Falafel (super, super scrumptious and maybe healthy?)

May 24, 2015 § Leave a comment

I’d been wanting to try to make my own falafel for a while now. Always taking an opportunity as it arises to try a new recipe, I thought a picnic with a vegetarian friend was just that opportunity to go ahead and finally take the plunge. 

These falafel remind me of those from a local Raleigh restaurant, Neomonde, that makes the best that I’ve tried. They have a bright green interior, crunchy on the outside nice and delicate and creamy on the inside with the perfect blend of fresh and dried herbs and spices. 

I made these pretty much following this recipe from The View from Great Island. I didn’t want to deep fry, so I made them into thick discs and pan fried them. Using dried chickpeas (soaked overnight) is key to the texture. See the original post for notes if you want to try canned ones. 

The stuff

3 cups chickpeas that have been soaked overnight (measure after soaking)–start with 1 1/2 – 2 cups dried chickpeas

1/2 medium red onion

2 cloves of garlic

1 Serrano chili

a large handful of parsley, ~1 cup

a large handful of cilantro, ~1 cup

zest of 1 lemon

1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

1 Tbsp ground coriander

1 Tbsp ground cumin

1/2 tsp garam masala or cinnamon

1 1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp baking soda

2 Tbsp flour

~3 Tbsp vegetable oil for frying, more or less depending on how you want to cook them
The plan

  1. Rinse then soak the chickpeas overnight or at least 12 hours in lots of water. Drain well then spread out on a paper towel lined baking sheet to remove any excess water. 
  2. Quarter the half onion and chop in a food processor. Add garlic and the chili, followed by the parsley and cilantro. Process until finely minced, scraping the bowl down as needed. 
  3. Add the zest, lemon juice, coriander, cumin, garam masala/cinnamon, salt and chickpeas. Pulse in second long bursts until the mixture is even and finely ground. It shouldn’t get to a paste, because then it’s pretty much hummus. It is ready when a bit of the mixture holds together when you press it between your fingers.
  4. Add the baking soda and flour and either pulse 1-2 more times or gently mix it in a bowl. 
  5. Form the mixture into discs from about 2 Tbsp of the mixture. I put them in the fridge for a couple hours to help them firm up prior to cooking. These were fairly delicate but did hold together. 
  6. Heat oil in a skillet. Work in batches so you don’t crowd your pan. Fry the falafel for about 6-7 minutes, until they are a nice deep brown on both sides, flipping gently after a few minutes. 
  7. Drain on a paper towel or cool them on a rack. 
  8. Serve with a tahini sauce (1/2 cup tahini, juice of half a lemon, pinch of salt, and enough water to thin it out–several Tbsp), greens or other items of your liking. 
  9. Enjoy! This should make about 24 small falafel.

Lemon Berry Bundt Cake

February 26, 2015 § 3 Comments

I was looking for a cake to make to celebrate February birthdays at work. One request was for something heavier with fruit. My go to was then some kind of fruit tart, but given that Winter isn’t the best time of year for fresh fruit I thought this maybe wasn’t the best idea. 

I stumbled along this recipe from Like Mother Like Daughter and had been wanting to delve back into the world of Bundt cakes for quite some time. I thought this was a perfect opportunity. So I went out and picked up the NordicWare cake pan I had been pining over and made a “practice” version for me and Nick. This, of course, was a mistake because we gobbled it up too quickly and easily. So delicious and really quite straightforward to make. The “real” one made a week later for work was another hit. The cake is bright with lemon flavor has enough fruit and so moist. The caramelized edges take it to the next level. 

The stuff

2 sticks butter (softened to room temp)

2 cups sugar

3 eggs

3 Tbs lemon juice (divided)

zest of 1 lemon

2 1/4 cups all purpose flour plus 3 Tbs

½ tsp baking soda

½ tsp salt

1 tsp of cinnamon (optional and to taste–I think it added a touch of something really nice and warm)

6 oz. plain or lemon Greek yogurt (fat free works)

2 – 2 1/2 cups frozen triple berries (blackberries, raspberries, blueberries – do not thaw) 

1 cup powdered sugar

1 to 2 Tbs milk (as needed for glaze, I preferred when I didn’t use it)

