Apple Basil Potato Kugel

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Next week marks the start of the Jewish year, Rosh Hashanah. Apples are a traditional part of the holiday because they represent a sweet start to the year (especially when dipped in honey) and hark back to the Garden of Eden. Kugels, which are a baked pudding or casserole, are a traditional Jewish food as well. In my family, we enjoy potato kugel at least one night of Rosh Hashanah. So when I was brainstorming for this month’s Crazy Ingredient Challenge, where I had to come up with a recipe melding apples and basil, I decided to put a twist on my typical potato kugel with the addition of apples and basil.

Apple Basil Potato Kugel

This kugel recipe was my grandmother’s, though when she typed it out (as she did with many of her recipes…clearly the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree…) she attributed it to Margaret’s niece. So, Margaret’s niece, if you’re reading this, thanks for the great recipe. We enjoy it every year!

Apple Basil Potato Kugel

I used to grate potatoes and onions by hand, but really, there’s no need to work that hard…or add a hint of blood to the dish. This time I used my Cuisinart food processor with the grating blade and saved a ton of time! I highly recommend using the food processor for the grating step if you have one available.

Swapping out a potato for an apple makes this kugel, which can be on the heavier side, a bit lighter in taste. The basil adds a unexpected burst of freshness as well. Try this kugel as a side dish for your holiday dinner, or any meal. L’Shana Tova (have a good year)!

Apple Basil Potato Kugel

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Apple Basil Potato Kugel

Yield: 12 servings

nonstick cooking spray

3 large russet potatoes

2 medium apples (I used gala)

1 onion

3 large eggs

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1/4 cup lightly packed basil chiffonade (basil sliced into thin strips)

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Coat an 9×13-inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.

2. Grate peeled potatoes, peeled and cored apples, and the onion into a bowl. Beat the eggs and add to the potato mixture, along with the flour, salt, pepper, olive oil, and basil.

3. Place in the baking dish and bake for at least 1 hour or until light brown and crisp.

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HunngryLittleGirl

French Galette with Cherry-Almond Topping

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Along with my break from blogging altogether, I also took a break from various bake-alongs this summer and I really missed the comraderie of baking something “together” from across the world! So since this next cake, French Galette with Cherry-Almond Topping, from The Home Bakers sounded tasty, I decided to give it a whirl and get back into the swing of things. It just so happened that I hosted an impromptu dinner for some friends on Labor Day and this treat made a perfect dessert to follow Chicken and Basil Stir Fry along with a Asian themed salad and rice.

So what is a galette? My au pair asked me that as I was preparing it. I always thought it was a free form flat pie or tart, which according to “the internet” is pretty much correct, though it can also be a bread or cake. Though this recipe was taken from the Coffee Cakes cookbook, I expected the crust was going to be a little more pie-like and less dough-like however actually, it came out perfect just as it was, though it’s more like a sweet pizza dough in texture and appearance than a pie or cake.

French Galette with Cherry-Almond Topping

I let yeast bloom in warm water with a pinch of sugar, then using the mixing blade of my stand mixer, I beat in margarine, sugar, an egg, vanilla, salt, and nutmeg. I used freshly grated nutmeg and it smelled amazing, though the regular ground nutmeg would work fine as well. Finally I beat in flour. The dough was a bit sticky and rough. The original recipe recommends placing the dough onto a floured board and kneading at that point, but to save time and clean-up, I switched from the mixing blade to the dough hook, and let it knead itself for a few minutes. The dough became much smoother and elastic and less sticky and then I turned it into a greased bowl, covered it with a towel, and let it rise for about an hour.

After it rose, I punched it down, kneaded it slightly with floured hands, and then formed it into a 12-inch round and fit it onto a greased pizza pan. Since a galette is supposed to be free form and somewhat rustic, I didn’t bother to roll it out with a rolling pin but rather stretched and shaped it into a round with my hands, trying to keep the thickness fairly even throughout.

Then I spread softened margarine over the entire surface, leaving a slight rim at the edges (a la pizza crust), then sprinkled sugar, dried cherries, and blanched almond slivers atop, along with a pinch of cinnamon. One thing I really appreciated about this recipe is that there are unlimited options for topping the dough. I just stuck with the recipe this time just to see how it worked but I guarantee that other fruits or types of nuts would be great. I am picturing an iteration with chocolate in my future. Yum!

