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Lemon-made

There is a dry heatwave in town (insert blowing fans & humidifiers). The skies are sunny, springtime in the air, and summer on the horizon! This time of year for me is bright & fresh, and this also spills-over into my cooking. When it comes to keeping things fresh in the kitchen, I can’t think of any ingredient more appropriate than lemon. If luck should have it and they are meyer lemons, even better! Sweet & tart, meyer lemons are not only reserved for your neighbor’s lemonade stand, but a staple for roasting, marinating and baking.

I’ve had the urge to make something summer-worthy, and when I came across a bunch of very ripe meyers, I decided to skip my usual lemon bars—though a favorite—and try a cake. I wasn’t sure how much lemon to incorporate at first, but I played around with both the zest & juice, and achieved citrus success.

Typically, I’m not a fan of lemon cakes. You know the ones at the store right? Sticky & overly sweet, puckering your palate like Lemonhead candies, colored like a bright highlighter, and smelling of dishwashing fluid? Ugh, I’d rather skip dessert all together! Not our cake, not this time. We want it highlight on flavor—not too sweet, and not too tart. In fact I’m drinking a lemon iced tea right now! I’m psyched, let’s bake. . . .

Meyer Lemon Cake

51

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 35 minutes

Total Time: 45 minutes

Yield: medium sized bundt cake

slice

Meyer Lemon Cake

A sweet & vibrant meyer lemon cake perfect for spring & summer!

What to get...

  • 1.5 cups flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1.25 cups sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/3 cup fresh meyer lemon zest (about 5 lemons worth)
  • 1/3 cup meyer lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract (like Rodelle)
  • 1/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1 T lemon infused Extra Virgin Olive Oil (if available)
  • 3/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO) sweet variety like koroneiki or arbequina preferred

What to do...

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Whisk the flour, salt & powder together in a bowl.
  3. In large bowl of electric mixer, blend the sugar and eggs on medium until well combined (about 2 mins).
  4. Add vanilla, lemon zest and buttermilk, blending on low unit well combined (may have to scrape sides of bowl with spatula).
  5. Next, add in the lemon juice gradually, while mixer is on low.
  6. Add in dry ingredients 1/2 cup at a time, incorporating fully.
  7. Liberally grease & flour a small bundt pan or loaf pan, and pour batter evenly.
  8. Bake cake for ~35-54 mins (ovens may vary time), until toothpick comes out clean.
  9. Cool cake in the pan on a wire rack for about 20-30 mins,or until completely cooled.
  10. Invert pan onto flat plate or cutting board and remove cake from pan (may have to loosen edges with a knife first).
  11. Sprinkle cake with powdered sugar.

Notes

This cake is very easy, and we substitute the extra virgin olive oil for butter, and it pairs really well with the lemon! This cake is not overly lemon in flavor, but mild and delicious. This can be served with a drizzled icing on top, but I serve with powdered sugar. Stored well in an airtight container.

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High-quality, extra virgin olive oil (in lieu of butter) worked well for this texture and flavor-wise. I also featured this substitution in another dinnervine dessert—Blackberry Lemon Thyme Olive Oil Cake —which I found to have an ever-so crisp crust & very moist center. In our lemon cake this time, I used buttermilk just because I had some on-hand, but you can easily substitute whipping cream of half-and-half. I didn’t opt to ice this or make a glaze, just had it plain & simple (not that some delicious vanilla buttercream frosting hurt anybody—just saying). 

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While baking, this little blast-from-the-past popped into my head— The Lemonheads: If I Could Talk I’d Tell You . . . and I’d much rather listen to the Lemonheads, that eat them. Have a slice for yourself, and enjoy a little dessert, a lot of vitamin C, and the sunny season.

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In Living Color

Let’s face it, sometimes vegetables become mundane. Peas, broccoli, spinach—a boring borage of green. An edible chore of edible plants, and it doesn’t taste like cheese. It can feel like a dismal dietary requirement, but what if . . . what if we can brighten-up our next monochrome meal with fresh herbs, savory flavors, and some extraordinarily-ordinary vegetables?

