Saturday, October 27, 2012

The Heart of the Home

We all know that the kitchen is the heart of the home. The cozy warmth of a boiling kettle on a cold morning; the laughter of friends joking around with one another as a meal comes together; the anticipation of sweet comfort as a cake bakes and my favorite: sitting down to dinner with Thom after a long day.

I, like many of us, have fantasied about my dream kitchen for years. I have a folder of magazine clippings and a board full of pins featuring bright and airy country inspired kitchens.  When we found our house I knew I was still years away from that dream kitchen. Recently renovated this kitchen has updated appliances, cabinets and flooring. It doesn't need anything. But it's not my dream. Instead of bright white and shades of calming blue we have muted shades of brown and beige. Where I envision country touches we have contemporary flourishes.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Setting Sail ~ A Lengthy Post About Love in Boston

The last several weeks have been a crazy hot mess a period of intense reflection for me as we prepare to leave our beloved North End apartment and move into a home on the South Shore. Between all of the legal and financial issues with buying a home (hello new bills!), the home improvement projects (yes, there is paint in my hair), and the exhaustion of actually packing up and moving (excuse me while I sit in the corner and cry) there is also the excitement of a new place (with a yard! and a garage! and laundry... actually INSIDE the same building!) as well as the nostalgia of the time spent in the old place.

The steeple of Old North Church seen from the harbor
For those of you who aren't local to Boston the North End is the oldest neighborhood in the city. It was once home to Cotton Mather (famous for his role in the Salem Witch Trials) and Paul Revere. We live down the street from Christ Church, commonly referred to as Old North Church and which schoolchildren know as the "one if by land, two if by sea" church. I love this neighborhood. But there are no yards here, which Thom desperately wants, and anyway we can't afford to buy property in the heart of downtown Boston.

August is always a big month for me so it makes sense that we've moving into our first home now. My birthday is in August; I moved to Italy the August after I graduated from college; Thom's birthday is also in August and so is our anniversary. In fact, our anniversary is today - August 15th.

As Shakespeare wrote, "the course of true love never did run smooth;" and although we have certainly weathered our share of stormy seas Thom and I are at our best near the water. We live three blocks from the city waterfront and have some of our best talks while walking along the harbor. Our vacations together are always to some coastal locale and we were married in a beautiful location north of Boston with a view of the ocean two years ago today.

Photo by M. Lovett; reprinted with permission
Recently I was invited to join the Boston Bloggers group on an Odyssey cruise*. You might think I jumped at the chance because hello - it's the Odyssey! - but it meant so much more to me than that.

Two years prior to the happy photo above I moved out of Massachusetts. At the time I thought I would never return to Boston except as a visitor. Just before leaving Thom took me on a Spirit of Boston Sunset Cruise for my birthday. We didn't know what would happen to our relationship with me moving away (but we both suspected this was the end) so we went all out. Champagne, dancing, enjoying the view from the ship and basking in memories of our time spent together in Boston. And now here was an opportunity to take another cruise as we left Boston once more - this time together.

The cruise exceeded my expectations in every way. I met some wonderful food bloggers including Leah (she was a winner at the Bacon Takedown!) and her husband from the Boston Family Foodie, sisters Brittany and Alicia from Tapped in Boston, and Cristin and her husband Merrick from The Four Seasonings. And really, when you get a bunch of people together who share a common love of their city and food you're bound to have a good time.

Thom and I briefly debated about whether or not to get the Odyssey highball glasses to take home but decided with the impending move to keep things simple. It sounds kind of cheesy, but four years earlier our sunset cruise came with souvenir glasses. Thom kept those glasses for all the time we were apart as a reminder of that night and now I use them as props for food blogging so we thought it would be fun to continue the tradition (next time, right?) Everything comes full circle with us. Down the hatch!
Peach Melba Daiquiri
As much as I love food, service is vastly more important to me when I go out to eat. Some of my favorite places are loved more for the service and atmosphere than for the food. I will never darken the doorstep again of a great restaurant if the service is sub-par. I have worked in the service sector and I know how challenging the average customer is (really, some people should just stay home) so I genuinely appreciate those individuals who go above and beyond to make me feel as welcome as if I were their favorite customer. Our waiter Drew was one such individual. He knew when to be present and when to leave us to enjoy ourselves. He answered our questions and found answers for us when he wasn't sure. If you're about to embark on an Odyssey cruise - ask to sit in Drew's section. Bonus - he knows which wines to pair with the meals.