The plan

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. 
  2. Grease/butter and flour a 10 inch bundt cake pan really thoroughly. 
  3. In a medium bowl, sift the 2¼ cup flour, baking soda, salt. Combine with the lemon zest. 
  4. In another medium bowl, cream together the softened butter and 2 cups of sugar until fluffy. 
  5. To the butter and sugar mixture beat in 1 egg at a time. 
  6. Stir in 1 TBS of lemon juice to the butter/sugar/egg mixture. 
  7. Alternate adding the flour with the yogurt to the creamed mixture, stirring to combine in between each addition (don’t over stir). 
  8. Toss the berries in the 3 Tbs of flour to coat. 
  9. Gently stir the berries into the cake batter throughout (my batter was very, very thick). 
  10. Pour the cake batter into bundt cake pan and evenly spread throughout the pan. 
  11. Reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees, put the cake in and bake for 55 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. 
  12. Cool in the pan about 20 minutes on a cooling rack. 
  13. After 20 minutes remove cake from the pan (this may take running a butter knife around the edges) and let cool completely on the rack. 
  14. To make lemon glaze, in a small bowl pour your powdered sugar, add 2 TBS lemon juice and stir – as needed add milk to thin the glaze. I don’t think it should be necessary though. 
  15. Once cake is completely cooled drizzle glaze over the top of it and let the glaze run down the sides. 
  16. Eat it up and enjoy! Cake stays extremely moist for several days (if it lasts that long though, I’ll be surprised). 

Smashed chickpea and almond sandwich

January 4, 2015 § Leave a comment

I got an awesome cookbook for Christmas called Thug Kitchen (thanks Evan!).  I can’t recommend this cookbook enough – it makes vegan food tasty and awesome.  I made a sandwich from the cookbook earlier this week, with a few of my own alterations of course, and it was fab!

Mmm, smoky...

Mmm, smoky…

This makes about 3 cups of filling, which I managed to turn into about 4 sandwiches.

The stuff

  •  a can of chickpeas
  • half an avocado
  • couple Tbsp of minced onion
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice or vinegar – I used lemon juice but will try rice vinegar next time so it’s not so in my face acidic
  • 1 rib celery, tiny dice (I think grated carrots would also be good)
  • couple Tbps basil or cilantro
  • small squirt of Sriracha
  • a handful of smoked almonds.  These are essential and SO good.  *Top tip: if you don’t plan on eating all of this in one go, don’t add the almonds to the mix, they’ll get soft.  Just add them to the mix when you’re actually going to eat it so they stay crunchy.
  • salt and pepper
  • Good hearty/sturdy bread


Mash all of the ingredients, except the almonds, together. Stir in the almonds when you’re ready to eat.  Spread mixture on bread (I lightly spread mine with mustard) and EAT!  It would also be really good on a bed of lettuce as a salad.

Christmas cake – the UK way

December 29, 2014 § Leave a comment

The fruit cake gets a bad rap in the US, but it’s prized across the pond – it’s the traditional wedding cake mix (it’s what Kate and Wills ate!), and is also used for Christmas cakes.  As an homage to my Irish side and my mother’s childhood, I made her a Christmas cake this year.  As the Brits would say, what a palava!  But it came out OK in the end:

christmas cake

There are as many recipes for Christmas cake as there are tiny currants jammed in there (some recipes called for almost 2 pounds of currants!).  This is an amalgamation of many I read online as I researched, and my mom LOVED it.  I tried it, and it’s not half bad! 🙂

*Top tip: this cake needs to mature.  So make the cake in November, around Thanksgiving (seriously.  Some people start theirs in October).  Then put the marzipan and icing on closer to the big day.

The stuff

  • 2 pounds (yes, pounds) of dried fruit.  (I used a mix of about half currants, and then threw in chopped dried figs, glace cherries, dried cranberries, dried blueberries, candied orange peel…  the dried fruits section of Trader Joe’s was my friend.  *Update Dec. 2016: now I buy one 10-oz box of currants, then use 1-2 of the 8 oz bags of Trader Joe’s ‘Golden Berry Blend’ [raisins, dried cherries, cranberries and blueberries], then round out with dried cranberries or cherries and candied orange, all from TJ’s)
  • zest and juice of a lemon
  • zest and juice of an orange
  • 150 mL of brandy
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 200 grams light brown sugar
  • 175 grams all-purpose flour
  • 100 grams almond flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1.5 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp all spice
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp cloves
  • 1/4 tsp coriander
  • 1/4 tsp dried ginger
  • 100 grams chopped or flaked almonds
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla


