Light and fast: poached salmon with avocado sauce and quinoa tabbouleh

Late Spring cooking should be fresh and easy.  With all of the wonderful fruits and veggies making their way into the markets, there’s plenty of reasons to put a quick and delicious meal on the table once in a while.

This dinner, inspired by my leafing though Bon Appetit magazine which I started receiving free for some unknown reason, takes about 25 minutes tops.  Plus it’s healthy, fresh, seasonal, and delicious, especially when enjoyed at sunset on the patio.

Start by cooking off your quinoa so it has a chance to cool.  Then prepare your poaching liquid.  Poaching salmon is about as easy as it gets, and there’s really no guesswork involved. Bring your liquid just to a boil, turn off the heat, plop in your salmon, and wait 10-15 minutes (depending on how pink you like your center).

And the sauce is also a breeze, throw everything in the blender and give it a whirl.

While your salmon is poaching you can finish off your quinoa tabbouleh.  Quinoa is a superfood!  It’s a cinch to make (see below) and is a complete protein high in plenty of vitamins.  Eat it often.  It has a bit of a nutty flavor on its own served hot, but also goes well in cold salads.  The tabbouleh is crunchy from the hothouse cucumbers, tangy from the acids, and fresh tasting from the parsley.  A winner with the salmon and creamy avocado sauce.

25 minutes to a healthy dinner your family will love.  Ain’t that a treat.

Poached Salmon with Avocado Sauce

Serves 2
Prep time 5 minutes
Cook time 15 minutes
Total time 20 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 lb salmon (preferably fresh and wild)
  • 3 cups stock (chicken, vegetable, or fish)
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 2 sprigs thyme (or tarragon (but then omit wine and add more stock))
  • 2 avocados
  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 1/2 lime, juice and zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

Optional

  • Chives (chopped)

Note

Adapted from Bon Appetit

Directions

1. Cut fish into 2 portions and season with salt and pepper
2. Bring stock and wine just to a boil, then throw in thyme. Remove from heat and add salmon. Let stand until cooked to medium-rare (about 10-15 minutes). Remove salmon and transfer to plate. Chill if desired.
3. Make sauce by scooping avocado, yogurt, lime zest and juice and cumin into blender or food processor. Blend until combined, then season with salt and pepper and additional lime juice if needed.
4. Spoon avocado sauce on bottom of plate and layer salmon on top. Drizzle with olive oil and garnish with a lime wedge and chives if desired.

Quinoa Tabbouleh

Serves 4
Prep time 10 minutes
Cook time 15 minutes
Total time 25 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 cup quinoa (rinsed)
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice, plus zest
  • 1 clove garlic (minced)
  • 1 hothouse cucumber (or 2 persian cucumbers)
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes (halved)
  • 1/3 cup flat leaf (italian) parsley (chopped)
  • 1/4 cup fresh mint (chopped)
  • 2 scallions (sliced thin)
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil (good quality)

Note

Adapted from Bon Appetit

Directions

1. Bring quinoa, 1 1/4 cups water and a pinch of salt to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer and simmer until quinoa is tender, about 10 minutes. Let stand covered for 5 minutes, then fluff with fork. Let cool.
2. In a bowl whisk lemon juice, olive oil, and season with salt and pepper.
3. Mix quinoa with cucumbers, tomatoes, onion, and herbs. Mix in dressing and season to taste.
4. Will keep one day in refrigerator.

Summer BBQ: Blueberry Peach Cobbler

We finally recovered from our move and are now settled into our new home.  No longer do we reside in our Pasadena home on top of the hill, a home I’ll miss very much, especially our spectacular Rose Bowl and Downtown views.  We traded in our swanky contemporary home for a historic English revival in a neighboring suburb on a tree lined street.  We have a big backyard for Griffin and Kidney Bean to play in and a welcoming courtyard where we can entertain family and friends al fresco.

To culminate our new home, we invited a few friends over to celebrate our move and welcome the summer.  Since a barbecue was in order, I kept the menu pretty simple and made sure to include a few vegetarian options for our non-meat eating family members: St. Louis style spare ribs with homemade whiskey barbecue sauce, (recipe inspiration here, I have no idea who Scott Hibbs is); buttermilk marinated grilled chicken; good ole fashioned cole slaw; vegetarian baked beans, stuffed pasilla peppers (recipe inspiration here), and for dessert: homemade blueberry peach cobbler, ala mode, but of course (recipe below).