One of the things Thom and I have in common is our great love of food. The first time he made me dinner he cooked risotto. Since then I know he is feeling full of love whenever he says, "honey? Want me to make you a risotto?" I used to suggest we share things at restaurants so we could try different dishes but I have since learned it is better to just order what you really want (hence the Great Hazelnut Mousse Debate of 2006 - wait - that was in August too! See? Big month). So we both had the Mushroom Braised Short Ribs. I found the food on the Odyssey to be better than what I remember from the Spirit of Boston cruise but somewhat over-seasoned. For someone like Thom, whose blood is part sea salt, it was fine. For me it was a touch on the salty side. Short ribs are ubiquitous in the restaurant world these days for good reason. When done right they are damn tasty. Let's just say I am very happy I didn't have to share my portion of short ribs with my meat and potatoes vacuum of a husband. Mmm... I could go for another plate of them right now.

When not at the table enjoying our new friends Thom and I spent most of our time outside enjoying the view of Boston and the city's historic landmarks such as the Bunker Hill Monument and the USS Constititution, known as Old Ironsides for her ability to withstand canon fire during the War of 1812. Have I mentioned I love this city?

We also spent time reminiscing about our time together living in the heart of Boston and making plans for our little house, fifteen miles to the south. We are older (and look it!) but no less goofy for each other than we were on our first cruise together four years earlier.

Fortunately we came back inside in time for dessert and a spin on the dance floor. I don't think Thom will ever dance again as much as he did on our wedding (which was a special request from me) but he generally obliges for a couple of songs. And really, there was red velvet cake waiting. How can you pass up red velvet cake? C'mon, it was gorgeous - look!

We ended the evening heading home to our little apartment as a light drizzle began to fall. I love Boston and I am sad to leave the city but I have a feeling this won't be the end for us here in downtown. After all, it wasn't the end of our Boston story when I left four years ago. No, I think Thom and I are just getting warmed up.

* I received two complimentary tickets for this event. I was not asked to write a review. All opinions are my own.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Nectarine Clafoutis ~ A Guest Post with Baking and Cooking, A Tale of Two Loves

Today I am really thrilled to have Becky from Baking and Cooking, A Tale of Two Loves guest posting. Becky and I have developed a friendship over the last few months of blogging together in the Love Bloghop and Food Bloggers Network. Becky writes a great blog featuring, as Ted Allen would say, "the food you want to eat." From Lemon Lime Poppy Seed Muffins to an amazing Baked Artichoke Chicken Becky has you covered from breakfast to dinner and today - all the way to dessert with her gorgeous Nectarine Clafoutis!

Hello, I'm Becky from Baking and Cooking, A Tale of two Loves.  Today, I am a guest blogger for Jessica, while she takes time away from her blog. Jessica was a guest blogger for me, when my Dad was ill, so now I am returning the favor  Jessica likes to cook and bake with wonderful dishes, like BLT Pasta, Farmers Market Pizza, Blueberry Lemon Teacake, and Berry Angel Food Baskets. Savory or sweet?  I decided to make a  sweet treat laden with summer fruit, Nectarine Clafoutis  I just can't stop eating all the delicious fresh fruit, available this time of year.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Brodetto di Mare ~ A Guest Post by Healthy Foodie Travels

If you've been reading Oh Cake for a while then you've heard a tale or two from my time spent living in Italy. Today my friend Kiri from Healthy Foodie Travels has a fantastic guest post to share of an Italian shellfish stew called Brodetto di Mare, which literally translates as "little broth of the sea." Isn't that a wonderful image to conjure up? If you enjoy flavorful, healthy food from all cultures around the world then Kiri's blog is the one for you. But I'll let Kiri tell you the rest... 

 Hi! I am Kiri, from Healthy Foodie Travels and I’m thrilled to guest post for Jessica today. She did a wonderful post for me a while back that now has me wanting to visit Boston not only for my beloved Red Sox, but also for its glorious farmer’s market. So let me introduce myself briefly -

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Omi Krauth’s Sugarcake (Zuckerkuchen) ~ A Guest Post by the German Foodie

Today I'm very pleased to welcome Sofie from The German Foodie to Oh Cake. I first met Sofie through Foodbuzz but I really got to know her through the Food Bloggers Network. She has become someone whose work I admire and whose personality I really enjoy. With Thom's Austrian parentage he also reads her blog which is reminiscent of the recipes his mother makes (just say servierttenknödel to watch a man go weak in the knees). I just love anyone who makes things like Strawberry Sour Cream Pie. I am very excited about today's recipe that Sofie is graciously sharing with us: not only does it have sour cream (one of my secret favorite indulgences) but I love Thom's stories about his own "Candy Omi" ~ his grandmother who was so named because she always kept a drawer full of candy for visiting grandchildren. I'll let Sofie tell you about Omi Krauth and her zucherkuchen (sugar cake). And when you're done with this luscious treat be sure to visit Sofie's blog and drool over all the other delicious bites there.

