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.
  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.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.
  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.


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!

Lemon Ricotta Pancakes (a MN favorite, part 1)

December 14, 2014 § 1 Comment

So I fell in love with these pancakes years ago and have tried other versions many times since. No one can touch these from Hell’s Kitchen. Thankfully I discovered their actual recipe online and I’ve been both nervous and excited to try to make them myself. “Surely the recipe they’ve released won’t actually replicate the lemony, fluffy, yet perfectly rich pancakes they make in-house,” I thought. And we’re these pancakes really as good as I remembered or did they just get better in my mind over time. A recent return trip to Minneapolis and a Hell’s Kitchen brunch confirmed their utter deliciousness and reinvigorated my desire to try this recipe.

I think this recipe is a go-to for a special breakfast or a holiday treat. We made a trial run for the upcoming Christmas breakfast and struck gold!

These pancakes are just delectable. Moist, a great light texture with a really unique flavor. Rich without any heaviness. No need to use syrup. I just like them with some raspberries but a light dusting of powdered sugar would work too.

Recipe makes about 16-20 pancakes. With 4 per person a good amount.

I really didn’t deviate from the original recipe but I’m rewriting it here in case it ever disappears from their site (see it here: Phoo-d lemon ricotta pancakes)

The Stuff
Again, I should note that the batter should be made at least the night before or up to 3 days before to help firm up the batter and get it to setup.

6 egg whites
9 egg yolks

1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted

1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
~4 Tablespoons freshly grated lemon zest (I used 2 regular lemons, could’ve used 1 more)
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

Unsalted butter, melted (for the skillet)

The Details
1. Pour egg whites into and steel bowl and whisk the whites on high speed until they form stiff peaks. Once peaks are formed, reduce the speed to low.

2. Add egg yolks one at a time to the whites, beating after each addition.

3. Then slowly add 1/3 cup melted butter. Continue to whisk on low speed until the ingredients are well combined.

4. Turn off the mixer and add the sugar, ricotta, lemon zest, lemon juice, and salt. Whisk for 1 minute at medium speed, then reduce the speed to low.

5. Slowly add the flour. Mix to combine the flour for about 1 minute. Stop the mixer and scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl with a spatula to eliminate any remaining dry spots.

6. Mix again at medium speed for about 1 minute until everything is just combined.

7. Place the batter in the fridge for 4 hours or up to 3 days. Lightly stir/fold batter after refrigeration, before cooking.

8. When ready to cook, place a large skillet or griddle over medium high heat. Brush the cooking surface with melted butter and pour the batter into the skillet in 1/4 cup portions. Leave about 2 inches between the batter to allow for spreading.

9. Cook the pancakes until bubbles appear on the surface and the underside is a golden brown, about 5 minutes. (These will take a bit longer to cook than traditional pancakes, so be patient.) Flip the pancakes and cook for another 2-3 minutes until the other side is golden brown.

10. Transfer the pancakes to a warm plate, and repeat until all of the batter is used up.

11. Garnish the hot pancakes with powdered sugar, fresh berries, melted butter, and/or warm syrup. Serve immediately.

Beef chili with homemade chili paste and avocado relish

November 4, 2014 § Leave a comment

So I’ve now entered two chili cook-offs at work and come away with two prizes. Not bad at all! The two chilis were pretty different (see the first here) but I’ve enjoyed both. I’m more likely to make this one now my go-to weekend chili. I adapted the recipe from ATK’s “Our Favorite Chili” (free recipe here).

For me chili is really just meat and beans. But it is about the meat and a depth of chile flavor. This one is loaded with nice chunks of beef and uses dried beans. I’m into using dried beans when the time allows. I prepared the beans while I was getting everything else prepped and ready, so it didn’t add much time and I think texturally and taste-wise it was all the better for it.

Speaking of texture, I hate when chili has a gritty texture from using chili powder! But often if enough powder isn’t used, the chili doesn’t have enough taste. Here, I’ve made my own chili paste using a mix of dried chilis, chipotles in adobo (which I love in chili), cayenne, fresh Serranos and the regular spices (cumin, coriander). The addition of cornmeal thickens up the chili. This step is completely worth the few added minutes it takes.

The stuff
Table salt (you will need to adjust salt at end)
1 pound dried beans rinsed and picked over (I used a 2-bean mix, pinto and navy)
6 dried ancho chiles (or about 2 ounces), stems and seeds removed, and flesh torn into 1-inch pieces (or Dried New Mexican or guajillo chiles)
1/4 – 1/2 tsp cayenne
1-2 tablespoons adobo sauce from chipotle chiles
1 minced chipotle chile (optional and to taste, perhaps use this with seeds instead of cayenne?)
3 – 4 tablespoons cornmeal
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons cocoa powder
3 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 medium onions, cut into 3/4-inch pieces (about 2 cups)
2 stalks celery cut into inch pieces
3 small Serrano chiles (or jalapeño) stems and seeds removed and discarded, and flesh cut into 1/2-inch pieces
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
5 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through garlic press
2 (14.5-ounce) cans diced tomatoes (I use petite diced)
2 teaspoons dark honey or light molasses
3.5 – 4 lbs of lean stew meat (this is now a common thing in our store, original recipe calls for blade steak or chuck roast trimmed of fat and cut into 3/4″ pieces)
1 (12-ounce) bottle American lager (Yuengling was my choice)

The steps
1. Combine 3 tablespoons salt, 4 quarts water and beans in large Dutch oven and bring to boil over high heat. Remove pot from heat, cover and let stand 1 hour. Drain and rinse well.

2. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Place ancho chiles in 12-inch skillet set over medium-high heat; toast, stirring frequently, until flesh is fragrant, 4 to 6 minutes, reducing heat if chiles begin to smoke. Transfer to bowl of food processor and cool. Do not wash out skillet.

3. Add cayenne (if using), adobo and chipotle, cornmeal, oregano, cumin, cocoa and 1 teaspoon salt to food processor with toasted ancho chiles; process until finely ground, about 2 minutes. With processor running, very slowly add 1/2 cup broth until smooth paste forms, about 45 seconds, scraping down sides of bowl as necessary. Transfer paste to small bowl.

4. Place onions and celery in now-empty processor bowl and pulse until roughly chopped, about four 1-second pulses (make sure not to chop too finely!). Add Serranos and pulse until consistency of chunky salsa, about four 1-second pulses, scraping down bowl or doing in two batches if necessary.

5. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion mixture and cook, stirring occasionally, until moisture has evaporated and vegetables are softened, 7 to 9 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add chile paste, tomatoes and honey/molasses; stir until chili paste is thoroughly combined.

6. Add remaining 3 cups broth and drained beans; bring to boil, then reduce heat to simmer.

7. Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon oil in 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Pat beef dry with paper towels and sprinkle with 1-2 teaspoons salt. Add half of beef and cook until browned on all sides, about 10 minutes. Transfer meat to Dutch oven.

8. Add 1/2 bottle lager to skillet, scraping bottom of pan to loosen any browned bits, and bring to simmer. Transfer lager to Dutch oven.

9. Repeat process with remaining tablespoon oil, steak, and lager. Once last addition of lager has been added to Dutch oven, stir to combine and return mixture to simmer.

10. Cover pot and transfer to oven. Cook until meat and beans are fully tender, 2-3 hours. Let chili stand, uncovered, 10 minutes. Stir well and season to taste with salt.

11. Serve with freshly shredded Cheddar or an avocado relish (cubed avocado, chopped cilantro, lime juice, minced red onion, salt and pepper).

12. Win your chili cook-off!