After letting the topped dough sit for a little longer, I baked it at high heat for 6 minutes. The aroma was amazing–I felt like I was walking past the pretzel store at the mall with the buttery dough scent emerging from my oven and the cake was beautiful. The crust puffed up and became golden brown. Watch this step closely because it cooks really fast!

French Galette with Cherry-Almond Topping

I cut it up into pizza-style slices and served fresh from the oven with ice cream. This cake is not overly sweet and the cold ice cream was the perfect compliment to the warm cake. Enjoy!

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French Galette with Cherry-Almond Topping (adapted from Coffee Cakes)

Yield: one 12-inch flatbread (serves 6-8)

For the dough
1 package active dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)

6 tablespoons warm water (105-115F)

pinch of sugar, plus 3 tablespoons

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted margarine or butter (I used margarine to keep this dessert dairy free) at room temperature

1 large egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon freshly grated or ground nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

For the topping

2 tablespoons unsalted margarine or butter at room temperature

3 tablespoons sugar

1/2 cup dried cherries

1/2 cup slivered or sliced almonds (I used slivered blanched almonds)

pinch of cinnamon

Directions:

Please see Frozen Wings for the full directions for this recipe.

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Check out The Home Bakers and see other interpretations of French Galette with Cherry-Almond Topping!

If you love “coffee cakes”, try my Milk Chocolate-Walnut Coffee Cake, Blueberry Stresel Coffee Cake, and Chocolate-Almond Souffle Cake.

Blueberry Streusel Coffee Cake

Welcome back to The Dinner Pages! Yes, my little blog has been very neglected lately. Let’s just say I have had a lot on my (dinner) plate…moving halfway across the country alone with a toddler, trying to sell one house and buy another, and starting a new job.

Most of my favorite cooking tools spent the summer on a moving truck, in storage, then on another truck and now are, little by little, finding my way into the cabinets in my new kitchen…there’s still one box containing my favorite cookbooks that’s unaccounted for and I hope the movers hid it in the masses of boxes in my garage because I’m going to be sad if I need to replace more than a dozen books that had lots of my personal annotations inside. The great thing is that thanks to this blog I have an inventory of my cookbooks easily at hand so I can definitely tell if something’s missing!

The other issue is that I don’t have internet at my new place just yet. I don’t know what is going on with AT&T right now but I’ve been waiting over a month and…nothing. Any thoughts on how to move them along?

So there’s my list of excuses why The Dinner Pages has been MIA. The good news is that my husband finally arrived and now I have a little bit more time (in between opening up and unpacking the 270 boxes and working full time) to cook and write about it! This summer has been rough but things are looking up now. :-)

I really wanted to share one of my all-time favorite recipes with you before summer totally ends, Blueberry Streusel Coffee Cake. I grew up with my mom baking this cake each summer and I learned the recipe from her. Blueberry Streusel Coffee Cake is a sweet treat that I bake several times each summer. It’s easy and delicious and travels really well, so I find myself making it to bring to barbecues and work potlucks, as well as for my family. Despite my minimal access to cooking tools this summer, I still figured out how to make this cake twice while living in limbo. It disappeared from my work brunch in minutes. Yum. I also really love to refrigerate it and eat it chilled the next day. The crispy streusel topping is delicious with the cold blueberries.

Blueberry Streusel Coffee Cake

So welcome back to The Dinner Pages. Hopefully it won’t be so long before I share another delicious recipe with you. Despite my hiatus I’ve still been cooking from time to time and coming up with lots of ideas to share with you! Have a wonderful Labor Day Weekend and enjoy this bit of summer in a cake!

Blueberry Streusel Coffee Cake

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Blueberry Streusel Coffee Cake 

Yield: one 8-inch square cake

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup margarine or butter

1/3 cup sugar

1 egg

1/2 cup milk

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 heaping cup fresh blueberries, washed

FOR TOPPING:

1/3 cup sugar

1/4 cup flour

1/8 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

2 tablespoons margarine or butter

Directions:

1. Mix flour, baking powder, and salt together and set aside.

2. Cream margarine and sugar together. Add egg and beat well.

3. Add flour mixture alternately with milk, in 4 or 5 portions, beginning and ending with flour, beating thoroughly after each addition.