We can! (or I would have no reason to be writing this post) It’s as simple as Herb Roasted Chicken with Rainbow Vegetables. This spectrum of veggies is most likely hiding within your local grocer, and if you’re like me, you’ve been speeding your basket past them for months. Time to bring some color back into our lives, with rainbow heirloom carrots, blue potatoes, purple cauliflower, ruby cranberries—it is starting to sound like more of a psycadelic daydream than a dinner—and luckily these mystical vegetables do exist (and it’s not Easter egg dye my friends). They’re all-natural, delicious, nutrient-dense, and just plain attractive. Here, take a gander:

 

Herb Roasted Chicken & Rainbow Vegetables

51

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 2 hours

Total Time: 2 hours, 15 minutes

Yield: enough for large family.

dinner portion

Herb Roasted Chicken & Rainbow Vegetables

Herb roasted chicken & colorful rainbow vegetables. A healthy & vibrant all-in-one meal.

What to get...

  • 6 lb fresh, whole chicken
  • bag of rainbow heirloom carrots (variety of coloring in bag), cut into large chunks.
  • 1 sweet white onion, peeled and chopped into chunks
  • 6 garlic cloves, peeled & trimmed
  • 1 bulb of garlic, cut horizontally (for stuffing in chicken cavity)
  • 2 lemons (1 quartered)
  • 1 cup fresh cranberries
  • 1/2 head purple cauliflower (or regular, or both), cut into florets
  • 2 small blue potatoes, scrubbed and halved
  • 2 red new potatoes, scrubbed and halved
  • 1 stick butter, melted in a mug
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • bunch of fresh tarragon (chop 1 tsp for herb butter)
  • bunch of fresh thyme (chop 1 tsp of leaves for herb butter)
  • extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
  • few dashes poultry seasoning
  • few dashes dried thyme (for veggies)
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • *butcher’s twine for trussing chicken (optional)

What to do...

    Prep Bird:
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Rinse chicken, removing any innards in breast cavity, pat dry.
  3. Sprinkle salt & pepper over chicken, and a few dashes of poultry seasoning (throw a dash of salt & pepper inside breast cavity as well).
  4. Melt butter in a mug & add the tsp of chopped tarragon and tsp of chopped thyme leaves, and a squeeze of a fresh lemon wedge (from other lemon).
  5. Carefully loosen skin at top from chicken breast, and take ~1T of butter herb mix, rubbing just under skin of chicken breast.
  6. Stuff chicken cavity with the quartered lemon, half bulb of garlic, fresh sprigs of tarragon & thyme.
  7. Tie the legs with twine or through skin flap (by tucking wings below legs at sides of bird), breast side up!
  8. Ready Pan for Roasting:
  9. In a large roasting pan, coat bottom of pan with extra virgin olive oil.
  10. In a large mixing bowl toss potatoes, onion, garlic, carrots, cranberries (minus the cauliflower), with a little salt, pepper, dashes of dried thyme, and drizzle of EVOO, tossing to coat.
  11. To bottom of the pan, evenly distribute layer of seasoned mixed veggies (the cauliflower, we will add to pan later).
  12. Add several fresh sprigs of tarragon, thyme,and a few slices of lemon (removing seeds as necessary).
  13. Add ~1/4 cup white wine to bottom of pan, for a little moisture.
  14. Place dressed chicken directly on top of veggies (still breast-side up), so it sits level.
  15. Baste bird (top of skin & all around bird) with some of the melted herb butter.
  16. Bake bird for first 30 mins & again baste with herb butter, continuing to bake another 30 min.
  17. At this 1-hour cooking mark, baste bird again & check tenderness of veggies with a fork, adding cauliflower florets to pan around chicken, and 3/4 cup of wine to bottom of roasting pan.
  18. Also check brownness of top of chicken breast, if browning too fast on top, tent bird with small piece of aluminum foil.
  19. Continue baking for another 1/2 -1 hour as needed (until bird is browned & cook temp in largest part of breast meat reaches 180 degrees).
  20. Remove pan from oven when all cooked completely, and let chicken rest for at least 15 mins before carving (can return veggies in pan back to warm oven while chicken rests).
  21. Serve warm with roasted vegetables (Discard herb sprigs & lemon slices used in pan for roasting).

