last weekend.   I took a photo before it was devoured.   It is very chocolaty and very, very good.
From May, 2009: 
Niece Emily wrote in requesting a chocolate cake recipe --- and I don't really have a winner --- but I remembered Jeanne telling me about a great recipe she uses --- she sent this in from Taipei. Thanks, Jeanne!

Jeanne says: "My favorite chocolate cake (and easy to make) is on the back of the Hershey’s cocoa box…Between Jack’s b-day last week at school and a party at home, and now Grace’s school b-day party…I’ve baked this cake 3 times in the last week!"

HERSHEY'S "PERFECTLY CHOCOLATE" Chocolate CakeIngredients:
2 cups sugar
1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup HERSHEY'S Cocoa
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup boiling water


1. Heat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour two 9-inch round baking pans.

2. Stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in large bowl. Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla; beat on medium speed of mixer 2 minutes. Stir in boiling water (batter will be thin). Pour batter into prepared pans.

3. Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely. Frost with "PERFECTLY CHOCOLATE" CHOCOLATE FROSTING.

10 to 12 servings.

VARIATIONS:ONE-PAN CAKE: Grease and flour 13x9x2-inch baking pan. Heat oven to 350° F. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake 35 to 40 minutes. Cool completely. Frost.

THREE LAYER CAKE: Grease and flour three 8-inch round baking pans. Heat oven to 350°F. Pour batter into prepared pans. Bake 30 to 35 minutes. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely. Frost.

BUNDT CAKE: Grease and flour 12-cup Bundt pan. Heat oven to 350°F. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake 50 to 55 minutes. Cool 15 minutes; remove from pan to wire rack. Cool completely. Frost.

CUPCAKES: Line muffin cups (2-1/2 inches in diameter) with paper bake cups. Heat oven to 350°F. Fill cups 2/3 full with batter. Bake 22 to 25 minutes. Cool completely. Frost. About 30 cupcakes.


1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine
2/3 cup HERSHEY'S Cocoa3 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Melt butter. Stir in cocoa. Alternately add powdered sugar and milk, beating to spreading consistency. Add small amount additional milk, if needed. Stir in vanilla.

About 2 cups frosting.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Roasted Veggies with Miso Dressing and Sesame Seeds

Roasted Veggies with Miso Dressing and Sesame Seeds

I saw this recipe in The Meat Free Monday Cookbook. It is becoming one of my favorite cookbooks due to recipes like this.  They also have a website called

This dressing is a keeper!  The miso in the dressing when combined with toasted sesame seeds turns everyday winter vegetables into something special.  The Japanese say miso --soybean paste-- gives the dish unami.    Took us a while to find miso paste in the grocery store.  It was in the refrigerated section of the organic section.  It is worth hunting down to make this dressing.

Roasted Veggies with Miso Dressing with Sesame Seeds
( from The Meat Free Monday Cookbook, pg.  194)

3 medium carrots, peeled and cut in half lengthwise
1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into wedges (I bought a tub of pre-cut)
3 small-medium parsnips, peeled and halved(quartered if they are large)
2 T. olive oil
3 cups of broccoli, trimmed
2 T. honey
1 T. mixed black and white sesame seeds (I used toasted white sesame seeds)

This is what red miso looks like. 
For the Dressing: 
3 T. toasted sesame oil
2 t. freshly grated ginger
1 garlic clove, minced
1 heaping teaspoon yellow miso paste (I used red)
1 T. rice wine vinegar

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Parsnips look like white carrots.
Prepare the vegetables.  Then, rub them all over with the olive oil so that all sides are lightly coated to optimize roasting.

Arrange them in a single layer in a roasting pan.  Then roast for 25 minutes or until done.  (Ours took 10 minutes longer.)  (I stirred them up, too.)
Add the broccoli and continue to roast for 5 more minutes.  (Ours took 10 minutes.) 

Stir if needed, then drizzle with 1 T. honey and sesame seeds and roast about 5- 10 minutes more until veggies caramelize (i.e., turn brown around the edges.)

While the vegetables are roasting, prepare the dressing.  Spoon the remaining honey into a bowl, add the other dressing ingredients and whisk thoroughly. 
Lightly coat the hot veggies with the dressing and serve.

We roasted small pieces of chicken at the same time, brushing them with store-bought Asian BBQ sauce 2/3 of the way through.



Friday, February 1, 2013

Lemon Cornmeal Muffins with Blueberry Surprise

Lemon Cornmeal Muffins with Blueberry Surprise

I had been thinking about this idea for a while but finally got around to trying it this weekend.

Basically, I filled the muffin cups halfway up, added a teaspoon of blueberry "jam" then continued filling them up, creating a pocket of blueberries inside a traditional muffin. 

Lemon Cornmeal Muffins with Blueberry Surprise
(a The Yellow Farmhouse cookbook recipe with my twist)

Makes 12 muffins

8 T. (1 stick) of butter, melted
2 large eggs, room temperature
1/2 t. vanilla extract
2 T. lemon juice
1 T. grated lemon zest
2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup cornmeal
2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
1 1/4 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup plus 12 T. sugar
12 teaspoons of blueberry "jam"

To make blueberry "jam", place 3 cups of blueberries in a saucepan, with the grated rind of a lemon, a pinch of salt and 1/2 -1 cup of sugar.  Boil down until it is the consistency of jam or a thick syrup.   Or buy a good quality blueberry jam.

Heat the oven to 375 degrees.  Grease a 12-cup muffin tin with butter or vegetable spray.

Whisk together the melted butter, the eggs, the vanilla, lemon juice and grated lemon rind. 

In a smaller separate bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. 

Gently stir the flour mixture into the egg mixture until the batter looks about half-mixed. 

Add the buttermilk and the sugar and mix gently with a large rubber spatula.  Do not over mix. 

The batter should still have small streak of flour in it and be lumpy.

Fill up the muffin cups halfway, then add a teaspoon of blueberry "jam", cover with remaining batter, being careful to cover up all of the blueberries.

Bake about 22 - 25 minutes or until top are golden, but not brown. 

Remove from the oven and set on a wire rack to cool for 5 minutes.  Remove muffins from tin and serve.

These muffins are best when they are served warm or reheated gently. 

You could substitute any fruit jam in place of the blueberries.