4. Turn into a well-greased 8-inch square cake pan. Add lemon juice to the blueberries. Scatter over batter.

5. Prepare streusel topping by combining sugar with flour, salt, and cinnamon. Add margarine and work together into a crumbly mixture. Sprinkle over top of blueberries.

6. Bake at 375F for 40 minutes.

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Chicken and Basil Stir Fry

This recipe for Chicken and Basil Stir-Fry is quite possibly my favorite chicken recipe ever! It is so quick and simple to make and the flavors come together so beautifully.

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I’m a huge fan of basil. It adds such a wonderful light and summery flavor to lots of dishes. Caprese salad is one of my favorite uses for basil and my favorite Thai restaurant has Basil Fried Rice which is amazing! At my old house, we had extremely hearty basil! The original plant went to seed and the seeds spread throughout my yard. The lawn had various crops of basil (which made mowing it a teeny bit more pleasant thanks to the lovely fragrance) and one plant had a trunk. Yes, it was such a large and healthy plant that it had an actual trunk with tons of basil growing from it! I really miss that. We’re just coming out of winter here and I have no herb garden at the moment. I had to buy basil from the supermarket for this recipe and it was disappointing. I mean, the chicken was still perfect, but within a day of buying the basil, the leaves were wilted, even after putting it in water. Sad. Bottom line, I suppose, is grow your own basil. We will be doing that again soon for sure!

Basil Chicken

Anyway, for this recipe, I cut up a pound of boneless skinless chicken thighs into 1-inch cubes, then combined them with soy sauce and cornstarch in a small bowl. After heating oil in a wok, I stir fried the chicken with garlic until cooked through, then added in chili powder and hoisin sauce. You can also add a chopped up fresh red chili pepper which we’ve done in the past and it’s delicious but to make this more kid friendly I omitted it this time around (and my son still burnt his tongue on the rice. Oops).

Finally, after everything was cooked, I removed the wok from the burner and stirred in thinly sliced fresh basil.

I don’t know what it is about this recipe but the flavors meld together so well. You wouldn’t think it initially, but the basil adds the perfect touch at the end of the cooking process and is really key to bringing all the flavors together. And without the chili pepper it really was kid friendly. After my son recovered from the hot rice incident, he shoveled these little chicken chunks into his mouth with glee! So my food critics were happy and I was too! No leftovers here! Enjoy this quick, simple, and surprisingly flavorful dinner tonight!

Basil Chicken

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Chicken and Basil Stir Fry (adapted from Step-by-Step Asian Cookbook)

Yield: serves 3-4

1 pound boneless skinless chicken thighs, trimmed and cut into 1 inch cubes or thin strips

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1 tablespoon peanut oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 fresh red chili, seeded and minced (optional)

1 teaspoon chili powder

1 tablespoon hoisin sauce

small bunch of basil leaves, thinly sliced

steamed rice, for serving

Directions:

1. Cut the meat into 1-inch cubes. Place them in a bowl with soy sauce and cornstarch and stir to combine.

2. Heat the oil in a wok over medium heat. Stir fry the chicken, garlic, and chili pepper if using for 8-10 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through.

3. Add the chili powder and hoisin and cook for another 2 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the sliced basil. Serve over rice.

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Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies with Mini M&Ms

When thinking about cookies, there’s nothing like the classic chocolate chip cookie. And you’re in luck because today, May 15, is National Chocolate Chip Cookie Day, so I am going to share a delicious chocolate chip cookie recipe with you. Today is also my little brother’s birthday…so have a cookie on me, Scotty!

M+M chocolate chip cookies

These cookies bring you all the flavors you’d expect from a standard chocolate chip cookie–with a twist, teeny tiny little mini M&M’s. While these cookies are as chewy as a chocolate chip cookie should be, with the wonderful flavors of cookie dough ice cream thanks to a bonus of vanilla pudding in the batter, the mini M&M’s add just a touch of crunch. Delish!