I am an expat German living in Northeast Ohio, and blogging mostly about authentic German food and my own original recipes inspired by German food. Having grown up in the border region with France in a very cosmopolitan city, even for its size, I am also drawn to all sorts of ethnic recipes.
I have been baking ever since I could hold a spoon, and it is my great passion in life. I have somehow always baked. I love to explore and experiment, to create and yes, eat what I have created. I am not just a consummate baker; I like to cook as well, especially seasonally.

Frozen Pumpkin Chocolate Chili Terrine ~ Fire on Ice

As part of the Fire on Ice challenge* this Frozen Pumpkin Chocolate Chili Terrine is the hottest frozen treat you'll ever taste. Although chilies are used in traditional dishes in Asian, Africa and South America I instantly think of Mexico when someone mentions chilies. Classic Mexican cuisine is both deeply spiced and richly nuanced in flavor. Case in point: mole sauce. That luscious dark sauce, slow cooked from recipes handed down over generations is the stuff of which my foodie dreams are made.

A terrine is classically a French country forcemeat or the container in which the forcemeat is made. For this recipe I used a basic loaf pan but you can layer the dessert into any long, narrow mold or baking pan. Line the pan with plastic wrap to ensure you can easily lift out the molded terrine once it is frozen. I had a lot of fun by myself in the kitchen playing these New World flavors (chocolate, pumpkin, chili) off of an Old World method.

Monday, July 30, 2012

BLT Mac and Cheese

If I close my eyes I am eight years old again, curiously watching my mother and grandmother eat a shared BLT on wheat toast. The tomatoes are from Mom's garden; Grammie fried the bacon and toasted the bread while Mom was outside picking them. I was instructed to set the table and to find myself something to eat since I couldn't stomach the thought of a raw tomato. As we sit together around the end of the dining room table I watch, speechless, as they savor the sweet, salty flavors and crunch through crisp lettuce tucked between two slices of caramel colored wheat toast.

Did it really happen that way? Were the tomatoes from Mom's garden? They might have been. She's always grown them (except this year...) and Grammie often did the cooking (even at Mom's house...) and I always dutifully did what I was told... no, wait, scratch that last one. That certainly never rarely happened.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Roasted Summer Vegetables ~ Guest Post for Badger Girl Learns to Cook

I know it's miserably hot in most places right now. Here in Boston we've had some skaachaas (scorchers) as well. We've also had a few insane thunderstorms. And that is the perfect time to take all those gorgeous fresh vegetables you've got in the fridge and slow roast them down into fragrantly soft deliciousness perfect for spreading on a panini. To read more about this lovely layered treat please check out my guest post on Badger Girl Learns to Cook right here.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

1 Minute Flourless Chocolate Cupcake ~ Guest Post by Ditch the Wheat

Please welcome Carol from Ditch the Wheat today! Carol writes a great blog about living a gluten free and low carb lifestyle. From a breakfast of Banana Waffles to a dinner with Rosemary Peppery Pork Tenderloin Carol has delicious recipes that are both healthy and easy to prepare. Over the summer it seems like time flies by even faster than usual so I am very grateful to Carol for making time to share one of her low carb desserts with Oh Cake readers while Thom and I are thick in the midst of buying our first home. The best part? It's ready in one minute! But I'll let Carol tell you all about it...

I would like to thank Jessica for letting me guest post on Oh Cake.  Most of all I am thankful for her starting The Food Bloggers Network.  This is where I “met” Jessica and have come to regard her as one of my blogger friends and mentors.  I love The Food Bloggers Network for the wealth of information that it provides.  I feel my blog, Ditch The Wheat, has benefited from it. 

Monday, July 23, 2012

Fresh Peas with Parmesan & Pancetta

During my first year living in Bologna I shared an apartment with four other women. Three of us remained the entire year while the other two rooms saw a rotation of both American and Italian housemates - and one lovely lady from South America. She stayed with us but very briefly but she left an indelible mark on me when she made fresh peas with pancetta.
I had never tasted fresh peas before that moment. Had never sat and shelled peas into a colander. Had never paired their sweet, starchy flavor with a salty, fatty richness like pancetta. They were the simplest thing in the world - and an utter novelty to me. On a recent trip to a market near a friend's house I was surprised to see a display of locally grown produce that included fresh peas. As I excitedly scooped up a bag I had but one thought in my mind: had Thom already eaten all the pancetta?

