Saturday, August 31, 2013

French Yogurt Cake, a bit of news, and a great book recommendation!

Here's the photo, for the story!

You may have noticed that my posts are few and far between these days. This is because lately, I have almost no interest in food. 

This new development is especially odd, because, wait for it, ............................
I'm pregnant!!!!! 

Five months down, four more to go. Wooo Ha!

Based on everything about pregnancy that I've ever seen in the media, or heard from friends and loved ones first-hand, I've always thought that unless a lady loses her appetite due to ongoing morning sickness or major food aversions, pregnancy is the one time in most women's lives when they are the hungriest (or perhaps it's just the first time they're culturally allowed to admit to their hunger? Hmm?). 

But I am not hungry and this is so freakin' weird because I'm always hungry and always have been. I even have a horrible story about being ganged-up on by a bunch of mean girls when I was a budding pre-teen. Their main complaint about me: that I was "always eating". That's a horrible story, which I will spare you, but you catch my drift. I'm an eater!

So despite that fact that my pregnancy has been progressing really well and my little, wait for it.................girl is developing optimally (I want to say perfectly...yes I already think she's PERFECT!!!), I could care less about food for the first time in my life. So what gives? Perhaps some benevolent force in the universe is sparing us from financial ruin due to crazy food cravings, so we can afford our little bundle once she arrives? I just don't know.

During my first trimester I was absolutely exhausted (read: slow-zombie-style dead-to-the-world, ARRARAGAHGGGGH) but I managed, amazingly, to escape morning sickness and food aversions (and brains cravings) entirely. The normal, non-pregnant me is somewhat akin to a competitive eater. I can down an entire 16'-18' pizza, a box of mac n' cheese, an economy size bag of, well, anything, in under 30 minutes with no assistance (although, c'mon folks, that's not really that hard to do, is it?). I guess my "symptom", therefore, can best be described as a general food ambivalence. That being said, I'm still eating, of course, and trying to load-in lots of vitamins and minerals to give my girl a head-start, just not with my usual level of esprit.

But enough about all my food issues, or non issues, let's talk more about esprit (sorry, that's as much energy as I can devote to a segue today). My absolute favorite book about motherhood so far is called Bringing Up Bebe by Pamela Druckerman. It was recommended to me by my friend Amy, new mom and author of the lovely blog Fearless Homemaker. The book is about French parenting secrets as divulged by an American mom living in Paris. It is the answer to all my worries and concerns (so far) about how to find a balance between enrichment and adventure / structure and discipline. 

My mom was pretty authoritative but she was also loads of fun. My husband, and probably all of my friends, would probably describe me similarly (gulp). I'm concerned, therefore, that I learn to give my daughter the freedom to be her own exuberant self, while also teaching her to be highly considerate (read: not a brat). This book has loads of great advice and is also very nonjudgemental, which, let's face it, few things directed at women/mothers ever are. Breath of fresh air, yeah-oh!

I also love Druckerman's book because it gives parents permission to, in the French style, allow their children to be highly self-directed (i.e play by themselves). My hubby and I, up until the ages of around 6 and 8 years old, were both only children. Although we each have a variety of half, step, and in-law siblings now, we still identify mostly with that only child experience. 

We both hit the jack-pots in terms of stimulating, off-the-charts, kick-ass, awesome, engaging moms, but we also remember spending a lot of time alone. Neither of remembers this time as lonely, however. On the contrary, we feel that this self-directed time, during which our moms were dealing with work and household stuff or having grow-up time with friends and family, gave us both the rich inner lives and self-reliance that we still draw strength from today. 

Anyhow, Bringing Up Bebe rocks and I recommend it for all new to newish parents. Today's recipe is a simple cake from the book (one of only two recipes in there). Druckerman says that weekend baking is a family tradition in France and this cake, in which empty yogurt containers are used to measure ingredients, is one of the first ones that little kids there learn. 

The cake really is quite delicious and it's fun to use the yogurt containers instead of measuring cups. I recommend splitting the difference and using 1 1/2 containers of sugar and adding 1/4 teaspoon of salt (fyi, I also subbed 2 cups whole wheat flour in for 2 cups of the AP flour). I also recommend mashing or cutting up the berries. Mine were big and the final result was great but I'd like them smaller next time. The sweetness and richness of this cakes pops the best at room temperature, and indeed, with hot tea it's sublime. 

