chocolate almond caprese cake

The lingering snow and frigid cold blanketing New York and  New Jersey finally started to thaw this weekend. Visible pavement on the sidewalk meant my little dog could complete her daily walk without immediately limping pathetically, paws encrusted with ice pellets and packed snow after a few steps. But today it’s snowing again; another day off for the kids and me one step closer to buying Alpine booties for the pooch.

I actually love it when a serious snowfall forces us to stay home — it  looks quietly beautiful through the windows of a warm house and there’s none of the dropping off, picking up or driving to and fro required on every other day.

It means that I have a few minutes to catch up here on this blog, something that’s been a challenge lately as I still work on getting my family settled into a new home – it’s been an enormous change in my life, to say the least. Nonetheless, there’ve been things percolating in my head foodwise, and as always, anything chocolate is a welcome solace and a motivation to bake something.

I bought a stunning new cookbook, Wild Rosemary & Lemon Cake. It’s a compilation of recipes and gorgeous photography from the Italian Amalfi Coast. Looking at the pages in the dead of winter and imagining myself on a cliffside patio in Positano sipping limoncello has a warming affect on my insides, not to mention my entire well being. [Read more…]

carrot soup and almond-parsley pesto

carrot soup and almond parsley pesto

Did your mother – or someone else who presumably cared about your well being  – ever tell you that peeling a carrot takes away all its vitamins?

It’s one of those admonitions that gets stuck in your head for the rest of your life, probably because you first heard it when soft brain material was still forming (up till the age of 26, I read somewhere). Those whose job it was to see that you grew up with all parts intact did their best to point out every which way you could inflict damage, wreaking havoc on not only yourself, but others, too. You know:

Don’t run across the room with that sharp pencil – you’ll put someone’s eye out!

You’re going to fall off that tree/roof/high-up-dangerous place on top of the swingset and crack your head open!

If you sit so close to the TV in this dark room; YOU”LL GO BLIND!

I can’t think of such warnings having to do with food equally as menacing as the visions of heads cracked open like watermelons dropped from a tall building and eyeballs plucked whole out of their sockets by an innocent writing tool. Oh, there was something about Vitamin C – not enough and you’d become riddled with scurvy and toothlessness. Other than that my takeaway nutritional wisdom remains; All the Vitamins are in the Skin.

I only just learned (like, yesterday) that in fact, peeling carrots has absolutely little effect on the nutrients contained therein. Other forms of produce, such as apples, pears and potatoes, yes – keep the skins on. But carrots? Turns out that some of the best stuff in carrots, like the beta carotene, is in there all the way through. Lots of vitamins, antioxidants and magical cells live in the colorful parts of fruits and vegetables, and if the food is the same color inside without its skin, no harm done.

I admit I do peel carrots when they have an abundance of stiff, old root hairs and tiny clods of dirt. Who wants to eat that?? Plus they look brighter and prettier without the skin. Fresh little carrot bunches with their green tops on don’t usually have that problem.

Having gone on and said all that (are you still reading this?), it won’t make much difference if the skin is on or off the carrots in this soup recipe since they get pureed in the end. It’s your call.

carrot soup with almond parsley pesto

I’ve just started browsing through Deborah Madison’s tremendously wonderful new book, Vegetable Literacy.  The book is organized by families of vegetables, how they’re related and play together – I LOVE that.

The first chapter covers The Carrot Family, which includes celery, parsley, fennel and coriander. Carrots remind me of spring, and parsley reminds me of carrots, so there’s the starting point for my soup.

carrot soup and almond-parsley pesto

Yield: serves 4 - 6

This soup couldn't be simpler and tastes like the essence of carrot. Use any leftover pesto within a day or two, tossed with roasted vegetables or spread on a warm crostini.

Ingredients

  1. 2 tablespoons olive oil
  2. 2 tablespoons butter
  3. 1 ½ pounds carrots, peeled and cut into 2-inch chunks
  4. 1 onion, chopped
  5. 2 stalks celery, chopped
  6. 2 teaspoons salt
  7. 1 teaspoon sugar
  8. 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  9. 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  10. 1 tablespoon amaretto liqueur (optional)
  11. Pesto:
  12. 1 bunch Italian flat-leaf parsley
  13. ½ cup sliced almonds, toasted
  14. 1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds (optional)
  15. ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  16. Salt
  17. ½ cup freshly grated Parmigiano cheese

Instructions

  1. Heat the butter and oil in a large saucepan until butter melts; add the carrots, onion, celery, salt sugar and coriander. Stir the vegetables around and cook until they begin to release liquid and become softened, about 5 minutes.
  2. Pour in 6 cups water and bring to a simmer. Cook about 15 minutes, or until the carrots are tender. Remove from the heat and cool for a bit, then puree the soup in a blender until completely smooth. Stir in lemon juice and amaretto, if using, and taste for salt.
  3. To make the pesto, reserve a few parsley leaves and chop the rest in a small food processor until finely chopped. Add all but 1 tablespoon of the almonds and pulse until the nuts are finely chopped and the mixture forms a paste; add the fennel seeds, olive oil, salt to taste and the cheese and pulse to combine.
  4. Serve the soup with a spoonful of pesto and sprinkle with remaining parsley leaves and almonds.
http://familystylefood.com/2013/04/carrot-soup-and-almond-parsley-pesto/

Italian Orange-Almond Muffins

Italian Orange-Almond Crunch Oat Muffins 

I’m starting off the week with some shameless self-promotion. Check out Quaker Oats and my recipe, which recently netted me 2K! I made them today and added an embellishment of orange marmalade glaze.
These are very popular with my kids, too.
Italian Orange-Almond Crunch Oat Muffins
Makes 12 muffins 

1 cup oats, quick or old-fashioned
1/2 cup low-fat buttermilk
1/2 cup orange juice
2 teaspoons grated fresh orange zest
1 1/2 cups packaged baking mix (I use Bisquick “Heart Smart”)
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup crushed amaretti cookies (about 6 small cookies)
3 tablespoons melted butter
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/3 cup orange marmalade
1 tablespoon amaretto liqueur
Heat your oven to 375 degrees. Line 12 muffin cups with paper liners or spray the pan lightly with non-stick cooking spray.

In a large bowl, stir together the oats, buttermilk, orange juice and zest. Let stand 10 minutes.
Combine the baking mix, sugar and cookies in a medium bowl.
Add butter, egg and extract to oats and mix well. Add the dry ingredients, mix just until moistened.

Fill the muffins cups about 3/4 full. Bake 20 minutes, or until tops are light golden brown. Cool in pan on a rack for 10 minutes. Remove from pan and place muffins on the rack over a sheet of wax paper.

Melt the marmalade and liqueur in a small saucepan. Drizzle over the muffins. Serve warm.

Passing the Meme

Lydia of The Perfect Pantry tagged me for this meme: Five Things Most People Don’t Know About Me, so here goes:1. I’m devoted to entering cooking contests.It started out as an innocent way to indulge my creative side in the kitchen, and became kind of addicting.

2. I can put my leg behind my head in this bizarre-looking yoga posture.

3. Lilacs are my favorite flowers.

4. I always arrive five minutes late for everything.

5. I cannot tolerate cooked green bell peppers. Blech!

And now I’m passing this along to:
Anna of Cookie Madness
Nupur of One Hot Stove
Kristen of Dine and Dish
Bruno of Zinfully Delicious
Janelle of Talk of Tomatoes

 

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