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Wine Tasting with the Traveling Vineyard

When my good friend Joanna suggested coming over for a wine tasting party I said, "wine? Why not!" Joanna is a talented and funny woman and I had no doubt this summer evening soiree would be full of creative touches. What I had absolutely no idea of was how much fun we would end up having at a Traveling Vineyard wine tasting party.

For me learning about wine is like learning another language. You struggle to master the basics and once you do there is a brief moment of euphoria where you think, "hey! I just said a sentence in this new language!" And then you realize you have years of study ahead of you to learn how to have a conversation. So the more I learn about grape varietals, terroir, and tasting terminology the more I realize I am at the level of Intro Wine Language 101 and have a vast, unexplored territory of knowledge yet to acquire. Our Traveling Vineyard consultant, Kelleyrobin, was perfect because while she educated us on the wines we were tasting she made it fun and entertaining and didn't "speak" above our heads.

While we went through the five wines with Kelleyrobin we also paired them with different foods Joanna had prepared to see how the wine changed and improved when paired with different flavors:

Caballeria de Luna (Moscato, Viura and Verdejo) ~ paired with fruit kebabs. The citrus notes in the wine complimented the fruit perfectly. To me this wine embodied the spirit of a relaxed summer evening on the patio.

Bright Eyed Bird (Pinot Grigio) ~ I was amazed at how the flavors of this wine changed when sipped with a bite of brie.

Desvia (Rioja) ~ Joanna prepared a spinach and berry salad with pecans and gorgonzola. Although a fuller bodied red this wine matched well to the strong flavors of the salad and the fresh berries in the salad complimented the berry notes in the wine.

A lovely candlelit evening
zin-FAN-del (California) ~ although the name is a little hokey the wine exuded the peppery-fruity notes that Thom really loves. Joanna prepared a creamy chicken & pasta dish to go with this wine. I'm sure if he wasn't being polite being in a room (mostly) full of ladies Thom would have sat back with the bottle on the patio and said, "you guys go on ahead. I'm good right here."

Tanglerose (sweet, dessert style rosé) ~ This was our dessert wine and pair it with desserts we did! All of Joanna's guests brought some kind of dessert and so we had cookies, blueberry crumble pie, apple cream pie and ice cream cake.

As the education portion of the evening drew to a close we congregated around the firepit for conversation and one last treat: S'mores!

If you're local to Greater Boston I definitely suggest booking a tasting with Kelleyrobin*. If you live outside the Boston area the Traveling Vineyard has consultants in 27 other states. Thom and I plan on hosting an autumn party where we'll try some of the heavier reds in the Traveling Vineyard repertoire. I really like that Kelleyrobin will tailor the tastings to suit the host's tastes and preferences and I'm really looking forward to coming up with a pairing menu for the wines!

*To book a tasting please visit Kelleyrobin's website. I received no compensation or product for this review nor was I asked to provide a review. All opinions stated are my own. We just really had a good time!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Farmer's Market Pizza ~ Food Unchained

I'm not a food snob when it comes to chain restaurants. I've had some lovely meals and experiences in chains and some of my best friends from my days "on the line" got their start as cooks in chain restaurants. So when the Foodie Stuntman (the writer behind Crazy Foodie Stunts) proposed a challenge to members of the Food Bloggers Network to recreate a chain restaurant meal at home I decided to tackle one of my favorite chain restaurant dishes: Uno's Farmer's Market Pizza.

The Uno's version is loaded with three cheeses and has a thick crust slick with olive oil. The vegetables are piled high and the flavors are heightened by all of that fat. If you learn one thing in culinary school it's that "fat carries flavor" and is one reason why this pizza is so tasty: it's swimming in fat (about three days worth for me - yipes!) I'm neither a nutritionist nor slim, but I am trying to limit my intake of fats and so for this Food Unchained post I made a reduced fat version of the Farmer's Market Pizza using a homemade crust, fresh vegetables and a limited amount of cheese.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Baking Deli Style Rye Bread with Thom ~ A Guest Post for The German Foodie

Ever since I made the Morel Brioche Thom has been asking to bake bread together. Now, I like fresh bread as much as the next person, but I admit I'm a little intimidated by yeast doughs. When I won The German Foodie's giveaway for the cookbook Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day however, it seemed like the universe, as well as Thom, were telling me to get over my fears and bake.

The German Foodie is a fantastic blog written with intelligence and great cooking savvy. As a German living in Ohio Sofie writes about her favorites from home as well as a few Americanized treats. I am in love with her Peach Sour Cream Pie. Seriously. Go look at it and tell me you're not drooling! While you're there check out Thom's and my adventures in bread baking... with the book that Sofie sent! Click here to get the recipe.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Maple Bacon Chocolate Chip Ice Cream Sandwich Cookies

Yup, you read that correctly: Maple Bacon Chocolate Chip Ice Cream Sandwich Cookies. What's better than a salty-sweet chocolate chip cookie? One with bacon in it of course! And in summer to beat the heat? Slather it with maple ice cream and add cold and creamy to the heady mix of flavors and textures.