  1. Put the dried fruit, zests and juices, brandy, butter and brown sugar in a pan over a medium heat. Bring to the boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Dump the fruit mixture into a large bowl and leave to cool for 30 minutes.
  2. Turn the oven to 300 degrees F. Line a deep 8 inch cake pan with a double layer of baking parchment, then wrap a double layer of newspaper around the outside – tie with string to secure.  (I used a cake pan with a removable bottom; a springform would also work well.  All this nonsense with the paper prevents the cake from burning because it is about to spend a LONG time in the oven.)
    • Update Dec. 2016: I have made this in other size pans well – this very same recipe will also make two 6-inch round cakes, or 1 loaf cake and one 6-inch round.
    • Update Dec. 2018: this same recipe will make one 6-inch round and 3 mini-loaves (6″x3.5″x2″)
  3. Add the remaining ingredients to the fruit mixture and stir well, making sure there are no pockets of flour. Pour into your prepared tin, level the top with a spatula and bake in the center of the oven for at least 2 hrs.  (Mine took almost 3 hours to be done for the 8-inch cake).
    • Update Dec. 2016: Bake times for other size tins – a 6-inch round it takes ~80-85 minutes; for the loaf it took ~70 minutes.  I simply baked until toothpick came out clean/with a few crumbs attached.
    • Update Dec. 2018: bake mini loaves for 50-55 minutes
      FullSizeRender (1)
  4. Remove the cake from the oven, poke holes in it with a skewer and spoon over 2 tbsp of brandy. Leave the cake to cool completely in the cake pan.
  5. To store, peel off the baking parchment, then wrap well in saran wrap. Feed the cake with 1-2 tbsp alcohol every 2 weeks, until you get ready to ice it. Don’t feed the cake for the final week to give the surface a chance to dry before icing.


  • apricot jam, or fig jam, or whatever jam – you use so little you don’t need to go buy apricot jam just or this (it’s used as glue)
  • 500 grams (~18 oz) of marzipan or almond paste (marzipan = almond paste + loads of powdered sugar.  I used marzipan, but after my mom tasted the cake, she said she remembered almond paste as a child, not marzipan. So since then I’ve used almond paste).
    • Dec. 2016 update: if decorating a 6-inch cake, 7 oz of almond paste is enough if you roll really thin (Odense sells a 7 oz roll; obviously 8 oz would work too!)
  • For the icing:
    •  3 egg whites
    • 500 g powdered sugar
    • 1 tbsp lemon juice
    • 1 tsp glycerine*
      • * Added after icing was too hard the first year
      • Dec. 2016 update: This amount is for an 8-inch round cake, but it will also cover two 6-inch cakes. I have scoured the internet to find a recipe for less icing if you are only icing one 6-inch cake, but to no avail.  So I just make the same recipe and throw the leftover away.
      • Dec. 2018 update: I decided to scale down the recipe to ice one 6-inch cake.  It worked just fine.  I used: 2 egg whites, 330 g powdered sugar, 2 tsp. lemon juice, 2/3 tsp glycerine.
  1. Do this the week before Christmas, leaving a few days between putting on the marzipan layer and the icing, and the marzipan has to completely dry before the cake can be iced.
    • Dec. 2016 update – I have let the marzipan dry for only a couple hours, and it’s just fine.  This allows me to finish the cake the day before I intend to box it up – e.g., put almond paste on around noon, ice the cake that evening, box up next day.
  2. Almond paste: roll out the almond paste to ~ half a cm thick.  Cut out a circle the same size as the top of the cake.  Then roll out a rectangle (or a couple if one is too unwieldy) as tall as your cake, and as long as the circumference of your cake (do some math: circumference of a circle = pi*diameter).
  3. Brush the cake all over with warmed jam – it will glue the almond paste to your cake.  Then set the circle on the top of the cake, and wrap around the sides with the long rectangle(s).  Pinch the top and sides together to seal in the cake.  Set aside for a few days to let the almond paste dry out.
  4. Icing: whip together the egg whites, powdered sugar, lemon juice and glycerine (if using) on low speed until glossy and smooth – this takes only a few minutes.  Spread all over the cake!  Let dry for at least overnight before moving.