The weather was gorgeous, our courtyard was magical, and my food was a hit, natch.  But the winner of the night was the cobbler.  Oh-my-stars was it delicious.

The blueberries and peaches melted together to create a match-made-in-heaven juicy syrup set off by the tangy sweet candied ginger I threw in with the fruit on a whim, and the cobbler topping was perfectly browned and succulent yet crumbly with a creamy vanilla flavoring thanks to the whole vanilla bean I added to the dough.  The vanilla bean ice cream (the only thing I didn’t make myself) just sealed the deal.  An outdoor BBQ dessert that left me dreaming about the last helping that went uneaten and reserved in the back of my refrigerator just for me.

Blueberry Peach Cobbler

It was the first time I cooked in my new home’s kitchen (which will be getting a face lift soon enough), and our first time entertaining in our new house.  I think it’s going to be a very very good summer.

Blueberry Peach Cobbler

Ingredients

Filling

  • 3 lb yellow peaches
  • 1 1/2 cup blueberries
  • 2/3 cups evaporated cane juice (or granulated sugar)
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 pinch salt

Filling (Optional)

  • 1 tablespoon candied ginger (or 1 tsp fresh grated ginger)

Cobbler

  • 2 cups flour (all purpose)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 cup cold unsalted butter (1 stick)
  • 1 vanilla bean (or 1 tsp vanilla extract)
  • 1 1/8 cup heavy Cream (plus more for brushing)

Note

Adapted from Martha Stewart.

Directions

1. First peel your peaches by bringing a large pot of water to just boiling. Prepare an ice water bath. Add peaches to boiling water for 45 seconds, then remove quickly and place in ice water bath to stop the cooking process. You should be able to peel off the skin easily.
2. Slice peaches in wedges about 3/4" thick.
3. Preheat oven to 375.
4. Stir together peaches, blueberries, 1/3 of a cup of sugar, cornstarch, brown sugar, lemon juice, ginger, and a pinch of salt until well mixed. Then transfer mixture to the bottom of your baking dish (I used a 2 quart baking dish).
5. In a clean bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, 1/2 tsp salt, and remaining 1/3 cup sugar.
6. Cut very cold butter into 1/2" chunks. Using a pastry blender, two knives, or your hands, cut butter into flour mixture until you have clumps no bigger than peas. Do not overwork.
7. Cut vanilla bean in half lengthwise and using the back of a knife, scrape seeds into the cream. Pour cream mixture into flour mixture and stir until a sticky dough forms. Do not overwork.
8. Divide dough into 12 balls roughly the size of golf balls and arrange over the peach/blueberry filling, leaving a little space between each ball for expansion.
9. Brush tops and sides of dough with heavy cream, and sprinkle a generous amount of sugar on top of dough balls.
10.
Bake cobbler for 55-70 minutes until cobbler is golden brown and juices are bubbling. You might want to place some aluminum foil under cobbler pan on the bottom rack to catch any drippings. If cobbler is browning too quickly, cover loosely with foil during the cooking. Let cool 1 hour before serving.

Babymoon Bliss: The Big Island

Big Island View Last month Griffin, Big N, and I traveled to the Big Island to enjoy our last trip as a family of three (point five) and our last “babymoon” before Kidney Bean arrives and grounds us for a while.

Father and son The Big Island, the newest in the volcanic chain, is very different from Maui, Oahu, and Kauai.  It seems like half of the island is covered in hardened volcanic lava.  The western Kona area is drier and filled with the swanky resorts, while the eastern and wetter Hilo side boasts lush rain forest landscape and the world’s most active volcano.  We decided to split our time and spent a seven nights in a gorgeous condo (Kolea at Waikoloa Beach Resort, see our amazing view above) overlooking the “A-Bay” and another 2 nights in the Volcano Village area to explore the world’s most active volcano (Big N had visions of sticking a stick in the flowing lava, but the lava wasn’t cooperating the day we visited).

