Glazed Orange Pecan Cake

I love the combination of both oranges and pecans, but then I am from Southern California, literally the land of fruits and nuts, since a huge percentage of both fruits and nuts, as well as a lot of other agricultural products, comes from California.  There is just something so refreshing about this combination.  It is so  warm and welcoming.  My husband keeps telling me to stop making all the delectable desserts because we are both trying to lose weight, but I just can’t help myself.  They are all so tasty.  Besides, my argument was that because there are nuts, there is protein, and there is fruit as well, so it has to be healthy, right?!  I know, it is a poor excuse for healthy, but I guess I can say a slightly healthier version of dessert, with the emphasis on slightly.

Before baking.

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The finished cake.

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Preheat the oven to 350*F

Prepare a bundt cake pan with a little bit of cooking spray, and if you want, brush a little flour around the pan as well.

 

1 cup butter, softened

2 3/4 cups flour

1 TBSP baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

3/4 cup tightly packed brown sugar

3/4 cup granulated sugar

4 eggs, separated

3 TBSP grated orange zest

1 tsp orange extract

1 cup orange juice

2 cups chopped pecans

Mix all the dry ingredients together, except the chopped pecans and set aside.  Mix the butter and both sugars until soft and creamy.  Add the egg yolks, one at a time and mix.  Add the orange zest, and alternate adding the flour and orange juice, mixing in between, until it is all mixed in together.  In a separate clean bowl, beat the egg whites until they form stiff peaks, then gently fold into the batter, along with the pecans, and spoon into your prepared bundt pan.  Bake at 350* for 1 hour and 10 minutes, or until it is golden brown and an inserted toothpick comes out clean.  Let cool.  Then top with the orange glaze, pecan halves and orange slices (optional).  If you prefer a lighter version, just sprinkle powdered sugar over the cooled cake.  You are going to really enjoy it either way you serve it.

 

Orange Glaze

1 cup confectioner’s sugar

1 TBSP softened butter

3 TBSP heavy whipping cream

1 tsp orange extract

pinch of salt

Combine everything together in a mixer and mix thoroughly.  It will be a thick glaze.  Immediately spread over the cake.  There is a delicious bit of spring in every bite.  Enjoy.

You Never Have Your Last One

Years ago, I worked at a Public Relations firm up in San Francisco, CA, where we had mostly food clients.  Because most of our clients were selling food products, we actually had out own test kitchen on the premises.  Being the kitchen manager for that kitchen was my dream job, only it never happened.  I learned a lot from the person who was the kitchen manager though.  One of my most memorable things I learned from her was that you can never have too many cookbooks, although my husband would seriously disagree with that statement.  At the time, she had over 3000 cookbooks, and her collection was always growing.  She is the one who told me “you never have your last one”, and I took it to heart.  I don’t have near as many cookbooks as she did, but I do have quite a few.  My collection is only at slightly over 600, so I guess by her standards, that means I have some catching up to do.  I have wide variety of cookbooks.  I have all different kinds of ethnic books; books on baking; specific books for just breads or soups, and many, many more.  My favorite ones are the ones with detailed pictures.  I can figure out the ingredients on my own, but I like to see how the finished product is supposed to look so I can use it as a guide.  Even though there are some really great recipes on line, and now even some of mine are on line, there is nothing better than a new book in my hands.   I am very proud of my wall of cookbooks, and even though my shelves runneth over, I am trying my best to live up to my kitchen manager’s words of wisdom, and hope to “never have my last one”.

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Lemon Poppy Seed Pound Cake

The pound cake first got its name because when it was first created, it had a pound each of butter, sugar, eggs and flour, and it took considerable effort to make.  Luckily today, things have changed; a lot!  We no longer use a pound of each of those ingredients and fortunately, they are pretty easy to make today, but the name remains the same.  Whether they be the pound cakes of yesterday or the more efficient, slightly healthier versions of today, we still love our pound cakes, in all varieties.  Adding lemon and poppy seeds makes this cake an even more delicious and desirable dessert, at least to me, and I think by adding both the lemon and the poppy seeds it makes this the perfect light Spring treat, that can be eaten at any time of the day.

Before baking.

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The finished lemony treat.

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Lemon Poppy Seed Pound Cake

2 cups flour

2 TBSP poppy seeds

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

2 TBSP lemon juice

3/4 cups or 1 1/3 sticks of softened butter

1 1/2 cups sugar

4 large eggs

1 tsp lemon extract

1/2 cup of either plain yogurt or sour cream

Preheat the oven to 325*F Spray your baking loaf pan with cooking spray.

Mix all the dry ingredients together and set aside.  Blend the butter and sugar together for about 5 minutes or until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs 1 at a time, and blend.  Add the lemon juice, lemon extract and yogurt or sour cream until well blended.  Add the flour mixture 1/2 at a time and blend well.  Pour the batter into your prepared baking loaf pan and bake for 1 hour and 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean and it is golden brown.

Let the cake cool completely then spread with lemon glaze.

Lemon Glaze

1 cup confectioner’s sugar

1 TBSP softened butter

3 TBSP heavy whipping cream

1 tsp lemon extract

1 tsp finely grated lemon zest

pinch of salt

Combine everything together in a mixer and mix thoroughly.  It will be a thick glaze.  Immediately spread over the cake.  There is a delicious bit of spring in every bite.  Enjoy.