8-inch cake above












6-inch cake above

Kale salad with cranberry vinaigrette

December 29, 2014 § Leave a comment

Over the course of the month that I spent more time in a plane than in a car due to travels both to see family and flying all over the country for work, I was happy to frivolously spend money on the cooking magazines that I don’t subscribe to (Fine Cooking in this case). Since they don’t really feed you on the plane any more, I just like to look at pretty pictures of delicious meals in hopes that that’ll be satisfying enough. As a bonus, I also discover new dishes to make.

This is one of those that I waited months for the perfect group to test it out, and man was it a huge success. I like a good kale salad, but I had never made one before. I know that kale and kale salads have been the trendy thing for a while now, but I couldn’t resist. This recipe with bright flavorful kale and a cranberry vinaigrette (and who knew writing a food blog would teach me how to spell vinaigrette!) seemed like a perfect and colorful addition to the holiday table.

We all decided that this dressing was really a star on its own and could work with so many different things. I’ll definitely be making this recipe again and again and playing around with different additions and substitutions here and there. I dressed the kale about an hour before we ate; the kale was perfectly tender. The orange provided a nice counter point to the cranberry, and the fresh ginger provided a really nice brightness to the overall dish.

I didn’t have access to a food processor and so chopped the fresh cranberries into small bits, but they were just loosely minced. I’m not convinced that the salad needs the fresh cranberries. Dried cranberries would be too sweet, however, and the dressing doesn’t need any more sweetness. Perhaps mincing frozen ones when fresh can’t be found any more would work, and since you only need a half a cup you can just take a small portion of the frozen ones at a time. That’ll be my next test for sure.


The Stuff

5oz of mature curly kale leaves, trimmed and coarsely chopped

1/2 cup fresh cranberries, rinsed and minced

2 tbs red wine vinegar

1 tbs cranberry juice

1 tbs honey

4 tbs olive oil

1 – 2 tsp freshly grated ginger (add ginger to taste, I liked it closer to 1)

salt and pepper to taste

1 medium navel orange in 1/4-1/2 inch pieces (cut the top and bottom off of the orange, stand it on it’s end and with a paring knife cut off the peal and pith in strips, cut out the orange segments)

The Dressing

1. Whisk the vinegar, cranberry juice and honey in a large bowl. Slowly whisk in the olive oil. Whisk in the ginger and minced cranberries. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

2. Toss the kale in the dressing, season with salt and pepper.

3. Let sit for at least 15 minutes but up to an hour and a half. Toss in the orange pieces and eat it up!

A Holiday treat: Herb-crusted Beef Tenderloin

December 29, 2014 § Leave a comment

My mom has always wanted to make a crown roast and so for our post-Christmas family get together we decided we wanted to make a special dish. After quickly figuring out that a crown roast was just typically pork or lamb and that the beef version is a standing rib roast, we decided to shift our plans. We had a good bit of pork already over the holidays and the standing rib roast just didn’t seem to have the appeal of the full crown.

After a quick look around, we quickly settled on this Cook’s Country recipe (slightly adapted) for an herb-crusted beef tenderloin from a local DE butcher. As a bonus, It immediately made me think of team member B, as a trip back to Minneapolis from a family visit to WI could often be accompanied by beef tenderloin since it tends to be cheaper across that border. I, on the other hand, had never cooked this fairly pricey cut of meat and was a little nervous. However this recipe is super easy, no stress, and so tasty. The crisp herb crust with the parmesan was a nice counter to the perfectly tender beef and just added the perfect level of flavor. It really is a great, yet easy, dish for a special meal.


The stuff

1 whole beef tenderloin (4-6 lbs, trimmed, tied–tail under the roast–and patted dry)

1 tbsp salt

1 tbsp freshly ground pepper

2 tsp sugar

1/2 cup panko

2 tsp and 2 tbsp chopped fresh thyme leaves

1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves

1 1/4 cups Grated Parmesan cheese (divided into 1/2 cup and 3/4 cup)

6 tbsp of olive oil (divided into 2 and 4 tbsp)

4 garlic cloves minced (optional if you’re cooking for people who can’t do garlic)

The steps

Make sure to give yourself enough time. The meat needs to sit at room temp for 2 hours prior to going into the oven, cook for ~40-50 minutes), then rest for 20-30 minutes. 