I can’t say we did much our first week except relax by the beach, take a few hikes, eat, and drive around visiting the sleepy sites.  Griffin quickly got into the mode, though traveling with an 18 month old is challenging to say the least.  We spent most of our  time keeping the baby entertained with toys and snacks so he wouldn’t disturb neighboring guests sipping their hard earned mai tais.  But we made do.  Griffin loved being in the water, finding seashells, and watching the napping turtles on the beach.  He even caught a few waves on the boogie board, and learned to say “Aloha” to every passerby.   Hawaii sunset

One evening we hired a reputable baby sitter to watch Griffin so mom and dad could enjoy some alone time with a romantic oceanfront sunset dinner.  (If you’re going to the Big Island, I highly recommend Canoe House at the Mauna Lani Bay Hotel and Pahu I’a restaurant at the Four Seasons, which serves fresh tuna poke made tableside).

One of my absolute favorite things to do while traveling is to visit outdoor food markets.  It gives this foodie a chance to check out local offerings and once in a while to try something I’ve never seen before.  The farmers’ market at Kailua Village near Kona didn’t disappoint.  With a condo we took advantage of our fully stocked kitchen and outdoor barbecue to cook up local grass fed Hawaii beef and fresh caught ono during the evening, and in the morning we ate local fruits purchased at the market, coconut pancakes, and sipped on locally grown Kona coffee (we toured the Greenwell Coffee farm to see how coffee is grown and picked up fresh roasted beans there, yum).  At the market I found mini bananas, mangoes, eggplant, and rambutans (similar to lychee), all of which I’ve had before but they were much better of course in Hawaii.  And I tried two fruits I had never seen before: mountain apples, which are pear shaped but deep red, with spongy white semi-sweet flesh, and star apples, which look like a cross between a black plum and a ripe passion fruit, and have sweet purpley-white flesh on the inside.  If you cut them horizontally the fruit inside resembles a six pointed star.  These were creamy, juicy, and deliciously sweet, and I thought about violating customs laws to sneak a few on our flight back (I thought better of it later on, those customs officials are intimidating).

On our journey to Hilo we off-roaded in our Jeep for 2 hours to get to the secluded Green Sand Beach (it gets its name because it has ground up peridot mixed with the volcanic lava, very cool place), and ended up at Volcano Village Lodge- a five bungalow B&B in the middle of the jungle. Volcano Village Lodge I highly recommend a stay there if you’re visiting the volcano.  We explored the Volcano Area (smoke, glow at night, lots of views), thought about sacrificing Griffin on a couple of his particularly squealy moments, and then came home.  Kilauea Caldera

A very satisfying vacation.  Now all I need is one more Vegas fix (sans Griffin), and I’ll be content to stay the homebody once Kidney Bean is born.

35: Oh Dear

So, 2012 minus 1977 equals 35. How depressing. Yup…

My husband asked me this morning if I’m where I thought I’d be by 35. I had to think about it. The answer is yes, and well, no.

No because when I was 5 I thought I’d be President of the U.S.of.A by now. And when I was 15 I thought I’d be a federal judge by now. And when I was 25 I thought I’d be a partner in my law firm by now. Sensing a pattern? On the one hand, all of my aspirations were wrapped up in my career over the years, but on the other those aspirations kept getting adjusted downward until they seemed more realistic. Last I checked, I’m not a partner in a international firm (though if I can just pat myself on the back for one quick sec, I think I could have been if I decided to stay put and keep my nose to the grindstone for another year or two). In fact, I just gave my notice this week and by the end of the month I’m not going to be a lawyer at all anymore.

So no, dear hubby, I’m not where I thought I’d be by 35. In fact, the whole lawyer thing that I was dreaming about for nearly my entire life may have been a bust, but time will tell if I return to it in the near future.

Then again, in place of those lowered career expectations over the years I started raising my expectations for a family. By 18 I declared emphatically that I didn’t want children. Not to bring the psychobabble into this conversation, but this declaration was likely due to a deep down fear of dying young and leaving my children without a mother, as my own mother died when I was 14. (Pity party over). By 25 I started to realize that while I was on my way to accomplishing my goal to obtain wealth and independence as a kick ass and take no prisoners attorney, which was pretty much the only goal I had set for myself, just maybe I wanted more. Could it be a family was in my future?

It took meeting the right man (whom I met at 26) to really get my act together. And now, at 35, I have a husband who adores me (the feeling is mutual), a beautiful baby boy, a little girl on the way, and we’re moving into our dream home in a lovely neighborhood and I’m about to become (dare I say it) a stay-at-home mother?!?. What the hell happened to that career-obsessed superlawyer? (Ahem! Subconscious note to self: the stay-at-home mother gig is only temporary until I can open a little bake shop, or a B&B, or until I go back to part time lawyerly work. Don’t start gorging on the bon bons just yet).