Notes

This is easy, but takes a couple of hours to roast the bird in the oven. You can add more vegetables as you require, and the flavors meld together to where I don’t make a gravy or add any other toppings when serving.

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What I love about this—despite the oven doing 95% of the work—is how vibrant our dinner looks and tastes! We add lemon, cranberry and tarragon for a pop of freshness; thyme, butter and wine for a juicy, savory chicken; and vegetables of all colors for nutrition & texture. A meal all-in-one pan, means less dishes & less stove-top slaving. 

roasted chicken & vegetables - 51

The more colorful your food, the more antioxidants. The more antioxidants, the more you benefit your immune system. The more you enhance immunity . . . well, this isn’t a word problem, but you get the picture (less Kleenex, more fun). I can’t promise eating succulent, herb-roasted chicken & vegetables will magically keep you healthy, but it sure doesn’t hurt if it tastes good trying! If nothing else, you can impress your kids (or somebody else’s) with a rainbow bright plate.

Just because I literally saw a rainbow this morning, love photography, colorful foods, and sometimes a little Paul Simon, here’s a little music while you cook, Kodachrome, cheers! 

roasted chicken & vegetables - 68

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Dinner Fools Day

Can you believe it is already April? As the year marches on, so do our sources of inspiration in the kitchen, and on this first day, we cook for the April foolish. Do you have anyone in mind? I’m not going to name names, but if you’re having dinner here tonight then expect the unexpected. Not to worry, this is not Fear Factor style—I’m not much on serving bugs for entertainment—rather a challenge to create the unconventional from everyday ingredients.

My last April Fool’s menu was a play on a classic, with cheeseburger empanadas, buns be damned! This year, if I told you we were having bread pudding for dinner . . . well, then that would be correct! Usually reserved for an after dinner sweet-tooth, but this bread pudding boasts a savory surprise—BACON (maple bacon to be specific). Really it’s not all that farfetched; how many times at breakfast does your crispy bacon end up in your waffle syrup?  

bacon bread pudding - 21

So wait, now it’s dinner made from dessert AND breakfast? Yes, and it’s confusingly delicious!

Bread pudding is a base of cubed leftover bread, eggs, milk and sugar (I always think of it as a deconstructed French toast). Our version will have a savory twist, using crip bacon, a little parmesan cheese & thyme. We keep a hint of sweet with a touch of maple syrup, half & half, and dash of cinnamon. This all somewhat reminds me of a breakfast casserole, but this time I’m making in single-serve ramekins (which speeds-up our cooking time, and you don’t have to share). It sounds weird, but for some reason it just works.

Time for our palates to get Punk’d!

Savory Bread Pudding with Bacon

51

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 35 minutes

Total Time: 50 minutes

Yield: 2 x 18-oz individual serving ramekins, or 4 smaller.

1 ramekin

Savory Bread Pudding with Bacon

A savory twist on bread pudding, omitting any fruits and adding delicious bacon! Perfect for dinner or even a brunch.

What to get...

  • leftover loaf sourdough bread (whole, we will use ~4 cups cubed)
  • 2 eggs (lightly beaten)
  • 5 sliced maple bacon (cooked crispy & chopped roughly)
  • 4 T shredded parmesan cheese blend
  • 2 cups half & half (or whole milk)
  • 2 tsps maple syrup (and more for drizzling tops)
  • 1/4 tsp white sugar
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • pinch of ground black pepper
  • 4 dashes dried thyme leaves
  • 2 dashes ground cinnamon

What to do...

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Butter/grease 2 medium, oven-safe ramekins (I used 2x 18-oz in size)
  3. Cube day old sourdough loaf into ~1 inch cubes (1/2 used for each ramekin)
  4. Chop pre-crisped bacon roughly (1/2 will be used for each ramekin)
  5. In a mixing bowl whisk eggs, half & half, syrup, sugar, salt, pepper, thyme, cinnamon & parmesan cheese.
  6. In each ramekin, layer bread and bacon, so evenly distributed (1/2 of both in each ramekin for 2).
  7. Slowly pour over 1/2 the egg mixture over bread, into each of 2 ramekins.
  8. Let sit for 15 minutes, so bread can absorb more mixture.
  9. Drizzle tops lightly with syrup & a pinch of sea salt, baking for ~35 mins in oven, until lightly browned & crusty on top, and bread pudding pulls away from edges of ramekin slightly.
  10. Cool and serve warm with another drizzle of maple syrup on top as desired, and a garnish with fresh thyme leaves if you have them!