Here is the recipe, verbatim, from the book. Please note that I used two 8' x 1 1/2' round cake pans. If you have one 9'  cake pan that's deeper than 1 1/2 ' or a loaf pan, that should be totally fine.
gateau au yaourt (Yogurt Cake)  
Recipe from Bringing Up Bebe by Pamela Druckerman
2 six-ounce containers of plain whole-milk yogurt (use the empty containers to measure other ingredients)
2 eggs
2 cups sugar (or just one, depending on how sweet you like it)
1 teaspoon vanilla
Just under 1 container of vegetable oil
4 containers flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
Creme fraiche, enough to dollop (optional)
Preheat the oven to 375 F 
Use vegetable oil to grease a 9-inch round cake or loaf pan. (SEE NOTE ABOVE)

Gently combine the yogurt, eggs, sugar, vanilla, and oil. 

In a separate bowl, mix the flour and baking powder. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients; mix gently until ingredients are just combined (don't overmix).You can add two containers of frozen berries, a container of chocolate chips, or any flavoring you like. 
Bake for 35 minutes, then five minutes more if the cake doesn't pass the knife test. It should be almost crispy on the outside, but springy on the inside. Let it cool. The cake is delicious served with tea and a dollop of crème fraîche.

Postscript: As I wrote this, I consumed quite a bit of gateau au yaourt with tea. Perhaps the gates to my maternal hunger are about to swing wide open after all. Eeeek!  

Post-Postscript: The cute, pink, reusable cake doily thingy is from IKEA!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Check out my course offering at The Brooklyn Kitchen: A Tour of India on 9/25! Spots available!

I am very pleased to announce that my friend Samar, of, and I are teaching a class at The Brooklyn Kitchen on September 25th. The Brooklyn Kitchen is an amazing space in Williamsburg, Brooklyn that sells gourmet kitchenware, specialty food items, and locally made delicacies. It also has a butcher shop AND a beautiful studio space where a wonderful variety of interesting culinary DIY classes, like ours, are offered!!!

Click here to sign up and learn more about The Brooklyn Kitchen!

Here's our course info.....

Tour of India @ The Brooklyn Kitchen / Wednesday, September 25 / 6:30pm - 8:30pm

There is a a huge range of cuisine available in Indian. Each deeply rooted in the rich diversity of local spices and ingredients. These variations seem endless and it is what instructors Rachel and Samar first bonded over when they began cooking together. In this class you will learn how to make dishes in the style of North, South and Gujarati (Western) India. You will work hands on to make savory Idli cakes, Chicken Curry, potato and pea croquettes and much more! Samar will fill you in on all the new ingredients you will be cooking with and Rachel will make sure you've mastered the skills to cook this at home. 

Class Type: Chef's Table: hands-on class including a full meal and drinks
Duration: Approx. 2 hrs.

-South Indian idli and sambhar (with cilantro and coconut chutney)
-North Indian chicken curry with yogurt and dried fenugreek (with basmati rice)
-Gujarati (Western India) style potato croquettes stuffed with peas and coconut over  'ragda', a thick 'dal

Beverage: Beer pairing provided by Great Brewers

Extra Bonus: All class participants receive a 10% discount on cookware at The Brooklyn Kitchen on the day of your class. Use it!

Click here to sign up and learn more about The Brooklyn Kitchen!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Vegetarian Times: Late Summer Minestrone with Butternut Squash, Corn, Zucchini, Great Northern Beans and Mint

My sister-in-law, Lisa, got me a subscription to Vegetarian Times last year and I love it. The recipes are unique and really good. Despite the preponderance of cookies on this blog, we eat mostly veggies at our house, so a it's been an oft and well used gift. Thanks, Lisa!