I’ve been lucky enough to travel the world, from New York to New Zealand, and while I started from humble Valley roots, I’ve lived in D.C., San Francisco, and even Beijing before settling here in Pasadena, and I’ve fulfilled another dream (one that materialized in my late 20′s) of going to culinary school. So, yes, my love, thanks in large part to my amazing life-changing-and-dream-fulfilling husband, I am well past where I wanted to be at 35, at least once I got my head out of my arse and learned that life wasn’t all about work work work. And, here’s the clincher: I…am…happy. Sigh!

So, happy birthday to me. Being 35, well, it sucks to be frank, and I pray that I still look like I can pass for 25 (or at least I will when I don’t have a planet growing out of my stomach). But life at 35? Life is good, and only getting better.

Thanks for reading. Self-congratulatory rant concluded.

Inspiration: Kidney Bean’s Nursery

I know, I know.  I’ve been away far too long.  We were away for our last “baby moon” on a trip to the Big Island (more on that to come).

Since we’ve been home my life has been consumed by escrow and closing documents and moving rigmarole.  Yup, you heard it right, we’re moving at the end of the month.  Our new home will be perfect for our growing family and has a big front and back yard for Griffin and Kidney Bean to play on a nice quiet street.  Very excited, I beam!

Best of all, a new home means there’s lots and lots of interior design to do, and maybe even a little remodel here and there (new kitchen!!!).  Yippee!

I’m kicking off the interior design extravaganza with some inspiration for my daughter’s nursery.  This is my first attempt at Kidney Bean’s mood board and I have just under three months to put it all together.  I’m still playing with fabrics and wood and paint colors, but this is the direction I think I want to go.

Baby Girl Nursery

Our current house is very contemporary/modern.  Griffin’s nursery sort of kept with the contemporary theme of the house and was inspired by the cool abstract installation my husband created.

Our new home is a 1920′s English Revival style so I have more freedom to bring in classic and feminine pieces and they won’t look out of place.  I’m loosely bringing in a bird theme (I just love the swan side table and the chandelier reminiscent of a bird’s nest).  This afternoon I took a trip to F&S Fabrics to clip some fabric swatches as I plan to sew the bedding and maybe the drapes myself.  The rug is a find from zincdoor and I’m going to ask my artistic cousin to paint some birch trees similar to the decal on the walls.  We have lovely birch trees in our new front yard so they’ll be something familiar from the outside.

What do you think?  Girly enough for you?

Birthday Brunch: Parisian Style

Sunday was my dear ‘ole dad’s 64th birthday and we celebrated with a low key brunch.  Brunch has to be my favorite meal (because really it allows you to gorge on breakfast and pretend you’re still hungry for lunch).  Rather than go with my traditional lox and bagels set up, which is wonderful but expected, I decided to change it up a bit and go Parisian style.

I made Quiche Lorraine with sauteed leeks (recipe here), a favorite from my Le Cordon Bleu bake shop days. For sides, quiche goes best with salad, so I made a fresh salad from the romaine lettuce and radicchio I received in my organic farm delivery box, with tomatoes, grapes, pears, and goat cheese, tossed with a tangy vinaigrette.  I also served up some freshly sliced cantaloupe wrapped in good quality proscuitto di parma and topped with micro greens.  For dessert I baked madeleines and mini blueberry cheesecakes with oatmeal cookie crust.  Finally, to wash it all down I made a pineapple and mango agua fresca in my trusty blender.

To get this all done in time I prepared and rolled the pie crust for the quiche the day before, and baked my mini cheesecakes.  Then I woke up at 6 a.m. (kidney bean in my belly gets me up at 6 a.m. no matter how hard I try to sleep in) to blind bake my crust, fill and bake my quiche, top the cheesecakes with blueberries, and get the rest done in time for our 10 a.m. brunch.  Not bad for a morning’s work, eh?  I even had enough crust left over to make a strawberry tart for the birthday boy to take home with him.  My pops loves when I bake him sweets.

Parisian style brunch

Check out that smile on the guest of honor’s face.  Happy Birthday Daddy!

