Ginger fig cake recipe

I recently made quite the birthday meal for my husband, making two of our favorite recipes, and trying out two new ones. I made Food & Wine’s Roasted beets with pistachios, herbs, and orange, Smitten Kitchen’s Swiss chard and sweet potato gratin and Mushroom Bourguinon and this Ginger fig cake, adapted from Kitchen Konfidence. I made the recipe healthier and also added figs and we loved it, so here it is for others to love!

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Spaghetti squash, my new favorite squash

At some point I realized that Alamo Drafthouse, the awesomest of movie theaters, included a dish on their menu called “spaghetti squash and pomodoro sauce”.  Since the dish was both vegetarian and featured a new to me squash I had to try it. I think I’ve now eaten it on 3 out of my last 4 Alamo trips because it is delicious. It’s basically squash topped with mushrooms, sauce and parmesan.

Well this week I decided I wanted to make my own spaghetti squash dish, so I did. I got a giant squash at the grocery store that fed two of us for two nights.  I sliced it open and cleaned it out, kind of like a pumpkin. It then had to go into two separate baking dishes – I baked it for about 50 minutes, sliced side down, with a bit of water in the bottom of the pan.

While the squash baked, I assembled my ingredients, sauce, mushrooms, onion, and a red pepper.  If you’ve never tried Newman’s Own “Sockarooni” sauce, I highly recommend it. It has a slight fresh garden and spicy flavor and is just plain good. Newman’s Own also donates their profits to charity so that makes me happy.

I sautéed each vegetable separately in a touch of olive oil, being careful not to over cook them.

After all of that, the squash was about done. I could tell because when I scraped the inside with a fork, the squash easily pulled apart into spaghetti looking strands.

I served a quarter of the squash topped with the mushrooms, onion, red pepper, sauce and cheese.  It was quite delicious. I really like the slightly crunch texture of the squash strands.

Making some random foodstuffs…

This week I tried making some strange food.  Last week I encountered a recipe for Caramelized Peanut Butter Banana Quesadillas posted to the Craftzine blog. Bananas, marshmallows, and Peanut Butter – some of my favorite foods from when I was 12.

We just happened to have some left over tortillas and a looming bike ride so I decided to try this for breakfast.  However, my adult self decided the marshmallows and butter would be too much. I took a single tortilla, covered it in a thin layer of peanut butter, sprinkled on some brown sugar and added a layer of banana slices on half of the tortilla.  I folded it in half and toasted in in a frying pan. It came out quite tasty this way. Next time I won’t bother with the brown sugar, it just made a mess and didn’t add anything.

The second random food I made this week was a blueberry dessert.  We had some blueberries that weren’t all that exciting to eat so I decided to try to make them into a blueberry crumble dessert. I made the mistake of just winging the topping. I used oats, flour, yogurt, and honey. I accidentally poured too much flour in and the mixture got too doughy and didn’t turn out so great. Next time I’ll make more of a dry topping because the blueberries were tasty underneath.

Cooking with Quinoa… a fun grain!

Ever since I came across quinoa, I’ve been interested in recipes that I come across that use it. It’s a very small seed and when you cook it up, it opens up and looks like a little spiral.

Tonight I used this recipe but modified it to my taste of course. I added zucchini, garlic, some left over vegetable broth, more thyme, oregano from the garden, and a special spice mix that I got at the Savory Spice Shop on 6th Street.

The ingredients ready to go – carrots, zucchini, onion, tomato, and garlic:

First, the onions were sauteed in a bit of olive oil and some crushed garlic:

After appropriately cooked, but not overcooked so they would stay crunchy, I added the quinoa and toasted it for a few minutes:

Next, the vegetable broth and water along with herbs (thyme, oregano, pepper, spice mix) were added to the pot. That simmered for a few minutes and then the carrots and zucchini was added:

After the liquid was absorbed, the tomatoes and spinach were mixed in. I had a bit too much spinach and had to take some out. Whoa, so much spinach!