Now, I know some of you are cringing and gagging out, "why?!" but really, it's no weirder than chocolate chip pancakes with a side of bacon. Bacon lends itself beautifully to sweet foods and to maple in particular. So don't knock it til you try it and you should definitely try it!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Independence (from the oven) Day

Pinterest would have us believe that July 4th is the day when Americans gather together to clink their perfectly styled red, white and blue layered drinks in mason jars, munch on perky fruit tarts served on vintage china, complemented of course by impeccable patriotic crafts displayed on crisp white linen as it flutters ever so delicately in the breeze.

Over here in my little corner of life, I struggle to make sure the berries don't turn moldy immediately after washing them (seriously, am I the only one this happens to?); I'm leery of blue foods (and don't own any mason jars anyway); and crafts? Ha! I'd have to do the craft from inside the air conditioner to make sure the glue doesn't turn into a tacky mess in the heat. I do love vintage china, but since I live in a two room apartment what I have is in storage. No, I'm basically just looking forward to celebrating with Thom, since the last time he had the 4th off was 2009*.

In real life we make messy

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Spinach & Feta Stuffed Tomatoes for #tomatolove

Did you hear? Did you know? July is #tomatolove month! After missing June's event I'm so happy to be back to co-hosting the Love Bloghop; a monthly bloghop centered around a specific ingredient or theme. With summer in full swing it's no wonder this month's ingredient is tomatoes.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Blueberry Lemon Teacake

When you live in a two room apartment encased in brick there aren't many reasons to have your oven compete with the AC in summer. This blueberry lemon teacake, however, is definitely one of the better reasons to initiate an appliance show-down. The lemon flavor is light, fresh, and bright. The blueberries retain their juiciness; bursting with each push of the fork and staining the dense crumb with purple flecks. It's a perfect cake to serve with a dollop of sweet whipped cream at the end of a summer meal on the patio.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Duck and Apricot Risotto with Mint ~ Final Round Integrale Risotto Gauntlet

Duck and apricot risotto with mint sounds like one of those, "wait, you put what with what?" kind of meals but in this case, it's just so crazy it works!

For the third and final round of the Marx Foods Integrale Risotto Gauntlet* I wanted to pull out all the stops and create a feast of a dish that encompassed the richness of the Integrale along with the fresh flavors of summer. Although duck is often considered a winter food it pairs beautifully with the apricot and mint for a seasonally appropriate offering. The richness is cut with a sweet and tart balsamic glaze and the seasoning is highlighted by a garnish of ricotta salata - a dry, salty form of ricotta cheese.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Zucchini Recipe Round-Up

Summer is upon us and we all know what that means - more zucchini that you can shake a stick at! In the CSA baskets, at the farmer's markets, at the grocery store - zucchini is everywhere. So much so that my friend Becky sent me a text last night saying, "Post some zucchini recipes on your blog, please! They're coming up in my garden and I need some new ideas!"

A few years ago before she moved away to Ohio Becky and I had made a friendly wager about when her boyfriend would propose - which I lost (but they are happily married!) - and therefore had to cook dinner for her and another friend. She chose my zucchini-cabbage-bean fritter as one of the dishes I made. I should have remembered she loved zucchini! So, I did what any self-respecting blogger would do when faced with a request from a friend. I rallied the troops! Here are some favorite zucchini recipes* from Food Bloggers Network members (in no particular order):

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Triple Berry Oatmeal Cookie Pie

What's black and blue and red all over?

My triple berry oatmeal cookie pie, that's what!

If you're looking for a thoroughly tested, tried and true recipe, well - this isn't it! Nope, this is a pie thrown together from ingredients on hand that I knew would taste good together.  Sometimes... baking isn't a science (but only sometimes).

Monday, June 18, 2012

Vietnamese Inspired Spring Rolls with Honey Chili Sauce

I absolutely love fresh spring rolls; you know the ones wrapped in sticky rice paper concealing a treasure trove of sweet fresh vegetables that you dip in a spicy sweet chili sauce? The kind you try to savor and instead end up gobbling and wishing you had a second order? The kind that you never make at home and only order when you're out at restaurants?

Wait? What was that last one?

I meant to say, the kind you can easily recreate at home with a few key ingredients?