Guest of Honor

Simplified for Spring: Favorite Skin and Makeup Products

For me Spring is about keeping it nice and simple. I’m a product queen (and spend way too much of my disposable income on the latest and greatest products I read about in some magazine).  But with a baby on the way and an eighteen-monther in tow, gone are the days when I spent 20 vanity-filled minutes in front of the mirror pruning and preening.  I’ve discovered a few great products that help me simplify my morning skin and makeup regimen (my naturally curly hair is a whole other story, not even Vidal Sassoon himself could help tame my wild tresses).  Some of these products I discovered through my latest addiction: Birchbox (have you tried it? I look forward to receiving that little pink box every month), and some I’ve been using for years.  Note- I have dry but sensitive skin.  None of the products here have caused breakouts and in fact several helped me clear my skin of terrible hormonal acne along my jaw line, I stand by them.

Spring Makeup routine
1. EVE LOM TLC Radiance Cream, a wonderful multitasking morning moisturizer, smells heavenly, glides on light and smooth
2. JOUER Luminizing Moisture TInt, SPF 20, gives my skin a slight pearlescent glow, the best tinted moisturizer I’ve found
3. ALIMA PURE mineral foundation, I love this all natural Portland based makeup line, no irritating bismuth oxycholoride like the leading mineral makeup brands, pure rich colors, and they send you as many samples as you want for $1.50 each so you can match your perfect shade
4. ALIMA PURE cruelty free makeup brushes, long lasting and easy to clean, really really soft
5. KEVYN AUCOIN The Sensual Skin Enhancer, when I need a little extra coverage, I dab this onto blemishes, it blends seamlessly, never cakey, long lasting coverage. I can’t believe Sephora stopped carrying this wonderful line
6. ALIMA PURE Pearluster Eyeshadow, rich colors in matte or pearlescent, blends easily
7. SMASHBOX Brow Tech, I’ve been using this for years. 2 colors ensures I can fill in my brows easily, plus the wax holds them in place, lasts all day. I don’t leave the house without taming my curly brows
8. ESTEE LAUDER More than Mascara, another favorite, I’ve tried so many mascaras but always return to this one. The brush spreads each lash and it doesn’t clump or smear, lasts all day
9. NAHLA BEAUTY Oma Face Serum No. 1, this line of skin care products is all natural. Uses oils rather than petroleum products to moisturize. I used it for years, and now it’s inspired me to create my own skin care concoctions. My skin cleared up after I started using these products religiously on my skin. Highly recommended
10. FRESH lip treatment in PLUM, Just a hint of color, glides on smooth, great consistency. I wear this daily. SPF 15 provides good lip coverage. Too much shea butter dries out my lips. These are beeswax and jojoba based and keep my lips soft.

There you have it. My 5 minute no fuss, all natural, skin and makeup routine. No more breakouts on this skin!  Give a few of these a try and let me know how you like them.

Passover (and Gluten Free) birthday cake: Flourless Chocolate Torte

Just because your birthday falls during Passover shouldn’t mean you’re deprived of a celebratory cake.

I make a birthday cake for my father every year but this year his birthday landed in the middle of Passover.  That means flour is out, and gone with flour are delicious options like carrot and red velvet, my past go-to cakes.

Now there are plenty of delicious Passover friendly desserts.  I typically make the traditional sponge cake, or coconut macaroons, or on occasion, French style macarons, all of which are made sans flour (and gluten).  Even cheesecake works if you adjust the crust recipe.  But I’ve never attempted a Passover friendly birthday cake until now.

I settled on a multi-layer flourless chocolate torte.  Between each layer I spread luscious chocolate ganache and a seedless raspberry jam for added kick, then garnished with blackberries to add a touch of Spring.  I’m not much of a cake decorator (I lack the patience for precision work), but hopefully Dad will be pleased when he sees his cake.

This one took a few hours, and working with chocolate is always messy business.  Be warned.

