fresh ginger-lemon cake

Ginger-lemon cake
January seems to be the month people flip their internal switches from out-of-control, wild bingers of rich food and drink to wholesome souls sucking down juice meals, promising to spend each and every day at the gym sweating out their toxins.

Or so that’s what some major retailers want us to think, according to the huge display I saw at Whole Foods on January 2. It was a tower more than 15 feet high, precariously constructed out of crates of lemons, bottles of lemon juice, cayenne pepper and jugs of maple syrup; all the ingredients necessary for the Master of Cleanses.

lemon ginger sugar fresh ginger

Post-holiday detox probably isn’t a bad idea, considering the amount of wine corks that pile up around me, but I’ve never submitted to a juice fast, for 2 reasons:

1. I’m afraid I might perish from hunger and then get very, very cranky; which is what tends to happen when I don’t eat in regular 3 hour intervals.

2. I associate the word “cleanse” with “not clean”.  As in dirty. You can take it from there.

My approach is a little gentler and keeps the tremors at bay. I just stick to eating all the real, fresh food I usually do and drink lots of water. The sugars and alcohol get pushed back into careful moderation.

I believe moderation includes a slice of cake, and my very favorite kind of cake is plain and simple, one that I can toast for a snack with some really good apricot or raspberry jam.

This is the most basic of pound cakes,  hit with enough ginger and lemon to freshen your inner being. Way better than drinking juice, I think.

fresh ginger lemon cake

Fresh ginger-lemon cake

Serving Size: 10 - 12 servings

Ingredients

1 tablespoon plus 2 sticks butter at room temperature

1 ¼ cups granulated sugar

2 teaspoons grated fresh lemon zest

2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger

4 eggs, lightly beaten

½ teaspoon fine sea salt

2 cups all-purpose flour

Instructions

  1. Heat oven to 325; butter the bottom and sides of a 9 x 5 –inch loaf pan with 1 tablespoon butter.
  2. Put ¼ cup sugar in a pie dish or shallow bowl; add the lemon zest and ginger and massage the two together with your fingers. You can also use a small wooden spoon or a fork, but you will miss the aromatic therapy.
  3. Beat the 2 sticks butter in a heavy-duty standing mixer on medium-high speed for 1 minute. Add the ginger-lemon sugar and beat for a few seconds before adding the remaining 1 cup sugar; beat 2 minutes, until lightened and fluffy.
  4. Lower the mixer speed and drizzle in the eggs and salt; beat on medium-high speed for 2 more minutes – the mixture might look curdled but don’t worry. Slow the mixer to stir, scrape down the sides of the bowl and add half the flour; mix 15 seconds before adding the remaining flour. Mix just until there’s no more flour visible.
  5. Scrape the batter into the prepared loaf pan. Bake 1 hour; insert a toothpick or skewer into the middle of the cake. If wet crumbs cling to the skewer, bake an additional 5 to 10 minutes.
  6. Cool the cake in the pan on a rack 15 minutes before carefully loosening the sides with a knife. Turn the cake out onto the rack to cool completely.
http://familystylefood.com/2013/01/fresh-ginger-lemon-cake/

rosemary Lemon Polenta Cookies

Rosemary lemon polenta cookies
My go-to holiday cookie recipes are the ones that are the most unfussy. As much as I tend to be all hands-on in the kitchen, I possess a serious lack of patience when it comes to decorating food. Especially cookies, cakes and other sweet things- it’s just not my style. People who can spend hours on the finer details of beautiful desserts – I am in awe of them.

I’m pretty sure that same impatience gene seeps into other aspects of my life, but I’ll skip that story for now. All I can say is that yoga breathing is something I’m grateful to know and practice. Even with those deep breaths going in and out, I don’t see a future designing wedding cakes.

However, I do love to share some baking during the holidays and that’s why these cookies are a favorite. They have that rustic crunch from the cornmeal, an amazing lemon scent and a hit of piney-fresh rosemary.

Rosemary lemon polenta cookies

Rosemary Lemon Polenta Cookies

Yield: about 3 dozen cookies

Ingredients

10 tablespoons butter, softened

¾ cup granulated sugar

1 tablespoon freshly grated lemon zest

2 eggs, at room temperature

¼ teaspoon lemon extract (optional)

1 ½ cups all purpose flour

¾ cup coarse ground cornmeal (polenta)

2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh rosemary, plus a few sprigs for garnish

1 ½ teaspoons baking powder

¾ teaspoon fine sea salt

¼ cup pinenuts, plus extra for garnish

Glaze:

1 cup powdered sugar

2 tablespoons heavy cream

2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

Instructions

  1. Beat the butter and sugar in a standing mixer until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes on medium high speed. Add the lemon zest and the eggs, one at a time, beating until incorporated. Stir in the lemon extract, if using.
  2. Mix the flour, cornmeal, rosemary, baking powder and salt in a bowl until blended together.
  3. Add the dry mixture to the butter on low speed in 2 parts, just until the dough comes together. Stir in the pine nuts. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for an hour or two, until the dough is firm and scoopable.
  4. Heat the oven to 325 degrees and line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.
  5. Scoop the dough into tablespoon-sized balls (I like to use a cookie scoop) and arrange on the cookie sheets.
  6. Bake 12 minutes, or until the cookies are puffed and slightly golden on the edges. Cool the cookies on the baking sheet 5 minutes before transferring to a rack to cool completely.
  7. To make the glaze, stir together the powdered sugar, cream and lemon juice until smooth. Spread some glaze on each cookie; put a few rosemary sprigs and a pine nut on the top.
http://familystylefood.com/2012/12/rosemary-lemon-polenta-cookies/

Toasted Orzo Salad with Lemon and Chickpeas

Toasted Orzo Salad with Lemon and Feta

I could cook pasta every night of the week and make everyone happy. But at the same time I like to make a meal that falls under my definition of “healthy” and “delicious”.

Orzo is familiar as a side dish or floating in soup, but I find that toasting it first and mixing it with lots of vegetables makes it ten times more complex and interesting.

I’ve played on the Greek heritage of orzo in this recipe and borrowed from the Mediterranean pantry by using chickpeas, cumin, lemon and tangy feta cheese. I would serve this on a pile of arugula and call it lunch or dinner.

Toasted Orzo Salad with Lemon and Chickpeas

Serving Size: serves 4

Ingredients

1 cup orzo pasta

2 tablespoons butter

Juice and zest of 1 lemon

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon ground cumin

½ teaspoon salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1 cup canned chickpeas, drained

2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts

¼ cup chopped fresh dill

1/3 cup feta cheese, crumbled

1/2 cup chopped seedless or Persian cucumber

Baby arugula greens

Instructions

  1. Warm a dry 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat; add the orzo and toast until golden brown and nutty-smelling, about 10 minutes, tossing the pan frequently. Remove from the heat and cool.
  2. Bring 3 quarts salted water to a boil and cook the orzo until al dente. Drain and transfer to a bowl along with the butter, stirring until butter melts completely.
  3. Whisk together the lemon juice, zest, olive oil, cumin, salt and pepper; pour over the orzo. Add the chickpeas, pine nuts, dill and cucumber to the bowl and gently toss together. Top with the cheese and serve over the arugula.
http://familystylefood.com/2012/05/toasted-orzo-salad-with-lemon-and-chickpeas/