cartoon by marc johns.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Peach & Blueberry Honey Greek Yogurt Cake


The winter break of my freshman year at college, my mother and I went on a trip to Paris, just the two of us. It is the only time I have been to Paris. We had a great time. We tried thick, rich, syrupy hot chocolate at the famous Cafe Angelina, saw Notre Dame and the Eiffel Tower, and got lost on the Metro. I must have looked so Parisian that a lady asked me a long question, in French, as we went down the escalator into the Metro. I didn't want to interrupt her, so I let her go on and on before finally saying, "I'm sorry, English only." My mom was in hysterics, crying from laughter, that I let the poor woman talk for so long before telling her that I couldn't be of assistance.

Anyway, I am not sure if my mom remembers, but one day on that trip we had a lemon-flavored yogurt cake at a bistro where we got a prix fixe lunch. It did not look very fancy, but it was moist, lightly lemon scented, and just a little bit sweet. I love lemon flavored desserts (or anything, really), and I have often thought about trying to make a cake using yogurt for flavor, fat, and moisture. This is my attempt at doing so. I did not make a lemon flavored cake, because in my research I found many different recipes already available for a French lemon yogurt cake. I also think that the yogurt you can get in Europe tastes richer and better than yogurt you can find out here, so I worried that I would be disappointed in the comparison. 

So, I decided to try using my favorite honey flavored Greek yogurt, and pairing it with two summer fruits that really shine this time of year: peaches and blueberries. I thought both fruits have a nice tart component to them and would pair nicely with the sweet tang of the honey Greek yogurt. I was right. What develops is a lightly sweet, beautifully moist, chewy cake. It is almost like a slightly denser form of angel food cake, and the fruit becomes deliciously soft and caramelized. The edges of the cake are light brown and crispy. This is a good one, folks.

The cool thing about this idea is that not only can you switch out any of the fruit you want, depending on the season or your preferences, but you can also switch out the flavor of the yogurt. The options are basically endless. The flavors of Greek yogurt include honey, vanilla, strawberry, peach, mango, cherry, blueberry, raspberry, coconut, orange & ginger, mixed berry, blood orange, strawberry & basil, fig & lemon zest, rhubarb, passion fruit, pineapple, pomegranate, strawberry banana....and these are just some of the flavors available in the yogurt section at my grocery store. The one thing that is important, though, is to not use non-fat yogurt. I used full fat, and without a doubt it will be the most delicious option. Cakes need fat (be it butter or what have you) to create a nice crumb. You can probably get away with using a low-fat yogurt, since the yogurt itself will keep the cake nice and moist. I haven't tried it yet.

Anyway. all told, including baking time, this recipe takes under an hour start to finish. The hardest part is cutting the fruit and placing it prettily on the top of the cake (which, let's be real, is not that hard). It is great as a light dessert, but also is delicious with your morning coffee, since it isn't very sweet. And, since it has fruit on top and yogurt in it, you can lie to yourself, like I do, and say this is a healthy option. 


1 cup full-fat honey Greek yogurt
3 eggs
1/2 cup coconut oil
1 cup of sugar*
1 1/2 cups flour
pinch of salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 peaches, sliced
6 ounces blueberries
sprinkling of Turbinado sugar (optional)
sprinkling of powdered sugar (optional)

1. Grease an 8" springform pan. Preheat oven to 350F.
2. Beat the eggs until foamy. 

3. Add in the coconut oil, sugar, and yogurt. Beat for 1 minute. 

(Note: if you use a different flavor yogurt, your batter may be a different color).
4. Add in the flour, salt, and baking powder. Beat for 1 more minute.
5. Cut your peaches into slices (I did about 10 slices per peach). (Or prepare whatever fruit you are using). Pour batter into prepared pan.

Ready to decorate.
6. Add fruit in a pretty pattern to the top of your cake.

Final design.
7. Sprinkle fruit with the Turbinado sugar. This step is not required. The cake would still be delicious without the Turbinado sugar, but I am a fan of the small crunch it provides the top of the cake. 

8. Bake the cake for about 40 minutes. It will be done when a tester inserted in the middle comes out clean. Set on a rack to cool for at least 1 hour before releasing it from the springform pan. 

9. Another optional step, but I am in favor: once the cake has cooled, sprinkle with a coating of powdered sugar. 

*Note about sugar in the recipe: please be aware that if you are using an especially sweet flavor of Greek yogurt, you may want to reduce the sugar a little bit (by maybe 1/4 cup or so). And if you are using an especially tart flavor of yogurt (lemon, anyone?), you may want to add an extra 1/4 cup of sugar.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Caprese Stuffed Portobellos

Colorful & Delicious.

Lately, I have been really into caprese salads. (So much so, I have been including the flavors in my breakfast.) It's the summertime, and the tomatoes are SO GOOD, so that may be one reason. But honestly, I can always dig into a caprese - even when the tomatoes are just regular old tomatoes and not the startlingly juicy, sweet ones we have been getting from the farmer's market lately. Anyway, I also love portobello mushrooms, not only just because they are plain delicious, but they are so meaty and unctuous that they are a great option to use when you are going for a "Meatless Monday" dish.  SO, I decided to create a vegetarian supper dish that pairs the portobello with the caprese, and this is what I came up with! I think this is a great option to serve to everyone; even kids will like this dish (especially if you call them "pizzas"). It is visually appealing, juicy and flavorful, fairly healthy (the cheese makes it less so), and super duper easy to make. It takes 10 minutes for this dish to be piping hot and ready to eat. Do it, people! Give it a try. You won't be sorry.