Once the spinach was fully cooked down, I served it with some shredded Parmesan on top.  Not bad for a light summer time meal, but I’m still trying to figure out how to get more flavor in quinoa dishes.

Look at all of those colors – such a healthy dish!

Making garden herb infused olive oil spread

Sometimes we like to make little personal pizzas on top of flatbread for dinner. Instead of pizza sauce, we tend to use olive oil or hummus.

Our garden is somewhat sad this year due to the crazy drought we’ve been having but at least the herbs are doing well.  I picked some thyme, oregano, garlic chives and rosemary from the garden to start with:

I then stripped the thyme, oregano, and rosemary leaves from their stems and sliced up the chives and put them in my mortar:

I proceeded to use the pestle to crush up the herbs:

and then mixed in olive oil:

We spread this concoction on our flatbread pizzas and we could definitely taste the herbs after the pizzas finished cooking. Yum!

Making Stir Fry

Like most people, my husband and I like stir fry. The problem is that every time we try to make it at home, it’s bland at best despite following tasty sounding recipes.

Every so often we forget that we’re bad at making stir fry and give it another go. This time, I was persuaded to try yet again by two things. This blog post from Yard Farm, ATX about how to roast cabbage by tossing it in olive oil with some salt and pepper. It suggests using the roasted cabbage as a noodle substitute and I do love some cabbage. Then, the most recent Vegetarian Times magazine had a section on Asian dishes, including one for Stir Fried Rice Noodles. The recipe calls for rice noodles, asparagus, sugar peas, eggs, green onion and a sauce. It looked amazing.

Luckily for us, it turned out delicious this time, despite the changes I made to the recipe.

The recipe in Vegetarian Times:

Asparagus and Sweet Peas ready to be cooked, sliced green onion, minced garlic:

Eggs being cooked omelette style, to be sliced up later:

Rice noodles soaking in hot water (we didn’t completely replace them with cabbage):

Sweet peas, asparagus, and garlic cooking:

Roasted cabbage – oh man, this was so good I just ate it by itself:

All ingredients together, simmering in the sauce:

Making cheese and chocolate fondue

Cheese and chocolate fondue for Valentine’s day. This is the second year for cheese fondue and the third for chocolate fondue. I declare it therefore to be our Valentine’s Day tradition. The tradition guarantees that we will use our fondue pot from Switzerland at least once a year which was an awesome wedding gift (despite the fact that the first time I picked it up, the handle broke off).

I never thought I liked cheese fondue. In fact, I don’t like cheese fondue made with wine. We learned last year that cheese fondue made with beer is far superior to fondue made with wine so now we make it with beer.

To make the cheese fondue, we combined cheddar, Gruyere, and Emmentaler cheese with a bit of flour, mustard, Worcestershire sauce and Sierra Nevada Glissade beer. Well, that was after an emergency trip to Bed Bath and Beyond for the sterno fuel needed to keep the pot warm.



Melting cheese!

For some reason the fondue did not melt together quite as well this year as last year but it was still quite tasty.

We ate the fondue with cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, and zucchini that I blanched in boiling water as well as baguette bread and mini dill pickles. Yum! We drank Boston Beer Company Infinium along with our fondue.

For our dessert, we made chocolate fondue. Ok, so it really was just melted milk chocolate.  Apparently real chocolate fondue has cream in it but that was not something I realized. The chocolate fondue pot is a little heart shaped dish that is kept warm by a tea light candle

In our chocolate we dipped strawberries, banana, grapes, mini marshmallows and mini ginger crisp cookies.

The best part? The left overs we will eat again on Monday which is the actual Valentine’s day!

Making tacos from left overs

Last week we made tacos from dinner from our taco cookbook. They were good. We ran out of filling before running out of tortillas so this evening I threw together some veggies we had lingering in the fridge to make a new taco filling. I guessed right because the new filling was delicious!


Slice up a sweet onion and a part of sweet potato into thin pieces and saute. After they are cooked, add handfuls of spinach and cook until wilted. Top with salsa and cotija cheese. Yum!


Ready to eat, one sweet potato/onion/spinach taco and one taco from the taco cookbook:

What to do with more kale?