 

 

 

 

 

Pesto Pasta Primavera with Chicken and Vegetables

I love garlic.  Garlic is one of my staples that goes in just about everything I cook.  So it should come as no surprise that I love anything with a pesto sauce, since garlic is one of it’s main ingredients, and it is so easy to make.  Most people who know of pesto only know of it being made with basil, which is the traditional pesto, however, I have also made it with spinach, cilantro, sundried tomatoes, and a whole host of other ingredients as well.  In the summer, lemon verbena grows wild in my backyard, so I often use that as well as the basil.  Again, most people think pasta when they think of pesto, which is how most people use it.  But I use pesto in a lot of other dishes as well, such as pizza, or with potatoes, although, I did a traditional pesto served over pasta and chicken with sauteed vegetables this time, which I served with the bacon and onion fougasse and a light, crisp viognier.    I chose a lighter wine so it would not compete with the fresh, bold flavors of the pesto.  I love to play around and try new things, but the traditional and original versions of foods are just as good.  Mixing and fusing different foods is like art.  You have to know the basics before you can change things around.

 

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Traditional Pesto

fresh basil

garlic

toasted pine nuts

Parmagiano cheese

olive oil

salt & pepper to taste

 

Blend all the ingredients together in a food processor until well blended and to the consistency you like, and voila, you are done.  Super easy and super delicious.  Feel free to experiment with different nuts and different herbs too.  I use different nuts and different herbs all the time.  They are all good and sometimes it is fun to try a new twist on an old classic.

 

 

 

Steak Oscar

Every now we just have to have a good, special steak dinner.  Steak Oscar is one of our favorites and definitely fits the bill for being a special, elegant dinner.   It is a simple dinner to prepare.  It is surf and turf with flair.

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Steak Oscar

Steak seasoned and prepared how you like it, served over mashed potatoes, then topped with cooked asparagus and crab. It is all finished with a hollandaise sauce.  Simple and elegant, but a fusion of deliciousness.

I served it with the onion and bacon fougasse and the olive dip  and a rich bold cab franc.

 

Hollandaise Sauce

2-3 egg yolks

1 tsp Dijon mustard

a pinch of nutmeg

a pinch of cayenne pepper

a splash of water

2/3-1 stick of melted butter

Whisk all the ingredients together except the butter.  In a stainless steel or glass bowl, directly over the flame, and over a pan of boiling water, whisk the egg mixture continuously while slowly pouring the melted butter and incorporating it in.  You must keep whisking the egg mixture or it will cook.  This whole process does not take very long at all; only a couple of minutes.

 

 

 

Onion and Bacon Fougasse

Fougasse is a traditional French flat bread that is very similar to it’s Italian cousin foccacia.  And just like it’s Italian cousin, there are many different varieties of fougasse.  This is just one of many, and believe me, it is fabulous.  It is wonderful on it’s own, but even better dipped in an olive oil and flavored dip.  For anyone who knows me, they know patience is not one of my virtues, although it is one I am learning and learning to appreciate more and more as I make more and more breads.  This was not difficult to make at all, but it had 3 risings, so it took the better part of the day to make, but it is definitely worth the wait. C’est bon!

The second rise, after I added the bacon and onion.

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The third rise, before putting in the oven.

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Le produit fin!

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2 1/2 cups flour, separated, plus more for dusting and rolling

2 TBSP dry active yeast

1 cup water

1 1/2 tsp salt

1 onion, peeled and chopped fine

bacon, cooked and chopped

1/3-1/2 cup olive oil

 

Put 1 1/2 cups flour, all the yeast and about 3/4 cups of water into a mixing bowl and beat together for about 3 minutes or until it makes a thick dough.  Let it rise for about 3-4 hours.  This is your first rise.

Cook the bacon to your desired doneness and remove.  Saute the onion in the bacon grease until it is translucent.  Add both the bacon and onion, as well as the rest of the flour, salt and about 1/4 cup of the olive oil.  Mix all the ingredients together and let rise again, for about 1 more hour.

Divide the dough.  I made 2 larger loaves, but you can make 3 smaller loaves if you prefer.  Roll each piece to a roundish shape to about 1 ” thickness (this is supposed to be rustic, so perfection is actually not what you are looking for).  Slice some diagonal cuts down the sides and the middle of the dough and brush with remaining olive oil.  Place on baking sheets and let rise once more for about 1 more hour.

Bake at 450* F/230*C for 15-20 minutes or until it is golden brown.

I love to dip my breads in olive oil mixed with a little bit of each garlic, fried onions, red pepper flakes, black pepper and balsamic vinegar.  Bon apetite!

 

Split Pea Soup

As I am looking out my window right now, it is snowing again, which means it is perfect soup weather, even though it is officially spring.  One of my favorites is a thick split pea soup, filled with all kinds of warmth and deliciousness.   The ham from the other day became the soup of today.  And there is nothing better than a rich, hearty soup to help warm you up from the inside out to remove all the chills.  My dad used to say that “it would warm the cockles of your heart”, and that it does.  I’ll serve this with the left over bierocks from the other day and we will have a perfect light dinner.

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Hearty Split Pea Soup

I start with making the ham stock by boiling the ham bone in water, making sure I can get all the ham off the bone.

cooked ham, cut into chunks (I like bigger chunks, but cut them into whatever size you like)

onions, diced small

carrots, diced small

celery, diced small

dried split peas

frozen peas (optional)

green onions

thyme

oregano

salt & pepper to taste

ham or chicken stock

olive oil

 

Saute the onions, carrots and celery in olive oil until soft and translucent.  Then add the dried split peas and saute them for a couple of minutes.  Add your stock and bring to a boil.  Once the liquid has come to a rapid boil, turn the heat down to a simmer and cook until the lentils have become soft and almost mushy.  I usually cook mine down for at least an hour or more.  Feel free to add more stock as needed.  Add the ham, frozen peas (if using), oregano and thyme and continue cooking.  Top with chopped green onions right before serving.  Delicious!