4 portobello caps, gills removed
8 ciliegine mozzarella balls (fresh, floating in water), cut in half (also: don't worry about that cigliegine thing - that just means "cherry sized" - so I am talking about the little balls of cheese.) (also, again: you can just use regular fresh mozzarella and have leftovers. you'll just be cutting it up into small pieces.)
1 cup grape or cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1 cup fresh basil, ripped
4 tablespoons unsalted butter (please note: you can use olive oil in place of the butter, but the butter tastes better)
6 cloves garlic, chopped
4 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
salt & pepper
drizzle of balsamic reduction (recipe here.)

1. Preheat oven to broil.
2. Do the prep work: wash produce, de-gill portobellos, rip basil, cut tomatoes and cheese in halves, chop garlic.
3. Begin the balsamic reduction.
4. Put the butter, parsley, and garlic in a pan over low heat and let butter melt and garlic get fragrant. Add salt and pepper.

5. After butter is all melted and garlic is nice and fragrant, brush the portobello caps (inside and outside) with the butter mixture.

6. Put butter-brushed mushroom caps in  a baking dish, cup side up. Fill the cup with alternating halves of mozzarella balls and grape tomatoes. Top with some salt and pepper.

All filled up.
7. Bake about 8 minutes, or until mushrooms are soft and cheese is nice and melty. Top with ripped basil and drizzle of balsamic reduction.


Great summer dinner.


Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Grilled Ginger Soy Lime Flank Steak with Arugula

Moist & flavorful.
Topped with peppery arugula.
This is a quick, easy, and flavorful dish that is great to make for company because it looks impressive.  All you have to do is marinate the flank steak and then grill it about 5 minutes per side - then it is time to eat!  I have marinated this steak for 1 hour only, and that works fine, but my favorite is to marinate 24 hours. The steak gets very juicy, gingery, and with a lovely acidic kick from the lime. Incidentally, you can use this same marinade on chicken and it tastes great as well.  This recipe serves 3-4 people.  Enjoy!

1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup soy sauce (I use low sodium)
1/2 cup lime juice
3 tablespoons light brown sugar
4 smashed and peeled garlic cloves
4 slices fresh ginger root
5 sliced green onions (white and green parts)
1 1/2 pounds flank steak
about 3 ounces arugula
salt and pepper, to taste

To the cooking:

1. Make the marinade: whisk olive oil, soy sauce, lime juice, and light brown sugar until emulsified. Add in the garlic cloves, ginger, and sliced green onions. Pour over steak. 


Poured over steak.
2. Marinate for 1 hour or up to 2 hours, flipping the steak halfway through your time.

3. Bring the steak to room temperature before grilling; that means about 30 minutes to one hour outside of the fridge. 

4. Take the steak our of the marinade but do not discard the marinade - it will become our salad dressing for the arugula. Pat the steak dry and put on grill over medium heat. 
Beginning to grill.
5. In order to get nice grill marks, you just want to flip the steak once. After about five minutes, flip the steak. Depending not eh thickness of your steak, 5 minutes per side should get you somewhere close to medium rare. (To make sure, 130F at the thickest part of your steak is medium rare). 

Look at those grill marks.
6. Once cooked to your liking, put steak off heat and let rest for at least 10 minutes, and up to 15 or so minutes. Then season it with some salt and pepper.

7. While steak is resting, pour marinade into a sauce pan and bring to a boil. Once boiling, remove from heat and set aside.

Boiling marinade.
8. Slice steak against the grain. 

9. Move steak to a serving platter and spoon a little of the marinade onto the steak. You do not want to spoon the ginger slices or garlic cloves; just the liquid and some green onions.

10. Top the steak with arugula and some more marinade as the dressing. Toss to coat. Enjoy the pepper taste of the arugula with each bite of the succulent steak.

Steak peeking out.
Ready to serve.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Dijon Potato Salad

Fresh parsley flavor. 
Smooth but not TOO smooth.
I am not a big fan of mayonnaise, so when I make potato salad, I do it with mustard and vinegar as my base. I love mustard! Plus, it gives a delicious bright acidic feeling to the salad. If missing out on the mayo makes you sad, you can use this same recipe but instead of 1 tablespoon of dijon, use 1/2 tablespoon of dijon and 1/2 of mayo. To me, all potato salads must have pickles, and they should be dill rather than bread and butter. It gives a nice crunch, and an extra injection of salt and flavor. I like a nice fresh herby taste in my potato salad as well; this time, I went with parsley, but I have used basil and thyme before. And the piece de resistance, for me, is the hard boiled egg. It gives a nice textural change to the creamy mashed potatoes, and the yolks add some of the fat into the salad that is missing from not using mayo. I have had great success with people enjoying this potato salad and asking for my recipe. I recommend giving it a go at your next summer BBQ or potluck! It's easy and delicious. This recipe makes enough for about 4 people.


1 1/2 pounds red new potatoes, halved or quartered (depending on their size)
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
salt & pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley (or herb of your choice)
5 chopped dill pickle spears
3 hard boiled eggs, chopped

To the cooking:

1. Boil the potatoes in salted water, about 15-20 minutes. 

3. While the potatoes are boiling, make the dressing: whisk together vinegar, dijon, olive oil, and salt & pepper (to taste).

Dressing pre-whisk.

Post-whisk; nice & emulsified.
4. Chop the parsley, eggs, & pickles.

5. Once potatoes are cooked, put the toppings except the parsley on. Then mix in the dressing. You want to do this while the potatoes are hot so the dressing gets absorbed into them.

Ready to mix.
6. Put the potato salad in the fridge to cool. Once cool, add the parsley and stir to combine. You are waiting to add the parsley so the heat of the potatoes doesn't cause it to wilt; you want it to be fresh and green looking. Taste and season as needed with salt and pepper. Enjoy!

Cooling on down.