M+M chocolate chip cookies

Just to highlight how yummy these cookies are, I was approached by one of my son’s daycare teachers who, after I gave her a batch as part of her holiday gift in December, asked me if she could pay me to bake her more of these cookies. Of course I was more than happy to oblige (and no, of course I couldn’t accept payment from one of my son’s favorite teachers). It made me happy though, because I’m not a professional chef/baker so I was thrilled that someone loved my baking that much that they would pay to eat these cookies!

M+M chocolate chip cookies

So give yourself and your loved ones a treat today, with Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies with Mini M&Ms!

M+M chocolate chip cookies

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Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies with Mini M&M’s (adapted from Mommy on Demand)

Yield: 6 dozen cookies

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1.7 ounce box vanilla pudding (I used sugar free)
1 cup mini chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups mini M&M’s (the entire 12 ounce bag)

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 350F.

2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugars until fluffy. Add in vanilla extract, then the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition.

3. Add the baking soda, salt, flour, and vanilla pudding and beat until combined. Stir in the chocolate chips and M&M’s.

4. Drop tablespoonfuls of dough onto cookie sheets lined with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. Bake for 10-12 minutes. Let cool on the cookie sheet for a few minutes then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.
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Chocolate-Almond Souffle Cake

homebaker1

It has been a little while since I participated in The Home Bakers group. Unfortunately as work and family commitments have ramped up, the blogging has taken a bit of a nosedive, so I missed the last coffee cake bake along. I thought I was set to miss this one too because it fell right in the midst of Passover and really, how was I supposed to make coffee cake from a regular cookbook during Passover?! But the chocolate and almond combo intrigued me since both chocolate and almonds are just fine during Passover, as were most of the ingredients in this delicious cake, so I just had to come up with a few modifications to make it kosher for Passover.

Chocolate Almond Souffle Cake

Fortunately, my changes did not alter the moist and flavorful composition of this light cake and it’s definitely a keeper for years to come. And don’t get me wrong, no need to be celebrating Passover to enjoy this cake. It’s a winner year round! The almonds add an interesting texture to an otherwise airy cake, which I think would be fantastic topped with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream!

Chocolate Almond Souffle Cake

I started off by coating an 8-inch square pan with nonstick spray and a light coating of matzah cake meal. I toasted raw whole almonds at 325F for about 8 minutes, until fragrant then let cool slightly. Be careful not to let the almonds burn so you don’t end up with a bitter cake. Once cooled, I finely ground the almonds in a food processor and combined with finely chopped bittersweet chocolate and set aside.

Then I beat egg whites until foamy and added in salt and lemon juice (in lieu of the cream of tartar in the original recipe) and beat them until soft peaks formed. I added in brown sugar then beat the mixture until stiff peaks formed.

In a separate mixing bowl I beat the egg yolks until thick and pale then added in more brown sugar, vanilla extract, and almond extract. I stirred matzah cake meal into the almond/chocolate mixture, then folded it into the yolk mixture, then folded in the egg whites.

I spread the batter into the 8-inch pan and baked it at 325F for 35 minutes until it was cooked through and the top sprung back when lightly touched. I let it cool completely before cutting into pieces to serve. It was a welcomed addition at our seder and for the week to come! It lasted throughout Passover kept wrapped at room temperature.

Chocolate Almond Souffle Cake

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Chocolate-Almond Souffle Cake (adapted from Coffee Cakes)

Yield: 1 8-inch square cake or 1 9-inch round cake

nonstick cooking spray

1 1/3 cups (5 1/2 ounces) slivered or raw whole almonds

4 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate

6 large eggs, separated

1/8 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon lemon juice (instead of the 1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar in the original recipe)

2 tablespoons plus 1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon almond extract

1/3 cup matzah cake meal (instead of 1/2 cup all-purpose flour called for in the original recipe)

Directions:

Please see Life Can Be Simple  for the full directions for this recipe. Other than the pan size and ingredient modifications noted above I followed the recipe as written.