Yeah... those. I love those.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

A many layered Cake or Where I've Been Hiding Lately

Hello friends! Hi Mom! How is everyone? Did you miss me? I missed you guys. Things have been... busy... to say the least. Let me 'splain. No, there is too much. Let me sum up. Buttercup is marry Humperdink in little less than...

...wait. Wrong movie. Rewind. Start again.

This Cake has been busy! Busy cooking for friends, busy networking, busy cooking for work, busy making plans for the future, more cooking, meeting more new people, and then... then the Ankle of Fail returned and everything ground to a halt. In the middle of the street. Ouf.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Lavender Mandarin Rice Pudding Brûlée with Almonds ~ Integrale Risotto Challenge

This lavender mandarin rice pudding hits all the high notes for a dessert: creamy, sweet, and yes, even a touch of crunchy. I am thrilled to have passed the first round of the Marx Foods Risotto Gauntlet* and made it into the second round: dessert!

Rice pudding is a quintessential comfort food reminiscent of home and childhood. An important part of my childhood is my Mom's garden, including her stunningly fragrant lavender plants. The combination of mandarin and lavender results in an ethereal fragrance that is complimented by the creamy, custard topped rice and rich almonds.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The Butcher, The Baker, The Blogger ~ Networking 101

The Butcher, Baker, Blogger series is becoming a monthly habit with me. This month, the 3rd month anniversary of the Food Bloggers Network, I'd like to talk a bit about networking. Now, I don't claim to be some sort of networking guru, but I've noticed over the years that many people either don't recognize the value of networking or don't really understand how to do the work inherent in networking.

Yes, networking is work

What does networking mean to you? I believe the best definition of networking is the following: "a process where you develop long term relationships with others for mutual benefit."

Many people think that the introduction is the important part. They show up at a networking event or join a networking group and then think, "OK, someone will come up and talk to me or email me." But that doesn't involve the work part of networking. The introduction is only the first step. The follow-up is what turns the introduction into the long term relationship.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Brown Butter Banana Bread with Chocolate Chips & Toasted Walnuts

Banana bread is one of those foods, like mac & cheese or pizza, that just about everyone enjoys. It's easy to make, easy to freeze, easy to wrap up and give as a gift. In fact, several weeks ago my very dear friend Liz brought over a heavenly banana bread studded with chocolate and peanut butter chips, prompting me to post to Facebook, "a true friend knows your ups and downs and loves you no matter what. A best friend does all that AND brings you banana bread. "

I only like fairly firm bananas for eating raw. Once they start to hit the over-ripe stage I pop 'em in the freezer. The result is a pretty icky looking banana; but it's perfect for banana bread. And remember what Grammie always said, "waste not; want not." In fact, I can't write about banana bread without talking about my grandmother.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Brown Butter Carrot & Walnut Integrale Risotto

Brown rice risotto is not a phrase you hear uttered very often. It is, however, a deliciously nutty alternative to arborio rice with the same toothsome, al dente quality. Paired with earthy sweet carrots, rich walnuts and brown butter this Integrale Risotto makes for a wonderful spring risotto dish, equal parts virtuous and decadent.

Risotto and I have a long history together. I first fell in love with the slow, methodical process of making risotto while living in Italy. I was impressed with the versatility of this humble dish and loved trying different recipes in various cities such risotto ai frutti di mare (seafood risotto) on the coast or the classic saffron infused risotto Milanese in Milan. Risotto for me is a comfort food - albeit the most elegant comfort food out there - and was the first dish Thom ever cooked for me (smart man!). As you know, that love affair continues as well.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Best Grilled Cheese I Ever Ate

I know, I know, that's a big, bold statement to say this is the best grilled cheese I ever ate. But it's true. Oh sure, there might be a grilled cheese somewhere in the future that is better. That is just a little cheesier, a little crispier, a little more savory... but until that day comes to pass I stand by my statement. For this is no ordinary grilled cheese. In fact, Sade could sing a whole new song about this sandwich.

I get together with a small group of girlfriends about every 18 months for a swap party. We all bring our too big or too small clothes or the ones that just don't work for us individually and we swap. My awesome bright red spring coat came from my friend Liz the first year of the swap and my new jeans (tags still on!) came from my friend Ann this year. Everyone brings their bundle, we have wine and nibblies, and we "shop" each other's closets. At the end of the swap all the leftovers go to a local charity.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Mascarpone Meatballs & Farmer's Market Pasta

These mascarpone meatballs are so tender and flavorful they just melt in your mouth. Fragrant with herbs and just a hint of spice they pair beautifully with a variety of sauces for pasta or just sop them up with a crusty loaf of bread for a quick and filling lunch.I love them paired with fresh vegetables and a roasted pepper sauce - my Farmer's Market Pasta.