So after making kale lasagna this week, we ended up with way more kale than we needed. I think we bought quadruple what the recipe called for and I used half of it in the lasagna.

Recently I’d seen recipes for something called “kale chips”. There are plenty of examples if you google it.  All of the recipes claim them to be very, very good.

Tonight, I put that claim to the test. The process:

  1. Clean and dry the kale. I used my salad spinner to dry it.
  2. Take out the ribs of the kale and tear it into pieces (2” is generally recommended)
  3. Coat with olive oil and spices. I used my olive oil cooking spray because it was easier to coat the pieces. It’s probably tastier with real olive oil. I sprinkled salt and paprika on the pieces. I also read about people using seasoning salt, parmesan cheese, red pepper flakes… etc.
  4. Spread in a thin layer on a baking sheet.Kale, prior to cooking
  5. Bake in a 350 degree oven. I read from anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes. I kept pulling it out to check on the crispiness because the kale should get crispy. I think my layer was too thick because some pieces were done way before others and I had to pull them out early.
  6. Eat away!

The result:

I found that the kale should be crispy, if you tried to eat it before it was crispy it was somewhat difficult to chew. The saltiness was nice if you are a person that likes salty snacks. You don’t really get too much of the kale bitterness after it’s baked.

I baked up an entire head of kale which was too much for two people in one night. We’ll see if it keeps until tomorrow!

Making kale lasagna

I must admit, I’ve always loved lasagna. However, I really only love lasagna in the style that my mom makes because I don’t like ricotta cheese. That’s why I never order it at a restaurant. For this week’s dinner I decided to adapt a Kale Lasagna Diavolo recipe from my January / February 2011 issue of Vegetarian Times magazine since kale is in season and gorgeous (not to mention delicious) this time of year.

The recipe didn’t have nearly enough vegetables in it for my liking, so I added mushrooms and onions. To make the lasagna more to my taste, I used small curd cottage cheese instead of ricotta cheese (my mom’s style) and an Italian Mix of cheese instead of goat cheese (local varieties are not really available this time of year). Instead of tomato paste I used a combination of canned tomatoes and pasta sauce. This was also the first time I’ve ever made lasagna with actual lasagna noodles. Mom always uses rigatoni noodles since they are way easier to deal with. Using lasagna noodles wasn’t as bad as I expected.

It went something like this:

  • Clean and chop kale, removing it from the stems
  • Boil it in salted water for two minutes, drain and rinse

  • Saute 3 minced cloves of garlic, a sliced yellow onion, and a double package of sliced mushrooms in a bit of olive oil (I also use the olive oil cooking spray to cut calories)
  • After they are semi-cooked, add a can of tomatoes and continue cooking. Optionally, add red pepper flakes and black pepper. The idea was to cook down the tomatoes so there wasn’t so much liquid but it didn’t work that well. I guess that’s why the original recipe called for tomato paste

  • Next up: Cooking 9 lasagna noodles according to directions
  • Spray a casserole pan, spread a thin layer of spaghetti sauce and then lay down 3 noodles
  • Spread some cottage cheese and shredded cheese. Put down half of the kale and half of the mushroom/onion/tomato mixture. Spread some more spaghetti sauce.
  • Lay down 3 more noodles. Lay down more cheese. Use up the rest of the kale and mushroom/onion/tomato mixture (lesson learned: don’t use all the liquid from that mixture). Spread spaghetti sauce.
  • Lay down the last 3 noodles. spread a thin layer of spaghetti sauce.
  • Cover with foil, bake for 40 minutes at 400 degrees. About 5 minutes from the end, sprinkle more shredded cheese on top if you like.

I’d show you a picture of a slice of lasagna, but it ended up with lots of liquid and kind of went everywhere on the plate. Despite that I think this was the best lasagna I’ve ever made.  The kale has a great texture and all the flavors came together wonderfully. And on top of that, it’s incredibly healthy and low in calories! The recipe quotes 180 per serving but as I’ve adapted it, who knows where it stands.