This is my variation of their recipe for Late Summer Minestrone with leeks, butternut squash, red peppers, corn from the September 2013 issue. I added a little butter and a parmesan rind, so it's no longer vegan, but I wanted a little extra richness. I also added my favorite secret weapon for all soups, stews, and chowders, Rapunzel Pure Organic Vegetable Bouillon with Sea Salt & Herbs. I think both these additions gave the soup more depth than anyone would expect in something I whipped up in under an hour. Someday I'll make my own stock and freeze it up but for now these shortcuts are life-savers.

1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 Tablespoon salted butter
2 1/2 cups sliced leeks
1 1/2 cup chopped celery
1 1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
2 Rapunzel Pure Organic Vegetable Bouillon with Sea Salt & Herbs
4 cloves garlic, minced 
1 tablespoon of roughly chopped fresh sage
½ teaspoon each oregano, thyme, rosemary (crushed) and parsley or Italian seasoning herb mix
2 small bay leafs
3 large tomatoes, coarsely chopped 
2 cups butternut squash, peeled and cubed to a small bite-size
1 cup zucchini and or summer squash, cubed
2 cups green beans, cut into approximately 1-inch pieces
1 15-oz. can beans, rinsed and drained - I used great northern beans
1 cup fresh or frozen corn
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
2–3 Tablespoons fresh mint, roughly chopped - plus more for garnish


 and more veggies......
and sage..... 

Heat the oil and butter in a large soup pot over medium/high heat. Add the leeks, celery, bell pepper, and a hearty pinch of sea salt. Saute for about 8-10 minutes until the veggies are wilted/softened.

Add garlic, sage, herbs, bay leaves and garlic. Stir for about 30 seconds or so, then add the tomatoes with their juice and about 8 cups water (enough to cover everything by about 1/2 inch). Bring to a boil and add the bullion cubes, if using.

Reduce to a simmer and add the butternut squash, zucchini, green beans, white beans, and corn. Add the balsamic vinegar and taste for seasoning, adjusting as needed.  

Add the mint just before serving. I served this along with crusty whole wheat bread that I put a slice of provolone cheese on and set under the broiler for a minute until it got all bubbly. I also served a chopped salad of tomatoes, cucumbers, red pepper, red onions, capers, mint and parsley, which was a delicious and cool side-kick for this hearty, steamy soup. YUM!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Oatmeal Cookies with Dark Chocolate Chips, Walnuts, Hazelnuts and Raisins

Gooey, crispy and chewy, these cookies possess the perfect combination of textures and flavors to satisfy almost all your cookie desires at once. These will definitely be my go to oatmeal cookies from now on. I may try using just 1/4 cup of white sugar next time because I think they'll still be good with a tad less sweetness. If you try that variation, let me know how it works out!

Oatmeal Cookies with Dark Chocolate Chips, Walnuts, Hazelnuts and Raisins
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder 
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup (8 ounces/1 stick) salted butter, softened to room temperature
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup dark chocolate chips
1/2 cup raisins or currants
1/2 cup roughly chopped walnuts
1/2 cup roughly chopped hazelnuts

Preheat your oven to 350 and line your baking sheet with parchment or silt-pat.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt and set aside.

Cream the butter and sugars for about 4 minutes until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and vanilla and beat again until fluffy, about 2 minutes more.

Add the dry to the wet with a spatula or wooden spoon, then stir in the oats, chocolate chips, raisins or currants, and nuts.

I used about 3 tablespoons of dough per cookie and rolled it into balls with wet palms. I baked a few right away but rolled the rest of the dough into cookies and froze the dough balls on a cookie sheet, then transferred them to baggies for later baking. See this method also used with my Less Fussy Jacques Torres-esque Chocolate Chip Cookies and Whole Wheat Cardamom Snickerdoodles.

I didn't flatten these but I did flatten subsequent batches, which I preferred.

To bake, place the shaped dough on the cookie sheet, about 2 inches apart, and flatten slightly as these don't spread much. Bake for about 12-14 minutes until the edges look a little toasty but the centers are still pale and almost under-baked. This will give you a cookie that's gooey, crispy and slightly chewy too!!! 

Cool the cookies on the baking sheets for a minute or two then transfer them to a rack to finish cooling. Eat warm or at room temp with cold milk!!!!!!!!!!!!!