Notes

This is really easy, and I made using a day-old partial loaf of sourdough bread. Use milk if you don’t have half & half or cream handy. This is savory with hint of sweet and can be made ahead and reheated in oven. Make sure you cook the bacon slices crispy, otherwise they will end up soft when baked in pudding.

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Sweet & salty. A crave-worthy dinner dichotomy, for family, friends, or even the fools in your life—Happy April One!

bacon bread pudding - 26

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Thumbs Up!

thumbprint cookies - 10

 

This saying goes for the making of these cookies, and for the finished product! Baking cookies does’t require a holiday, but if we must, then March happens to be . . . National Flour Month?

It’s true, and this gives us the perfect license to bake. The weather is starting to warm around these parts, and sweet spring is on my mind. I was pre-spring cleaning out my cupboard the other day, and realized I have a random array of gourmet jams & preserves (and frankly that would just be way too many pieces of toast). One jar in particular I’ve been wanting to open—Apricot Peach. I decided to instead bake with it, and then I envisioned some pretty, little thumbprint cookies. I rarely make cookies of this variety, but I decided light and buttery with a sweet preserve center would be a suited match.

Time to break out the butter. . . .

Apricot-Peach Thumbprint Cookies

51

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 25 minutes

Total Time: 55 minutes

Yield: about 2 dozen (if you make them small)

I stopped counting

Apricot-Peach Thumbprint Cookies

Buttery & light these apricot-peach thumbprint cookies are! Perfect for a sweet treat this spring, and easy to make, easier to eat!

What to get...

  • 2 cups all purpose flour, sifted
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup baker's sugar (super fine)
  • 1 cup butter (2 sticks, softened to room temp)
  • 1/2 tsp Rodelle vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp Rodelle almond extract
  • Apricot-Peach preserves (or a fruit variety of your choice)

What to do...

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Sift together flour & salt.
  3. In bowl of electric mixer, cream together softened butter & sugar on medium speed until ‘fluffy.'
  4. Add vanilla & almond extracts & combine.
  5. To bowl of mixer, gradually add-in the flour mix (1/2 cup at a time), until well combined (dough will be slightly crumbly in texture).
  6. Chill prepared dough in refrigerator for ~1/2 hour.
  7. Roll chilled dough into ~1.5 inches balls, and place about 2 inches apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet.
  8. Depress thumb gently into center of each dough ball, creating a depression in middle of each cookie.
  9. With a small spoon, place a generous amount of the preserves into each depression.
  10. Bake for 20-25 mins in oven, until cookie edges are firm (these don't brown much at all).
  11. Transfer cookies from pan to cooling rack & cool completely to allow cookies to firm and center of jam to set.

Notes

These are buttery and practically melt in your mouth! The apricot-peach preserves add just the right sweetness, and these store well in an airtight container. They are a favorite.

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These turned out better than I hoped, and they have a perfectly delicate texture—light, buttery, and just sweet enough.  If apricot, peach or their combination isn’t your jam, then raspberry or strawberry preserves would work nicely too. Peaches happens to be my favorite, and luckily this jar was not overly sweet. These little guys require quite a bit of butter, but hey, what reputable cookie wouldn’t?! The vanilla & almond extracts (from Rodelle) balance out the fruit flavor. I had to to give some away, before I ate them all.  They go fast, so you may want to double-up on the dough.

Spring is bright and fun, and these are too. Hoping you’ll enjoy the new season & a new batch of cookies. 

thumbprint cookies - 54 - Version 2

thumbprint cookies - 42

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Luck of the Irish

As luck would have it, today is Saint Patrick’s Day! Though I live in the US—to honor my Irish roots—I always look forward to a small salute to the Emerald Isle! Years past, I’ve opened the Guinness and made decadent Guinness Brownies, hearty Guinness Beef Stew, and when the Guinness was no longer, a nice twist on Irish Coffee, to round-out the occasion. This year, I wanted to create something different, yet still paying homage to Saint Paddy’s. With some leftover mashed potatoes and a dream, I decided this time to create a version of traditional Irish Boxty, potato pancake—potayto, potahto.