Flourless Chocolate Torte (Passover Friendly and Gluten Free)

Serves 6
Prep time 3 hours
Cook time 20 minutes
Total time 3 hours, 20 minutes
Dietary Gluten Free
Meal type Dessert
Occasion Birthday Party

Ingredients

Cake

  • 1 1/4 cup Butter (Unsalted, softened to room temperature)
  • 1 1/4 cup Sugar or Evaporated Cane Juice
  • 9 Eggs (separate whites and yolks, room temperature)
  • 10 oz Semi-sweet chocolate (Grated in food processor)
  • 2 3/4 cups Almond meal (aka blanched almond flour)

Cake (Optional)

  • 1 jar Raspberry fruit spread (Spreadable, no seeds if possible)

Ganache

  • 16 oz Semi-sweet chocolate (Use good quality bulk chocolate like Vahlrona)
  • 1 1/2 cup Heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons Butter

Simple syrup

  • 1/2 cup Sugar or Evaporated Cane Juice
  • 1/2 cup Water
  • 1 teaspoon Vanilla extract

Note

For my cake, I doubled the recipe and made two sheet trays of cake.  I cut each in half and ended up with four layers.  For the recipe below, you'll end up with 6 smaller layers (about 6"x6" each).

Note, you may have extra ganache. Save it for dipping strawberries!

Recipe inspired by Cooking Channel.

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 13"x18" cookie sheet or jelly roll pan with non-stick spray. Line with parchment paper.
2. Shave the chocolate using the grater attachment in your food processor. You can also use a box grater (slower), but you want the chocolate in nice thin flakes so it absorbs easily into the dough.
3.
In a bowl, cream the butter, sugar and egg yolks together using your mixer's paddle attachment, on medium speed until light lemon yellow and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.
4.
Add the shaved chocolate and almond meal and mix on low until evenly distributed, then on medium until well incorporated, another minute. Set dough aside in another large bowl and clean the bowl of your stand mixer.
5.
In the clean bowl, whip the egg whites using the whisk attachment until soft peaks form (see picture: turn your whisk around, the crest of the wave should fall over but should not be too runny for "soft peak" stage, do not overmix).
6.
Using a spatula, add 1/3 of egg whites to chocolate batter and fold in gently. This first third will loosen up the tough batter so don't worry too much about losing all the air from your egg whites. Add another 1/3 of egg whites and fold in, then do the same with the last 1/3 of egg whites.
7.
Pour the batter into the parchment lined sheet and spread with spatula so it is very evenly distributed.
8. Bake for about 20 minutes, until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean. Remove and let cool completely.
9. While cake is baking, make the simple syrup. Bring sugar and water to simmer, stirring to dissolve sugar. Simmer 3-5 minutes. Add vanilla and let cool.
10.
Once cool, the cake should pull away from the pan edges, if not, run a knife around it. Place another sheet tray inside your cake tray and invert, so the cake flips over onto the clean sheet tray. Slowly peel off the parchment paper.
11.
Make the ganache. Place cream in pot and bring to gentle simmer. Turn off heat and add grated chocolate and butter. Let sit for a few minutes, then stir very gently until smooth (you don't want to get air bubbles in your ganache). Let cool for 15-20 minutes so it can thicken.
12.
When cake is cooled, gently brush on simple syrup with pastry brush all over top and sides of cake. This makes the cake moist.
13.
When ganache has cooled and thickened slightly, pour enough ganache over your cake to cover with a nice even layer, spreading with an offset spatula. Place cake in refridgerator for 20 minutes to cool and thicken ganache.
14.
Remove cake from refrigerator. If you made just one batch, cut the cake into thirds along the width (if you used a 13"x18" pan, each third will be about 6"x13"). Using a small offset spatula, spread raspberry jam (if using) evenly over 2 of the pieces. Then spread the raspberry jam over just 1/2 of the third piece (because you don't want jam over the top layer). NOTE: I doubled the recipe (and made 2 sheet trays of cake). For my cake here, I cut each tray in half and ended up with just 4 layers. I spread jam over 3 of the 4 layers).
15.
Carefully lift each piece and stack them on top of each other, putting the piece spread with jam on only half of it on the top. You now have three layers. Carefully cut through all three layers to make six. Stack them together (making sure the top layer does not have jam).
16.
If you have mixmatched sides, cut them carefully so you have nice sharp edges around the four corners.
17. Take a clean sheet try and line it with plastic wrap. Then place a metal cooling rack (if you have one) inside the sheet tray. Carefully place the torte on top of the cooling rack. Pour the ganache carefully over top of the tort, trying to make sure it drips evenly down to coat all of the sides. Your cake will come out cleaner and prettier if you don't have to use a spatula to spread the ganache, but let it pour over the sides on its own. You can pick up the left over ganache that drips on the plastic wrap and repour if you need.
18.
Let cool in refrigerator until ganache sets. Then decorate. Garnish with fresh berries if desired.