Like many people I have beautiful memories of my Mom making tomato sauce and meatballs. It was an all day affair that mostly involved shooing me out of the kitchen. This was probably wise since when Mom wasn't looking I would take one of her worn wooden spoons and scoop out a meatball to eat. So hot I would almost burn my tongue, but so worth it for the way they fell apart when bitten into, sauce dripping from the wooden spoon.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Eight Layer Coconut Lemon Cake with Raspberries and Toasted Coconut

This eight layer coconut lemon cake with raspberries and toasted coconut is a birthday cake to end all birthday cakes. A behemoth of a cake that took nearly all day to make but was the birthday present in itself.  My sister-in-law loves coconut cake. Last year for her birthday I made a chocolate cake with orange marmalade filling and a coconut frosting. It wasn't one of my best. This year, I decided to make the biggest, bestest, tastiest, moistest, most coconutty cake possible. Behold! The Eight Layer Coconut Lemon Cake!

Several days before Andrea's birthday I sent her about three emails with various options for coconut cake pairings. I wasn't able to procure passion fruit, which was our combined first choice; I couldn't get coconut-chai out of my head so I made this Chai Almond Cake with Toasted Coconut Buttercream for a dinner at my mother's house the day before Andrea's birthday. Seriously. Baking cakes for days and days. And I'm surprised there's too much buttercream around my middle layer? Oouf. Or should I say oeuf? Heehee... just a little French baking humor.

Right. Back to the cakes. Mmm... cake. Andrea's close second choice was a coconut lemon cake and so this is what happened... 

Monday, May 14, 2012

Country Farmhouse Salad

This Country Farmhouse Salad is a hearty combination of fresh baby spinach, asparagus, and sauteed mushrooms and shallots, topped with a buttery fried egg and garnished with crispy bacon. Perfect for a brunch or as dinner on a warm evening this salad strikes a pleasing balance between healthy greens and a touch of decadence.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Blood Orange and Strawberry Jam

Sweet, fresh, tart, ruby-red blood orange and strawberry jam. Absolute heaven on buttered toast with tea. Home cooks have been making jam for hundreds of years with recipes passed on from grandmother to mother to daughter as a way to preserve the family's home grown fruits throughout the winter. For those of us who grew up in suburbia, with neither fruit trees nor a family canning recipe, homemade jam is something for the trendy or intrepid.

Perhaps you make jam because you care about the food you eat and want to serve minimally processed food to your family. Or, maybe you simply want to be able to eat a gourmet jam that isn't available on your supermarket's shelves. It's possible I simply fall into the "mmm... yummy jam!" category.

Monday, May 7, 2012

The Butcher, The Baker, the Blogger ~ Copyright & You

May marks the second month of the Food Bloggers Network. After our first month together I gushed like a kid with a crush about how much I adore this group of bloggers. Today, however, I'd like to discuss a serious and fundamental topic that touches all food bloggers: copyright. Before we get started let's remember that I am not a lawyer and this is not legal advice. It is, I hope, reasonably well-researched information meant to inform and guide the reader to appropriate resources. When in doubt, consult a real-live-in-the-flesh lawyer who specializes in copyright law.

All food bloggers - whether or not you are well-known, popular, or successful - are bound by the laws of copyright. It applies to anyone who writes in a public forum (be it a Facebook page, a recipe share site, a book, an e-book, or a blog). Copyright infringement has come up twice in the last month to FBN members. But what is copyright? How do you protect your work? How do you prevent yourself from infringing on another person's copyright? Where does copyright end and blogging etiquette begin? It sounds like a lot to research, understand, and follow but in reality it's much easier than redesigning your website (branding, coding, um... yeah... I'll leave that for another day!) and honestly follows a lot of the same guidelines as basic common sense.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Pastalove Bloghop - Meyer Lemon and Ramp Pasta with Arugula

A creamy combination of Meyer lemons and ramps, sprinkled with fresh arugula and tossed in fettucine make for a fresh, yet satisfyingly decadent, pasta dish. While both ramps and Meyer lemons may sound exotic or unusual depending on where you live, they can generally be found along the East coast in the spring at farmer's markets or specialty produce stores.

Zucchini Ripieni ~ a guest post on Ditch the Wheat

Today I am pleased to be guest posting on Ditch The Wheat. I first became acquainted with Carol through the Food Bloggers Network and got to know her blog which, as the name suggests, focuses on gluten-free and low-carb baking and cooking recipes. Carol creates enticing recipes for anyone who likes sweet treats like Cinnamon Bun Cupcakes or flavorful, savory dishes such as Clams in Spicy Coconut Sauce; all with her special low-carb and gluten-free touch.