Boxty. Well, that sounds . . . cardboard-like, but it is actually quite the opposite! This dish is really just a traditional Irish cake of potatoes, and literally tranlates to “poor-house bread.” It is usually made with leftover mashed potatoes, flour and milk. Easy to make, easier to eat, and served in a variety of ways! Really, I look at it as the Irish man’s tortilla, flat bread, pancake, you name it. I decided to take a little Southern spin on the cake of potato goodness, and opt for a thicker, savory ‘pancake’ using buttermilk, onion, garlic and mashed & grated taters. Result? A tasty Saint Patrick’s Day inspired treat the whole family will like. We’ll serve them up pot-of-golden brown (couldn’t resist), topped with sour cream & scallions, and . . . dinnervine boxty history has finally been made!

Boxty (Irish potato pancakes)

51

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 30 minutes

Yield: 5 medium cakes

Boxty (Irish potato pancakes)

Irish style pancakes, or boxty, are a delicious alternative to the average pancake! Golden brown, savory and simple! Serve up anytime of day with some sour cream and green onion.

What to get...

  • 1 cup mashed potatoes (russet, leftover)
  • 1.5 cups shredded potatoes (as for hash browns)
  • 1 T grated white onion
  • 1 clove garlic, grated or minced
  • 1/2 cup butter milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt (add more if your mashed potatoes aren't already salted)
  • 1/4 tsp coarsely ground black pepper (more to taste)
  • Sour cream, for topping
  • Sliced green onion (green part only), for topping

What to do...

  1. (If you don't have leftover mashed potatoes, make by: Peeling 2 medium russets & dicing, boiling in salted water until very soft, draining & cooling, then mashing by hand with 1/4 cup buttermilk and salt & pepper).
  2. Grate 1.5 cups of peeled russet potato using a boxed grater (or you can buy a bag of pre-shredded potatoes) and squeeze out any residual moisture by wringing shredded potatoes wrapped in cheesecloth.
  3. In a large flat skillet, cook a few pieces of bacon (for the grease) and set bacon aside for another use, reserving grease in pan.
  4. In a mixing bowl, combine mashed potatoes (room temp or cooled), grated potato, salt, pepper, flour, and baking powder, then adding buttermilk until mix is wet (will be lumpy) like a batter.
  5. Return skillet with bacon grease to stove to preheat, and add ~1/4 cup of batter for each pancake, (slightly spreading with spatula, to form a thin circle), cook a few at a time, depending on skillet size.
  6. Cook cakes on each side ~4 mins, until each side is golden brown & cake is cooked through.
  7. If making multiple batches, place finished cakes to warm on a baking sheet into a 250 degree oven, until all are done.
  8. Serve cakes warm with side of sour cream & chopped green onion on top!

Notes

This is a great recipe for using leftover mashed potatoes! You can use other varieties of potato, but I prefer regular russet baking potatoes. If I do not have leftover mashed taters, I make a simpler version for this recipe, omitting butter and just using some of the buttermilk and S&P. These can be made ahead. You can buy pre-shredded potatoes as well, which speeds this up. Make cakes larger as desired, but the cooking time will increase, I prefer them smaller for more crispy surface area.

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happy saint patricks day
Well that was easy!

These golden griddle cakes are perfect for soaking up all of the pints of gat that might be flowing later tonight! You can make the mashed potatoes ahead of time, if you don’t have leftover sitting around. They are delicious topped with butter, or stuff them with eggs and sausage, cheese, you name it! I like them just as they are, with a little sour cream and green onion. I’m looking forward to tonight’s batch with a wee bit of Guinness myself! It’s the day we can raise a pint and say Sláinte in honor the Feast of Saint PatrickIn the Irish spirit of blessings and witticisms, I leave you with this for a great dinner & great night ahead - 

 

May your blessings outnumber

The shamrocks that grow,

And may trouble avoid you

Wherever you go.

 

Irish Boxty - 54

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