Breakfast of Champions: 1 minute flaxseed muffin

Credit for this one goes to my father-in-law and his lovely wife, who live in Oregon and enjoy a very healthy and active lifestyle.  Before Fin’s Grampaw’s most recent visit he emailed me to ask me if we had a nut grinder so he could share with us a muffin recipe for “people on the go.”  “Hmm…” I wondered.  The afternoon of his arrival he showed up with a Whole Foods bag in tow and asked me for a coffee mug.  I admit I was a little skeptical.

After consulting the recipe on his trusty Iphone, in the coffee mug he poured an egg, some flaxseed meal, a little coconut oil, baking powder, cinnamon, and Splenda and mixed it all up with a fork.  “I thought you were making a muffin,” I questioned.  “I am,” he replied, and popped the mug into the microwave.  Exactly 1 minute later he retrieved the mug and dumped out this steaming brown cylinder that looked like a gritty chocolate souffle.  He sliced it in 4 and topped each slice with some almond butter.  “Try it,” he said.  Still suspicious, I took my first bite of his steamy “muffin.”

And it wasn’t half bad.  A tad mealy and slightly dry (he confessed he may not have added enough coconut oil or sweetener), and almond butter (or nut butters of any kind) isn’t my favorite, but he definitely had something there.  And what’s not to love about the microwave 1 minute technique - genius!  “These really get me going in the morning and give me enough energy to last through lunch,” he beamed.  Big N seemed to like it and I was intrigued enough to try his concoction again the next morning while making breakfast to send Big N off to work.

I thought I could compensate a little for the dryness by adding a mashed up banana and replacing the Splenda with Agave Syrup.  I also added dried blueberries.  Though if you try this at home you’re welcome to keep it simple.  My version of the muffin didn’t rise quite as high as my father-in-law’s when I took it out of the microwave (the bananas make the dough a little heavier so it’s harder to get the same “lift”), but it was moister and sweeter, and I can handle anything if it’s just a little bit sweet.  I also skipped the almond butter and topped mine with a little raspberry jam (sweeter still).

I have to hand it to him.  My father-in-law’s flax “muffin” has become a breakfast staple in our home.  I make them at least twice a week and even Fin gets in on the action!  He loves it with the bananas and blueberries and bumps his knuckles together (his sign language for “more”) after every warm bite.

Do try this one at home.  Healthy muffin in a New York minute. Thanks to Fin’s Grampaw for showing this chef/momma a new trick.

One minute flax muffin

 

1 Minute Flax Muffin

Serves 1
Prep time 3 minutes
Cook time 1 minute
Total time 4 minutes
Meal type Breakfast

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup Ground Flaxseed Meal (I use Bob's Red Mill)
  • 1 Egg
  • 1/4 teaspoon Baking Powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon Cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon Coconut Oil (Vegetable oil, grapeseed, or even butter work too)
  • 1 teaspoon Agave syrup (Stevia, splenda or sugar works fine too)
  • 1 handful Fruit (Dried or frozen berries, cranberries, whatever you'd like)

Optional

  • 1/4 piece Banana (Mashed with fork)
  • Fruit Jam or Almond Butter (to spread on top of warm muffin)

Note

I have not been able to locate the source of this recipe, which can be found on various healthy living websites such as LiveStrong.com.  1 muffin contains about 250 calories (without bananas and using calorie free sweetener).

Directions

1.
In a coffee mug, add egg and scramble with fork.
2.
Add remaining ingredients and mix well.
3.
Microwave on high for 1 minute.
4.
Muffin will slide out of mug. Slice in half or in thirds and top with jam or nut butter of your choice.
5. Best eaten warm immediately. Muffin is moist when warm but tends to get dry when cooled off.

Strawberries in season: Greek yogurt and vanilla bean panna cotta with strawberry mousse

It’s strawberry season in California! Oh boy.

I recently subscribed to an organic produce delivery service, Farm Fresh to You.  Every other week I receive a box of organic fruits and vegetables from local farms and in my first box I received gorgeous organic strawberries, the first of the season.  (I also received kale, collard greens, red leaf lettuce, 2 fennel bulbs, baby carrots, orange cauliflower, oranges, apples, and lemons. It was a little overkill so I switched to a smaller delivery plan, but the fruits and vegetables were delicious and I used up nearly all of them, thanks to the help of these produce preservers).