1. Make sure the tenderloin in prepped. The tail tucked under and tied and the roast patted dry.

2. Combine the 1 tbsp of salt, 1 tbsp of pepper and 2 tbsp of sugar in a small bowl. Rub this mixture all over the tenderloin.

3. Transfer tenderloin to a wire rack set over a baking sheet and let stand at room temperature for 2 hours.

4. While the meat is resting make the 2 rubs. In a small bowl toss the bread crumbs with 2 tsp thyme, 2 tbsp parsley, 1/2 cup parmesan and 2 tbsp oil until thoroughly combined.

5. In a separate bowl mix the remaining 2 tbsp thyme, 6 tbsp parsley, 3/4 cup parmesan, garlic and 4 tbsp of oil until it’s a nice smooth paste (this can be done in a food processor if desired).

6. Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and pre-heat to 400 degrees.

7. Roast tenderloin for 20 minutes, remove from the oven. Cut and remove the twine from the roast.

8. Coat tenderloin with the herb paste all over the top and a little on the sides, followed by the bread crumb mixture.

9. Roast until the thickest part registers to 130 degrees (for medium rare) and the topping is golden brown (20-30 minutes). Tent loosely if topping gets too brown before the meat is ready.

10. Make sure to let the roast rest, uncovered on the wire rack for 20-30 minutes.

11. Transfer to cutting board, slice and impress your dinner guests!

Brasa Pork Shoulder (a MN favorite, part 2)

December 14, 2014 § Leave a comment

I love a good roast or braised meet of any kind. So Brasa in the Twin Cities is always on the top of my list. I would never have guessed that they would allow their secret recipe out of the bag!

Thanks to FreshTart they have (see recipe here)! I pretty much used this recipe exactly.

This rub and marinade is SO delicious, and the crispy skin was amazing. I must, however, give the caveat that it’s not quite as good as the real thing (unlike my replication of the Lemon Ricotta Pancakes from Hell’s Kitchen…). The mojo sauce is good as a light drizzle when serving but has nowhere near the brightness or flavor of what’s served with it at Brasa. That’ll be another project.


We could only find huge hunks of meat and so made almost double of the original recipe. Leftovers would be great turned into any number of things but we used some of them for our slow-cooker bean soup.

The stuff
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup minced onion
2-4 large garlic cloves, minced
1 cup fresh lemon juice
1 cup fresh orange juice
2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
2 tablespoons garlic powder
2 tablespoons onion powder
2 tablespoons freshly ground pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

One 5-pound, bone-in Boston butt (pork shoulder, butt end)

The Details
1. In a small saucepan, cook the onion in the olive oil over medium heat until softened, about 5 minutes.

2. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes.

3. Add the lemon and orange juices and simmer for 2 minutes.

4. Stir in the vinegar. Transfer half of the mojo to a blender and let cool. Refrigerate the remaining mojo.

5. Meanwhile, in a jar or ziploc bag, shake together the garlic and onion powders, ground pepper, and cumin.

6. Add 2 tablespoons of the dry rub to the mojo in the blender (reserve remaining rub). Add Worcestershire and 1 tablespoon of salt to the blender and puree mojo until smooth.

7. Put the pork in a resealable 1-gallon plastic bag and pour in the marinade. Press as much air as you can from the bag and seal. Refrigerate pork for at least 8 hours or up to 24 hours, turning occasionally. Bring the pork to room temperature before roasting.

8. Preheat oven to 350°F and set a rack in a roasting pan large enough to hold the pork. Remove the pork from the marinade and pat dry with paper towels.

9. Rub the meat all over with the remaining dry rub and transfer pork to the rack. Roast pork for 3 hours, or until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the meat registers 150°F.

10. Reduce the oven temperature to 275°F and roast the meat for approximately 3 hours longer, until very tender and an instant-read thermometer reads 180°F. Remove the roast from the oven and cover with foil; let rest for 30 minutes.

11. Shred the meat, discarding the bones and excess fat. Season pork with salt and pepper and serve with the remaining mojo. Or figure out some other delicious sauce and eat it up!