If you've been reading Oh Cake regularly chances are you don't follow a particular diet (other than deliciousness). But maybe you're curious about gluten-free cooking or you want to invite a friend to dinner who follows a low-carb diet. Cooking for special diets shouldn't be scary - use it to let your imagination run wild. Or in my case, use the opportunity to recreate a favorite dish from your past life in Italy.

To read more about these zucchini ripieni (stuffed zucchini) and the story behind them click on over to Ditch The Wheat.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Grilled Vegetable Burgers with Balsamic Glaze

Who doesn't love getting together with friends around the grill in the summer? Whether you grill burgers and hot dogs, veggies, fish, or fruit, summer tastes a little better when we're at a backyard barbecue. These burgers combine a classic meatloaf blend with ground turkey for a heart-healthy twist on the classic. By adding finely chopped grilled vegetables the flavor profile becomes more nuanced (aka "tastier") while boosting the vitamin and fiber content of each burger.

Confession time, peeps. This Cake needs to lose some of the buttercream around the edges. These grilled vegetable burgers allow me to feed my summertime soul while being kinder to my waistline than the original. It's also a fantastic way to use up leftover grilled vegetables from the night before. I like using red peppers, eggplant, and zucchini but you can use whatever variety of grilled vegetables you like best.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Balsamic Onion Jam

Balsamic onion jam is one of those things that generally makes people cock their head to the side and say, "huh?" Generally that's followed by, "is it sweet? What do you put it on?"

Well, dear reader, it is sweet in the sense that it's loaded with caramelized onion goodness and sweet-tart balsamic vinegar, but it isn't breakfast jam style sweet. I use a combination of onions in my jam to provide a balance of flavors and textures to the finished product.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Morel Brioche with Onion Jam Swirl ~ Morel Recipe Challenge

As part of a recipe development competition for Marx Foods* 4th Annual Morel Recipe Challenge I recently set my mind to work to create a recipe using dried morels. I did what I usually do when I begin brainstorming - I made a list. Then I called some foodie friends and asked which of those ideas they liked best. Overwhelmingly they picked "bread." Now all I had to do was figure out what kind of bread! As I started thinking about the flavors that work wonderfully with morels I kept coming back to how I enjoy mushrooms the most: sauteed in butter with herbs. But of course! A butter bread! A brioche.

If you know me in real life you know I'm not a "bread person." I don't go gaga over bread and I don't even eat it everyday. But once a year, at Christmas, my mother makes brioche and I swoon. Because I am the baby of the family (cough *spoiled* cough) she always makes me a few little extra "baby brioche" to eat on Christmas morning with tea. I shan't tell you how many years this has been going on, but I will say you are never too old to enjoy your mother's love.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Mediterranean Lamb Stuffed Peppers

I am very pleased to be guest posting today at Baking and Cooking, A Tale of Two Loves. I was first introduced to Becky through the lovebloghop we co-host with a number of other talented bloggers and later had the opportunity to get to know Becky better through the Food Bloggers Network. We share an "equal opportunity" love of all things culinary since we both feature both savory and sweet recipes on our blogs. Who wouldn't love a blog filled with yummy treats like Kahlua Cinnamon Brownies? I am honored to be posting on Becky's wonderful site - the hardest part of this guest post was deciding whether to bake or cook!

In the end I let the season be my guide and decided these Mediterranean Lamb Stuffed Peppers were a perfect choice for spring. The red peppers are a light yet savory compliment to the olives and feta that enhance the rich lamb filling. Combined with brown rice and paired with a fresh green salad this is a flavorful and satisfying dinner for spring. Hop on over to Baking and Cooking, A Tale of Two Loves for the complete recipe.


Monday, April 23, 2012

Rêve de Crêpes ~ Coconut Crepes with Kiwi & Strawberries

I vividly remember my first real-live-authentic-made-in-Paris-by-a-professional crêpe. I was twenty-one years old, visiting my best friend Gabriel during her study abroad program in Paris. To prevent jet lag from taking me to a more somnolent state Gaby walked me around the neighborhood where her host family lived. Alongside the beautiful architecture, lovely spring flowers bursting bright and cheerful colors, and of course the chic pedestrians, was a tiny roadside crêperie stand. Gaby helped me to order a savory chicken and guyere lunch crêpe and assured me I was in for a treat.

I was in for a trance.

I don't know if it was the overnight plane travel, the bright spring sunshine, or the joy of a simple repast well-prepared, but I was wrapped in a wafer-thin pancake reverie punctuated by mellow, gooey gruyere. As I stumbled along beside her, Gaby smiled knowingly and confided, "wait til you taste a nutella one!"