Panna cotta strawberry mousse What to do with all those delicious strawberries?
Since Fin’s grampaw was coming into town to see his grandson, and since I have it on good authority that one of his favorite breakfast foods is a yogurt parfait, I decided to do a take on the yogurt parfait for a light after-dinner dessert: greek yogurt and vanilla bean panna cotta with fresh strawberry mousse.

The panna cotta is about as simple as it gets (if you can make Jell-O, you’re golden): gelatin, cream, vanilla bean, greek yogurt, sugar.  Simmer the cream, gelatin, vanilla, and sugar, stir in the greek yogurt, then pour into ramekins or small glasses, and let set in the fridge.  The mousse, not much more difficult: gelatin and crushed strawberries, stirred into fresh whipped cream and powdered sugar, set in the fridge.  Put the two together and you have tangy and creamy panna cotta with light as clouds strawberry mousse.  The tanginess from the Greek yogurt complements the sweet but slightly tart strawberries.  Easy peasy.

But don’t stop there.  I learned from my restaurant days that every creamy dessert needs a little crunch to balance out the textures in your mouth, so I topped my panna cotta mousse “parfaits” with crunchy crushed lady finger cookies and some chopped pistachios (for color and flavor contrast as well), and finally some diced strawberries.  Beautiful, yet simple.  A winning combination.

Panna cotta strawberry mousse

A light late-Spring dessert that’s sure to please any parfait lover, and a great way to showcase the gorgeous strawberries we’ve been enjoying here in California.  Enjoy!

Yogurt & Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta with Strawberry Mousse

Serves 6
Prep time 2 hours, 30 minutes
Cook time 15 minutes
Total time 2 hours, 45 minutes
Meal type Dessert

Ingredients

Panna cotta

  • 1 cup Heavy cream
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons Unflavored Gelatin (1 envelope)
  • 3 tablespoons Cold water
  • 1/3 cup Sugar or evaporated cane juice
  • 1 Vanilla bean (or 1 tsp vanilla extract)
  • 16 oz Greek yogurt (Plain, unflavored)

Mousse

  • 2 1/4 teaspoons Unflavored Gelatin (1 envelope)
  • 2 cups Stawberries (Cleaned and hulled)
  • 1 1/2 cup Heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup Powdered sugar
  • 3 tablespoons Cold water

Garnish

  • 2-3 Lady fingers (or use graham cracker or cookie of your choice)
  • 1-2 Diced strawberries
  • 1/8 cup Pistachios (chopped)

Note

Adapted from Joy of Desserts and Eggs on Sunday

Directions

1.
First make panna cotta. Place cold water in small bowl and sprinkle gelatin over top, let soften for 3 minutes.
2. In pot, bring cream and sugar over low-medium heat. Slice open vanilla bean and scrape seeds in cream mixture, then add scraped bean (you'll strain it out later). Bring to simmer, about 10 minutes, stirring constantly to avoid scalding.
3. Turn off heat and add gelatin mixture, stirring until gelatin is fully dissolved, about 3 minutes.
4.
In a larger bowl add yogurt and stir until creamy. Place mesh strainer over the yogurt bowl and pour cream and vanilla through strainer into yogurt bowl to catch the spent vanilla bean. Stir carefully with whisk until cream and vanilla is fully combined with yogurt.
5. Pour panna cotta into 6 ramekins or glasses, refrigerate until set, about 2 hours.
6. Next make the mousse. Place cold water in small bowl and sprinkle gelatin over top, let sit for 3 minutes. Then heat in microwave or in small pot, stirring often, until gelatin is fully dissolved.
7. Place strawberries in blender and pulse until well crushed. Add dissolved gelatin mixture and pulse again. Let cool in refrigerator.
8. In larger bowl, whip cream with electric mixer with whisk attachment until small peaks form. Add powdered sugar and continue to whisk until you reach stiff peaks (take whisk out with dollop of whipped cream and invert upside down. If the cone shape stands up, you're done, if it folds over, whip a little more. Don't overwhip or you'll get butter.
9. Carefully fold strawberry/gelatin mixture into whipped cream mixture and mix gently. Refrigerate for 2 hours until set.
10.
To serve, spoon a dollop of mousse on top of set panna cotta. Sprinkle diced strawberries, crushed lady fingers (or cookie or your choice), and finely chopped pistachios (option) over top for garnish. Serve cold.