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Check out The Home Bakers and see other interpretations of Chocolate-Almond Souffle Cake and other coffee cakes featured on The Dinner Pages

Ebony and Ivory: Passover Cookies Two Ways

Whether you celebrate Passover or not, try these Mexican Chocolate Passover Cookies and Passover Chocolate Chip Blondies!

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I was really excited about this month’s Improv Cooking Challenge and creating a recipe on the Ebony and Ivory theme. But, life happened, and I’ve got a lot going on right now so my writing has taken a bit of a back burner even though I’ve still been cooking up a storm and building up my repertoire of recipes to share later on. So I was going to bow out of the challenge. However when doing my Passover baking I realized the desserts I was already planning to make would be perfect. Alone, they both qualify as ebony and ivory. The Mexican Chocolate Cookies are lovely dark treats with a crispy outside and chewy interior, lightened in color by a coat of powdered sugar. In contrast, my Passover Blondies are, well, blonde in color (we’ll call it ivory) and studded with yummy ebony chocolate chips. So they’re both black and white and together, as you can see, they exemplify light and dark, ebony and ivory.

Passover Cookies Two Ways

Now as some of you may know, Passover can be challenging to bake for since a lot of my typical ingredients for baking are out of the question. No flour is a big one. So creativity is essential to come up with substitutions that don’t taste like cardboard. I’m proud to say that my Passover guests agreed that these desserts would be delicious year round. One other great thing about both of these recipes is that they’re both gluten free and dairy free too.

Mexican Chocolate Passover Cookies

Just as a heads up, both recipes take a little bit of planning ahead, the Mexican Chocolate Cookies because the dough needs to be refrigerated for several hours or overnight before shaping and baking, and the blondies because you need vanilla sugar. Now if you already have vanilla sugar you’re golden, but if not it takes 24 hours to make. But overall they are both easy without excessive hands on time.

Passover Chocolate Chip Blondies

These desserts are lovely to serve as a seder dessert (so pin for next year, I know I’m a little late for this year but I couldn’t get the cleaning, prepping, baking, AND blogging done in advance) but they are truly fantastic anytime during Passover or otherwise. Despite my Ebony and Ivory theme, no need to be strictly black and white and only enjoy these treats during Passover!

Passover Cookies Two Ways

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Mexican Chocolate Passover Cookies (adapted from The Holiday Kosher Baker)

Yield: 2 1/2 dozen cookies

1/3 cup vegetable oil

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup potato starch

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/3 cup confectioners’ sugar

Directions:

1. In a mixing bowl combine the oil, sugar, cocoa, eggs, and vanilla. Then add in the potato starch, salt, and cinnamon and mix until fully combined. Refrigerate overnight (I refrigerated mine for 7 hours which was enough).

2. Preheat the oven to 350F. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper. Roll walnut sized pieces of cookie dough in confectioners’ sugar then place on the cookie sheet at least 1 1/2 inches apart.

3. Bake for 14 minutes. The cookies will still be somewhat soft, but not raw. Let cool slightly then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

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Passover Chocolate Chip Blondies (adapted from The Holiday Kosher Baker)

Yield: 24 bars

nonstick cooking spray

2 cups granulated sugar

2 large eggs

1 cup vegetable oil

2 tablespoons vanilla sugar (see below)

3 1/4 cups ground almonds or almond meal

1/4 cup potato starch

1 cup chocolate chips (I used semi-sweet)

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Coat a 9×13-inch baking pan with nonstick spray then fit in a piece of parchment paper to coat the bottom and sides of the pan. Coat the parchment with cooking spray as well.

2. Beat together the sugar, eggs, oil, and vanilla sugar in a mixing bowl with an electric mixer until combined. Add in the ground almonds and potato starch and mix fully. Stir in the chocolate chips, then add the batter to the prepared pan.

3. Bake for 35-40 minutes, until the edges are brown and a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool then remove the parchment paper from the pan and cut into bars.

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Vanilla Sugar

Yield: 1 cup

Slice a vanilla bean down its entire length. Add to a container of granulated sugar. Cover and let sit overnight.

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Check out other bloggers’ takes on the Ebony and Ivory Improv Cooking Challenge theme here:

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